Sunday, May 22, 2016

New exhibit, Sanquhar Gloves

Was looking for something completely different when I came across a detailed and beautiful new online exhibit at the Library Company of Philadelphia, by their Center for Knit and Crochet, on Sanquhar Gloves. If you're one of Marion Brown's knitting fans, it's definitely worth a visit. (Image: photograph of hands wearing Sanquhar Gloves in various states of progress, with the title "Sanquhar Gloves: A Living Scottish Tradition" superimposed.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Townfoot, 17 May 1883

A long newsy letter about health, mainly, and the wearying wait for letters from America.  In two places Marion is writing Aunt Agnes's messages for her.
17th May 1883

My Dear Friends

It is now a long time since I wrote to you or got a letter from you. Aunt has been talking about you all so often this some time past that she told me just to write to you and say that she takes such wearing fits that she would be so pleased to get a letter often some times she says she is sure Uncle John would not know me now. 

I hope this will find you all in good health. Aunt has been wonderful well in health but she is failing she went away to Hawcleughside to help them to set potatoes and she is come home quite done out poor body she is so willing to work but she cannot Tam did not want her to go but she would go and try Tam & his wife and family are all well they have another addition to their family on the 17th of March they have two sons and a daughter now, Samuel, Tam, and Mary. I am not getting any better the doctor says I am weaker this last two or three weeks I feel it myself. Aunt tells me she thinks me more helpless every time she lifts me to get the bed made, but it is God's will and I hope he  will give me grace to be content with my lot whatever way I may be 

I may also tell you that my sister Sarah died on the 18th of April and has left three little ones which is likly to feel the want of their mother very much she has been ill for a long time her trouble was consumption there is many a different trouble we are afflicted with and all our afflictions are sent for some end if only we can see what for my brother James has had a sore time with typhus fever among his family his wife was worse than any of the children she was not thought to get better but God has his own ways of working she is getting better but very slowly she is able to sit up but can walk none yet James was nurse himself for two months but it was a blessing. He kept well himself for with eight children and their mother lying he would have plenty to do.

Uncle William and his wife and family are all well uncle is still working in the woods now I think I have told you about all our friends. We have had very cold weather this spring till this week it has been a little warmer they tell me that grass is far back yet. Tam is still with Mrs. Slimmon work about here is very dull and provision is very high. How are you getting on with your new business I hope you are doing well Aunt bids me say if she was only within reach she would go to th [torn paper] with you and she would keep you from wearing for altho her legs and arms are failing her tongue can wag yet and tell John if I had him between me and the door when I take a wearing fit for a letter he would think me as good at speaking as ever now I have written her story as near the way she has told me as I can now I am getting tired but hoping to hear from you soon and with kind regards to you all every one and all other friends I am your Affectionate friend Marion Brown

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Townfoot, 17 January 1883

 Marion Brown, "helpless as ever," and four years into a phase of not being able to walk, reports on the winter weather in Sanquhar.*  She's also very grateful for a gift from America, and concerned about Aunt's ever declining health. (Spoiler alert: Aunt Agnes will live almost another twenty years from when this letter was written.) Mention of the men in the family knitting socks around the fire, in the old days; and the mention of swine curds, of course.

*Given the date, I was kind of hoping this extreme weather might be an echo of Krakatoa, which created worldwide weather havoc when it exploded in 1883--but that wouldn't happen for another few months after Marion's letter was written.  Nope, just the usual rotten winter along the Nith.
17th January 1883

My Dear Friends

I write to let you know that I received your very welcome letter all right give Uncle John my kind regards and say to execpt my best thanks for the present he sent me I can not write in words the gratitude I feel in my heart for his kindness to me as the saying goes a friend in need is a friend indeed, and I hope you will always have plenty and may God give you a blessing and good health for what in this world can we enjoy if we have not health.

I was glad to see from your letter that you was all well when you wrote and I hope this will find you still enjoying the same precious blessing. Aunt sends her kind regards to you all and many thanks for your kindness you are to tell uncle John that she has got a pair of new clogs of the money he sent but she can not get them so neat now as when uncle Joseph and him used to be knitting stockings at the Bogg fire for she is bothered with corns. She was just telling me she thinks she sees them and hears them talking, poor body there is not so much difference of her to look at but her strength is failing and she is much stifer, I have to tell you she would not join the waggon with you but she could milk the cow and make you swine curds yet but she is a little slower in the step now as when you saw her. 

I hope you will get on well with your market but you must have patience and give it a fair trial a person cannot get on all at once, you have pretty long hours but there is always a something so we must just put up. We had a very severe snow storm here Aunt saw Mr. Kennedy of Brandley one day and he told her he had never seen so much snow it was three days before they could get a cart from Brandleys to William Halberts and there was four men working all the time it was not on that road alone but round the whole district there was a complete block up Tam could not get to Wanlockhead with the carts for more than a week and two days there was more than fifty men from Wanlockhead working on Mennock road to get it cleared but the thaw came very mildly which was a good thing if it had come quickly the melting of so much snow might have done great damage. 

I am glad to be able to tell you that Tam and his wife and two boys are all well in the meantime. Uncle William and his wife & family are all well my Sister Sarah is very poorly from what accounts I get there is no hope of her geting better her youngest child died on Christmas morning. I don't feel any better as yet I am lying in bed as helpless as ever but I am very thankful I have the use of my hands it is four years next month since I could walk any and I have suffered a good deal in that time and God alone knows how long I have to lie but I must just hope for the best and leave the result in God's hands he knows what is best for us. 

now I must stop with kind regards to you all in which Aunt and all the rest joins Aunt says you are to write sooner hoping this will find you all well I am your affectionate friend Marion Brown

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Sanquhar knitting in the news

I've mentioned (a few times, no doubt) that Marion Brown was a knitter.  A Sanquhar knitter! How do we know?  She said so:
"I was begun to knit a pair of black and white stockings to Marion to let her see some of our  Sanquhar patterns." (letter dated 20  September  1869)

Anyway, it's good to see Sanquhar knitters in the news. Thanks to Melissa for this link. A' the Airts wasn't quite open yet when we visited Sanquhar in 2010, just "coming soon" in the windows; glad to see it's going strong now.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Townfoot, 31 May 1882

A quick letter of thanks for a much-welcomed gift of money from America.  Marion Brown's religious resignation and Aunt's love of mail from abroad (and hope for a visit) are repeated here; but there's a bit of optimism, as the weather has been warm and the crops look good.  (But Marion Bryden and the boys didn't ever make that "trip across the sea.")
31st May 1882

Dear Friends

I received your very kind letter on Saturday and received the money all right on Monday.  Dear friends I cannot express how thankful I am to you for it and may God give you a blessing for your kindness to me.  I have been a long time helpless and does not know how long I may be in the same state nor has no right to know. God's ways are not as our ways and we ought to be as content as we can with our lot in whatever state we may be placed.  

Aunt joins me in many thanks to Uncle John for his kindness to us and hopes he will always have plenty for it has given us great relief in the meantime. Aunt is wonderful in her health but her strength is failing her very much Aunt has her kind regards to you all and says if you could get Marion to set out both her and the boys might be the better of a trip across the sea. 

Robert McWhir sends his kind regards to uncle John and says he would like to have one day with him now.  Tam and his wife and two boys are all well.  I saw uncle William last night and his family are all well.  They tell me that crops of all kinds are looking well this year as yet the weather has been warm in this last two weeks.  Provision of all kinds is very dear. 

I must stop for I am tired excuse all the blunders and be sure and write soon you would not believe how Aunt talks on about letters from America with kind regards to you all I am your affectionate friend Marion Brown

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Another note about cheese

When I started this blog, I had no idea that the mentions of cheese and knitting would get so most attention from readers.  Last week, someone I knew in college thirty(!) years ago contacted me; he'd come across Marion Brown's letters here, and he has first-hand knowledge of swine cheese.  Here's his story:
When I was around ten to twelve years old my sister and I were living with a relative in a New Scotland, a rural town in upstate New York that (back in the 1970s) still had a number of working farms.  One of our neighbors kept a few pigs and sometimes made swine cheese from a recipe her grandmother had brought over from Scotland.  I only had the stuff a couple of times, but it was nowhere near as unpleasant as Richard Foss fears.  My memories are a bit foggy on the details, but I recall it as being similar in texture to feta cheese and having a similar sort of "gamey" flavor to it.  A fairly strong and odd taste but not bad, just strange.  The woman's farm shut down about the time I entered middle school and she moved away shortly thereafter.  Never encountered the stuff since then, although I never realized how rare it was until I followed up on that blog posting of yours.
He also mentioned a blog about milking pigs; sure enough, "To Milk A Pig" posted this year (so it wasn't there last time I was looking for information on the topic).  As such things do, that led me to another blog, where a travel writer describes Tuscan pig cheese, and seems to agree with my old friend's assessment above--it's a soft cheese, strong flavors, not bad just strange. 

In further emails, he also suggested that Marion Brown might have experienced a vocal cord disorder, which can impair speech and breathing, and even cause some of the muddled "stupid" feeling Marion sometimes mentions.  Definitely a possibility, I'd say.  Thanks, and small world! 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Townfoot, 16 January 1882

A six-page letter in pencil, from the winter of 1882.  No mention of weather or crops or neighbors--Marion's confined to bed, in pain.  Her "stupid fits" kept her from writing; but she expresses the same religious resignation as ever.  Aunt is "failed" but still asking for news from America; she cannot promise swine curds to any visitors nowadays, but would still enjoy a visit.  Marion starts the letter thanking her cousin for a cash gift which has "relieved [her] mind greatly."  (Considering the content of the previous surviving letter in this collection, it's likely that Robina Boyle Scott's nasty accusations have left Marion feeling insecure in Tam's household.)

16th January 1882

Dear Friends

I write you in answer to your very kind and welcome letter which I received all right for which except my most sincere thanks and I hope you will always have plenty and good health to enjoy it. when a person is in need it makes them feel the more thankful for such a present as you have just sent me for I can asure you it has relieved my mind greatly in the meantime and I hope you will not feel the want of it as much as the good it has done me

I am not getting any stronger as yet the Doctor has to come to me every day and is still close confined to bed.  If it is God's will for me to be as I am why should I grumble but be content in whatever condition I may be sometimes I suffer a great deal of pain and sometimes not so much and I ought to be thankful when I am moderate. 

Tam and his wife and two boys are all well Aunt sends her kind compliments to you all and you are not to be long in writing to let us know how you are all getting on some times she takes such wearing fits she just talks on about you all and sometimes wonders if James Bryden will not take it into his head to take a trip over again and see us all but she will not can give him any swine curds this time. 

You are to be sure and send us word what the two boys are like and what uncle John is like for if he is like her he will be very much failed. Excuse me for being so long in writing I meant to write last week but I had one of my stupid fits and knew nothing for most of the week so I could not write. with kind regards to you all in which all here joins and hoping to hear from you soon I am your affectionate cousin Marion Brown