Vintage rug returning to motherland

Margaret Woodhead, of Dunedin, with a rug made in the Shetland Islands by her great great...
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 light.

''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 Vikings.

The islands are in the North Sea, between Scotland and Norway.

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.

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