Woven Communities at WIH Clisham Ward

The Woven Communities project with St. Andrew’s University  Professor of Anthropology Dr Stephanie Bunn, collaborating with Dawn Susan, Hebridean Baskets and Our Dementia Friendly Community project at An Lanntair continues to search for people with memory and hand memory of making woven baskets and ropes from natural local materials.

We dropped in to Clisham Ward after our Solas session today and passed the baskets around. I don’t quite know why the creel brings so much hilarity but it always does. People who remember using one usually say something along the lines of “Oh no! Take it away, those days are long gone.”, laughing anyway. Those who have never used one think it’s funny to try it or hold it and then try to imagine how it must have felt, realising that we have it easy these days.

Recognition and laughter definitely featured, especially from one gentleman who came from Uist. He also clearly liked having the straw in his hands, twining it while singing. He started to sing an old piping song and Maggie surprised us all with some spontaneous step dancing and singing along when she recognised the tune. I’m sure she will regret that with a few twinges later….very entertaining, though.

Dawn brought a split oak basket, used latterly for the herring industry when the managers realised how strong and durable they were. Again, this one is strong enough to stand on. Also a small version of the herring basket on the harbourside statue in Stornoway. There was plenty of rope to handle and pass around, made from rush, heather, plaited straw.

We had a look at the Ciosan sample basket and talked about that – one gentleman decided it could be used as an ashtray until we thought about it… that could actually become a new saying….as useless as a chocolate teapot could now become ‘as useless as a straw ashtray’.

I dropped the memory box in to the ward for them to trial for a week before it goes to Harris House.

Many thanks to Maggie Smith, Dawn Susan and the wonderful staff team at Clisham Ward, Western Isles Hospital.


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