Uig Historical Society has a great museum based in the Community Centre at Timsgarry, Lewis. It is run by volunteers and has items collected and donated by local people over the years. I visited in June 2013 and it was pretty busy the whole afternoon with visitors.
They have eight baskets including a commercially made small round shopper, a small line basket, a great line basket, a creel, a ‘child’s creel’, a bonnet basket, a newly made mudag and a ciosan.
Teen Anne Murray was a wonderful host and had lots of stories for me of past life in Valtos, Lewis.
Both creels were made by Donald MacDonald of Gisla and you can see him in action in the Creels section of How to make.
There are several of these ‘child’s’ creels around the island museums. The gaelic for this creel is a ‘bac-cliath’, this means an under arm creel, not intended to use on the back. Donald MacDonald told me in 2009 that they were used to wash vegetables. I have also been told by local Bernera women that occasionally children did have them on their back. In the museum the childs creel has been put in their Crofter’s kitchen display filled with peats by the stove which in some ways is misleading . Teen Anne told me the story when her mother, Catherine MacLean, was a child, she would go to the moor for a full size creel of peats before school. This would be a round trip of about two hours. She lived with her great aunts who were no longer able to do this work. Her mother left school at 14. Teen Anne said that it was rare to see a creel on a man’s back. Men used hessian sacks on their backs. Apparently there was quite a knack to tipping a full creel over one shoulder to empty it.
The ciosan is not in the best of condition and was not on display but kept in the back…so if you want to see it I would contact them in advance. Teen Anne relays that her mother told her that the ciosan would be kept in the meal chest and this helped to keep them in good condition. Then each day a full ciosan of meal was taken out and that would be that day’s ration for the baking. There would always have been problems of moths getting into these chests and laying eggs. So they were regularly emptied and sluiced with boiling water.
One of the Uig historical members, Finlay MacIver, has made a length of marram grass rope for the museum and there is a bunch of dry marram grass with it. He also ‘made’ some pot scrubbers out of the roots of the marram grass. The roots were sometimes exposed after a storm and then a bunch was torn out and rolled together to form a mat.
The bonnet basket belonged to Teen Anne’s great grandmother, Anne Mackay, around the turn of the century. Although I really doubt that this was made on the islands it is great to know it’s actual use and who by.
There is a carpet beater but similarly unlikely to have been made on the islands and looks to be made of Kuba cane.
This summer (2013) the museum has a spinning exhibition, along with wool dyed with various local plants (including willow). I was asked to make a mudag for this exhibition, although so far no one actually remembers them being used here. Maybe it is one more generation back from living memory because they were used on Skye and there seems no reason why it would not have been used here. See my post about making the mudag.
The fishing baskets