Saturday, May 10, 2014

2014 Tour Day Five

Dundee lies on the River Tay and was once known for Jute, Journalism, and Jam. Dundee is now home to two fine museums. Discovery Point about Admiral Scott's polar expeditions and his ship, the "Discovery and Verdant Works Jute Mill Museum.

In it's heyday, Dundee was called “Jutopolis.” Over 50,000 workers worked in the jute mills. Verdant Works Jute Mill, built in 1833 , was the 16th largest of 61 milles. The last of the jute mills closed in 1997. Verdant Works is the focus of today's video.

Read more information and see many photos about both museums, in 2011 Day 5 blog post.

2014 Tour Day Four

We had a free day in  Edinburgh. Travellers scattered to the wind to explore the Royal Mile or venues in "new town."  We gathered Friday night for a concert at Teviot House at Edinburgh University. The Tradfest is on just now in the city. It brings musicians from Scotland and other places in the world to perform.

 We were lucky to be here the night the Scottish folk band "Breabach" was playing.  They are gaining an international reputation with recent tours to Australia and New Zealand. James Lindsay, the son of our he teacher for the straw weaving workshop on Day 6 is the bass player in the band. So it was a real treat to see the 5 member band perform live after hearing their recorded music on cd and on BBC Radio Scotland's "Travelling Folk" program.

Again for the moment, my video of a tune they performed is not uploading properly. Once I can upload you will get to see and hear Breabach right here.  Until then, visit their website above and enjoy photos from Edinburgh below.-Nadine
Edinburgh Botanic Garden Glass Houses

Gate to Holyrood Palace

Edinburgh Castle

View from Arthur's Seat

Walter Scott Monument

2014 Tour Day Three

My new video about the Falls of Clyde at New Lanark is not uploading properly. Until I can troubleshoot the issue, below is information and photos from a previous visit to New Lanark.--Nadine

New Lanark World Heritage Site is the site of a former mill where cotton  was spun. Today, in one of the restored mill buildings, there is a small  production of wool yarn being spun on a large spinning mule for the sake of education and for profit.

The community was built below three falls on the River Clyde in the late 1700’s by David Dale. The mill ran on power generated by the falls. Today New Lanark still produces hydropower that runs the community, with enough left over to sell back to the power grid. The mill was purchased and run by Robert Owen from 1800-1825. He was a social reformer and forward thinker far ahead of his time. He ideas were not popular with other mill owners. But his efforts gave him the title “father of trade unionist movement” in Scotland. He banned children from under age 10 from working in the mill. He started the first nursery school in the UK. Children from ages 2-9 went to school while their parents and siblings worked in the mill. Once children reached age 10, they worked  in the mill and then attended classes at night. Mr. Owen treated his own 7 children no differently than he treated the children of the mill workers.

The school was built by money generated from the company store which was run as a cooperative. New Lanark was the first cooperative that lead to the foundation of The Co-op, a grocery store still thriving around the country today. In school not only were reading, writing, and arithmetic taught, but the children studied dancing, music, and nature studies.

The workers lived in buildings just across from the mill. A family of 10 may share one room, but they were warm, well fed, and had health care provided by the mill doctor. The work day started at 6 a.m with a breakfast break at 9 a.m. and lunch break in the middle of the afternoon. The work day ended at 7pm. The mill ran 6 days a week and was closed on Sunday. They produced 50,000 miles of cotton per week. The mill operated until 1968 when it could not operate profitably. The mill buildings sat empty and fell into disrepair from the elements and vandalism. A foundation saw the value in restoring the site and started the vast restoration of the mill in the 1970’s. The restoration still continues today. The newest addition is a roof garden on top of one of the mill buildings.

The site is a glorious example of public and private cooperation to preserve an important part of Scottish history and to educate generations to come. Today 150 people live on the site. Many visitors may only take the Annie McLeod ride. But I encourage you visit the school building, visit Robert Owen's house, spend time looking through the exhibits in Mill buildings 1 and 2 and the housing block, and take the hike to all 3 water falls.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

2014 Tour Day Two

Dan Coughlan
We spent the day in Paisley. The town has a history of weavers but before they wove the popular paisley pattern in the 1800's, they were known for their fine cotton and linen gauze weaving. To achieve the patterns in the fine cloth, they used draw looms. When the Jacquard loom was developed, these became the tool of the skilled weavers.

The Paisley Museum houses a fine collection of Paisley shawls and an excellent display of the equipment used in the trade. Dan Coughlan, weaver, loom technician and curator showed us how some of the equipment worked.

To read a detailed account of the Paisley Museum and other venues we visit in Paisley, see the blog post from 2012, Day 2

Sunday, May 4, 2014

2014 Tour Day One

Hairy coo
I'm back in Scotland with a new group of travellers. This year everyone on the trip is from the U.S. The 2014 blog will focus on one venue or event from each day of the 14 day tour.  On Tuesday, April 29 our textile-focused venue was The Weavers Cottage in Kilbarchan. Just 20 minutes outside of Glasgow, this cottage, run by the National Trust of Scotland, shows how handloom weavers lived and worked in this town. The building dates back to 1723, but there is evidence weavers were working in the town in the late 1600's.

Christine Macleod has been the head weaver in the cottage since the 1990's. In a typical weaver's cottage, the man wove on the loom which occupied the lower level of the house. The women and children did the spinning, supplying the "copps", the yarn for the weft of the weaving. In the 1800's the weavers took on contract work, getting the warp and weft materials from a "jobber" and weaving to their specifications. Most weaving shifted from hand loom cottage industry to power loom weaving done in factories in the second half of the 1800's. A very small number of handloom weavers continued on into the 1900's with speciality work. On of the last ones, Willie Meikle, wove tartan and double sided cloth into the middle of the 20th century. His loom, over 200 years old, is the one still used in the Weaver's Cottage.

"Jenny Dang the Weaver" is a traditional Scottish tune I played on my fiddle  for the video below.