Past has bright future for heritage at Dunollie
DUNOLLIE has always aimed to create something unique for visitors hoping they will go away having been touched by every element of their experience, whether it be tours, exhibitions, learning, volunteering, eating or even shopping.
The gift shop at Dunollie has come a long way from its small beginnings as a single display cabinet in the old kitchen of the 1745 house.
In 2014, with funding from Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the team at Dunollie restored what was once the old dairy to create The Old Drapers’ Gift Shop.
The design was inspired by the bling of Victorian department stores with chandeliers, mirrors and old sewing machines dressed around an early 20th- century counter collected by Hope MacDougall from a local mechant.
The focus of the gift shop was to create beautiful gifts inspired by Dunollie’s object collections, heritage landscape and surrounding environment.
This began with a tartan range made from Dunollie’s Heritage MacDougall and Dalriada tartans, both of which were found hanging as curtains in Dunollie House in 2010. While the Heritage pattern is ideal for the MacDougall clan, the Dalriada tartan pre- dates clan tartans and is perfect as a local but non- clan tartan.
Light and heavy weights of both tartans were exclusively woven for Dunollie by Lochcarron Weavers in the Borders, providing the Draper’s shop with cloth for kilts and a range of scarves, shawls and ties. Two collections of jewellery were also designed and made by local artists to match the tartans. The Hope MacDougall ‘Mirror of History’ exhibition in 2015 provided a great opportunity for a new product range.
Rolls of fabulous cotton calico featuring objects in the displays, such as bakelite telephones, spurtles and medicine bottles, were printed by Glasgow School of Art. The fabrics were then passed to Threads & Yarns – Dunollie’s weekly volunteer sewing team – who created a beautiful range of handmade gifts including cushion covers, aprons, make-up bags and pencil cases.
Threads & Yarns has made a huge contribution to the success and growth of the Old Drapers’ shop, bringing creative flare to this special line of stock.
The team, led by milliner Jayne Mulqueen, who was once a volunteer member, said: ‘We want to focus on making mementoes visitors to Dunollie can enjoy while on site or take home for friends and family.’
Threads & Yarns started with just Jayne and Isobel Smith but has grown to eight keen sewers meeting each week. Each participant brings new ideas and skills that contribute to the Threads & Yarns’s range, which is as diverse as kitchen maid rag dolls, hanging bluebell decorations, the popular Dunollie hare and wooden spoons with Dunollie engravings. Isobel’s ‘Mairi MacMouse’ is now a best-seller and a favourite among visitors to Dunollie.
Dunollie’s weaving team is also busy in the weaving shed, creating beautiful cloth on the old loom. The volunteer weavers, who meet most Monday afternoons and speak to visitors while they are working, are developing different patterns and experimenting with a range of colours for a selection of purses to be made by Threads & Yarns.
Dorie Wilkie, lead stitcher of The Great Tapestry of Scotland, has created embroidery kits from the fabulous Jacobean patterns on the ancient castle bed-hangings unearthed in 2012.
The kits are made up by Threads & Yarns and can be purchased in the Old Drapers’ shop for keen stitchers to enjoy in the comfort of their own homes.
The Old Drapers’ shop also stocks a range of locally made gifts and produce. The shop is open daily from April to October at Dunollie Museum, Castle and Grounds and occasionally during the winter.
Dunollie Castle was lit up as part of last year’s Oban Winter Festival and, inset, the Dalriada tartan.
Isobel Smith’s ‘Mairi MacMouse’ is a best-seller.