Panels of The Scottish Diaspora Tapestry to be displayed in the Legislative Building Rotunda Wednesday, December 17, 2014

 

For Immediate Release

Winnipeg, December 11, 2014

 

Over the past ten months, almost 30 local embroiderers have been documenting Manitoba’s early Scottish heritage one stitch at a time.  Seven tapestry panels have been completed as part of a unique international exhibit, The Scottish Diaspora Tapestry Project.

The local panels will be on public display prior to being sent home to Scotland.  Viewing will be on:

                        Wednesday, December 17, 2014

                       11:00 AM to 5:00 PM

                        Rotunda of the Manitoba Legislative  Building 

                        

 Over twenty-five countries around the world are contributing 200 panels to complete The Scottish Diaspora Tapestry.  Each separate panel is unique, depicting a facet of that country’s Scottish heritage.  When complete, The Scottish Diaspora Tapestry will measure over 90 metres in length, making it one of the longest tapestries in the world.  The tapestry panels will begin an international tour in 2015 and are expected to return briefly to Manitoba in 2016.  They will eventually be put on permanent display in Prestonpans, Scotland.

The seven Manitoba panels conceived by a local committee illustrate important aspects of the early history of Manitoba’s proud Scottish heritage:

·      the early involvement of Orkneymen in the Fur Trade;

·      the settlement’s unique modes of transportation in York Boats and Red River Carts;

·      the arrival of the Selkirk Settlers and the establishment of the first agricultural community in Western Canada;

·      the blending of Scots and First Nations cultures resulting in Manitoba’s unique Anglo-Métis heritage;

·      the involvement of Scots, both settlers and fur traders, and their Métis descendants in the fur trade rivalries that culminated in the Battle of Seven Oaks;

·      the friendship of Lord Selkirk and the settlers with Chief Peguis; and

·      the establishment of the early Catholic and Protestant settlement churches.

You don’t have to be Scottish to enjoy these unique pieces of artful stitchery!  All panel designs have been created by Scottish artist Andrew Crummy, based upon the local committee’s historical themes. The finished panels measure twenty inches square (51 cm by 51 cm).  The designs were transferred with pencil onto linen fabric then sent to Manitoba where all of the embroidery was done by hand by the local stitchers, using  single stands of Appleton wool.  It takes approximately one hour to hand-stitch one square inch (2.5 cm x 2.5 cm) of the tapestry so each panel represents close to 400 hours of work!

The Manitoba stitchers include members from many diverse heritage and cultural groups including local Scottish dance and pipe band associations, settlement church congregations, and embroidery groups.  Not all of the stitchers have personal Scottish ancestry but all share great pride in Manitoba’s history.  Affiliations include the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society, the Lord Selkirk Robert Fraser Memorial Pipe Band, the Manitoba Highland Dance Association, the Manitoba Living History Society, The Lord Selkirk Association of Rupert’s Land, and the Winnipeg Embroiderers’ Guild.

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For More Information:

Heather Ferguson                                                                  Lorraine Iverach

Coordinator, Scottish Diaspora Tapestry Project                   Winnipeg Embroiders’ Guild Tapestry Liaison

Scottish Heritage Council                                                       l.b.ibis@gmail.com

heather.ferguson@gov.mb.ca                                                204-235-1170

204-330-7940

John Perrin

President, The Scottish Heritage Council of Manitoba, Inc.

jdperrin@mts.net

204 489-9235

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Background Information on The Scottish Diaspora Tapestry

Scotland’s diaspora across the globe is especially conspicuous for its cultural inheritance, whether this be enchanting poetry of Burns, the skirl of the bagpipes, the exuberant dancing, the taste of malt whisky, or even just a mention of the haggis. Host communities are quickly captivated and engaged. Today it is suggested that more than 30 million people [six times the population in Scotland] across the world proudly claim and celebrate their Scottish descent, and each has a tale to tell as to how their families made their journeys to the far corners of the earth and made new lives. The largest concentrations are to be found in the USA, Canada, Australia and of course in England. But Scots have for seven centuries or more travelled and settled from Sweden to Brazil, from Italy to China.

Two questions immediately arise. Why did Scots so migrate and how were they able to make such a significant contribution in their new homes?

All too frequently migrations are the result of persecution or famine, and although Scots left during the brutal 18th century Clearances that is only a small part of the story of the diaspora. The earliest travelled to Europe as soldiers reaching the highest commands, and others were powerful merchants. As the British Empire burgeoned Scots went as scientists, engineers, doctors, missionaries and administrators. They travelled in a spirit of optimism, of self belief and adventure. They were inquisitive, necessarily hardy and brave, missionaries and administrators. They travelled in a spirit of optimism, of self belief and adventure.

It is impossible to explain their obvious global impact and success without pinpointing two great advantages they enjoyed. Firstly, the teachings and practice of John Knox had insisted during the 16th century Reformation that Ministers in their Scottish parishes must establish schools so that each parishioner could have his or her own relationship with the Lord. By the time Scotland gained access to the English colonies after the Act of Union in 1707 it had available legions of educated people who could and did play a vital role. Furthermore that foundation layer of educated people enabled Scotland’s universities to achieve pre-eminence in many fields through inspired research and the fashioning of The Enlightenment.

Such is the context for the fascinating individual tales told in the panels of the Diaspora Tapestry. Each tale we include is but a Scottish snapshot told by those ‘volunteers’ who have first stepped

forward in Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, England, France, Germany, Italy, India, Republic of Ireland, Jamaica, Lithuania, Malawi, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, Sweden and the United States of America. They make no claim to be representative in any deliberate way, but as is abundantly clear they are Scots’ descendants with fascinating tales to tell and the unquenched enthusiasm and pride to embroider them onto linen. They have also provided their own language translations where that is needed. They have donated thousands of hours to their artworks and gladly gifted them to Scotland care of us in Prestonpans. It is quite impossible to express the depth of our gratitude to them all.

– The Scottish Diaspora Tapestry Project, Prestonpans, Scotland