Margaret Woodhead, of Dunedin, with a rug made in the Shetland Islands by her great great-grandfather about 160 years ago. The rug is to be sent back to the Shetland Islands in June. Photo by Craig Baxter.
A 160-year-old woollen bed rug brought from the Shetland
Islands to New Zealand in the 1870s is to make the long trip
home again later this year.
The rug was made by Thomas Tait for his daughter Margaret
Laurenson (nee Tait), who emigrated to Dunedin in 1874.
It was then passed through several generations of the family
in New Zealand before ending up with Thomas Tait's
great-great-granddaughter, Margaret Woodhead, in 1972.
Mrs Woodhead, of Dunedin, said the rug was woven on a loom,
and then a bone needle was used to put taats (tufts) of
coloured wool through the weave to make a colourful pattern.
Although it was a ''treasured'' family heirloom, which could
have been passed on to her children, cousins, nieces or
nephews, she had decided not to continue the tradition of
handing it down to the next generation because it had become
fragile and difficult to look after.
She said the rug could not be used any more and during her
''ownership'' it had been kept in a protective box away from
''It's become a liability. It's becoming fragile and it needs
to be preserved. It needs to be in a place where it can be
looked after properly.
''I will be sad to see it go. It's been in New Zealand for a
long time,'' she said.
Arrangements have been made to send the rug back to the
Shetland Islands in June to a curator at the Shetland Museum
in Lerwick, where it will be preserved.
Mrs Woodhead said the curator was researching the Shetland
style of rug making, believed to have connections to the
The islands are in the North Sea, between Scotland and
It might have been worn to protect a Tait family ancestor
from the cold on the voyage to New Zealand, but would be
carefully packaged and protected from the elements for its
journey back to the Shetland Islands, Mrs Woodhead said.