Regions

While Scottish communities that made and used baskets were interdependent and interwoven, nevertheless, there are clear regional variations which reflect differing needs, patterns of work and material resources. An example can be seen in the creel, where the western creel has an open, unwoven band around its girth, similar to Irish creels, while the eastern creel is fully woven from top to bottom. Sculls, low, round, frame baskets, also vary, and can be made from spale (split willow or other wood), or woven willow and hazel, or cane, varying from region to region. There is also much less material evidence of basketry in museum collections and photo-archives from western Scotland and the Highlands than of eastern basketry, with particularly rich material being available for the east coast fishing industry between Edinburgh and Arbroath.

The variations in conservation may be due to factors such as the impact of the Highland clearances and migration. But, Isobel Grant suggests there may also be more subtle, longstanding influences, linked to the greater fertility of the eastern soil, and the differing influence of Norse invaders east to west. The introduction of herring drifters from Aberdeen also concentrated the herring fishing in the east coast ports, although Stornoway and Mallaig were important centres. Thus, agriculture and fishing was both more restricted in the west, and there was less money to conserve local heritage.

 

East

Scottish Fisheries Museum

The east of Scotland extends from the Borders and Edinburgh as far north as Caithness..

View the “East” collectionSee also Cromarty

Highlands

Carrying home peat, RR McIan. Taken from Gaelic Gatherings, Am Baile

The Highlands include especially those areas north of the Great Glen, such as Inverness-shire, and also parts of Perthshire, Angus, Argyll and associated areas. Basketry heritage of the Highlands is quite sparse. This probably reflects a mixture of historical events, especially the Highland clearances, and also perhaps less possibility for collecting from this area. The…

View the “Highlands” collection

Isles of the West Coast

Crofters with baskets. St Andrews Special Collections

View the “Isles of the West Coast” collectionSee also Lewis, Monach and Skye

Lowlands

crownpoint

The lowland areas of eastern and southern Scotland were particularly fertile and suited to agriculture. Baskets used in these regions were less diverse or specialised than in the fishing industry. The most common use of baskets was for lifting potatoes, and such baskets were commonly known as \'tattie sculls\'. Fruit growing was also important, and…

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North

Thurso Fishwive's basket, National Museums of Scotland

There is very little documentation of basketry from Caithness and Sutherland in Northern Scotland, as opposed to either Orkney or Shetland, which have extensive collections and documentation of the role of basketry in their recent past. We have also been unable to visit either Wick or Thurso to see what their archives may show, and…

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Northern Isles

Shetland ponies being relieved of their loads of peat, Fetlar, Shetland, 1930. On their backs are riva kishies, or nets, and woven straw kishies. Scottish Life Archive

Both Orkney and Shetland have extensive examples of basketwork used up until the 1950s, and some even later. As in the Highlands and west coast, Orkney and Shetland baskets were used for a lifestyle closely linked to crofting, needed for flittin’ peats, collecting seaware and for crofting-fishing. Basketwork includes regional variations of the creel or…

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South

BVIII_7d_5541(f127_16)

Southern Scotland extends eastwards across from Wigtownshire through Dumfries and the Borders to East Lothian. It includes both some of the most fertile agricultural regions and also the most important urban centres in Scotland. As with other lowland parts of Scotland, working baskets such as tattie sculls predominated in rural areas, while towns and cities…

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West

Archie MacEachern, Kinsadel, Arisaig c 1910, carrying seaware. Scottish Life Archive

The west of Scotland extends from Wigtownshire in the south, along Scotland\'s intricate west coastline to Sutherland in the north. Basketwork ranges from agricultural in the south, to crofting and fishing baskets along the west coast northwards. Many baskets in regional collections today are from the Western Isles rather than the mainland. East coast fishing became…

View the “West” collection