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Wick Fergus Ferguson Revisited: Week 8 – 11 April

And here it is, the Wick Fergus Ferguson gansey, washed and blocked and unpinned and ready for its time in the sun. It really is a stunning combination of patterns, with something to catch the eye wherever you look. It’s knit in Graeme Bethune’s Caithness gansey yarn, and I wish you could reach into your screen to touch it, and feel how lovely and soft it is. It is, of course, far too nice to wear, and I hope it will one day find a home in Wick Museum alongside the big, blown-up photograph of Fergus that they have on display. There are many more Wick patterns I intend to try, but none finer than this.

Crow in the Snow

It’s Easter in a few days, which means it’s time for me to get irrationally annoyed at pagans claiming the festival for the goddess Ēostre. I say irrationally because I keep catching myself out in the sort of logical trap that Captain Kirk used to confuse intelligent robots in Star Trek. The reason, of course, is that there is only one historical reference to Ēostre (or Ostara in German) which comes in the annals of the Venomous Bede written in the early 8th century. Bede said that Easter was originally a Saxon pagan festival in her honour, but that it had died out and been replaced by the Christian one. And it’s it. There’s literally no other reference to her before the folklorists got hold of her in Victorian times, and made up a whole bunch of stuff involving hares and fertility rites, at which point it all gets bit mucky.


These same loony Victorians came up with the idea that she was also the Goddess of the Dawn, because—and how I wish I was making this up—east in English, or ost in German, means literally east; the sun rises in the east, and—well, I guess that’s what passes for scholarship in these matters. Mind you, I’m not saying there wasn’t a Saxon goddess of spring called Ēostre—after all, there’s no other explanation for the name Easter in German and English (unlike other languages, which tend to use a version of Passover for the festival)—just that all we have is the name, and even that’s open to question.

Bunny by the warren

But what about my logical paradox? Well, it’s like this: I have to ask myself why I get annoyed when I read about Ēostre and her hares because it’s made up—as if, for example, Thor and Loki and Tiw, let alone Venus and Bacchus and Poseidon, were actually real gods, and only Ēostre out of the whole pantheon is fictitious; as if I’m OK with deities invented fifteen hundred years ago, but not since then. (And it’s not even as if I’m consistent: I mean, I’m so keen not to tempt Fate I even give the word a capital letter.) Well. All I can say is, I have no idea if the goddess is (or was) real (or not), but I do know that chocolate Easter eggs are real, and right now that’s good enough for me. So, happy Ēostre everyone!

13 comments to Wick Fergus Ferguson Revisited: Week 8 – 11 April

  • Judit Mäkinen

    Congrats Gordon, this is the finest of the finest Wick patterns.
    Best regards !

    • Gordon

      Thank you Judit; I think if this photo had been known when Gladys Thompson or Michael Pearson had written their books, Wick would have been mentioned rather more prominently!

  • =Tamar

    Well, my personal opinion is that 99% of established verified folklore is something some old drunk in a bar made up in the 19th century to amuse or make fun of the earnest folklorist who was buying him beer and asking what his granny used to do.

    But we have photographs of the ganseys, so that’s real. And this one is perfectly lovely.

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, I suspect you’re pretty much on the button there.

      The story goes that when Cecil Sharp went to collect the Morris dances of Brackley, he assembled the dancers and bade them perform a dance so he could write it down. “How would you like it to go, Sir Cecil?” was the alleged reply…

  • Lois

    That is indeed a stunner, and certainly deserves a place in a museum. It must have taken the patience of Job to keep all those patterns correct. And Margaret did a splendid job of blocking, as always.
    I’m curious to see what comes next, because I can’t imagine how you can possibly surpass this one.

    • Gordon

      Hi Lois, and thanks. As for what comes next, as is my wont, I shall relax with a few simpler ganseys before tackling another of the fancy Wick ganseys later in the year. I love bringing these complicated patterns to light, but they require concentration andsometimes it’s nice just to knit for fun!

  • Dave

    Nice pulley Gordon. I think the colour is really good for showing off the pattern. It’s not as overwhelming as the more primary colours.

    Happy Easter. Hope you have a good one.

  • Bridget

    I agree with everyone above. This is a real stunner, and something that I will attempt. My brain requires patterns all the way through. I see plain knitting, and just daze out. Love the color too. My last was a muted red which doesn’t quite “go” with everything. (Sorry Mom, I know you’re spinning in your grave.) I see my pre-teen self saying/whining, “But it doesn’t go together!”

    • Gordon

      Hi Bridget, I know what you mean, but sometimes i feel as if my fingers are all gnarled up after endless horseshoe cables and moss stitch! Then I definitely need some plain knitting therapy to unkink the twists in my fingers and my brain…

      Best of luck with the pattern. It’s a real head-turner and no mistake!

  • Lynne Brock

    So beautiful! And I love the cuffs, they fit so well with the rest of the pattern. How does this Caithness gansey yarn compare to Frangipani? You say it’s softer but is it also 5 ply and have a nice twist? and did you use your regular 2.25 mm needles?
    Enjoy your holiday long weekend, I hope it includes chocolate 🙂

    • Gordon

      Hi Lynne, well, Frangipani yarn is also rather lovely and soft, so you can’t go wrong really. I love them both, and feel lucky to have both available. Yes, the yarn is 5-ply, and yes, I used my regular 2.25mm needles. It behaves just like other guernsey 5-ply. Graeme’s guernsey yarn is undyed (so far, though I believe he’s thinking of experimenting), so the colours—cream and two shades of brown—are natural.

      One reason I try to support Graeme, is that he’s a small hill farmer here in Caithness, trying to find a solution to the question, how can you manage flocks of sheep for wool, not for meat, and make an ethical living. He goes to a lot of shows and yarnfests, and if you ever get the chance to go to one and meet him I’d thoroughly recommend it: he’s got a personality as big as all outdoors, and a fund of stories about his farm and his “sheepies”, that show you’re not just buying yarn, you’re buying into a lifestyle.

  • Lynne Brock

    I hope Graeme is able to make it, the “little” guy is so challenged these days with bigger factories taking the majority of customers. He sounds like a great guy to have a visit with. My only personal experience with sheep was my young daughter who raised a lamb each spring for 4-H and then fitting and showing and auctioning off for meat. But – there was always a vendor with yarn at the big auctions. Fun times – until the auction, and then, always, tears.

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