The Native Sheep and Wool Conference

I am now home and recovering.  It was a great few days, packed full of interesting talks and interesting people.  As ever, the Bird Observatory was an excellent venue.

Starting from the beginning…  While many folk were either felting or visiting the mill and lighthouse, I spent Friday in the North Ronaldsay Heritage Centre.  This is housed in the New Kirk near the air strip.  I had been before, and found useful photos, but I knew Kathleen Scott and others had been working on it and wanted to see what else was there.  I was not disappointed!

The main displays were roughly the same, with a few additions and extra captions.  But there were several extra albums of photos both from folk on the island and copies of island photos from the main photographic Archive in Kirkwall.  These were REAL photos, not scans, and so detail was fantastic – David and Colin really do do a good job.  I found lots of  interesting ones I hadn’t seen before, including several that give further evidence for patterns and styles I had seen elsewhere.

And I couldn’t help taking a pic of the road outside, with all the daffs in full flower…

That evening the exhibition opened in Nouster Byre.  This is a converted byre (cattle shed) which has recently been finished (well, nearly finished – the lighting isn’t in yet!!).  It made a great exhibition space, with some of the upright flag stones forming the cattle stalls still in place.  The natural colours of the North Ron sheep’s wool and skins worked so well with the stone of the building.  Unfortunately I was never there with both light and camera at the same time, so don’t have pix.

I did get some of the seals outside though..

On Saturday morning we started an intensive two days of talks etc, with speakers from Orkney, Norway, Iceland and the Faro Islands.  The nature and nurture of the different native sheep breeds was the basis of the programme, as all these places have related, ancient sheep, characterised by their short tails.  I found the photos fascinating, showing the differences and similarities between the breeds – they were so obviously related, but had their own characters.

As well as the sheep talks, we had some North Ronaldsay music, and clips from the audio archive.  This consisted of clips recorded in the 1970s and early 80s, including one where two North Ronaldsay men talk about carding the wool into rowers, and how the wheel had two bands to drive it.  It was great to hear another primary source on these topics.

Between the sessions there were always interesting people to talk to, about sheep and wool and life on small islands.  As someone pointed out near the end, one thing we all seemed to have in common was a similar sense of humour – there was much laughter during the weekend!  I think I can safely say that a good time was had by all…

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11 thoughts on “The Native Sheep and Wool Conference

  1. NIFA2010 · Northern Isles Fibre Adventures 2011. Are planning one hits year and when. I live in The Netherlands and just about to embark on your Leogh Jacket. I will have a go at lace.

  2. Are any of the papers presented going to be published, on line or otherwise, so that those of us who couldn’t be there can learn too? I do wish I’d known about this before.

      1. That’s such a pity. If there is ever a similar event again, perhaps you could pass on the details via your blog …. or let me (and others) know where to look for information. Alison

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