Touring display set to explore Fife’s role in the story of linen

Dr John Ennis with a selection of exhibits in the display.
Dr John Ennis with a selection of exhibits in the display.

An exhibition exploring the story of linen, Scotland’s oldest fabric, and its fascinating role in the history of Fife, is soon to open in Kirkcaldy.

Our Linen Stories takes place at the Merchant House, Laws Close from September 6-9, and will offer insights into the past, present and future of the textile, and the flax from which it is derived.

In keeping with the setting, a former shipping merchant’s home, there will be a special emphasis on the production of flax and linen in Fife and the trade routes that saw it exported and sold internationally.

Our Linen Stories exhibition is touring Scotland, and internationally, but is specially adapted for each stop that it makes.

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The exhibition provides a platform for an artist or designer whose work has a link to the area. In Fife it will showcase work by Lorna Brown, from Spittalfield, an old linen village in Perthshire. She works in Edinburgh but uses linen from Peter Greig’s in Kirkcaldy, Scotland’s only surviving linen factory.

The exhibition organiser, Dr John Ennis, is also calling on residents to help with his research by sharing their knowledge of the linen industry in Fife.

He said: “Flax and linen were enormously important in our past – Kirkcaldy was once Scotland’s second biggest port after Leith. Sails and rigging of the ships sailing in and out were made locally of linen, with their cargo protected by tarpaulin – tar covered linen.

“That cargo itself often consisted of flax and linen transferred between Kirkcaldy, The Low Countries and the Baltic States.

“But much of Fife’s linen story is at risk of being forgotten. So we are asking people to come forward with information about the waters used for retting, or rotting the flax ready for use, the factories where linen was woven and the bleach fields where it was laid in the sun to whiten.”

There will be a series of events associated with the exhibition including: An Artist Talk: Journeys from Spittalfield to Kirkcaldy by Lorna Brown, Saturday, September 8, 2-3pm. Free, Reserve a place through Eventbrite; a Fife Reception: Free, All welcome. A brief talk by the curator and a chance to hear from special guests, Sunday 9 September at noon. And ‘Linen and the Lang Toun’: Enjoy a new urban walk developed with locals, all welcome. Sunday, September 9 from 2 to 3pm.