The Breid Tri Chearnach

Called a kertch, or breid tri chearnach, this was a three-cornered piece of linen, bleached it’s very whitest. The kertch was tied under the chin, while the point hanging down the back was often elaborately embroidered, showing the woman’s needlework skills.

As a young, unmarried girl the lassie had worn a cockermonie, or snood. Upon arising the morning after her wedding, she was to put on the headdress of a married woman.

Ceremony required that the bride’s mother place the kertch on the bride’s head. Next the mother would offer up a prayer to God that her daughter would, as a married woman, walk under the guidance of the Holy Trinity. I suspect the Trinity knot appeared in a prominent place on the kertch.

The Reverend Donald MacLeod, of Skye, wrote a poem greeting his bride when she first appeared wearing her breid tri chearnach. This became the standard prayer for mothers to use.

Be thou hospitable, yet be wise,
Be thou vigorous, yet be calm,
Be thou frank, but be reserved,
Be thou exact, yet generous.
With thy kertch,
To thee a thousand thousand hails.

In the 1800’s the kertch evolved into a mutch, a lovely white linen or cotton bonnet, much adorned with lace and frills that required a specially adapted iron to keep the frills ironed and neat.

Though now out of fashion, you might consider embroidering one, donning it in a private ceremony, then storing it away for your own daughters. Another idea would be to mat and frame this kertch to hand on your bedroom reminder of your vows and your duties as a wife and house-keeper.

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