Volume 18 Issue 2 A Journal Dedicated to Natural Dyes Winter 2014
Turkey Red Sampler
Turkey Red Sampler
National Museums Scotland
Photograph by
Robert Feldman


Book Review
By Patricia MacIndoe

<i>Colouring the Nation</i> book cover

Colouring the Nation:
The Turkey Red Printed Cotton
Industry In Scotland c. 1840-1940

Written by Stana Nenadic
and Sally Tuckett

National Museums Scotland,
NMS Enterprises Ltd., Edinburgh
ISBN: 978-1-905267-80-4

At last, we, the nation of Scotland, have a publication that does just service to the nearly forgotten heritage of our important global contribution to the phenomenon of Turkey red fabric. Factories for the production of Turkey red fabric were established in the Vale of Leven, West Dunbartonshire, in 1785 and continued in operation until 1961.

A Turkey red dyed and printed, quilted petticoat produced by McClintock and Sons, late nineteenth century. Private collection.
A Turkey red dyed and printed, quilted petticoat
Photo courtesy of the Colouring the Nation Project

Researched by Stana Nenadie, Professor of Social & Cultural History, Edinburgh University and Sally Tuckett, post-doctoral researcher, Edinburgh University, Colouring the Nation is an articulate presentation of information gathered from manuscripts, books, pamphlets, articles and essays, supplemented by workshops in which participants shared stories, memories and artefacts from the giant industry. I live close to the River Leven and the one-time production of Turkey red fabrics and had previously co-operated with West Dunbartonshire Libraries & Museums (a local government organization) in the making of Jeely Eaters1, a Curriculum for Excellence/Expressive Arts early years school's resource. I was invited to attend one of the story-telling, artefact-sharing workshops that provided material for this book and found it to be an immensely informative, poignant and joyous occasion.

Sally Tuckett with one of the pattern books of the National Museums Scotland.
Sally Tuckett with one of the pattern books
Photo courtesy of the Colouring the Nation Project

The book's six chapters cover Turkey red in Scotland; dyeing and printing; design, copyright and exhibition; styles and patterns; international markets; and home markets. There is a Notes section at the end of each chapter, a Select Bibliography and a Select Index of names and organisations. Saturated with glorious colour plates, historical prints, drawings, etchings and photographs, Colouring the Nation is a visual banquet and an indelible record of people, pattern and process: only 19 of its 148 pages are without an image on the page or page facing, and many have multiple images. Colouring the Nation is a scholarly work that is enormously accessible and can sit comfortably on either a study shelf or a coffee table.

1Jeely Eaters: a past-times local colloquialism for factory workers with hands/arms stained red with dye, as if they had been eating jelly/jam/preserve.

About the Reviewer

A graduate of London University and Glasgow School or Art, Patricia retired in 2013 from working as a college lecturer teaching art and crafts in Scottish prisons. Now working in her home based studio and throughout Scotland, she gives workshops and talks on hand-stitched textiles and associated practices and is the founder/Chair of Boutis Écosse, the association of boutis (historical French white-work) makers in Scotland.