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Thurso: 19 July

ThTh150720-1 As Shakespeare so memorably observed in one of his Sonnets, ‘I’d walk a million miles for one of your smiles’; but how far would I drive to avoid the Caithness County Show? The answer, it turned out on Saturday, is about 107 miles.

ThTh150718-2Each year the show alternates between Thurso and Wick, and this year was Wick’s turn. The showground is in the fields across the road from us, and we watched in fascination as within the space of a couple of days a village of marquees appeared, animal pens, a funfair and enough vintage tractors to plough Ohio. It was like the Field of the Cloth of Gold, only instead of jousting matches between Henry VII and François I we had stunt bikes and burger vans.


They are out there

Now, agricultural shows are not altogether my thing, fond as I am in general of sheep and mud (and other stuff that looks at first sight like mud but really isn’t); so we tactfully made our excuses and headed south for Chanonry Point on the beautiful Black Isle. There we braved the cold wind and flurries of rain to watch a pair of dolphins or small whales (‘whalettes’ I believe is the scientific term) fooling about in the Moray Firth, their arched backs as they slipped beneath the surface looking like undulating coils of the Loch Ness Monster.

We took a scenic detour on the way back around the Dornoch Firth, so that by the time we returned home the show was just about over and only the funfair remained, as if life wasn’t sufficiently full of sadness already.

ThTh150720-2Meanwhile I’ve been working hard on the gansey, helped by the fact that so much of the sleeve is plain knitting and thus relatively quick to knit, and requiring less concentration than a full-length pattern. So I have finished the first sleeve, picked up stitches around the armhole of the second, and am now on the home straight. I should get it finished within the next fortnight, i.e., by the end of the month, if I’m lucky. It’s been a joy to knit.

As I mentioned last week, the St Fergus Gallery next door is using a couple of my ganseys as part of its exhibition of old photographs from the Wick Museum’s Johnston Collection. There’s a much-enlarged photo in the display of a fisherman (Fergus Ferguson) with a very fancy gansey; the image is so clear I think I can chart out the pattern, and if so  I have an idea to try to recreate it for the museum, maybe next summer. Watch this space.

Against my better judgment I posed for a publicity picture next to my ganseys. Here it is, for what it’s worth; though I do rather look as though I’ve just been interrupted while eating the thighbone of a rather plump child, which I’ve hastily hidden just out of camera shot. The things one does for art…

20 comments to Thurso: 19 July

  • Lynne

    That’s a GREAT photo of you, Gordon! and isn’t that enclosure a nice way to protect the display gansey from the elements.
    I hope Margaret took some ‘Blips’ on your week-end excursion, I’ll check back later.

    • Gordon

      The advantage of displaying things in a gallery is that they have these protective cases; whereas archives are supposed to be locked away in strongrooms, so display is not something we’re ever geared up for.

      Oh, and if any of Margaret’s images appear to be in black and white, don’t be confused: they were in fact shot in colour, it’s just really that grey and dark up here right now.

      You’re very kind about the picture, Lynne, but I can’t help feeling that if ever I’m asked to act as a Greeter for the next meeting of the Wick Chapter of the Amalgamated Zombie, Vampire and Affiliated Brain-Chomping Undead, this is pretty much how I’d look: a vacant grin, a hint of drool and a frozen look lurking somewhere behind the spectacles…

  • Judit M. / Finland

    Gordon, your photo shows that cream is a perfect colour showing the fine pattern of the gansey. Congrats!

    • Gordon

      Hello Judit, yes, cream is probably my favourite colour to show the detail on a gansey. Plus it goes really well with my grey hairs!

  • Jane

    Wonderful photo Gordon and the tones of cream and grey against the walls are so well chosen if I might say. The idea of charting the gansey is quite excellent and totally in the best tradition of gansey hunting, Gladys and the whole crowd would be proud. It is a superb photo to work from. I too like the display case, everyone gets a good view and the ganseys are so safe. Excellent. Take care.

    • Gordon

      Hi Jane, the credit to that photo goes to Jana, the gallery coordinator, and her iPhone. The pattern isn’t the kind of design that usually attracts me, but as it’s an original from Wick, it would be rude not to have a go! (Mind you, the tricky part will be finding a window in my gansey schedule, which currently has a backlog of over 5…)

      • Jane

        Just a thought, could that be a watch pocket do you think, in the back of the gansey, bottom left, in the photo. Wonderful photo from the high days of the herring fishing.

        Spike is still getting picked on, the shoo will have to go up a rung! Hope your weather improves, I saw the golf!

        • Gordon

          It’s definitely a watch chain poking out from the bottom left, just like the one I wear (yes, I affect a pocket watch, as I don’t like the feel of having something clamped around my wrist). So this is Fergus in his Sunday best, no question, not off to work in the boat.

          Interesting that the cuffs are cables alternating with plain knitting, when there aren’t any cables elsewhere on the body.

          The weather has been horrid! Apart from a few days last month of 18-22º we’ve been stuck with 9-13º and gales and a lot of rain. Meanwhile my English friends post heartless pictures on Facebook of them eating ice creams on the beach! There ain’t, as the man said, no justice.

          • Jane

            Now, you can see the end of his watch chain shining on the gansy, bottom left, and I think there may just be some reinforcing stitches, bit like a button hole. But, higher up on the right there is another twinkly bit which I thought was an age mark, and now I wonder isn’t another chain end with reinforcement around the hole, near the gentleman’s heart. I say this because when I turn my iPad landscape, the gansey all goes slightly blurry but these two areas stand out almost with a recangular outline. A locket …?

            Gordon, this gansey has everything, Sunday best of the highest order. It has so many motifs, it is so rich, the rib at the bottom is carefully turned up and the cuffs down, and the sleeves are still short. Could the cuffs possibly be a twisted rib, you know, where with a two stitch rib you knit through the back of the stitch behind and then the front of the first stitch and drop the loops together. It gives the appearance of a flat cable, just pure speculation. I cannot see really well on the iPad.

            There must be the most wonderful story behind this!

  • =Tamar

    About the Fergus Ferguson portrait: If you read the writing along the edge of the photo in a mirror, it says Fergus Ferguson 061911, which I translate as old-style 06-19-11, dating it rather precisely to June 19, 1911.
    Either that or it’s OG 1911, and either way it’s 1911.

    Nice detail, anyway. Is that a tree or an anchor mid-chest on Fergus? I think it looks like an anchor.

    • Gordon

      Hello Tamar, I wasn’t sure either so I went and had another look at the blown-up photo and it’s really a tree (but unusually, it just consists of stripes for branches, without the purl-stitch “cones” that other tree designs tend to have). Above and below it are wide, purl diamonds, but again unusually, 4 or 5 purl-stitches thick. On either side of the central panel are columns of smaller trees and what look like moss stitch diamonds separated by chevrons of some sort. It’s very ornate, and i think i need to sneak back into the gallery with some graph paper!

  • Sharon in Surrey

    Oh Piffle, Gordon. Who’s going to notice you anyway?? They’ll be to busy concentrating on your gorgeous sweater. Hahaha You’re just the man to chart up the pattern in the old photo & knit the gansey for the museum. I think it would be a good history lesson to see that sweater in real life, so to speak. You do such lovely work.

    • Gordon

      Piffle is a word that is not used enough in civilised society, I think. That, and “Pshaw!”. I miss them both.

      I have toyed with wearing a jester’s cap with flashing lights in the hope of distracting people further from my fizzog, but you’re probably right, the pattern should suffice. That or clown shoes.

      I’ve got a few waiting orders in the pipeline, but I might be able to squeeze that pattern in next summer – I must admit it’s caught my interest, and I’d love to see it for real. In fact, looking at some of the other photos in the exhibition, there are patterns which are subtle variations on familiar themes which deserve to be added to the canon – so who knows? Maybe a wee bookie beckons!

  • Sharon in Surrey

    A Wee Bookie??? Oh Gordon. I have almost sweater’s worth of handspun waiting in a bin while I finish spinning up the last bit of the ‘mill ends’. I need a good project for it all.

    • Gordon

      Sharon, I’ve got a couple of projects in the pipeline I’m committed but maybe next autumn I’ll b in a position to chart that out and give it a go. I’ve found at least two other photos of ganseys that are less spectacular but the images are clearer, too. Interesting that a few years ago Wick was the land that ganseys forgot, and now I’ve found three or four that don’t feature in any of the books!

  • Jane

    And the little buttons, so many little buttons! Sorry about the strange thin column!

  • Jane

    Not locket, compass.

  • Jane

    Or it’s a medal pocket, wow.

    • Gordon

      Hi Jane, I can’t make that out, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. It’s a shame that the photo isn’t ever-so-slightly sharper in focus. The cuffs appear to be a regular sort of cable alternating with about 5 stitches of plain knitting (but it’s hard to tell as they’re a bit blurry).

      The pattern band on the upper arm is interesting too—one panel has a tree above a diamond; another has a similar zig-zag to the lower body design, but then there is a sort of square-cum-diagonal patterned panel. And when the tree and diamond panels recur they have the diamond above the tree, alternating the arrangement.

      Honestly, I agree, this is one of the richest patterns I’ve seen. I’d like to knit it up for the museum, hopefully sometime next year, but I’m already a little intimidated at the amount I’d have to concentrate!

  • =Tamar

    Yes, please, a wee bookie of Wick ganseys!

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