If Doctor Who had decided to give up skimming through space and time and basically showing off, and instead decided to settle down in the far north of Scotland and convert the Tardis into a cross between a pawnshop and an antiques shop, he might have ended up with something remarkably similar to the wonder that is Wick Heritage Museum.
Like the Tardis it is deceptively small on the outside. But once you start to explore inside you find there are always more stairs, more galleries, more unexpected levels, and each one crammed with a riot of objects and photographs. You may not travel through space—but you do through time.
I was there as part of a visit from a local school learning about World War Two. We told them about the bombings; and Harry Gray, who has lived through more of Wick’s history than I’ll ever know, told a great story about a tailor who was working upstairs in his shop when the bomb exploded—the floor collapsed and after the dust had settled he found himself standing on the ground floor, thimble and fabric in hand, but with his trousers completely blown off. Highlight of the museum for me is, of course, the gallery devoted to the fishing industry.
They have a colour film from the 1930s showing the trawlers chugging into the harbour for the season, Lerwick and Buckie and Yarmouth boats, the harbourmaster pointing each one where they should berth. Workers heft sacks of coal and carry them onboard over a single long plank that makes tightrope bicycling look like a safe occupation. And there are the fisher lassies, the gutters, gutting and packing herring faster than your eye can follow, an endless blur of knife and hand and silver fish, some of them confident enough to grin shyly at the camera while they work (something I couldn’t have done and still been able to count to ten afterwards).
In my own gansey I have divided for the front and back, put the half-finished gussets on holders, and am romping up the back, which I will finish in a few days. The armhole will be eight inches from gusset to shoulder strap. This will be another gansey with a traditional collar, so I will not be indenting the neckline and both sides will be identical.
By the way, I should issue a disclaimer: Margaret’s still in America, so cannot be blamed for any of the photos this week (with one exception—see if you can guess which it is).
Incidentally, after the schoolchildren had left the museum I got talking to Harry and told him how much I enjoyed his story about the tailor. There’s a spot of mischief in him: he said that on these occasions he usually asks the children to draw the tailor after the explosion—only for some reason they always depict him with his boxer shorts intact…