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News from The Museum of Islay Life

To celebrate the birth of the third in line to the throne, The Museum of Islay Life has created a display of the christening robes that it has in its collection. Christening gowns became elaborate works of art during the Victorian era. They were created from silks and satins and were finely embroidered; one on display in the Museum has lace work depicting acorns. As cotton became more accessible in the 19th century, it became the more popular fabric. The gowns were often white, a symbol of purity and innocence, and would be passed down through the generations becoming family heirlooms.

In Scotland, there is also a wealth of lore surrounding childbirth and the first few days of an infant’s life which were seen to be precarious for mother and baby. For some, these were not just medical concerns but also a threat from fairies, witchcraft or the evil eye. New mothers and babies were seen as being irresistible to fairies: the mother to suckle the fairies young; the baby taken and a changeling left in its place.

Various rites of protection were performed for the mother and child, as well as blessings for the baby: for example, iron placed on the bed or a red ribbon tied across the crib. Lay baptisms also took place which, if the child died before being baptised in a church by a minister, meant it could still be buried in consecrated ground. These varied slightly from place to place: some midwives would put a gold or silver coin into the water that the child was blessed with; or the midwife might feed the newborn a spoonful of earth mixed with whisky. Some ministers regarded these rites as being too pagan and tried to discourage them, but as the belief in fairies began to reduce, so did the traditions associated with them. Continue reading....

The Museum, after all the speculation about names for the Royal baby, has embarked on a naming project of its own. we want to name the ship’s figurehead in our collection. It was found on Tormisdale beach in 1999, coming from an unknown ship, and was restored by the art department of Islay High School. We are looking for suggestions! Visit the Museum and place your suggestion in the box or via the Museum’s new Facebook page. If you have not already “liked” the Museum on Facebook, please do. We are showcasing objects and photographs from our collection on a regular basis. We would love your feedback.

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