Family history, Interiors

Fabric of Life

If you’ve stayed with us here at Sheiling you’ll probably have noticed lots of different fabrics.

I like to use tablecloths and cloth napkins at breakfast.

My table linens drawer

We’ve “inherited” lots from our families, I’ve used the quotation marks because they aren’ t a valuable inheritance, not in monetary terms anyway. Others were presents, people know I love dressing a table.

a vintage lawn tray cloth

Fabric is also a way of introducing colour and pattern, our walls are plain and painted in cool colours, cushions and throws add warmth; they tell a story too. Downstairs in Nancy the cushions and throws are Welsh, upstairs in Flora, Scottish tartans.

Some are purely decorative, some made by local craftspeople, others came from the students on the textiles course at Heriot Watt University in Galashiels. They had an exhibition each year in the Textile Tower House Hawick, (where Bramble was born, she’s a Teri terrier!). One was woven on the other side of the world.

And in the places you don’t see?

Even the booking diary has a vintage fabric print!

"Strawberry Thief" furnishing fabric by William Morris - stylised birds, fruit and flowers.

Fabrics featured are vintage, Melin Tregwynt, Anta, “Clyde” by Audrey Logan, FunMakes Good, HazelMadeIt felts, Timorous Beasties and Hatti Pattisson.


Family history, Food, Uncategorized

The story of those new names; part II

It’s been a long time since part I.  I wrote that back in August when we were at our busiest and haven’t blogged since. So I’ve no excuse now as we are pretty much closed for the season.

Nancy,  my mother, was born in 1935 in the same small village in Wales where I too was born and grew up. Her parents, Gran and Grandpa Salmon hadn’t had such a settled life. Granny Salmon lost both her parents as a little girl and was informally adopted; as a young woman  she moved from Merthyr to work as a housekeeper. Grandpa’s family had travelled from Bristol and Dorset, probably  seeking work in the mines which were booming at the time.

Mam collage

as a toddler, schoolgirl, with my Dad before they were married, a young mother (I’m just out of shot) and in the 1970s

Mam*  hated school, and left as soon as she became fourteen to work in the drapery department of the Co-operative in the next village. It’s long gone now but as a child most of my clothes and footwear were bought there. In Mam’s day the assistants wore dark uniforms with starched white collars and cuffs and woe betide if you let a customer leave empty handed. I owe my neat packing ability to Mam’s demonstrations of the correct way to fold any item of clothing.  Other skills she passed on were the positioning of a brimmed hat (on the front, never the back of the head) and what a “dropping” creamed butter and sugar mix for a sponge cake  should look like. Currently I find the latter most useful  but do have a fondness for a properly angled tifter.

in purple hat

Trying out her Christmas present



Mam and Dad met as teenagers and courted at the local cinemas and youth club then following Dad’s spell in the RAF for his National Service married in 1957. A small aside here, Dad was always very keen on our education and was proud that we girls  won places at university as he had not had a chance to go. Mam later revealed that his older brother had offered to fund university when Dad returned from service but he hadn’t wanted to wait any longer to get married. Anyway they got married but not in Mam’s home  village, she was too shy for that. Even when I was a child people stood outside their houses to watch brides leaving for church and then waited outside the church for the couple to reappear after the wedding**, and as everyone knew my Grandpa because he was the bin man there was sure to be a big turn out which Mum could not face so they married in Dad’s parish next door.

Mam and Dad settled in her village, first in digs and then in the house I grew up in, where Dad still lives.  With my sister’s birth she gave up work outside the home and then had even more work on her hands when I turned up.  Mam could dress my big sister ready for an outing and leave her to play nicely whilst she had to wait until the very last minute to get me ready or I would end up dirty or torn or both.

Mam wasn’t well travelled, she and Dad spent their honeymoon in Jersey, though that did involve a couple of scary flights in tiny planes and later we had a couple of family holidays abroad and she and Dad visited France on their own after we had left home. Most of all though she loved home and being with her family. She enjoyed meeting our friends too;  she wasn’t at all upset when my sister returned from her 21st birthday drinks with most of her workmates and was actually quite amused when one of them invited her “to make herself at home”. And when I turned up with six hungry university friends, was only perplexed by the question of what the ones studying politics would be “going in for”, feeding them was a doddle.  Her favourite country was Wales, though  Scotland came a close second after I moved here. She really enjoyed her visits to Edinburgh and I’m sad that she never got to visit Seil.

I think she would have liked the room that’s named after her. Coincidentally it’s painted a very similar colour to her own bedroom, the cushions are Welsh tapestry from Melin Tregwynt and I’ve chosen pictures and objects which were her style. Most of all I hope I can bring just a little of her kindness and generosity to our visitors.

And cake, she made marvellous  cake.



*Growing up we always called her Mam or Mammy, in the Welsh way.

**this wasn’t for the “scramble” of coins, I only once witnessed that, it didn’t seem to be a local tradition.

Family history, Uncategorized

The story of those new names; part I

The rooms are named after our mothers, Flora was George’s and Nancy mine. Before we ever found this house, when moving  was just a plan for the future, I thought I would like  to name our rooms  this way.

mums at wedding

Flora and Nancy at our wedding

Two women, born 15 years and several hundred miles apart. They had quite contrasting lives and differed in many ways, but shared love for their families and superb baking skills.  Both came from a family  of three sisters, Flora the eldest daughter and Nancy the middle one.

Flora was born in 1920 in Greenock, her father was a mariner her mother a teacher before she married.  All three Paterson girls were encouraged in their education and graduated from Glasgow University.  Holidays were spent on their mother’s home island of Jura. Following graduation Flora taught in Greenock but her future was determined when she was rescued from an “assault” by her best friend’s little brother by the friend’s handsome cousin,  on holiday from Skye.  Flora and Jim married in 1944 while Jim enjoyed a brief leave;  their eldest son Roddy was born while he continued active duty in the east.

After the war the couple settled in Glasgow and then Lenzie, where George was born, before setting off on their great adventure in 1956. The  war had precluded travel during her university years so Flora’s first trip away from Scotland was aboard the SS Strathmore to India where they would live for the next six years and where youngest son Bill was born. Future postings took the family to Scotland,  Leeds and finally  Germany before retirement back in Scotland.  The travelling didn’t stop though,  Flora and Jim returned to Germany several times and travelled to the USA and France to visit their sons. They also loved Scotland and made frequent trips to Jura.

Our suite Flora reflects this life, from the old map of Jura which used to hang on the wall in Greenock,  to the watercolours bought on holiday;  the textiles are Scottish and there are souvenirs of  life in India. Much of the furniture has been up cycled from homes in Jura and Greenock. I make scones trying to emulate the ones Flora made and my  shortbread  recipe came originally from  Jim’s sister.

Family history, Uncategorized


I haven’t posted much recently, we’ve been busy looking after our lovely guests,  and sorting through a lifetime’s worth of goods in Greenock. That task can be heart rending, which things from a long and full life do you keep? How can you dispose of the rest? George’s background helps, he often says that the  most important aspect of archiving is knowing what to throw away.

Some things tell a story, there was the trunk, but its story was lost beyond any living memory, and there are photos whose stories can be brought to the surface of memory. And then there are other things which tell their own story.

This bag……

gold bag


…..can be opened up to reveal

invitation peeking


……………………………….this invitation




……………………………………..and tell me the last time it was used.


And to satisfy my liking of coincidence and circularity,



………during our sorting


……………..we found books of Gaelic songs


………………………which we passed, via a friend


…………………………… Oban Gaelic Choir.


Family history, History

More voices from the past

We’ve been doing more sorting and came across this case.


Unfortunately the key was nowhere to be found but with a little ingenuity, some skills from past “life” and a tiny amount of vandalism  managed to release its secrets.

Not everything was exciting, or indeed even useful. Most of the contents ended up in the shredder, but there were a few thrilling exceptions.

Foremost among these was this little photo.

Narwahl at Cullipool


I’ve written before about our suspicion that George’s grandfather, George Paterson once sailed the seas around here delivering coal and other supplies from his steam ship the Narwhal. And here we found proof.  “At Cullipool” (a village on Luing our next door island) is inscribed on the front.

And on the back it confirms that this is indeed the Narwhal, sailing past Cullipool on the 15th June 1933.

Narwhal pic reverse

Another  exciting find was a clipping from the Greenock Telegraph printed after George Paterson’s death in 1950. It  details his career from his apprenticeship on the sailing barque Glaucus, to gaining his master’s  certificate, then war service with the Royal Naval Reserve 1914 -18 escorting convoys in the Mediterranean, followed by peacetime deliveries to Northern Ireland and the West of Scotland on his steamers,  interrupted by war duty again 1939 -45, he continued  this work until his health failed.

He was, perhaps, ahead of his time being  very keen that his daughters completed their education and training. And all three of them did, graduating from Glasgow university and going on to become teachers. We have a letter he wrote congratulating his youngest daughter on passing her finals in 1946, his pride and love is very obvious. In the same letter he writes of the excitements of his eldest daughter’s wedding in 1944 and then the arrival of his first grandson in 1945. He would live only a few year more but knew of the impending arrival of his second grandchild, George, before his death in 1950.