Friday, June 02, 2006

The Celtic Needleworker

Margaret is a woman of many interests and diverse experiences. But one of the very first things I discovered about her was her love of needlework. Beautiful, framed works of art are hung in her home, making her surroundings a showcase for her passion. Margaret is Graham's mother.

Margaret, being one of the most kind-hearted generous of souls, gives her work to others; she has donated works of art to churches in the Fraser Valley. One was entitled "The Madonna and Child" by Raphael and the other is "Christ in the Garden". She never sells her embroidery projects...all are gifts for her family, or donated as prizes or gifts to the many different organizations she has been involved with over the years.

The following, written by Margaret, gives background information to the beginnings of her love for her hobby:

My romance with beautiful threads and of course love of embroidery, began when I was very young (around 8 years old).

"My father was associated with the family of J & P Coats, a well known thread manufacturer in Paisley, Scotland, where I was born. There were two mills in the town, one being Coats of Ferguslie and the other Anchor mill...both situated in different parts of the town. The coloured embroidery threads were purchased in Anchor mill and were the ones with which I began my stitching hobby, as I said when I was very young. My hobby has stayed with me for most of my life and I would not be able to tell you how many finished projects I have done.

The company of Anchor is very well known in Canada today, and they have an abundance of many beautiful and distinctive threads, used in all manners of embroidery. All of this stems from very humble beginnings, but also from entrepreneurs who helped put Paisley on the map as “the textile town”. J & P Coats were able to make the famous “Paisley Shawl” for a fair bit less than the shawls which were coming from Kashmir at that time and were much more expensive. The shawl was a very high fashion item at the turn of the 19th century!"

But Margaret is, as I mentioned before, a person who finds interest in many things. When she retired from her profession as a nurse, she became an ardent volunteer, meeting the challenge to try varied hobbies...and has taken the opportunity to learn as much as she could about them. She has become an expert at most of them.

Margaret, before moving to the Island 10 years ago, became a Toastmaster. She attained her Competent Toastmaster status, and was honoured at a dinner to receive a commendation for "Speaker of the Year" in 1990. I have no doubt any audience would be enthralled by any of Margaret's speeches...she has a terrific, wicked sense of humour! And a strong Scottish accent, to boot!

She would have me rolling in the aisles, if I was in the audience.

And...again in her words...

"I followed my father and two famous brothers who loved the sport of lawn-bowling; I was delighted to win the BC gold medal and get my special BC jacket. The BC Sports Federation paid my way to Regina, Sask., where I competed in the Canadian Games and won the bronze medal. It was a great experience with great hospitality, competing against winners from other Provinces; altho’ we did have some snow to contend with in the middle of summer, (not used to that)!" Amazing.

Nowadays, Margaret volunteers her time at The Old School House in Qualicum Beach...

"I have been a volunteer for six years at least in TOSH, as it's known locally. I was volunteering there when the shop was upstairs and almost half the size it is now. It was a studio for artists before it became the gallery shop as known today. Kathleen Watson was shop manager then; a wonderful volunteer who generally assisted in any way she could. She gave of her time and her talents and organized many of the events that took place at Tosh! We had fun washing the outside windows and generally cleaning up before the shop moved downstairs."

It was Margaret's admiration, love and passion for the arts that led her to donate her some of her valuable hours and knowledge at Tosh. And when it was time to donate another of her works, it was Tosh that naturally led the pack in terms of venue. The "Warwick Vase" now graces the walls of The Old School House.

Margaret again:

"The “Warwick Vase” is a historical piece that I finished a number of years ago. It took up to two years to complete. Of course it is hard to judge just how long each work of art takes, as one is not working say, at a steady four hours each and every day. I always seemed to enjoy the challenge of larger pieces of work and I don’t have an explanation for this penchant. As I had done so many times before, I thought due to its size and subject it would be a nice donation for a suitable venue where works of art are shown and appreciated."

It's a beautiful picture, every stitch showing the expertise and love of its creator.

As mother and son, Graham and Margaret are very alike in their mannerisms...both have a love of literature and art, both have that wicked sense of humour. They admire honesty, are forthright in their dealings and have enormous amounts of energy.

And both were born in Paisley, Scotland. Margaret has handed her strong Scottish ideals down to her son, also an adventurer. Gray started mountain climbing at the age of fourteen...Margaret chose to allow him to climb every chance he got. When I look at some of the mountains Graham climbed, as a mother myself I don't know that I would have been able to allow one of my children to do the same.

And when Gray was seventeen, Margaret waved him off (not without apprehension, she assured me) when he decided to take a freighter to Australia and New Zealand. He was gone for a year, climbing in New Zealand and working in Australia. There was never any attempt to hold him back. As a result, Graham still has no trouble trying anything...just to see where it might lead him.

Margaret is a true wise woman. She has taken all the experiences she has had over a rich and varied life, and has put them to use. Her quotes and sayings are an education in themselves, and Margaret is never short of a wise homily for any event.

Margaret would not thank me for telling her age; suffice it to say that one of my deepest intentions, as I walk the Shaman's path, is to be able to continue with life's travails and joys with as much gusto as she still has.

And to learn (and remember!) all those quotes she's always coming up with!


  1. Very beautifully written. You make Margaret come alive on the page...well, the monitor screen...

  2. Thank you, Jan, Margaret is a writer's dream character. She has so many interests, is extremely wise...just a great person!