historical memory


The Queen of Auchtachoan

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.

Auctachoan today

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. . .

Sgadan palette

. . 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 .

above Loch Fyne

Tom also produced a beautiful short film, which really brought our Loch Fyne story to life.

Loch Fyne

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.

Snowdrops blooming at Benmore

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.

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. 

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.

Benmore House, once part of Lamonts estate, now situated within Benmore Botanic Gardens

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 socks

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

you could knit the Maria Jones socks in any national or regional colours of your choice: a great pattern for using up small amounts of yarn.

. . . 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!