April 22, 2011 § Leave a comment
George Herbert Leigh Mallory died on Mount Everest in June 1924. There his body lay frozen until 1999. The name tag on his Harris Tweed jacket identified him after more than 70 years of extreme exposure to the elements.
As an industry leader recently remarked ,”planned obsolecence” is not in the Harris Tweed business plan…
We’ve highlighted Nigel Cabourn on The Croft before but here’s his take on Mallory’s clothing…
March 2, 2011 § 1 Comment
For any Lahndanahs, islahndahs or uvver tweed luvvers darn sarf…
Treasured Tweed: 100 Years of Harris is a V&A (Victoria and Albert Museum, in South Kensington, London) talk and exhibit scheduled for this Friday, the event marking one hundred years of production of the classic cloth.
Trumpeting Harris Tweed as the cloth of choice for distinguished British gentlemen from Elgar to the current Doctor Who, and showcased by contemporary designers such as Vivienne Westwood, it’s a good chance to learn a little bit more about the clo mor.
Savile Row tailor and Menswear Designer of the Year 2010 Patrick Grant will speak about his work with the tweed and National Museums of Scotland curator Fiona Anderson will also give an introduction as to its history, production and manufacture.
The event, held at the Hochhauser Auditorium in the V&A’s Sackler Centre, will also include a presentation called Tweed: Reception & Identity by Dr Jonathan Faiers, Senior Lecturer in Cultural Studies for the School of Fashion and Textiles at Central St Martins and Harris Tweed Authority chief executive Lorna Macaulay will also speak at the event.
( The photograph above (by David Bailey) is of a tweed clad Brian Morris who was the manager of the swinging 60’s Ad Lib nightclub in London. I liked this description of him “even in daylight, Morris is surrounded by a pale glow of nocturnal health – a semi-physical attribute known in the East End as ‘moontan’.”
February 19, 2011 § Leave a comment
Next month, some of the UK’s leading designers will help mark the centenary year of Harris Tweed with contributions to a fashion show which aims to showcase the iconic material.
Vivienne Westwood, Henry Holland, Ben Sherman and a string of Scottish designers including Deryck Walker, who won designer of the year in 2008 and 2009 at the Scottish style awards, will send designs for the show, being held in An Lanntair Art Centre, Stornoway on 12 March.
Judy R Clark, who was shortlisted designer of the year at the awards and Iona Crawford and Joyce Paton will also take part in the event, organised by the Harris Tweed Authority.
Lorna Macaulay, the organisation’s chief executive, said:
“This unique occasion will help to acknowledge the skill and support of the local community which this extraordinary cloth has enjoyed for over 100 years.
February 4, 2011 § Leave a comment
The traditional Appalachian song “Down in the River to Pray” is well-known, especially since the movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” popularised it. Originally composed as “The Good Old Way” it is attributed to a George H. Allan in the contents section of a song book of 1867 “Slave Songs of the United States”.
Yet, its true composer remains a mystery, at least in some measure. Research indicates the song was written by slaves in the 19th Century who worked in the fields. Other people believe it was perhaps a derivative of a native American tribal song that was adapted with Christian lyrics.
Anyway, here it is in Gaelic, sung by Mary Ann Kennedy and friends. apologies for the cheesy graphics.
January 20, 2011 § 6 Comments
Mike Day is the director of a new film documenting the age old Ness tradition of guga hunting on Sula Sgeir. His team recently gained a rare insight into the men, the hunt and the culture that surrounds the annual journey into the Atlantic for food.
Mike kindly took a little time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions for the blog…
TC: How did you hear about the guga hunt and what particularly sparked your interest in making the film about it?
MD: I heard about the hunt from a friend while I was living on my boat and sailing around the west coast making a film about crofting. She wasn’t sure if the hunt still existed and so when I found out that it was still going strong I was very keen to find out more so I came to Ness.
TC: The hunters are normally very secretive or cautious about their tradition especially from “outsiders”, how did you manage to get permission to film the hunt in such detail?
MD: I think there was a lot of trust built on both sides, that and bloody minded perseverance made the film what it is.
TC: Who were your team and did they know what they’d let themselves in for?
MD: The team of five included four sailors and one non sailor, Andy, the producer. Myself and Andy were the only film crew. Andy certainly had no idea what he’d let himself in for in terms of the voyage, it was his first time on a boat and a real baptism of fire to say the least. The four sailors all had a lot of ocean sailing experience but none of us had experienced the continual bad run of weather we got up there on that trip. Confused seas and huge breaking waves swamped us on one occasion and we were knocked over flat in the water. My respect grew enormously for the Niseach men who once rowed and sailed there in open boats, and going right back even without a compass. I regularly thought about that on our 18 hour trips to Sula Sgier.
TC: Could you describe the approach to Sula Sgeir and the island itself? For those who haven’t been it’s hard to appreciate the remoteness and hardships faced by those who hunted there in the past.
MD: The journey isn’t popular with some of the hunters or some of our crew! It is rough up there with the current known as ‘the river’, that’s the first phenomenon you reach, not far north of the Butt. Sometimes it was like hitting a wall, suddenly it all broke lose and the sea just seemed to boil. Then there’s the shallowing bank south of Sula Sgeir within sight of the island, that’s where we found the big waves and the fun usually started. After sailing all night this is also the point where the rock starts to appear through the waves, looking mysterious on the horizon and very desolate. The skies are filled with welcoming guga patrols as you approach and by the time you arrive the skies are thick with birds.
TC: How was the weather and did you sleep on land or on shore? Are there still stone bothies, earwigs and peat fired pots of tea?
MD: I ‘slept’ on our boat, although in reality all I actually did was lie down and get thrown against the wall by the waves for a few hours. We headed for the shelter of North Rona at nights, which it turned out was only sheltered relative to the surrounding seas, which were monstrous. The stone bothies are still there and are well maintained, I heard there were less earwigs now, not sure where they would have gone, I certainly didn’t see one, and there are still peat fired pots of tea.
TC: What are your thoughts on the animal welfare issues raised every year in some quarters? Did you have any issues or reservations with the traditional catch and dispatch process?
The numbers of gannets is rising so I see no conservationist argument against the hunt. As far as the killing method is concerned, I never actually saw it, I’m assured it is swift. I don’t think any method of killing animals is going to be particularly nice, but I’d much rather have my meat free range than from factory farmed animals and mechanised abattoirs.
TC: How would you describe the hunters attitude to their various roles? Does the sense of importance and tradition still remain with them or did it seem like just another job they had to do to earn money?
MD: I think there was a great respect amongst men for the traditions and their ancestors who’ve been there before them. It’s hard to go to Sula Sgier and not be humbled by the history of the hunt and the voyage the men take.
TC: What were your impressions of the Isle of Lewis and the local people in general and did you learn any gaelic along the way?
MD: It was really great to have a chance to spend so much time exploring Lewis and getting to know the people. I didn’t get to learn too much Gaelic unfortunately, but I certainly learnt hardy hardy on this trip!
TC: Now the million dollar question. Did you eat the guga and what did you think?!
I did eat the guga, on Sula Sgeir, and I enjoyed it and ate every morsel of meat, blubber and skin! I was surprised by the meat, it’s really unique and I appreciated tasting this rare flavour.
TC: Finally, will you be back or was it a once in a lifetime event for you?
I’m sure I’ll be back and I look forward to catching up with everyone when I return, it was quite an adventure going on the hunt and making the journey back and forth and we met a lot of great Niseachs along the way.
The Guga Hunters Of Ness will be shown on BBC 2 tonight at 9pm.
January 13, 2011 § 2 Comments
The Guga Hunters documentary film is due to be screened on BBC 2 next Thursday at 9pm.
However, you can view a ten minute clip today via the link below.
I was surprised at just how young the film crew are but, for me, this makes the film all the more important.
This is what it’s all about. A new generation coming through, showing passion and belief, taking an interest, carrying things forward, ensuring a culture continues.
Director and Producer Mike Day, is seen second from left. He is a qualified yacht skipper and his brother Matt Day, second from right, is an ex-GBR Olympic team sailor and RYA Coach. Both have ocean sailing experience but filming the guga hunters proved a stern test of their skills. Aaron Sterritt, far left, has previously sailed across the Pacific Ocean from New Zealand to Panama. The team also included a marine engineer, Will Brown, right, (who came in very handy!). Will has extensive offshore sailing experience. Producer Andy Maas, centre, enjoyed his first nautical experience.
January 12, 2011 § Leave a comment
In furtherance of previous posts regarding anti-gaelic sentiment and the furore over BBC Alba’s move to Freeview (to the detriment of some radio channels) I thought I’d flag up the An-Diugh documentary recently shown on the channel as a prime example as to why wider access to the information, culture and content of their programming is so vital to Scotland, its people and politics as a whole.
The program Midweek – An-Diugh provides an amazing opportunity to see how the BBC’s Midweek series reported on the West Highland Free Press and the 7:84 theatre company in 1974, and how both have fared since then. The West Highland Free Press sections in particular highlight just how radical a publication it was (is) and how important a contribution it made to the futures of the people of the western Highlands and Islands
Vital viewing and very inspiring from a personal point of view and if nothing else the interviews with lairds and landlords of thirty years ago show just how far things have come in many respects.
(I’d also like to note some satisfaction taken in the fact Brian Wilson and co were as scruffy and hirsute in their youth as I. Although I suppose being mid 20s in the 1970’s gives them more of an excuse.)
January 11, 2011 § 1 Comment
Love him or loathe him, author and journalist John Macleod writes very good books!
Born in Lochaber in 1966, sfter graduating from Edinburgh University, he began his career at BBC Highland in Inverness and quickly established himself as a freelance writer. He won Scottish Journalist of the Year in 1991 and contributed regularly to The Scotsman and The Herald. He is presently a columnist with the Scottish Daily Mail.
He’s also the author of Birlinn Books first publication of 2011. Following on from the excellent book on the Iolaire disaster When I Heard The Bell, he now tackles life under the rule of infamous Lewis factor Donald Munro.
In 1844 Sir James Matheson bought the Isle of Lewis, awash with hope and good intentions, only, in 1853, to put a rat-faced factor from Tain in sole charge of the estate. Within months Donald Munro, the self-styled ‘Chamberlain of the Lews’, had seized practically every office of civic, legal and industrial power in the community and for the next two decades held the entire island under an absolute reign of terror.
This is a study of Highland landlordism at once at its most benign – Sir James refused to enact Clearances in Lewis and vested thousands of his own fortune in assorted well-intended schemes, for little return; its most self-indulgent – as the baronet built a mock-Tudor castle, imported soil and trees and constructed his own Arcadian fantasy; and at its most blind – as he gaily left his tenants under the jackboot of a factor so monstrous he is still remembered with blazing hatred on Lewis, recalled in such nicknames as ‘the Shah’, ‘the Beast’ and ‘Red Donald of the Hens’.
In None Dare Oppose, John Macleod paints a stunning portrait of island society in Victorian Scotland held under a capricious and feudal oppression – until one quiet, decent corner of that island fearlessly rose against the subjugation, marching on Stornoway to a gripping court-room finale. It is an astonishing and powerful tale, beautifully accomplished and compellingly told.
January 7, 2011 § Leave a comment
In the part pointed to the north is Lewis, along the coast quite frequently cultivated. It has four churches, one castle, seven largish rivers and twelve smaller ones in addition, all according to their size producing salmon: in very many places the sea penetrates the land and spreads into gulfs, all abundantly supplying herring. There is here great production of sheep, which wander freely on moors and in woods. They are each year driven into a narrow place or fold, and the inhabitants shear them in the old manner. A great part of the flat land consists of moors; in them the earth on top is black from the combination over many centuries of moss and rotting trees, to a depth of about a foot. This upper crust is cut into oblong, thin blocks, and dried in the sun. It is then collected to use for fire, and is burned in place of wood. In the following year the bare soil is manured with seaweed and sewn with barley. In this island such a large number of whales is often caught that sometimes (as older men relate) twenty seven, some very large and some smaller, have been offered to the priests as tithes. There is in this island a large cave, in which when the tide recedes water two fathoms deep remains; when it comes in, the depth is more than four. Sitting there on the rocks, a huge crowd of every class, sex and age indiscriminately take a great amount of fish by hook and line.