Great Tapestry of Scotland set to open to the public

Local historian Alistair Moffat wiped away a tear this week, as the project to tell the story of Scotland and its people through the medium of needle and thread finally came to fruition.

Wednesday, 18th August 2021, 9:58 am

The Great Tapestry of Scotland is now in place in its purpose-built building in the centre of Galashiels, paid for through investment from the Scottish Government’s regeneration capital grant fund, the Borders Railway Blueprint programme and Scottish Borders Council, and it is due to open its doors to the public next Thursday, August 26.

It’s the culmination of a project which started off from a phone call 11 years ago by Scottish author Alexander McCall Smith to Mr Moffat. The panels were designed by artist Andrew Crummy, and painstakingly put together by more than 1,000 stitchers across the country. Its 160 panels tells the history of Scotland, not only the stuff in history books, such as the Battle of Bannockburn, but also normal, everyday people like washer women and herring girls.

And, therein lies its power, says Mr Moffat.

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Stitcher coordinator Dorie Wilkie and tapestry visionary Alexander McCall Smith hang the final panel into place in the new home of the Great Tapestry of Scotland in Galashiels. Photo: Phil Wilkinson.

He told us: “Sandy tasked me with providing the narrative, and I said I’d do it as long as it would be as inclusive as possible. It’s not just about kings and queens and saints running across the landscape, it has to be about ordinary people as well. That’s hard, as the voices of normal people weren't heard until the 19th century when the first census happened.

"What makes this unique, is that this stunning building, designed by a woman, Susie O’Leary, holds this object, which was made almost overwhelmingly by women. It’s always men who tell the history of Scotland, but here are women doing that. It’s just fantastic … I'm reaching for my hankie.”

Stitcher coordinator Dorie Wilkie was delighted to see the work in its final home.

She said: “It’s overwhelming. It’s beautiful. And it's the first time we’ve seen it hanging complete in this beautiful gallery, and the stitchers are just dying to come and see their own panels in situ.”

Susie Finlayson , original tapestry stitcher who coordinated the stitching of the new welcome panel, which was first seen completed this week. Photo: Phil Wilkinson.

Mrs Wilkie helped Mr McCall Smith hang the last panel at a press viewing on Tuesday.

It’s certainly an impressive work of art which the organisers hope will be the catalyst for the regeneration of Galashiels and the wider Borders.

The downstairs gallery space will play host to other exhibitions, with the first one, “Iconic Scotland” due to run until January 4. ​​​​​​​

Dorie Wilkie (stitcher coordinator) and husband Tom, who helped on the project.