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  • Images of Flora Macdonald, part 1
    As a starting point for my 2021/2 project, I thought it would be useful to have a look at the (known) paintings of Flora Macdonald… The NGS webpage tells us that after her release from prison in London in 1747, Flora commissioned the above portrait which she gave to the […]
  • What can be learned from an old piece of cloth?
    Quite a lot, as it turns out. Here’s a photo of the piece of cloth that occupied my thoughts for most of the last year As you can see, it’s a piece of tartan. A piece of ‘hard’ tartan, from which we can deduce it is fairly old. We can […]
  • Sharing the knowledge; a letter to Kelly
    One of the things I’m most passionate in life is education. I am a very proud lifelong learner and love learning new stuff and then passing it on. This afternoon I received an email from a lady called LouAnne, who said: I have an awesome daughter named Kelly. At the […]
  • Stìomagan agus brèideich: Highland maidens and wives
    The painting above, by Alloa-born artist David Allan, is one of my favourite 18th century paintings depicting Scottish people. On the left there is a well-known musician Niel Gow playing the violin next to his brother playing the cello. On Gow’s right is the Duke of Atholl (his patron) and […]
  • Britannia is a woman
    In 1940 a film entitled Britannia is a Woman was released by Movietone News to be shown in cinemas across the UK. [1] It had been created with the full cooperation of the Women’s Voluntary Service (WVS). [2] It was clearly intended to boost morale on the home front as […]
  • Scottish women’s history
    I have returned to studying this academic year part-time and am catching up on modules I had started last academic year but had to take a break from due to having long covid. One of the modules I picked up again was called ‘Arguments and Alternatives’. It looked at different […]
  • Temperature scarf & Scottish wool
    A few weeks ago I was talking with my husband about the weather in Scotland. It has been a really quite nice summer after what felt like a very long, cold and wet winter. Over the past few months there have been some really glorious days, like this: There has […]
  • The start of a kilt maker’s journey
    My daughter and I have started to learn to make kilts this summer, thanks to Nikki and Amanda at The Kiltmakery in Leith This blogpost is more a photo essay with a few comments thrown in for good measure. Day 1 started with a bit about the history of the […]
  • On long covid, lockdown and hope
    Winter this year was a particularly horrible one. The weather was abysmal, I had a reoccurrence of what I now know to be long covid, my brain didn’t feel like it was functioning properly, I was in significant amounts of pain due to endometriosis and adenomyosis. It was depressing. I’ve […]
  • Catching up
    I realise it has been an incredibly long time since I have posted anything on my blog. Like many others, I have been struggling to navigate the effects of the pandemic on mine and my family’s life. I thought I’d run through what I’ve been up to in the last […]
  • The curious case of Alexander MacGibbon and the Old Statistical Account for Parish of Kilmadock or Doune (1798)
    This blog post is somewhat different from stuff I usually write about. As we are all at home due to the COVID 19 pandemic, I have been thinking a lot about the notion of ‘home’ and what it means to me personally. Is it the people I live with who […]
  • Who will play the silver whistle?
    Figure 1:Gillebride as the time-travelling* Gwyllyn the Bard in episode 103 of Outlander (accessed from here on 30th May 2019) Gaelic oral tradition is old; it dates to at least the fourth century when there was little cultural distinction between Ireland and the West coast of Scotland, with the first […]
  • The Act of Proscription, tartan and Gaelic culture
    The Dress Act, part of the Act of Proscription (19 Geo. 2, c.39), came into force in Scotland on 1st August 1746. Section 16 of the Act made the wearing of “Highland clothes (that is to say) the Plaid, Philabeg, or little Kilt, Trowse, Shoulder-belts, or any part whatever of […]
  • The results are in!
    The results are in and I’m afraid I’m going to be rambling on a bit in this post 🙂 I am delighted to let you know the results of the dye analysis, which has helped confirm the age of the fabric due to the use of dyes. For those of […]
  • Ruthven
    I have become a little bit obsessed with trying to learn more about what Isabella’s life was like. For me, the dress is a physical reminder not only of the history of textile making in the 18th century, but – perhaps more importantly- the life a lady once lived. The […]
  • Old stories
    Old stories are quite wonderful things; sometimes they are rooted in fact and other times are just fanciful creations of an imaginative mind that get passed on somehow. Families sometimes have stories about their ancestors. For example, there’s a story in my husband’s family that one of his ancestors was […]
  • What will these threads reveal?
    Amazingly up close the darker thread is indeed a very dark blue. Even a couple of metres away the blue looks black but taking the dress out into daylight revealed how very vibrant the dyes still are. I have hunches but scientific testing will reveal what dyes were used.  Importantly, […]
  • Love token
      The rear of Isabella’s brooch       When I went to see Isabella and Malcolm’s descendants on Skye in February, the owner of the dress showed me Isabella’s ring, brooch and snuffbox (made out of a cow’s horn with a silver lid). All three had the same engraving […]
  • 2D becoming 3D
    I have always had a fascination for maps. My interest in them started quite early on and the more I study them, the more I love them. A couple of weeks ago, I discovered Past Map where it is possible to look at both old and recent maps, and compare […]
  • Delving a bit deeper
    Good afternoon from an overcast, yet still incredibly beautiful, Edinburgh. This project is not just about a dress. One of the aims of the research is to find out a bit more about the life of Isabella, her husband Malcolm, their parents and children. I find it important that as […]