Summary

Paisley shawl worn by Isabella MacDonald for her wedding to James Abel in Aberdeen Scotland, 1851. It was probably purchased for her trousseau, as many of these shawls were in Scotland around this time. The shawl would have been a highly valued and was probably worn after the wedding. The shawl was then brought to Australia as a precious family heirloom by Maggie Stewart, Isabella's eldest grand-daughter, when she migrated in the late 1800s. It has continued to be passed down through the female line of the family.

This design was originally inspired by textile designs in Kashmir and shawls in this design peaked in popularity across Europe and the UK from 1740-1870. Paisley in Scotland maintained the most prolific and prolonged output of shawls in this design, hence 'Paisley' becoming the generic design term.

Physical Description

Finely woven twill tapestry technique wool shawl in 'Paisley' design. Colour palette red, orange, black, white and blue. Fringed edging.

Significance

The shawl was worn by Isabella MacDonald for her wedding to James Abel in Aberdeen Scotland, in1851. It was probably purchased for her trousseau, as many of these shawls were in Scotland around this time. The shawl would have been a highly valued and valuable acquisition and was probably worn after the wedding. Maggie's family were crofters, so presumably of small means - this would have been a once in a lifetime purchase. Its size indicates the Victorian fashion of the time, its expanse needing to envelop the large hoop skirts.
Little more is known about the shawl, except that it was brought to Australia as a precious family heirloom by Maggie Stewart, Isabella's eldest granddaughter when she migrated in the late 1890s. Maggie was born in 1870 in Auchindoin, a village in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, the 2nd of 12 children. The family later moved to Rutherlandshire. Maggie was recorded in the 1891 census as a grocer's assistant and in the late 1890s, she and her sister Helen (Nellie) Maggie came out to Western Australia to join her brother Andy, probably already in the goldfields. The girls worked as seamstresses and Maggie married a gold assayer Rob Richmond in Cottlesloe in 1908. They moved to the Buckland goldfields where Rob's family were, and finally settling in the new coal town of Wonthaggi, building their first home their in 1912.
The significance of the shawl lies in its symbolic value as a key memory object, an heirloom which was passed down through 5 generations of the female line of the family. [Isabella Abel nee MacDonald - Mary Stewart nee Abel - Maggie Richmond nee Stewart - Jean Hollins nee Richmond - Wendy McNabb nee Hollins] It was an item so precious that it was brought out to Australia with the eldest migrating daughter, which shifted the tradition from Scotland and finally to Victoria. It therefore represents the kind of key objects that migrants have brought with them over time and the cultural meanings that have been placed upon them. The shawl also represents a significant cultural textile, being part of a historic tradition of shawl-making in Paisley, Scotland - this shawl was one of innumerable shawls that were produced in this town over a number of decades, part of a tradition of wedding and everyday wear of Scottish women.
The current generation of 5 daughters, some of whom also have daughters, have decided to break with the tradition and donate the shawl to a cultural institution - rather than decide who the next family inheritor should be.
The shawl will be an important addition to the Museum's modest 19th century textile and clothing collection, with relevance to the sub collection of folk costumes. It will also assist in representing 19th century migration experiences, a part of the collection which requires development. There is another Paisley shawl, thought to be 19th century, in the collection, but its provenance and condition are poor.

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