Glencoe and North Lorn Folk Museum by Barbara Fairweather

I have been asked by your Editor, Mr Norman MacDonald, to write a short account of the activities of the Glencoe and North Lorn Folk Museum since the last issue.

The spring of 1990 was a time of heavy rain which caused us problems when the rain penetrated the mortar of the Museum cottage. Extensive work had to be done, particularly on the roof. The workmen needed to walk on the thatch; this naturally damaged it, and it deteriorated to a sorry state. I had to find a thatcher; it was not an easy task. I was helped by the Secretary of “The Friends of Thatched Cottages” who gave me the names of three thatchers. The first was fully booked and could not come. The second would do the thatching but he wished to have the heather pulled for him. This we knew to be a great difficulty, as we had tried to get this work done when the cottage was thatched earlier. We tried the third name. This thatcher was willing to come and to pull his own heather. Unfortunately he could not be with us for some time and it was in fact July before he could be with us. This meant that we opened with the building looking very shabby. Once the thatcher started, he proved to be a great attraction and our thatcher could hardly work for answering the many questions put to him. He was continually being photographed and even asked to sign autographs. The front of the building is finished and about half of the back. Gales, heavy rain, and frozen roof have all delayed the work.

In 1991, we plan to have the inside painted. With all the water that came in the building last spring, we had patches of water marks that were unsightly. As time was getting on before we had the place dry, we used posters to cover the marks, so this year it will be painted; the cases too are to be included. Because of this impending work, we have had to move everything out of the Museum. It has caused problems of storing, but luckily not over a long period. It will also make work setting everything out. but it will be well worth the work seeing all the fresh paint.

We do have some new exhibits. We have had given us one of the two boats which were used to take the coffins to the Burial Island. The boat was in very poor shape; it is at present away being repaired, not to the seaworthy standard, but so that it does not deteriorate, and now looks to be in shape. We have had some difficulties in getting someone to do this job; that is why it has lain with us for so long.

We have two fine models of a Broch and a Crannog. We plan to put them with our archaeology, but in the slate worker display area which is wired. As it happens, the wire does not ascend to the roof, leaving a gap of 2 feet; this will need to be closed, as one of our visitors climbed in and went off with one of our slate tools. By the way, we do have examples of both crannog and broch in North Lorn.

We have two new items for the costume case, and an interesting sewing tool known as a hemming bird. This is a bird-shaped clamp with which sewing is anchored, while the other end of the long seams to be hemmed are held in the left hand. This allows the right hand free to sew while the material is held firmly at both ends.

We plan a display of tea table items, tea pots, cups, saucers, spoons etc., some adult, and a few for dolls. This allows table cloths to be displayed, muffin dishes, tea caddies and other items.

Then we are trying to find an area to display our good collection of 18th and 19th century cooks’ tools. At one time we hung them up near the fire by the desk. It was not a good idea, as small boys tried to play tunes with them; when they were absent, the tools themselves hardly showed up. We tried hanging them in front of the window, but again they made a poor show, so now we plan a special show case to display them to advantage. They will include cooks’ forks, a salamander – a metal disk at the end of a long handle. The disk was heated and held over items to be browned. When you see the long handle of these old tools, you will remember that cooks were working at open fires and the heat must have been great. Closed fires like a range belong to the mid-19th century. We also have some nice old pots in copper and brass. Some of the smaller items usually shown in domestic items, like the pastry crimper etc., may well be moved to the cooks’ tools display; it depends what room we have.

At the sales table we now have tea towels with a picture of the Museum on it. This was on sale late in the season of 1990 and sold well and almost all the stock is sold. More are to hand for 1991. It is curious about what the public likes. For about 8 years we have had on sale xerox copies of the Prince’s Route in 1745. They sold rarely. In 1990 they sold like hot cakes and we have come to the end except for two. In the same way, copies of Daniel prints of the early 19th century went on show about the same time. On the first day we sold 16 and then none for months. This year past, they sold well, while our best selling “Hand Shadows” hardly sold any.

We may have a new cook book on sale this coming year, but it still needs some work done on it. I was lent a cook book Mss. of late 18th and 19th centuries. I have spent a good deal of time deciphering the writing which has faded in parts. It is a very casual cookbook; none of this “take 2 oz. etc.”, of today’s books; “take what you will of raisins”; “cook as long as you please”. I am not sure if it will be on sale this year or not. Another book which is in the pipeline is an anthology of Highland life. It is not finished, but needs checking and re-typing. Previous anthologies by the Museum went over the material, author by author, but in this instance it is done subject by subject. It deals with a number of Highland aspects of life. I don’t think it will be out this spring, but maybe.

We have a “Friends of Glencoe Museum”, and we are lucky that so many of them have become friends too. They are very encouraging and very interested in our progress. To be a “Friend” it costs £1 a year. In return a Report of the Museum’s Year will be sent. We have many MacDonalds on our list of “Friends” and friends.

Already we are thinking about 1992 and it looms ahead on our horizon. Not only is it the 300th anniversary of the Massacre but it is the 25th year of the life of the Museum. We have not decided as yet how the first will be commemorated or the second celebrated. We would be happy to hear of ideas and if they are feasible, we will try to carry them out.