The Great Tapestry of Scotland

Anchor Mill in Paisley, near Glasgow, has long been in the background of my life. I remember it from the pre-motorway days of the 1960s when our family drove past it every summer on our way from NE England to visit my grandparents in Greenock. Now that my parents live in Paisley I drive past it every week on my way to visit them, but until recently I have never been inside it. Most of the buildings have been demolished, but the former thread mill now contains businesses and flats. At the moment it is also home to Threading West, the only West of Scotland exhibition of the Great Tapestry of Scotland. It’s hosted there by the Paisley Thread Mill Museum until 8th June, then it moves to the Scottish Parliament in July. If at all possible, I urge you to see it.

The 143 metre-long tapestry, strictly speaking an embroidery, was created from a design by artist, Andrew Crummy, by 1000 stitchers working in groups all over Scotland. It tells the story of the country from the Ice Age to modern times, but rather than give a chronological account I’ve grouped some of my favourite panels into themes. We took loads of photographs, so it’s really hard to decide what to leave out! Generally speaking, I enjoyed the 19th and 20th century panels best.

Towns and cities

Glasgow, of course, Paisley with its famous pattern, and the tenements which are ubiquitous to Scotland’s older towns and cities. Scotland’s post-war new towns are represented by East Kilbride (where I used to work) and Cumbernauld with its references to the film, Gregory’s girl which was filmed there.

Politics

I had a huge list here, but I’ve restricted myself to the Act of Union between England and Scotland in 1707 and the reconvening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999 (maybe an extra panel will be needed after the Independence referendum in September?) and some scenes from Trade Union history.

Women

There were many panels about named men, but I can only remember one about a named woman. (Please correct me if I’m wrong!) Elsie Inglis was one of Scotland’s first female doctors and is remembered for her work setting up field hospitals in the First World War. There were several more panels about women’s lives – and I was pleased to notice the detail from the Glasgow City of Culture panel (bottom right) acknowledging Glasgow Women’s Library which grew out of that event.

Education and culture

By the sixteenth century Scotland had four universities (St Andrews, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh), when the much-bigger England still only had two, and John Knox was dreaming of a school in every parish. By the 19th century this had more or less been realised, and a look at the detail on some of these panels will show us punching over our weight ever since. (Not that I’m biased, oh no.)

Science, technology and industry

Marvel once again at the invention and innovation coming out of this small nation of ours!

Margaret’s panel

And finally (sighs of relief all round) – the last panel, both on the blog and in the exhibition itself, is one on which I actually know one of the stitchers. Margaret Harrison, friend and erstwhile boss, contributed to this representation by Strathendrick Embroiderers’ Guild of the resurgence of Gaelic culture. She did the fish and Gaelic text which took 24 hours of stitching in all – this gives some idea of the amount of labour which went into the whole project. (Note also the wee joke with three ducks joining the flight of geese.)

If you haven’t fallen off your perch with boredom yet, I can recommend another couple of blogs I’ve come across about the tapestry – Karie at Fourth Edition and Ailish Sinclair – but my biggest recommendation is: just go!

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17 thoughts on “The Great Tapestry of Scotland

  1. restlessjo March 24, 2015 / 16:30

    You’re right! How to pick a favourite? I think you could spend hours here! Loving the work. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Calli June 4, 2014 / 18:42

    The detail and colour in that tapestry is incredible! I think so often we look at things like this and lack a true appreciation for them until we actually take in the scene in person. The time and effort that must have gone into making something like this is mind blowing.

    Like

    • Anabel Marsh June 4, 2014 / 20:04

      Definitely mind blowing – especially to someone like me with no needlework talents whatsoever! In awe.

      Like

  3. thriftygypsy87 June 2, 2014 / 17:31

    This is absolutely fascinating! I’ve always loved tapestries (I credit my mother for exposing me at an early age to the wonders of the Bayeux Tapestry), and it’s wonderful that the art is still alive and well!

    Like

    • Anabel Marsh June 2, 2014 / 17:46

      Thanks – I saw the Bayeux Tapestry years ago and loved it too. But this is ours in Scotland, so I love it more!

      Like

      • thriftygypsy87 June 3, 2014 / 12:38

        I like how they’ve taken such an ancient type of art and brought it up to the modern era. Very, very cool.

        Like

  4. Donna May 30, 2014 / 06:07

    I love tapestries! Years ago when I went to DC on a business trip I spent hours at the Textile Museum entranced by a special exhibit.

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    • Anabel Marsh May 30, 2014 / 06:44

      Yes, I love them too, and this one was really special.

      Like

  5. Birgit May 28, 2014 / 15:39

    This was anything but boring. I am amazed and in awe of the beauty, dedication and artistry of this huge work. A great work showing the pride in one’s country. I need to review this more when I have time-off to work I go

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  6. cvail May 28, 2014 / 11:18

    Anabel, I can’t even imagine all the work that went into that tapestry. Gorgeous!

    Like

    • Anabel Marsh May 28, 2014 / 11:21

      I think I read somewhere 50,000 hours, which at 160 panels would be 312.5 hours each! I can believe that.

      Like

    • Anabel Marsh May 28, 2014 / 08:08

      Thanks Lori! Believe me, there were lots more – so photogenic.

      Like

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