Published: 10/06/2018 07:00 - Updated: 08/06/2018 12:35

Women make big 'weaves' for history

Written byHector MacKenzie


Banner women
Lizzie McDougall (front) with some of the women involved in the banner project.

A UNIQUE banner including a rugby shirt worn by a trailblazing Ullapool-raised MSP will form part of "a flowing river of colour" marking a major milestone for women.

A delegation from the Wester Ross village is travelling to Edinburgh to take part in a huge public artwork today celebrating 100 years of votes for women, proudly bearing a banner they have made reflecting the story of female life in the Highlands. 

Among those travelling to the once-in-a-lifetime event is local farmer Lucy Beattie and her daughter Brenna (8), who is represented on the banner as a girl wearing a rugby shirt.

The girl’s strip is made from the shirt worn by Children’s Minister Maree Todd, who made history during last season’s Parliamentary Six Nations.

The banner was made by women from different backgrounds in the local area at An Talla Solais in Ullapool during workshops led by artist and storyteller Lizzie McDougall. It will be one of 100 created across the UK as part of Processions, a nationwide art event.

Today, women and girls in Edinburgh, Belfast, Cardiff and London will walk through the cities displaying the banners and wearing green, white and violet – the colours of the suffrage movement. The colourful river they form aims to represent a living portrait of women in the 21st century.

The Ullapool banner features many elements of life chosen by local women and includes fishing, farming, music and the local mountains. Brenna suggested early on that a girl was included wearing a sports top – an idea which coincided with Ms Todd’s symbolic donation of her rugby shirt.

Ms Todd, who grew up in Ullapool, said: "I play in the parliamentary team, the first woman to do so and still the only female MSP involved. Parliamentary rugby was started by Nelson Mandela, who saw the opportunity to bring very different people together through sport. We play in an international six nations against other parliaments and I am proud to have ensured that women have the opportunity to be involved too. I’m delighted that wee bit of history has been stitched into our banner.

"When I consider the different opportunities I have had compared to those women who came before me, the progress we have made is incredible. My granny from Lewis followed the herring. It was a tough life but her only other career option was to go into service so she was proud to be a herring girl. In contrast, I went to university and serve in Government."

Victoria Caine, who has headed the project for An Talla Solais, said: "Community is everything here and one of the best elements of the workshops was bringing together women who might not have had a connection until now and watching them form a group. Being with them was an absolute joy and I loved their company and stories." 

Lizzie described it as "a totally engrossing" project to work on.

She said: "We have been heads down working on our banner and yet all over the country there are banners being made which will all be unique and will all be revealed at the same time. The energy of it all is so exciting."

Valerie Bryan, from Ullapool, who took part in the banner-making, said: "It has been really interesting listening to people’s stories about their relatives or friends who were alive in 1918, and learning about such a variety of experiences.  It has also aroused my curiosity about my own ancestors.

"Working with Lizzie has been brilliant!  She is so inspiring and enthusiastic. And she is also thoughtful and philosophical, and has steered people into really thinking about how life was for women 100 years ago, and is now." 

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