Hooking the Great Eastern
Heart’s Content mat-hookers anticipate government funding
Mary Piercey, a blind girl from Scilly Cove — modern-day Winterton — wanted to “see” the cable ship The Great Eastern drop anchor in Heart’s Content on July 28, 1866.
History records that she made the following comment: “ While I will not be able to see the ship, I would like to be able to say to people in years to come that I had touched the greatest ship ever built.”
This story was all the inspiration Jean Boland of Heart’s Content needed to hook her very own mat.
Boland, who is originally from St. John’s, has lived in Heart’s Content for the past 10 years.
“ I just fell in love with Heart’s Content,” she said. “ It’s a beautiful spot and the people are very nice.
“ When I read about and heard the story of the blind girl, I knew in my heart I had to hook a mat of the Great Eastern,” she added.
Boland’s daughter, Bobbie, and her mat-hooking group in St. John’s, had invited Boland to hook a mat, to be added to other mats destined for exhibit in Ireland.
Boland started the six-week process in March, a feat in itself. She turned 75 on Aug. 21 and had tried only one other mat in her entire life.
“ There is a certain amount of labour to it, but it isn’t hard labour,” Boland admitted. “Every stitch you make is a labour of love. If you can create memories in a mat and hang it on your wall, your memory is never gone.”
The labour-intensive process work required keen concentration, from tracing the Great Eastern on burlap to putting it on a loom. She hooked the mat a stitch at a time, using discarded tee-shirt material.
“ You choose and blend your colours as you go,” Boland said.
The finished product, which tells a story, was displayed at a tourist chalet at Tors Cove. It, and several other mats, were then sent to Ireland. They are currently featured in a festival there. Boland’s effort is a mat, not a rug, she commented. “Mats are pictures you can hang on your wall. Rugs go on the floor,” she said. The experience was a positive one for Boland. “ It’s overwhelming to have a mat on display in Ireland,” Boland said. “I just can’t believe it’s happening. I really haven’t accepted it yet.” Boland has no intention of giving up her hobby. “ We’ve applied to government for finances to start our own mat-hooking group here in Heart’s Content,” she explained.
The group will include mat-hookers from Winterton and New Perlican. Boland and her co-workers are anticipating funding by October. Boland already has an idea in mind for her next mat. “But I’ll leave them under cover right now,” she said with a mischievous smile.
Jean Boland stands beside the vintage photograph of the cable ship, Great Eastern, in Heart’s Content Harbour. The image served as the inspiration for her hooked mat.