Great Tapestry of Scotland

At the Odenwald Association meeting on Tuesday, November 10, 2015, Christine Simm, a “stitcher” involved in the making of The Great Tapestry of Scotland, gave an informative and amusing talk.

She showed slides of her participation in the embroidery of one of the panels which make up the 160 panels of the Great Tapestry of Scotland.

Christine, alongside her 2 fellow stitchers, Jean and Fiona, known as “The Whippitie Stouries” (a name taken from a Children’s Book), have stitched their way into Scotland’s history by creating one of the panels, “The Forth and Clyde Canal, Irish Navvies, Burke and Hare”.

The concept of the Tapestry was that of author Alexander McCall Smith and historian Alistair Moffat with Artist Andrew Crummy, whose art on the panels was then converted into embroidery magic by over a thousand stitchers from all over Scotland, led and co-ordinated by Dorie Wilkie, in one of the biggest community arts projects ever to take place in Scotland. It is now said to be the longest Tapestry in the world!

The idea was to portray in the panels the history of Scotland and its people, the important events which have changed its history, not just through kings and queens, battles and heroes, but through the people who have shaped the nation, from its early settlers, its inventors and thinkers, educators and philanthropists and importantly, the ordinary unsung heroes who farm the land, fish our seas and have have been a constant in forming the backbone of the nation. All of these people and more are depicted in the stories on each unique panel.

The subject of the panel, no.63, on which Christine worked is titled, The Forth and Clyde Canal, Irish Navvies, Burke and Hare. On first thoughts this seemed like a gruesome subject, but on a positive note, the goal of the medics to whom they sold the bodies, was the furtherance of medical science! The panel also depicts the water of the canals and a barge carrying coal and the ladies decided that it was important to incorporate a heavy horse into the design to show its importance in the history of the Forth and Clyde canal.

This great insight into the story of the panels from someone who actually worked on one and helped on others, Christine was able to offer stories about little pieces of personal additions in some of the panels which the individual embroiderers have embedded into their work but without that ‘insider’ to point it out, the viewer is unaware.

This panel, measuring 1m x 1m, titled "The Forth and Clyde Canal / Irish Navvies Burke and Hare" was completed by the ladies who called themselves "The Whippitie Stouries". Thanks to Christine Simm for photo.
This panel, measuring 1m x 1m, titled “The Forth and Clyde Canal / Irish Navvies Burke and Hare” was completed by the ladies who called themselves “The Whippitie Stouries”. Thanks to Christine Simm for photo.

All of the members of the Association present agreed that this inspiring talk made us want to go and view the Tapestry and for those who have already had that pleasure, they are determined to return to look for those hidden gems we now know about! It will certainly be on my To Do list.

To view the individual panels, for more information and locations of future exhibitions, see the website at

Published by Falkirk Twinning

A website to promote Falkirk's links with Odenwald and Creteil. Run jointly by the Odenwald Association and the Falkirk District Twinning Association.

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