Blog post by Peter Morphew, Project Cataloguer on Wellcome Trust funded project ‘Improving access to the archives of Professor Alexander John Haddow (1912-1978)’
For most of his medical entomologist career Professor Alexander John Haddow worked for the East African Virus Research Institute in Uganda. His papers’ hold 25 years’ worth of methodical data collection, documenting the isolation and recording of viruses such as Zika. The importance of these papers have been recognised by the Wellcome Trust who are funding a cataloguing project that aims to enhance the collection’s arrangement and description, thus making the data more accessible for future research.
As project cataloguer I have spent a significant amount of time discovering new information. I don’t have a scientific background and have been reliant upon Google to reveal just what Aëdes africanus is. While the scientific language has been challenging, progress has continued on the cataloguing project, and since our first bite blog post, we have collated Haddow’s records into one catalogue and produced a first rough draft.
Like most of us, Haddow had a variety of passions. He had a reputation as a fine bagpipe player, and was an important member of the Piobaireachd Society. Thus my discoveries have not been limited to just science.
Held within a folder labelled “Highlanders and tartans”, Haddow kept a number of press cuttings from The Oban Times titled “Letters from our readers”. All dated 21 June 1973, they address the subject of Highland Garters in response to a letter from Eric Moss about “Gartain Dearg”, and I was surprised to find one of these letters was written by Haddow himself.
The letter explains that modern-day garter knots do not represent their past heritage accurately. He disagreed with Moss that garter’s were always red, and cites the painting “The Battle of Culloden” by David Morier (c1745-1785), which shows highlanders wearing a variety of colours.
Haddow followed through with his determination to place on public record the correct method of wearing garters, and in January 1974 he authored an article in The Oban Times titled “How to tie a garter knot”, complete with hand drawn illustrations. He explained as to why a person may not know what a garter knot is, and credits the wearing of socks with turned down tops as being responsible for the virtual disappearance of the garter knot.
The knot is made to be worn over a stocking with a plain top. Originally there were several ways to tie it correctly, the simplest being the same method used to tie a necktie. Haddow gives guidance as to the materials needed and the knitting of the fabric, including a warning that if country dancing is required, the material needs to be stretchable. Indeed Haddow confirms his authority on the subject having been taught by artist Stewart Orr, as Orr was known to always wear highland dress.
Today, in a world dominated by Social Media, we tend to measure an article’s impact via the number of “likes” it receives. However, in the analogue world of the 1970s, Haddow’s article undoubtedly made an impact too, and he retained numerous correspondences relating to garter weaving and the history of the highlander. While this doesn’t quite carry the same significance as isolating the Zika Virus, or investigating Yellow Fever, it does show Haddow’s passion for knowledge and his belief in the importance of sharing it.