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Wick III – Fergus Ferguson: 5 June

3W160605-1And here it is—our homage to Fergus’s gansey, washed and blocked and ready to go, the patterns properly visible at last. (And bearing in mind that the original is even more detailed, and more finely-knit, than this, you really have to doff your cap to the original knitter.) You know, the more old photos of Wick fishermen I see, the more convinced I am that Caithness provides a “missing link” between the Scottish Fleet patterns of the mainland and those of the Hebrides.

3W160605-1-2I read with sadness this week that Dave Swarbrick, the great English folk fiddler, had died aged 75. Other major cultural icons, from Bowie to Muhammad Ali, sad losses all, have naturally dominated the headlines; but it’s the passing of Swarb, as he was affectionately known, I find, that has touched me most deeply.

3W160605-1-3His music has been part of the soundtrack of my life for over 40 years. I saw him play live any number of times: in small, intimate folk clubs with Martin Carthy and Simon Nicol, or at the Fairport Convention reunion festivals at Cropredy, near where I grew up. (The abiding image of his playing was, apart from the effortless ability, the way he kept jerking his head around, chin jutting out, as he tried desperately but unsuccessfully to prevent ash from his cigarette falling onto his violin; well, that and the vast round of drinks on a nearby tray…)


Thurso from Holborn Head

Anyway, in honour of his memory, here’s a link to the classic Fairport track Crazy Man Michael which he wrote with Richard Thompson, from their 1969 album Liege and Lief. The fiddle is perfectly understated, accompanying but never dominating, giving the singer (the late, great Sandy Denny) and the lyrics room to breathe. Other tracks demonstrate his skill more flamboyantly, but this shows how delicate and sensitive he could be.

Well; the world is a little bit smaller today. RIP, Swarb.

3W160605-1-5Finally this week, a historical anecdote that made me smile. It’s from Iain Sutherland’s book on the Caithness fishing industry. He tells of a pompous harbour trustee in the 1920s who used to stand self-importantly down at Wick harbour, as if overseeing all the activity, but really not having a clue. One day a tourist searching for a public convenience came up to him and asked if he knew where the Urinal was. The trustee scanned the crowded docks lined with boats before asking, “Is that a motor boat or a drifter…?

19 comments to Wick III – Fergus Ferguson: 5 June

  • Nigel.

    Fine fine work. I have started another gansey for one of my daughters. I haven’t decided on the pattern yet, but I am already a quarter of the way up the front and I have only been knitting a few days. It’s much easier!
    I remember a story about Swarbs, something about a truck demolishing his bedroom …?

    • Gordon

      Hi Nigel, yes, the group and their roadies lived communally for a time in a former pub in Hertfordshire until one day a lorry crashed into it, demolishing Swarbrick’s bedroom. By a lucky chance, he’d recently switched rooms and was using his old bedroom to store a load of antique furniture he’d bought on the strength of a forthcoming Paul Simon session; tragically the crash wrecked a lot of the furniture and Simon cancelled the session…

      Best of luck with the ganseyette!

  • Inge Sorensen

    Hi Gordon
    Clapping hands. This is an amazing sweater. I have followed your work with it, and I duff my cap for your work. Love the pattern, the color, everything with it.
    Mabye this is a very stupid question, but is the pattern available somewhere? I apologize, but english is not my first language so I may have missed this information if you’ve already said it.
    By the way, I paid attention about Dave Swarbrick is passed away. He was one of my husbands favorite musician too.

    Best wishes

    • Gordon

      Hello Inge, and thank you. The pattern is taken from an old photograph, but doesn’t appear in any books; and while we’ve posted some charts along the way the yoke was too big to post all in one go. But when we add the gansey to the Gallery in a little while (i.e., when we get around to it!) we’ll make sure all the pattern charts are included.

  • lorraine

    Gordon- I think this is my favorite of all. I am really taken with the sleeve pattern detail, and will do something similar in my next Gansey.

    Just beautiful.

    • Gordon

      Hi Lorraine, best of luck and thank you. Just remember you have to pay attention to this sort of detailed pattern as I learned to my cost! (No half-watching tv while you knit with this one…)

  • Jane

    Many congratulations Gordon, just fantastic work, just totally awesome in every way. There is definitely no watching telly with this one!

    It is been a wretched year for losing people. Things of such beauty and skill like the gansey are enormously cheering! So well done.

    • Gordon

      Hi Jane, it’s been a rough few months, hasn’t it? But at least these actors, sportsmen and women, and musicians have left us a legacy that won’t die as long as recordings are around. (And I feel sorry for any actor who takes on the mantle of Professor Snape if they ever remake the Harry Potter films!)

  • Lois

    Absolutely a magnum opus!

    • Gordon

      Hi Lois, I kinda feel I should retire at this point; I can’t see me topping this anytime soon! (And the original was even finer—go figure…)

  • Judit M. /Finland

    Hello Gordon ! Congrats to the new gansey! Waiting for the photo of Margaret wearing this fine garment.
    Best regards from Finland !

  • Jane Dale

    This is a masterpiece of a Gansey.
    Have finished my husbands birthday Gansey just in time for it to be too hot to wear! He is very pleased with it however, and I just wanted to say thank you for your encouragement from afar. Your quote ‘many drops wear away the stone’ kept me going with a wry smile when it seemed like I would never reach that second cuff!

  • Jenny

    Congratulations Gordon. You are the summa cum laude of our gansey universe.

  • Julie

    What a marvellous accomplishment.
    VIctoria, BC

  • What a fine and solid gansey! The patterns in this one are some of my very favorites, and this sweater pulls them together in such a balanced and integrated way.

    Thank you for sharing its birth with us!

  • Gordon

    Hello all, too many comments to reply to individually – so just a short note to say thank you, it’s been an interesting challenge, and the next one will definitely be simpler!

  • Nigel

    Try baking this loaf of Roman bread for yourself with Giorgio Locatelli’s recipe: ow.ly/Bq1Q300PNXy

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