It’s been a busy few weeks for our Secret Coast club, with the release of several new patterns and essays, plus Tom’s photography and short films. In different ways, all of our club’s recent designs and essays have explored the theme of historical memory: how do we read the traces of the past in the spaces of the present? What do we call to mind when we look at a particular place? Which local tales are best remembered, and which narratives really deserve commemoration?
I am rather fond of my new hat – the Queen of Auchtachoan, which commemorates the ordinary life of Nelly Whyte, the last inhabitant of this small croft above the Kerry Kyle.
I could not resist making the hat part of a matchy-matchy colourwork outfit . . .
By designing an accompanying pullover. I am really enjoying knitting allover colourwork at the moment – a predilection which is likely to become all-too apparent in my forthcoming designs. . .
. . and find something deeply satisfying in this particular Milarrochy Tweed palette, with its shades of brown and blue and wine.
This pullover is called Sgadan, which means herring. . . .
. . . and in the accompanying club essay, I wrote about how the battle for Loch Fyne’s elusive silver darlings anticipated debates about overfishing which still resonate powerfully today. You can read about one such debate in Hazel Healy’s brilliant piece for the New Internationalist which also formed the subject of her two-part documentary for the BBC World Service, Tale of a Tiny Fish .
Tom also produced a beautiful short film, which really brought our Loch Fyne story to life.
This week, we approached the theme of historical memory in a rather different way, through the legacies of slavery that are visible in the landscape of the Secret Coast. To illuminate these legacies, Stephen Mullen wrote an essay about John Lamont of Cedar Grove, Trinidad and Benmore, Argyll. Tom and I are great admirers of Stephen’s work and we were really happy he shared his important research with us.
Born in Argyll, Lamont travelled to Trinidad as a young man, where, as an overseer and later, a plantation proprietor, he grew enormously wealthy on the expropriated labour of the African and Creole people he enslaved.
The huge profits of plantation slavery and later, the compensation money paid to Lamont by the British Government after emancipation, ended up in Argyll, where it was used to purchase and enlarge estates like Benmore.
It was a real pleasure to collaborate with Stephen to create this week’s design, which we named Maria Jones, in memory of one of the women Lamont enslaved on his Palmiste estate.
Maria Jones’ story was recorded, after emancipation, by missionary, John Law.
Her socks combine Scottish stranded motifs with the colours of the flag of Trinidad and Tobago
. . . and are designed as a way of remembering Scotland’s slavery legacies, which are visible in the landscape and built heritage all around us. Stephen’s important research has done a huge amount to shine a light on these legacies, and I really encourage you to read his essay about Lamont (which will be published in our Secret Coast book) as well as his recently-published report about Glasgow’s slavery connections
This is a project which has been significantly enriched by fruitful and thought-provoking collaborations, such as this one with Stephen, and it makes me very happy to be able to bring the work of our talented contributors to you as part of our book which will be published later in the spring.
The book includes all the club essays, and designs and is illustrated throughout with Tom’s beautiful photography. I’m really looking forward to seeing Argyll’s Secret Coast completed, and in print!
Once again, I am just so impressed by your historical research and the beautiful way you write about it and then mix it in with fiber and knitting. Thanks for so many enjoyable and educational reads!
I love this post, it’s always interesting when you pose such questions and I go away and think and discuss these with friends and family. As a member of the National Trust there is a growing realisation that many of our stately homes were funded by slavery and there is a programme of education and inclusion under way – which sadly some people are very resistant too. The wider question of whose history matters is of course that everyone’s history matters, and if some of that history is challenging or uncomfortable then we need to overcome this and recognise that we need to acknowledge and learn from every part of our past including the darkest parts of it.
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Knockdow has both a historical and contemporary connection to questionable ownership
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I was thinking the same
I love the patterns particularly Nelly Whyte’s hat and Tom’s film of her Croft house was beautiful. It spoke of beauty and hard work.
I love your coat Kate.
And I am looking forward to reading the Secret Coast book.
We have to remember the ugly parts of history to try and avoid the mistakes of the past, however our leaders are not very good at remembering the lessons of the past.
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It’s such an interesting historiographical question: which stories deserve to be remembered and commemorated? I haven’t the fluffiest idea how to answer it. I think whether they deserve it or not, we tend to remember the stories that we connect with, and which stories we connect with tells us something about ourselves. Which is a very subjective answer to a question attempting to look at the issue a bit more… if not objectively, then from the position of the story, and not the reader per se. I’m interested in more thoughts on this subject.
I am interested in this question too. I think that perhaps we connect most personally to the stories that are relevant to our interests (for me knitting and natural history), but then there are stories that connect us to big historical issues that we cannot ignore, like slavery. I was very interested in Kate’s reference to Stephen Mullen’s work. I did not realize that fortunes made in Trinidad and Tobago made possible by slavery funded some of those stately homes. I will look at them in a different way now. I tried to listen to a podcast that is available online featuring Stephen Mullen, but his Scottish accent was too strong for me. I love the accent but I couldn’t decipher 90% of the words. In any event, I am an American and our past with slavery is very dark and still poisonous today. So, Kate’s blog did touch many cords for me. I love the fact she names her very beautiful pattern Maria Jones after an enslaved person in Trinidad. A knitting pattern that can be made over and over anew is a better memorial than a stately home.
Dear Kate, YOU are the Queen of Auchtachoan!! Historical rememberings can be beautiful and traumatic. I am so looking foreward to this book so I can reread these essays . cheers.
Knockdow estate, once the Lamonts’ ancestral home, is now the property of Evgeny Strzhalkovskiy, son of KGB colonel Vladimir Strzhalovskiy, who served alongside Putin and later became chief executive of Norilsk Nickel. Strzhalkovskiy purchased Knockdow in 2017. wealth in those estates.
I wish the government would seize this estate and let some Ukrainian refugees occupy it!
I do love your blog and it is one of the things that calms me down these days. This imagery is beautiful.
Kate, each of these three new designs (and those films) are particularly beautiful. To be able to connect with your creativity is always a joy.
To my eye, the “sideways V” motif of Sgadan and The Queen of Auchtachoan remind me of holly leaves and berries!
Best wishes to you and Tom.
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Both Sgadan and Maria Jones socks are beautiful patterns. I am really excited to see more “all over” color work patterns coming from you, I also want to thank you for sharing this historical fact regarding slavery. Honestly I did not know that… and it does make me think a bit differently now., which is a good thing. Thank you and happy Spring!
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This was a great post; I love the integration of many elements – craft, history, writing, and antiracist work. I’m currently reading Washington Black by Esi Edugyan, which, if you haven’t read, you might appreciate. Cheers!
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A wonderful blog pulling together so many strands of interest and so many beautiful visuals. Thank you!
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Enjoying Argyl with you. Noticing your skirt in two fabrics. The plaid is especially appealing but the construction is what got my knitting friends talking. Is there a pattern for it available?
I too, would love to make one of your beautiful skirts.
Yes, your blogs are wonderful! I love the combination of knitting design, historical memory, and landscape photography. The visual interest and the text complement each other in wonderful ways. Thank you!
Yes me too! The skirt is beautiful.
Glorious! Love your blogs!! Tell me about that beautiful skirt??!! 😊