Associated People: MacLean, Mr Angus, Scarinish (1923 - 2012)

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Wooden picture of a windmill made up of pieces of inlaid wood veneer (marquetry) by Derek Clarke, Balemartine, around 1970. Derek Clarke and Brian Jefferson worked for the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which took over responsibility for the airport equipment from the RAF in 1968. From the belongings of Angus MacLean, Scarinish.

2016.27.1

Copy of an oil painting by D McConnachie of dipping lug-sail boat the ‘Morag’ owned by Donald Lamont, Ruaig. On the back, the artist expresses their pleasure at it residing with Mona MacLean, The Coolins, Scarinish.

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Photograph of Angus MacLean, Scarinish (1923-2014)

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Colour portrait photograph of Angus MacLean (1923-2014) of The Coolins, Scarinish. Angus was a special policeman on Tiree and one of the founders of An Iodhlann. Original plus one other photo stored in filing cabinet 10 drawer 1.

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Spinning wheel

Wooden, pedal-operated spinning wheel made by Archie MacLean (Eirdsidh an Tuairneir), Cornaigmore. From the belongings of Angus MacLean, Scarinish.

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Tiree in 100 Objects – 31 – Spinning Wheel

This beautiful spinning wheel was made over a hundred years ago by Archie MacLean, Cornaigmore. It has been kindly lent to An Iodhlann by Mary MacLean, Scarinish.

Hugh MacLeod, Eòghann Charrachain, remembered Archie well. “Èirdsidh Tuairneir was the brother of Dòmhnall an Tuairneir in Whitehouse. His father [Charles] was a turner and it was he who taught Archie. He was making spinning wheels, lots of things, bannisters … He was making a few coffins as well, I remember that! He had a small felt house [Taigh Èirdsidh an Tuairneir] with a workshop beside it. He worked the machine with two feet on pedals, his feet going up and down and turning the wheel. It was amazing to see; there was no electricity then! He later built a small tin hut beside the big house.”

Archie was born in 1849. His father Charles was a ‘wheelwright and turner’ as well as a crofter. His mother Christina had come to Tiree to be the housekeeper for her brother-in-law, the Reverend Archibald Farquharson, the Congregational minister who lived in the manse beyond Whitehouse.

Hugh continued: “Every house had a spinning wheel in these days. [Archie] was making them for the whole island. It took a while to make them; they were quite complicated. He was good at any kind of woodwork – I’m not saying he could have built a house – but [he could make] furniture, or anything fancy. He could make table legs, round ones. There wasn’t anyone else on the island doing that sort of thing.”

Yarn has been spun in Scotland from sheep’s wool for five thousand years. This was done with a drop spindle, which consisted of a wooden rod or dowel with a stone or clay whorl disc at its base. The spindle was twisted round as it pulled down the yarn. The great advantage of this method was that it could be done while walking. The spinning wheel was invented in India at about the time Viking longships were landing on Tiree’s beaches, but didn’t reach the Highlands until the 1850s. ‘In the Hebrides in 1850 most of the women were still using the spindle. Yet by 1884 very few women were said to be using it.’ The 1861 Tiree Census counted 26 woolspinners (using a spinning wheel) and three ‘spindlers of wool’. Despite their late arrival on the island, there were a number of superstitions about their use, one of which was that the band should be taken off the wheel at night to prevent fairies from using it.

Spinning wheels produce yarn much more quickly than a spindle. But they had to be used sitting at home, which encouraged some women to make it their trade. Almost everyone on Tiree wore clothes made with tweed made on the island, and it was said that one weaver needed the yarn from three spinners. In 1851 there were forty-eight weavers (all women apart from one man). As world markets brought factory-made fabrics to the island (the spinning jenny was widespread in English wollen mills by the 1820s), demand for hand-spun wool or hand loomed tweed fell. By 1911 there were just two active weavers on Tiree, along with five spinners and three stocking knitters, although An Iodhlann does have a number of photographs from the 1920s of island women at their spinning wheels. As demand for hand-spun wool fell, so too did the demand for Archie’s hand-made wheels.

This is a ‘cocked up’ Saxony type spinning wheel, where the wheel and spindle are on the same level. The double band around the wheel drives both a spindle to twist the wool and a hake to wind the yarn. It is stamped ‘A MACLEAN’ at the front of the base. Archie posted his wheels all over the country. We know of one in Sussex that is now in Germany.

Archie himself remained unmarried. He died in 1942 at the age of 93, and is buried in An Cladh Beag ‘the small graveyard’ in Kirkapol.

Dr John Holliday, 2017

The History of Tiree in 100 Objects

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Portable sewing machine, ca 1900

Ornate, pearled, hand-operated, `Medium` sewing machine in an ornate wooden carrying case, made in Glasgow by Kimball & Morton between 1887 and 1910. Includes cotton thread manufactured by J&P Coats, Paisley. Belonged to Maggie Robertson. From the belongings of Angus MacLean, Scarinish.

Tiree in 100 Objects – 18 – Sewing Machine

This gorgeously decorated sewing machine comes from the collection of the late Angus Maclean, The Coolins, Scarinish. It had belonged to his mother-in-law, Margaret Robertson from Broadford on Skye, who had come to Tiree around 1910 to work as the telegraph clerk at Scarinish Post Office.

The sewing machine had been invented in the middle of the nineteenth century by a series of engineers working independently, most notably the American Elias Howe in 1844. Isaac Singer started to manufacture a similar machine in the 1850s, and rapidly grew to become the world’s leading producer. Singer set up his British headquarters in Buchanan Street, Glasgow in 1856 to get round Howe’s English patent. His first manager there was Alonzo Kimball, who immediately hired John Morton in his sales team. In 1867 Kimball and Morton set up in their own right with a new design aimed at the more industrial sack and sail market. Their most famous machine was in the shape of a standing lion with the machinery cunningly hidden inside the body. The ‘Medium’ machine was introduced in 1878. Some versions of the ‘Medium’ were elaborately inlaid with mother-of-pearl, the iridescent lining of the inside of pearl mussel, oyster and abalone shells.

The spool of cotton on top of the machine is also significant for us on the island. J & P Coats were a Paisley firm that surfed the wave of the sewing machine craze, becoming the world’s largest manufacturers of cotton thread. The unmarried James Coats junior was one of the wealthy owners of this company, while the whole  family became known for its philanthropy. A keen sailor, he came to know the northern and western isles of Scotland well. One of his projects was to donate a library to a number of remote Scottish communities. By 1898 the ferry waiting room in Scarinish (now An Iodhlann) became known as the ‘Reading Room’ after the Coats’ gift, and the five Tiree schools were also endowed with a collection of classics.

Dr John Holliday, 2016

The History of Tiree in 100 Objects

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