Culture

Women’s Work

I’ve been following two stories closely : the campaign to seek justice for those convicted of witchcraft in Scotland’s past and which they paid for with their lives; and The Great Tapestry of Scotland. I have also read the comments on social media about both these issues and I am shocked by them.

I am pleased to say I am not yet desensitised to the appalling comments people think they can make on social media that they don’t affect me – because they still do – but even more than that is what they reveal about those making them.

A petition came before the Scottish Parliament’s Citizen Participation and Public Petitions Committee on 1st September 2021 to pardon those convicted of witchcraft in Scotland and to memorialise them nationally. You would think that well into the 21stC in Scotland that this would be uncontentious. A ‘no brainer’ as someone commented.

Sadly it’s not. There are people who think there’s better things to do than correct a dreadful act – repeated acts – of injustice to thousands of Scots, 85% of whom were women. According to those commentators the Scottish Parliament is incapable of redressing this injustice and continue to discuss the hundreds of other topics which they do. This one item has folk so stirred up that they even find it humorous that ordinary folk were tortured to confess for a made up crime before being brutally murdered.

The other topic I’ve been following is that of The Great Tapestry of Scotland. A wonderful work of art and beauty completed mostly by women.

More than 1,000 volunteer stitchers from all over Scotland created the 160 panels. These highly skilled women, just ordinary folk, were led by Dorie Wilkie and it took 55,000 hours of devotion to make this extraordinary art work.

There’s a new visitor centre in Galashiels where people can see for themselves The Great Tapestry. A friend very kindly gave me the book about it by Alistair Moffat with a foreword by Alexander McCall Smith and when I can I will visit it to see it for myself. Even in the images on the page it looks magnificent.

Here are some of the comments on the Border Telegraph Facebook page:

“I would rather see paint dry”

“I would rather watch my toenails grow”

“Got better teatowels”

Is this because it is the work of women that the key board critics think this is worthless?

I think of all those volunteer women and the artist Andrew Crummy who created the images they worked on, when I read such negative comments. The Great Tapestry is a work of beauty created in a time of loss, bereavement and anxiety when people had been unable to meet with friends and couldn’t even grieve properly for the death of a loved one.

The Tapestry is a thing of extraordinary love, telling the story of Scotland through the ages.

The two stories I have highlighted in this: the pardoning of those executed by the state for witchcraft and The Great Tapestry are subjects which mainly involve the work of women and justice for historic crimes against women.

The social media commentators who trivialise state torture and murder, who seek to devalue the work of skilled women, reveal that Scotland has much to do if the nation we are building is a fair and equal one.

Fiona Grahame

4 replies »

  1. Maybe I need to try to clarify what I was hoping to get across in my comment to the previous article about ’pardoning’ people convicted of what is referred to as Witchcraft. After I’d written that comment, I thought folk might not see what I meant as maybe I wasn’t very clear.
    I’ll have another go.

    For example……If a person is accused, convicted and executed for murder, which is a crime, then it is found that they didn’t do it – they should be pardoned – it clears their name, and that can matter to those left behind them, or their descendants.

    My argument is, that I don’t see how what is referred to as Witchcraft is a crime. Those who used their abilities for harm, don’t deserve to be pardoned – though no one should have been punished as they were punished. Fear played a large part in that.
    Those who used their abilities to help people – what they were doing shouldn’t even be considered to be a crime, as it just…… isn’t. So, using my kind of logic – they don’t need a pardon – a pardon is a bit of an insult, as what they we doing should not be considered to be a crime in the first place.

    I think I’m tying myself in knots again. And I might bring some more wrath on my head for the next thing I’ll say….

    Many people were tried, convicted and punished for homosexuality. That isn’t a crime, never should have been seen as being a crime – what harm does it do, someone being homosexual? The Kirk and State said it was, but it wasn’t – I would think it was equally pointless to ‘pardon’ folk for being convicted of being homosexual – it’s almost like saying it’s OK, they weren’t homosexual after all – doesn’t make sense – they were, but where was the harm, and how is it a crime?

    Some of those convicted of Witchcraft were just batty – but I still don’t see how a ‘pardon’ is relevant.

    An apology from Kirk and State – maybe that would be something, but, to me, using the word ‘pardon’, implies some kind of connection with wrong-doing. If you don’t see Witchcraft, as it’s called, as being wrong-doing anyway – well…….

    So, I think about them, wish the good ones and/or the crazy ones well – hope that the other ones have learnt something along the way, but, for me, a ‘pardon’ implies a connection with something that isn’t relevant anyway.
    Having said all that – I accept that I am an odd person – I know that I see things differently – sometimes a bit too pedantically.
    I am from a long line of odd people, some of whom have been seen as being witches – as near in time as my father’s cousin. If what you’re doing isn’t even wrong anyway – people pardoning you doesn’t matter, one bit.

    I don’t think I’ve stated my case clearly this time either, but I had a go. And it’s another way of viewing the situation.

  2. Fiona…I agree with your sentiments on both issues…

    However, speaking as a resident and taxpayer of the Scottish Borders, I feel I should perhaps interject that the apparent displeasure and bitterness shown is to a very large extent down to the perceived cost to the local taxpayers…£6,000,000 and counting… At a time when local cutbacks have meant potholes on every road, reductions in maintenance of hedgerows, gardens, cemeteries, closure of public toilets, etc., it does rather beg the question as to why Scottish Borders Council were apparently the only Council area to actually bid to host the Tapestry… The general feeling locally seems to be that since the project (which in fact was completed and displayed widely throughout Scotland long before the advent of Covid) is presented and lauded as a National treasure, the cost should also be borne across the Nation representatively.

    There has never, to my knowledge, been the slightest inkling of any ill-feeling towards the women involved in the actual creation of what is, to my mind at least, undoubtedly a great achievement, certainly no accusation or suggestion of misogyny…perhaps more likely a kickback against a Tory-run Council.

    • Thank you. I am aware of the story around the costs of housing The Tapestry which is not covered in this story. The comments I am concerned with were all those I read which were extremely dismissive about the skill of the work which had gone into creating it. Fiona G

      • Understood…but those comments, I feel, should be taken in the overall context…there’s a degree of anger, particularly in Galashiels itself, and that will sometimes be expressed in the only way folk feel might get noticed, rightly or wrongly…

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