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Byline: Jenny Morrison

Scots living around the world are sewing their amazing family stories together to help create a giant tapestry.

The Scottish Diaspora Tapestry will tell the stories of people who left their homeland and moved to new communities across the globe.

Stories ranging from a Scot who became a Cherokee Indian chief in America to a convict who was sent to Australia and founded a successful horsebreeding ranch are being beautifully stitched together by men and women with Scottish roots.

The embroidered panels are then being returned to Scotland where they are sewn together by a team of volunteers.

The end result will be a giant tapestry at least 90m long which will be unveiled as part of Scotland's 2014 Homecoming Celebrations.

The Scottish Diaspora Tapestry aims to follow on from the success of both the Great Tapestry of Scotland and a tapestry commissioned to mark the 1745 Battle of Prestonpans.

Project coordinators Gillian Hart, 48, and Yvonne Murphy, 50, visited countries ranging from Australia to India to drum up interest and search for stories of the journeys made by Scots and the impact they made in their new communities.

They hope the images of the stories they have collected will be as emotional to view on the tapestry as they were to hear first–hand.

Gillian said: "This tapestry will tell the stories of Scots who migrated all over the world.

"To get Scottish communities abroad involved, we started contacting Caledonian societies, Burns clubs and St Andrew's societies in a number of countries.

"To help explain what we were doing, Yvonne and I visited a number of countries to show them examples of how the finished panels would look.

"We explained they didn't need to be the best sewers in the world and anyone with a needle could be involved.

"We told them we were looking for stories about how their ancestors had left Scotland to make a new life but that they might also want to tell their own stories of emigration.

"Our artist was going to put together the design of each of the panels so we wanted them to submit copies of everything from photos of the people involved to historical details of ships they travelled in, the dates of their journey, place names, buildings and anything else that would help tell their story in a picture."

She added: "There has been huge enthusiasm for embroidery in recent years and we were delighted so many people from such different parts of the world have taken this project on."

The tapestry, which is the creation of Prestoungrange Arts Festival in Prestonpans, East Lothian, and is part–funded by the Scottish Government, involves communities in 25 countries. Each community was asked to submit ideas for between five and 10 panels.

They sent their ideas to artist Andrew Crummy, who was responsible for creating simple designs for each story. They were then traced on to hundreds of squares of linen.

Each linen square was then sent back to the people who had submitted the stories so they could set up sewing groups to work on the panels, which can each take 200 hours of hand sewing to complete.

When the panels were completed, they were encouraged to put them on display in their communities to raise awareness of the tapestry project and the 2014 Year of Homecoming.

And as they send their work back to Scotland to be stitched with other panels from across the world, they have been invited to come to Scotland to see the launch of the giant tapestry at the end of May.

Andrew said: "It has been a real honour to receive so many amazing stories.

"Some of the stories are about quite well–known Scots while others have been more personal stories about great–great–grandfathers and grandmothers."

Yvonne added: "It is amazing to see these wonderful pieces of embroidery."

India Hailing a blooming hero

A number of panels celebrate the lives and legacy of Scots who emigrated to India.

Two panels are dedicated to the importance of the Indian Botanic Garden in Calcutta, which was founded by Scot Robert Kyd in 1787.

Scottish botanist William Roxburgh became superintendent of the garden in 1793 and oversaw a huge change in how the garden was run, bringing in plants from all over India.

Another panel commemorates the Scottish Cemetery in Calcutta, where the bodies of almost 2000 Scottish soldiers, missionaries, jute traders and businessmen were laid to rest.

The cemetery was created in 1820, with almost all the headstones made from Scottish stone. It stopped being used in the 1940s.

China Salute to sprint king

Relatives of Eric Liddell, who inspired the film Chariots Of Fire, are working on two panels to commemorate the Scottish athlete, who was born and died in China.

Eric's parents were missionaries in China and, after Liddell's running success, he returned to the country to continue their work. He married a Canadian who he met there.

During World War II, Liddell arranged for his wife and daughters to return to Canada. In 1943, the Japanese army invaded the mission station where he worked and he was taken prisoner. He died in the camp in February 1945.

Eric's eldest daughter, Patricia, 78, who still lives in Canada, is working on a panel to commemorate her father's missionary work.

Two of his nieces, Sue Caton, 65, and Joan Nicol, 76, are working on a second panel to mark his achievements as an athlete.

Sue, who lives in Edinburgh, said: "I feel proud to be involved in this project. My cousin Patricia has organised people from her church to help sew a panel too."

Australia Breeding marvel

Convict William Scott was deported to Australia after being found guilty of stealing four sheep.

He left Glasgow on a criminal transportation ship and, after his sentence was served in Australia, he set up home in Mulloon, New South Wales.

Scott went on to become a successful horse breeder.

Artist Andrew Crummy said: "This panel was sewn by Glenda Gartrell, whose maiden name was Scott, and William was her great–great–grandfather.

"Lots of Scots were transported to Australia on prison ships and many went on to establish good lives for themselves out there."

America Big chief

One unique panel tells the story of the large number of Native American Indians who have proud Scottish ancestry.

Among the most famous was John Ross, who had a Scottish dad and part–Scottish mum. He became the principal chief of the Cherokee nation.

Ross, who lived from 1790 to 1865, was the chief negotiator for the Cherokee Indians as they tried to negotiate with the US Government over issues such as national boundaries, land ownership and white encroachment.

Ross's dad Daniel was an immigrant Scots trader and married Mollie McDonald, who was of mixed Scots–Cherokee ancestry.

Yvonne said: "We met a man called Stanley Groves from the Native Nations Museum in Florida. He was delighted to be involved in the tapestry."

Australia The PS10 trip to build a nation

After the end of World War II, the Australian government started a scheme to increase their country's population by inviting British people to migrate there for the cost of just a heavily subsidised PS10 fare.

Thousands of Scots were among those who took up the offer. The story of one couple who took the Ten Pound Passage and became "Ten Pound Poms" is included on the tapestry. Helen and Gordon Skedd emigrated from Prestonpans, East Lothian, to Melbourne. They made the trip in 1960 on a ship called The Orion.

Helen, now 80, heard about the tapestry and started stitching her story from Australia.

Her sister June Coull, 68, who still lives in Prestonpans, is now completing the panel.

June said: "When Helen heard about the tapestry, she wanted to get involved. Her panel helps to tell the story of the Scots who took the Ten Pound Passage to Australia.

"I've got three sisters who moved there and they are all still very proud Scots."

Canada Remembering the e islands

The Laird of Glenalladale, John MacDonald, was the organiser and leader of a large emigration of Scots to Prince Edward Island in Canada.

The settlers included families who were being threatened with eviction from their homes across the Western Isles if they didn't renounce their Catholic beliefs and faith.

MacDonald arranged and helped fund the emigration of many of his tenants, who went to Canada on a ship called the Alexander in 1772. Yvonne said: "When we travelled to Canada, we met Mary MacDonald from Prince Edward Island, whose ancestors may not have come across on the first ship but were among those that followed.

"She did research into the settlers who were led by John MacDonald and sent us plenty of information about what could be included in the tapestry.

"She gathered a group of sewers and they made five panels showing the names of many Glenalladale settlers and the islands they came from."

Australia Digging for victory

This panel tells the story of Mary Ann and William Hay who emigrated to Australia in the mid–19th century.

Yvonne said: "This panel was sewn by one of their ancestors, Rosemary Farmer, who we met when we visited Sydney.

"William left Scotland for the Australian Gold Rush and was a gold digger.

"He was also involved in the Red Ribbon Agitation, when in 1853 thousands of gold diggers turned up at Bendigo, Australia, wearing red ribbons round their hats, as part of a huge uprising against the taxes they were being charged."

Tapping into a rich source of history

The Great Tapestry of Scotland tells the colourful story of the nation from its beginning to modern times.

It was the brainchild of author Alexander McCall Smith, who was inspired by a tapestry commissioned to commemorate the 1745 Battle of Prestonpans.

McCall Smith said: "I saw a similar tapestry that had been made about a single event in Scottish history and it occurred to me that it would be a good idea to have a tapestry that celebrated all of Scottish history."

The community arts project took 65,000 hours of stitching, used more than 300 miles of wool and involved more than 1000 stitchers.

The finished tapestry is made up of 160 panels, marking events and people as wide–ranging as the coming of the Vikings and William Wallace to Queen Victoria visiting Balmoral and Dolly the Sheep.

At 143m long, it is believed to be the longest tapestry in the world.

It was officially unveiled at the Scottish Parliament in September last year and since then has been on tour across the country.

It is on display until April 19 at Aberdeen Art Gallery.

"We are delighted so many people from so many parts of the world helped us out



HANDY WORK June puts the finishing touches to o family's panel

PRAISE Woman admires tapestry

RECORD The Great Tapestry of Scotland is 143m long

SEW PROUD Yvonne, Andrew and Gillian
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Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Mar 9, 2014
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