Dalmore Daytime

Dalmore Daytime
Sandy Beach

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Bobbins and Bluebottles.

Previously,I told of the "Big Jobs" which my Uncle Shonnie Glass allocated us at the beginning of each summer vacation. Taking home the peats by horse and cart and picking out the thistles from a field of cut hay, were just two examples of Shonnie's Big Jobs,ensuring continuity of work for us,throughout the vacation,and at the same time reinforcing the much vaunted presbyterian work ethic. This work ethic seemed to travel with the emigrant Scot,but mostly with the dour presbyterian ones,of which I suppose there were many. The Shoudie boys eschewed the work,making the ethic redundant. With them,there were no "big jobs",only those required to keep body and soul together(perhaps not even the "soul"). My Shoudie uncles never gave me a job to do,because they never had jobs to give. This was an ongoing ceilidh house,and no one would have had it any other way.
In my early teenage years,the two main "occupations" for me in Dalmore were the "bobbins" and the "minks",and the latter will be dealt with in full,later on.
Shonnie was a weaver of Harris Tweed,as were most men,and some women,in these days. A good weaver could earn a pretty decent wage,and many would later marry and set up home on the strength of the security offered by the "tweeds". Harris Tweed was always subject to the vagaries of fashion,and the strength or otherwise of the US dollar. At that time(1954-1959),the industry was booming,and weavers would get as many tweeds as they could manage. The mills which I remember were K.Mackenzie("Sticky),Newall and Smith,all of Stornoway and Kenneth Macleod of Shawbost(Coinneach Rodd). There may have been others,which I can't now recall. The woollen warp,coiled in a large hank,and the large bobbins of "snath" (thread)were dropped off at the roadside next to the croft at 5 Dalmore,and finished tweeds uplifted by the same mill lorry. I would watch Shonnie setting up the loom("beart") for the weaving of a tweed,which involved "beaming",sorting out hundreds of threads,and setting the shuttle box, whose rotations were obedient to the punched holes on metal "cards",similar to the Hollerith computer cards of that time. You can see that engineering and its attendant terminology passed me by. The only aspect of weaving which concerned me was "filling the bobbins",and it was a paid job to ensure that Shonnie always had "iteachan" for his "spalan"(ie. bobbins filled with thread for the shuttles). The "boban" machine was driven by that monster JAP petrol engine(you will recall!)and any decent boban man could fill a large wooden box of "iteachan" in a couple of hours,which would keep the weaver in harness for the rest of the day. The trick was to keep every spindle of the machine "occupied",and this came with some practice.The window by the bobbin machine had a ghoulish fascination for me,and it has to be said now,a source of entertainment, as I went about my business. This window was host to 3or4 spiders and the glass pane was a Spaghetti Junction of the finest of silk webs. There always were a great number of flies and bluebottles around,and there were many who were attracted to that window. When a bluebottle became enmeshed in a web,the noise of vibration was loud,as the poor insect tried to free itself. There was no escape as the spider shimmied out to mummify its prey in a silken sarcophagus. There were many skeletal remains dotted about these webs. By the way,I was paid five bob for a tweed's worth of bobbins. To this day,I associate the sound of a bluebottle with these days in the weaving shed,but now I usher them safely out the window.

PS. In the early 1960s,Mrs Perrins,owner of the Garynahine estate,was responsible for the launch of Ceemo Tweeds. She hired the "very best" weavers and designers to produce lightweight tweeds that would appeal to the couture markets of London and Paris. The Ceemo Tweed was exquisitely designed,very soft and light and a feature of these was the beautiful way that silver and gold Lurex was woven through the cloth. Ceemo was a brave attempt at bringing the "clo`mor" out of the past,to engage with a very sophisticated market. Ceemo did especially well in the fashion houses of Paris,but events were to see its demise,some years later.

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