Yarmouth tartan arrives

Carla Allen callen@thevanguard.ca
Published on March 29, 2011

Michael Morris is delighted with the large bolt of cloth he and his wife Frances arranged to have woven for the 250th anniversary of Yarmouth.

  “Not every town in Nova Scotia can say it has its own tartan,” he said, admiring the interwoven colours.

Two years ago the couple, owners of At the Sign of the Whale in Dayton, asked Elena Arnett to weave a scarf in the Yarmouth tartan. This year marks the first in decades that it has been produced commercially.

They received rights for the pattern from Ruth Noel and Lina Gilis Zatzman, daughters of textile maker Saul Gilis, who designed the cloth in the 1960s. Gilis died several years ago.

For Yarmouth’s special celebration year, they ordered a 28-metre bolt of the cloth from a weaving company in Vancouver that specializes in tartans.

All they had to go by was a scrap of fabric left by Gilis.

“I think they’ve done a wonderful job,” said Michael Morris.

“We were delighted with how it turned out.”

They plan on having scarves, shawls, neckties and other small items from the tartan available later this spring. They’ll also be selling yardage to the public at a price yet to be determined.

The cloth is made from 100 per cent Canadian wool.

The business is planning two other events connected with the 250th. A pewter ornament of the Pompey Dick, the wooden schooner that the first settlers arrived in Yarmouth on, will be launched on May 21. An exhibition entitled “My Yarmouth” will be held July 8 to 23 at The Sign of the Whale.

Saul Gilis, designer of the Yarmouth tartan, wrote this poem to accompany it, in June 1963.

Where lupines trail the winding roads

And hills are crowned with trees,

Their iron men in wooden ships

Did roam the seven seas.

Where fishing fleets are sailing by

The Lighthouse and the Bar,

To spread the bait in silvery nets

In waters near and far.

Where lakes do kiss the wooded shores

And deer the forest roam,

There is Yarmouth, Nova Scotia,

The place I call my home.