Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Day 8 Isle of Harris

Tuesday 17 April. The ferry departs Uig on Skye to transport travelers on a 90 minute sea crossing  to the Outer Hebridean town of Tarbert on the Isle of Harris. 
Caledonian Macbrayne ferry
Terry Bloomfield, a current Harris Tweed weaver, generously lets us visit his Tarbert studio each year.
Terry shows Lynn the draft
Weavers must complete a 12 week weaving course to prove their skill and competency before going to work for the industry. There are currently 100 weavers on the island that supply the industry weaving on Bonas Griffeth double wide looms. The looms are powered with a pedals like a bicycle. Instead of a shuttle, a rapier travelers through the weaving shed carrying weft yarn back and forth.
Rapier action on the Bonas Griffeth loom
Thirty years ago, 700 tweed weavers worked on the islands. Today the mills in Shawbost and Carloway provide the warped beams to the  tweed weavers.  1 beam of warp for four, 75 meter tweeds is delivered to his weaving studio. Normally, it  takes 2 weeks to weave off the beam. The fabric is taken back to the mill for finishing and marketing. Much of the tweed is sold to Germany. Terry taught  6 new students to weave on the doublewidth looms last fall.  The looms were supplied for them during the coursework. The students lease the looms when starting their own tweed weaving studios. Read more about the history of the industry at http://www.harristweed.org/

The Harris Tweed shop sits right next to the ferry terminal in Tarbert. The whole island was saddened at the death of Katie Campbell in2011. Here is a photo of Katie,  her daughter Catherine, and granddaughter I took at her shop in 2009. Katie had woven tweed for over 40 years. She and her sister Marion grew up at the foot of their father who was also a tweed weaver. Grannie had 11 girls who all spun. My mom died young. There were 4 of us girls and Dad bought a Hattersly Loom. We went to sleep to the click clack of the loom. It was lovely. It was safe.--Katie Campbell

The late Katie Campbell and family.

Harris Tweed Shop with the orb sign
Catherine keeps her Hattersly loom humming along turning out colorful contemporary and traditional tweed cloth. Besides yardage for sale, the Campbell's tweed is   sewn into caps, handbags, jackets, teddy bears, seals, etc.  http://www.harristweedandknitwear.co.uk/family.html

Bolt of Harris Tweed
Leaving Tarbert, we drive south. Harris is known for its sandy beaches. Luskentyre  shows dramatic beauty in all kinds of weather. Today, in an approaching rain shower.  The white sand sets off the incredible blue colors of the water making it seem like a movie setting for “Paradise Lost.”

This hairy coo was grazing at the entrance to the beach path

Mary and Marsha lead the group to the beach

Our driver Karen was the only one hearty enough to enter the water

Patterns of soil swirled in the sand by the tide

Luskentyre Beach
At an unlikey gallery, the upstairs of the An Clachan grocery store in Leverburgh on the southern tip of Harris, is displayed a wonderful labour of love. Gillian Scott-Forrest instigated the Millenium Project. A series of hangings was designed, one for each part of the island.

Gillian Scott-Forrest

The tweed fabric and the wool yarn used for the pictorial embroidery was hand dyed using plant dyes. Of the 1600 people living on Harris, 90 were involved in the project. The images on each hanging depict both history and current events from each area of the island. Each of the 8 panels are 5 fett by 2 1/2 feet.

Until the project, called the Harris Tapestry, finds a permanent home, you can get your gas, buy your groceries, have breakfast, and learn of the rich history of the people and the island all in one stop. http://www.harristapestry.co.uk/
St. Clements Church is a wonderful structure, built in 1520 by Alexander MacLeod. In the 19th century it was being used as a cow barn until Lady Dunmore restored it in 1873. There are 3 crypts in the sanctuary featuring intricate stone carvings. The graveyard surrounding the church holds many MacLeod graves as well as other local families from through the centuries. The accoustics are stunning and I love to sing in this haunting church. http://www.leverburgh.co.uk/stclements.htm

Alexander MacLeod's tomb features spectacular carvings

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