A Sampler from Sutherland: is this the most northerly, mainland antique sampler?
1892 Sampler by Mary Gunn, Durness.
In 2019, there was a superb exhibition of Scottish antique samplers at the National Museum in Edinburgh. The bulk of the exhibits came from the collection of Leslie Durst, who is based in America. The examples on display were of a superior quality, with wonderful detail and ornamentation.
I have a sampler, of a very much simpler design. The Alphabet in three styles, and some numbers 1-9. At the bottom it states clearly "Mary Gunn, Durness, 1892." So this is not an incredibly old item, nor one notable for its intricate detail. But it is unusual in coming from the far north of Scotland. I contacted Leslie Durst, who confirmed that, whilst she has examples from Stornoway on Lewis, Orkney, and Ross and Cromarty (Dingwall, Tain, and Tarrel of Hilton), she has none from Sutherland or Caithness.
She describes Mary Gunn's work as "a lovely example of a school-taught sampler." Whether such work was done at any given school seems very much to have depended on whether there was a teacher there willing to teach the skill to the pupils. I imagine also that getting the materials required was more difficult the further north you went. So perhaps it is not surprising that there seem to be few such items from Sutherland. I would love to hear from anyone who has or knows of antique samplers from the northern counties. And, of course, from anyone who might know about the family of Mary Gunn. Do, please contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Sampler by Jessie McDonald, daughter of William and Jessie Cowan McDonald, made when she was perhaps 11 years old, at Avoch on the Black Isle in 1884.
I have another northern sampler, by Jessie McDonald of Avoch, Ross-shire. It is dated 1884, and has the initials of members of her family, including her sister, Agnes. Not surprisingly, these northern samplers are less sophisticated than some of those created further south, but they show accomplishment that would have been put to good use in the various fabric work that went on in these northern parts.