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Wick V – Donald Murray 5: 26 December

I’m writing this on Boxing Day (Monday), and Storm Conor is shaking Caithness like a terrier with a rat between its teeth: there are winds up to 70 mph and vicious showers of sleet, hail and rain.

This is our second storm in three days, after Storm Barbara blew through on Christmas Eve—I was dimly aware of noises on the roof around midnight and the muffled sound of sleigh bells; I listened anxiously for Santa but there was only a sudden gust of wind followed by a distant “Ho, ho, hoeeuuaaarrrggghhhhh” and that was that.

Still, Christmas morning offered a brief respite, so we went up to John O’Groats. Looking out over the North Sea under leaden grey skies you really do feel that you’re standing at the end of the world—which, in a sense, you are, of course.

Stroma gleams in the morning sun

There’s a scene towards the end of the Lord of the Rings when the riders of Rohan come to the rescue of the besieged realm of Gondor, and in the battle Eomer believes that his uncle and sister have been killed. Seized with a beserker death wish he rallies his men with the world’s greatest battle cry: “Death! Ride, ride to ruin and the world’s ending!”

Well, I always picture the host of Rohan several days’ later sitting on their panting horses at John O’Groats, staring at the bleak expanse of the North Sea. Eomer looks round and observes, ‘Well, it’s the world’s ending all right—kinda ruined, too. Hmm, wonder how it all worked out back at Gondor? Ach, it’s probably fine, yeah: now, who wants ice cream?”

Gordon impersonates . . .

In gansey news, I have slowed down a little but not much: so that I have finished the first side and am over halfway up the second. At this rate I should manage to get the shoulders joined this week. It’s going to be long—about as long as a cricket sweater, I think—but I can always fold up the ribbing the way they used to in the old days.

. . . George M McKay.
Courtesy Wick Heritage Society

Finally, I’d like to thank all those who’ve read, commented or made a donation this year: as my favourite Anglo-Saxon saying goes, “Everyone who cries out wants to be heard”—so thank you. See you next year! And to quote the traditional Somerset Carol:

God bless the ruler of this house and long may he reign,
Many happy Christmases he live to see again!
God bless our generation, who live both far and near
And we wish them a happy, a happy New Year.

(Well, it was either that or “Death! Ride, ride to ruin and the year’s ending!”…)

11 comments to Wick V – Donald Murray 5: 26 December


    Quite the handsome gansey,Gordon. The pattern is showing up very nicely in the white. I hope you are feeling better. Happy New Year!

    • Gordon

      Thank you, Jean and a very happy New Year to you too.

      Intricate patterns alway look better in white—I think it’s got something to do with the way the purl stitches indent the surface, like footprints in freshly fallen snow, or else it reminds me of wedding cakes. Anyway, I’ve never seen a pattern that didn’t look good in white!

  • =Tamar

    Two major storms in three days, wow. I know I’ll get heavy weather eventually here, but I still feel slightly guilty for the comparatively peaceful weather I’ve been enjoying.

    Thanks for posting the original photo for comparison. It was so clear that you could almost pretend it was taken just to show off the gansey.

    • Gordon

      Hello, Tamar. I read somewhere that the north-east tip of Scotland is where four (or five?) weather systems meet, so it’s bound to be a bit exciting. Especially nowadays when the Gulf Stream just sends storm after storm across the Atlantic like bowling balls and the Highlands of Scotland = the pins!

      There are a handful of photos in the Johnston Collection that show gansey patterns really clearly. Alas, most of the ganseys aren’t as clear as this, for some reason they seem more interested in the faces of the fishermen than their patterns (how short-sighted is that?!). But we do have a handful we can make out, and I hope to recreate these—the patterns not the photos—over the next year or so. Watch this space!

  • Judit M./Finland

    Hello Gordon,
    After seeing this gorgeous gansey I just decided to knit my next one in white. But the pattern is still a question.
    Thanks for 2016 and Happy New Year !

    • Gordon

      Hello Judit,

      And a happy New Year to you too! Every time i knit in white i always wonder why I knit in any other colour—it shows the patterns so well. (Having said that, my next project was going to be in navy—but this one has been done in record time, so I may have to rethink…) Happy knitting!

  • Jane

    A fine photo and following in a grand tradition! Lovely work on the latest gansey, such a wonderful pattern! All the best for the New Year and take care!

    • Gordon

      Hi Jane, well, this was the pick of the photos—in most of them I did rather look as though I’d just spotted Santa’s elves sneaking in off camera to steal my Christmas chocolate biscuits! This pattern is spiffing. isn’t it? I’m thinking of experimenting with some Caithness-Hebrides hybrids incorporating my favourite elements of each. But I’ve got some more recreating to do first.

      Here’s to a happy 2017!

  • Sharon in Surrey

    Such a graphic quality to this pattern!! I really like it, but NOT on ME in white. It would get dirty between the front door & the car!! . . . maybe purple, or red or steel grey??? hahaha
    And I really feel for you with two big storms in three days! No wonder the houses are built with stone!! But, you didn’t have to shovel it like we did this year. We got 14.5″ of snow in less than a week here on the Wet Coast & it shut down Vancouver, more or less. The main roads & bus routes get plowed sometimes but the rest of us fend for ourselves – tough if you live on a tiny side street, off a bigger side street, off a big side street . . . and no one puts on snow tires because we usually don’t get snow. Smart people stocked up & stayed home to make soup, drink hot tea & knit!! while all the old movies ran on the TV once more. Looking forward to all the new patterns in 2017!!

    • Gordon

      Hello Sharon, well, to be fair it’s cream rather than pure white, which means it already comes with a “lived in” look!

      We seem to have survived the storms, now it’s just wet. Supposed to get colder after New Year’s Eve. 14.5″ of snow is very spectacular—I can remember in the region of 7 or 8″ one Christmas in Cape Cod, but Wick is close to the ocean and tends not to get a lot of snow and ice, sadly. It’d almost be worth it for the old movies, except over here they only show modern remakes of classics which are Just Not The Same.

      Stay warm, drink lots of soup and happy knitting!

  • Dave

    You know who really hates Boxing Day? Jockeys–those damn horses are HEAVY!

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