Tapestry to mark regiment’s participation in the Great War presented to Gordon Highlanders Museum

A specially commissioned tapestry to commemorate the role of The Gordon Highlanders Regiment in the Great War has been presented to the regiment’s museum by the Lord Provost of Aberdeen George Adam today (Wed 09 Dec).


The Great War Tapestry, which has taken two years from start to finish, is an intricate three-panel handstitched needlepoint and is inspired by The Gordon Highlanders’ gallant history. The main aim of the project has been to recognise and raise awareness of the contribution of the regiment to World War I.


The idea to create the tapestry was conceived by a group of Aberdeen stitchers who had worked on The Great Tapestry of Scotland. 


Aberdeen City Council’s Creative Learning team, in partnership with The Gordon Highlanders Museum in 2014 applied to the Heritage Lottery Fund for support and were awarded £9,800 by the Heritage Lottery’s The First World War Then and Now fund.  Aberdeen City Council has matched funded this amount. 


Artist Andrew Crummy – the designer behind The Great Tapestry of Scotland, The Prestonpans Tapestry and the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry – was commissioned to design the special Great War Tapestry.  Andrew spent eight months perfecting the designs following consultation with members of the public, volunteers and curatorial staff at The Gordon Highlanders Museum. 


Over a period of fourteen months, thousands of hours of stitching work were completed by an army of volunteers, based in Aberdeen and Huntly, to create the panels.


The first stitches of the panels took place on Tuesday 07 October 2014 with Dorie Wilkie, stitch co-ordinator of the Great Tapestry of Scotland, John Barber a museum volunteer and advisor on WW1 uniform and history, and Patricia Auld widow of the late artist Eric Auld, whose painting inspired the background to the third panel.


People of the North-east of Scotland, for whom the Gordon Highlanders mean so much, were invited to be part of the project and to contribute to stitching the final 9,000 stitches. These 9,000 stitches represent the approximate number of Gordon Highlanders who lost their lives during the First World War.


The last stitches were carried out by Audrey Anderson who had the idea for a panel for The Gordon Highlanders museum, Marjory Thomson who has been leading the stitching in Huntly with support of artist Anne Murray, and Gordon Jeffrey, a volunteer at the museum, who supported the stitchers in research and to access the relevant information to complete the stitching.


Lord Provost of Aberdeen George Adam said: “Thousands of hours of exceptional stitching work have been completed by an army of volunteers to create the panels. The finished work is a testament to the unfailing commitment and incredible skill level of the stitchers. The intricacy and detail in the stitching is a breath-taking tribute to the Regiment."


Bryan Snelling, Chief Executive at The Gordon Highlanders Museum said: “The Museum is extremely pleased to be able to exhibit and use as an educational piece, the Great War Tapestry. It has been a wonderful joint project between us, the City Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund and, along with our ‘Somme’ exhibition, will form a large part of our display in 2016.


“Following its yearlong showing at the museum it will then be used to educate people throughout the North-east of Scotland on The Gordon Highlanders, the First World War and creative tapestry. This is a very special piece and one which the museum is particularly proud to have been involved with.”


Artist Andrew Crummy said: "It has been great to see how the tapestry has evolved. The creativity of the stitchers is amazing. Their attention to detail, in particular to the uniforms and equipment has been immaculate. As the project has developed the importance of The Gordon Highlanders and their descendants has revealed lots of stories. It has been a privilege to be part of this project."


Stitcher Dorie Wilkie said: “This has been a very interesting project as we had to stitch the tartan setts and personal belongings pertaining to the soldiers of the Gordon Highlanders in the WW1 with accuracy. This involved the stitchers from Aberdeen and Huntly working closely with museum staff and using personal experiences to expertly stitch medals, uniforms and landscapes. Sometimes it was not straight forward deciding how to stitch areas to their best effect so there was a lot of discussion and practice done to achieve the effects and textures.


“Despite the sombre topic the beautiful panels will be a wonderful learning source for children and adults alike. All involved should feel justifiably proud of this legacy.”


The tapestry will go on display in The Gordon Highlanders Museum in 2016 and thereafter it will be used as an educational piece, travelling to different venues including schools, communities groups, and museums to educate people about the The Gordon Highlanders, the First World War and creative stitchery.


The Creative Learning team is part of Aberdeen City Council’s Education and Children’s Service. The team works to improve outcomes for individuals and communities through arts, culture and creativity.