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Issue 76 - The Scottish Diaspora Tapestry

Scotland Magazine Issue 76
August 2014

 

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The Scottish Diaspora Tapestry

A homage to the contributions made by Scots throughout the world

It began with the creation of The Battle of Prestonpans Tapestry in 2010, followed by completion of The Great Tapestry of Scotland in 2013. And now the latest community project masterpiece has been revealed, The Scottish Diaspora Tapestry Featuring a series of four metre wide embroidered panels, the concept of creating a series of Bayeux-style tapestries for Scotland was first initiated by the Prestoungrange Arts Festival and The Battle of Prestonpans Heritage Trust. Harnessing the talents of the Port Seton-born artist Andrew Crummy, stitchers from throughout the land were invited to contribute and the results which were then put on display for all to see are by any standards, spectacular.

Working out of a studio in Cockenzie, Andrew Crummy trained as an illustrator at Duncan of Jordantone College of Art in Dundee, then went on to achieve an MA in Design at Glasgow School of Art. Thereafter, he worked as an illustrator in London for magazines such as Time Out and New Musical Express. Next came murals around Middlesborough, Sheffield, around the Scott Monument in Edinburgh and for the National Museums of Scotland.

The coastal village of Prestonpans is celebrated for its street murals, and in 2006 Andrew completed a Mural-in-a-Day depicting the Battle of Prestonpans for the Prestoungrange Arts Festival at the 6th Global Murals Conference. Not even he had any idea that this wouild eventually lead to a series of the most inspiring collaborations between artist and needleworker ever to be undertaken.

As we know, Scots have over the centuries migrated throughout the world and often created a major impact on their adopted lands. Completed to coincide with Scotland's Year of the Homecoming 2014, The Scottish Diaspora Tapestry was officially launched at Prestonpans Community Centre during the Three Harbours Festival in June, and it will be on show in Edinburgh, Paisley, Inverness and Wick before travelling abroad.

The thinking behind the Tapestry was that it should connect nations across the world, weaving them together with the common thread of Scottish Culture and historical influence.

Hence, you find a panel featuring Lachlan MacQuarie, born on the island of Ulva, who became Governor of New South Wales and is known as “The Father of Australia.” Another panel celebrates Andrew Archibald MacDonald and Colonel John Hamilton Gray at Province House on Prince Edward Island, Canada's oldest seat of legislature; another shows the renowned conservationist John Muir, and the Sierra Club he founded in San Francisco in 1892.

All of these topics were carefully selected, sketched out by the inimitable Andrew Crummy, with his observant and witty sense of humour, and allocated to 25 overseas communities to create. In so doing, volunteers from the Prestoungrange Arts Festival joined forces with at least 400 international embroiderers.

There is the Shetland Bus Story, that of the wartime special operations group that formed a permanent link between Shetland, Scotland and German-occupied Norway; there are the links between Loch Ewe in Wester Ross and American, Russian and Panamanian ships sailing to Wurmansk and Arkhanelski in Russia in the Arctic Convoys , and George Gordon (1541) and Sir James Crawford (1799) embodying Scotland's trade with Holland and the Low Countries.

Across the Atlantic, in Mobile, Alabama, a group of seven have stitched the story of John Ross, a man of Scottish descent, who became a chief of the Cherokee Indians.

However, the traffic has not always been outgoing but often two ways. The celebrated Scottish painter John Bellany from East Lothian made his second home in the medieval Tuscan town of Barga in Italy which in July and August every year hosts a fish and chip festival in honour of its Scots connections.

Combined, all of these stories, some fiercely patrician and others, decidedly quirky and eccentric, pay homage to the incredible determination and courage of the Scots pioneers and settlers who were not afraid to travel and adapt to the extremes they found in the far corners of the earth . This is their Diaspora story in tapestry and it will perpetuate their memory for as long as time allows.

Where to Visit

Venues where The Great Tapestry of Scotland can be seen in 2014:

Until 31 August: St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh.

6 to 22 September: Anchor Mill, Paisley.

27 September to 25 October: Inverness Museum & Art Gallery and St Fergus Gallery, Wick.