19 February 2013
Today I visited my local museum, a couple of miles away from my croft. It is a very small museum with only 4 baskets. Three of these are fishing baskets, two small line frame baskets and a great line basket. All are made of rattan and with line inside. All the baskets were donated by people living in Kirkibost, Bernera.
It was the fourth basket that I was really interested in seeing. It is a ciosan. A small round coiled basket of marram grass. As Stephanie has written else where on this site, these ciosans were meal measures and are particularly associated with the Western Isles. Yet very few have survived through the years here on the islands. I know of another in the Ness historical society collection at the north end of the island, but there are none in the main museum collection in Stornoway. The difference with this ciosan is that is has a handle. The handle is wrapped in the same material as the stitching. I couldn’t identify this material. Possibly very fine skeins of willow or bramble. Certainly nothing twined. The handle itself appeared to be a rod of some kind.
Kathanna Latimer, who staffs the museum, along with Noreen Maciver, who was brought up on Bernera, helpfully asked a neighbour of hers who was in the café if she remembered anyone making the ciosans, but she didn’t. Kathanna didn’t think there would have been much bramble on the island.
Kathanna did remember her uncle Donald Macdonald of Lundal making a creel but it was more to see if he could…not really to be used. She did remember back creels being used at the peats in her childhood in the 1960s. The small pieces of peat would be piled into the creels and tipped out on to the tractor trailer. The last creel maker seems to have been another Donald Macdonald of 4 Iarsiader. Both Lundal and Iarsiader are not on Bernera, but are seen as part of the area community.