Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Intriguing Old Scottish Sampler

I came across this sampler in our local saleroom in the West of Scotland, and am currently listing it in my eBay shop, here.  It is naive, not especially old or neat, but charming and very intriguing indeed.  It was made by one Maggie Blackhall in 1887 and from the look of it, I reckon she was quite a little girl. As well as the more usual alphabets, the house, a tree - with a nice red bird sitting on top of it - a characterful cat and various match-stick figures, there is a sailing ship.The ship (detail below) has its name stitched under it although half the name is obliterated by the frame.

It is, however, unmistakably the Lusitania. Most of us equate that name with the ship which was sunk in 1915, but this was clearly a much older Lusitania - a clipper of some sort. A little online research reveals that a ship called The Lusitania arrived in Albany, Australia, in November of 1887, sailing from London. She had only twelve passengers which suggests that she was a cargo ship of some kind. I couldn't find young Margaret Blackhall anywhere online, but the sampler was sourced here in Scotland and the Blackhall family of Greenock were associated with shipping - there is still a West Blackhall Street close to the waterfront, in that town. It was at this point, of course,that my novelist's imagination started to work overtime! Why was Maggie Blackhall sewing a picture of the ship into her sampler, early in 1887? Was somebody she loved very much - an elder brother perhaps - setting sail on the Lusitania? What became of him? What became of her, for that matter? And did she ever see him again?  These are the kind of questions writers always find themselves asking, and it is in this way that stories are born!

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