Grandma Hailstone’s well-travelled basket

Basket correspondence with Denise Franck, September 2015.BasketGrandmaHailstones

‘The basket … was owned by my Scottish great-great grandmother from Muiravonside, Scotland, possibly 1850’s. The basket was damaged, but I was hoping to glean some information that would help me understand our family history. She used it as a sewing basket, the family were miners. The story is the basket traveled across the ocean 7 times.’

…My brother remembers it setting on my Grandma Weir’s table. Her mother was a Brock who came to the US in 1881, but her mother is the one I assumed would have made more than one trip across the Atlantic, she was Christina Maxwell b1828 d1906 in Kansas. I think the basket would have had to be in Kansas by at least the late 1800’s. The other possibility is my other great grandmother, Catherine Muir Weir b1825 d1913, who came to the US about 1857 from Wishaw.’Grandma hailstone Basket1

…[Mother} did repeat the story she’d told me except saying 3 instead of 7 trips across the water- she still remembered Grandma Weir using that terminology. But I do believe it’s from Scotland and has to be at least late 1800’s if not earlier. There were always 2 thimbles kept with the basket, a metal one and another one with a roller on the side.

I’m attaching some other pictures of the basket. Fascinating that you can “read” a basket.’

The team’s thoughts on this:

Steph: ‘I have seen similar baskets at the Highland Folk Museum, but none so old. I think they were a popular style at the time, mainly for bannock baskets, though there is no reason to think they were just used for the one thing…the ones we have seen are all much more recent, and I think the style was popular in the early 20th C but do not know about before.

However, there is a rumour that Robbie Burn’s wife had such a basket which is still at the Burns museum, also of an early date, and similarly damaged. We are still trying to understand about basketry in the time you mention. Your basket looks as if it might have been made in a workshop because it looks like buff willow (i.e. stripped and boiled), which means the willow could have been bought in or made by a machine. Although, again, we don’t know how common this practice was around then.’

Liz: ‘Those kinds of open work baskets are associated with Madeira – I will photo one I have that was in my sister’s house in Angus and I am copying – it’s a bit broken and would be a good hundred years old I imagine, as everything is in her house!  Also my family were merchants so it could have come from anywhere. I will look through my collection of photos of Beamish Museum too as there may be one there.’Liz basket northumberland - anne and nick's cottage 027

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