Scottish volunteers preview world's longest tapestry


By Christine Lavelle

THE world’s longest tapestry was unveiled today at a private preview for the 200 Scottish volunteers who helped create it.

Stitchers from all over the country arrived to see their panels of work finally combined, together telling the story of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s early campaign.

It measures 104 metres and consists of more than 10 million stitches, taking the embroiderers almost 18 months to finish.

Debuted in Prestonpans, East Lothian – where the historical story is set – the tapestry will now go on tour around Scotland starting in Eriskay next weekend, before coming home to Prestonpans in September.

Each of the 104 panels shows a scene from the journey of the Prince and his followers, from the time he landed in Scotland in July 1745, to their resounding victory in Prestonpans that September.

Andrew Crummy, the artist who researched and designed the panels, said: “When we started work on the tapestry over a year ago, we had no idea of how much enthusiasm there would be among people to get involved, or what quality the work would be.

“In both respects we’ve been absolutely astounded.

“People from all over Scotland and from all walks of life came forward to take on a panel – so much so that our tapestry grew from 80 panels to 104, to accommodate everyone who wanted to take part and elements of the story we had initially overlooked.”

The project was inspired by the 11th century Bayeux Tapestry, but now out measures it by 34 metres.

Dorrie Wilkie co-ordinated the nation-wide team of stitchers, said: “It’s a huge relief to have them all finished, it is lovely to see them all together finally.

“Everybody worked so hard and they should all be very proud of themselves.

“At times it was very challenging trying to co-ordinate everyone because we were working on it all around Scotland, but it all became clear after we made our initial plan.”

Dr Gordon Prestoungrange, chairman of the Battle Trust, said many people may wonder why so many volunteers decided to put themselves forward.

He said: “I like to think it is because the romantic idea of Bonnie Prince Charlie is such a fascinating one because it has become so symbolic to the history of Scotland.

“Therefore, I think now when one says ‘let’s do it’, people say ‘yes let’s do it’.”

Faith-Ann McGrew, from Prestonpans, stitched one of the panels, and said she got involved because it is an important part of the town’s local history.

She said: “When my sister told me she was helping to make a panel, I decided I wanted to do one too.

“I’ve done a lot of sewing in the past, but never any tapestry or embroidery.

“It was just nice to be involved and to do something that will go down in history.”

The tour starts on July 31 and will take in places such as Forth William, Perth, Dunblane and Stirling.

Over the winter, the Battle Trust expects to find a suitable venue for it in Edinburgh before arranging plans to take it back out on 2011 during 2011.