Isle of Barra’s Herring Girl Collection marks its second anniversary this week by adding Stornoway’s An Lanntair as its latest stockist as well as pledging to increase its use of Gaelic.
Visitors to the Isle of Lewis arts centre will be able to pick up premium knitwear handcrafted by a growing crew of knitters on Barra who use traditional and historic patterns associated to the Hebridean herring girls.
And you can Meet the Makers at An Lanntair Shop as Margaret Anne Elder, founder and designer of The Herring Girl Collection, will be available on Saturday 16 October, from 12noon to 2.30pm, to meet and greet visitors and answer any questions.
The herring girls were a band of formidable island women who, in the late 19thand early 20th centuries, spent many years following the shoals of herring around the British coast undertaking gruelling work to gut, cure and pack the fish for the local merchants. During their time away, they would pass the time by chatting and singing in Gaelic as well as knitting using patterns that were handed down through the generations. They would send the garments they created home to family.
Patterns such as anchors, ships’ wheels, hearts and marriage lines which have been handed down through the generations will feature on a range of products such as hats, gloves, cowls and scarves available at the arts venue. All products sold at An Lanntair will also feature the SY stamp which denotes the fishing boat registration mark of Stornoway linking the garment to the town.
At the same time, the Herring Girl Collection is committing to increase its use of Gaelic across its product range in recognition of the rich cultural ties to the language. This will include Gaelic being used on the tags and labels attached to the garments being sent all over the UK and the world.
The Herring Girl Collection launched in October 2019 with its products receiving their first outing at the Royal National Mod in Glasgow. At the Mod, the Barra Gaelic Choir showcased some garments as they competed.
Margaret Anne Elder, founder and designer of The Herring Girl Collection, commented: “What better way to mark two years of business by adding An Lanntair to our list of stockists and bringing this quality Hebridean knitwear to all those who will visit the arts centre. I am delighted to be working with them and I am grateful for their enthusiasm throughout this whole process.
“As an arts centre that showcases the rich culture of our islands, An Lanntair is a perfect outlet for this knitwear that celebrates the story of the formidable herring girls and recognises their legacy through these traditional patterns. I hope those who purchase the knitwear will immerse themselves in the story of these hardworking women and understand the lengths they went to support their families and help preserve these precious patterns and culture.”
Margaret Anne added: “In recognising their efforts to protect our culture and heritage, it is fitting that we pledge to increase the use of Gaelic across the knitted range. Over time, I will ensure that the language has an increasingly visible presence on all the garments so the buyer can understand the richness of our language and its relevance in today’s world.”