Tag Archives: plaiting and twisting


Photograph of members of James Galbraith`s family at Balevullin ca. 1905

Black & white photograph of L-R: Sarah Galbraith (m.Donald), her mother Janet Wotherspoon (m.Galbraith), and her son Charles Donald with a spinning wheel outside the Galbraith thatched croft house at Balevullin, in around 1905. Janet was the wife of James Galbraith (1821-1903), the Head Master of the Parochial School at Balevullin. After his death, Sarah continued to pay the rent on the croft so that her two sisters, then one sister and her husband, John MacDonald (1869-) of Cornaigmore, could live there, but ended up in dispute with the Duke of Argyll over the title. As a result, the croft was given up in 1913.



Photographs and information about a spinning wheel possibly made on Tiree

Photograph and information about a spinning wheel, hand-made by Hugh MacInnes, possibly Tiree. It was given to a young bride from Lochgilphead and passed down through the “Campbell women” to modern times, and now in the possession of Mrs Campbell, Dollar. Includes a letter regarding the spinning wheel from Rev. Ray Gaston, Dollar, to An Iodhlann, 2011, and a responding letter, and a letter from the owner Mrs Jennifer Campbell, Dollar, and responding letter, 2011. (See also photo P124)


Harvests knots

Photograph of three harvests knots.

Harvests knots

Courtesy of Mr Lachlan MacLean

These harvest knots were made in 2003 by Lachie MacLean of Kenovay who learned how to make them from his father. They would be plaited from straw at the end of harvest and either worn in a buttonhole, attached to horses’ harnesses or displayed in church.

A thick stem is selected from the base of the plant, often small oats or rye, the outer skin peeled away and cut into 18 inch lengths between the nodes. Two pieces are tied together at one end, plaited, then tied in a simple knot and secured with thread.

It is an old custom that seems not to have a well-known Gaelic name on Tiree and may have been imported from the Lowlands of Scotland by migrant harvest workers. It is also known as a True Lover’s Knot and in Ireland is worn at weddings.

Tiree in 100 Objects – 38 – Harvest Knots

The History of Tiree in 100 Objects


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.