Mary MacLean of Balevullin
Photograph of Mary MacLean of Balevullin at her spinning wheel.
Courtesy of Ms Linda Gowans
George Holleyman, an archaeologist in the RAF police posted to Tiree during World War II, photographed Mary MacLean at her spinning wheel in the garden of her croft at Balevullin. Mary kept five cows and around twenty-five sheep and grew no crops other than potatoes.
To the right of the photograph is the top stone of a rotary quern. It is thought that rotary querns were introduced to Britain by the Romans around 2,000 years ago. Two women would sit on the ground with the quern between them, feeding grain into the central hole in the upper stone which was rotated by hand using a handle.
This was enormously time-consuming work. In ‘The Statistical Account of Scotland’ of the 1790s, Rev. Archibald MacColl estimated ‘by the lowest calculation, the work of 50 women is yearly lost at grinding’.
Black and white photograph of Mary MacLean, Balevullin.
Mary MacLean spinning wool in her garden at Balevullin, photgraphed by George Holleyman in the early 1940s. Note the drystone walling and quern stone.