ANGUS MCPHEE - Weaver of Grass

ANGUS MCPHEE or MACPHEE was a crofter from Uist who spent almost 50 years in a Highland psychiatric hospital. During this time he chose not to speak - instead he wove a series of incredible costumes out of grass. These he hung on trees in the hospital grounds.

This blog follows the progress of HORSE + BAMBOO THEATRE as they develop and tour a show about Angus....

Friday, 23 December 2011


Alison modeling a head of the young Angus MacPhee

With the confirmation from Creative Scotland we've been able to plan seriously for the period from January through to August 2012, and a lot of this period will be dedicated to work on the Angus production. 

I've been able to talk with many of the artists involved in the project and a timetable is slowly emerging. Rehearsals will start on the 4th June, and Esther tells me that Angus will open in Scotland - somewhere close to Oban, she says - on the 12th July. Final details of the venues are being worked out, but it appears we'll be on Uist shortly after the 12th and expect this to tie-in with the celebrated annual summer school and festival of Ceòlas, which makes connections between Scottish traditional music, Gaelic song and dance. With Angus part of the festival, this will extend to theatre. 

Saturday, 17 December 2011

An old friend

Some of the Horse + Bamboo creative team on North Uist
Since we heard the very positive news from Creative Scotland our focus has continued to be on getting our two Christmas productions on stage. However, that done, I sat down with Alison yesterday and we began the process of time-tabling our New Year - in particular how we will use the period from January to April to develop the Angus production, starting with a re-examination of the script immediately we're back at work.

In the meantime I noticed that this blog has passed 10,000 hits, and I continue to receive news from our partners in Scotland, telling of the continued interest in Angus and his work. It was particularly good to hear from Dr. Stephanie Bunn. Steph is Lecturer in the Department of Social Anthropology at St. Andrews University, and author of the excellent British Museum book on 'Nomadic Felts', based on her researches among pastoral nomads in Kyygyzstan. In another life Steph worked with Horse + Bamboo, and stumbled across us again when talking to Joyce Laing at the Art Extraordinary Gallery. Seems Steph has an interest in Angus too, which I suppose isn't entirely surprising given her interest in felt-making - which I feel is a kind of second cousin, removed, of grass weaving. 

Thursday, 8 December 2011

From Creative Scotland

"We write to inform you that the above-mentioned application was successful and your award will be confirmed once the following conditions have been received:

  •     A revised budget. Clearly showing the level of rehearsal costs and the proposed size (personnel, etc) of the touring company.
  •          Confirmation of all delivery partners, especially within the Gaelic Diaspora. (Note MG Alba not BBC Alba)

"A reassessment of CS Investment Level will be commensurate on the above conditions being met."

This refers, of course, to our application for support towards touring our show about Angus MacPhee. The email arrived in Helen's inbox just as she was leaving the office last night, and caused her to break our unofficial rule of not disturbing rehearsal. 

Many, many thanks to everyone who has helped us get this far. 

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Meanwhile in Caithness

Once again, in the absence of any new work on our production Angus at the Boo (Horse + Bamboo's workshop in Rossendale) - as we're in the thick of producing two Christmas shows - we turn to Caithness and Joanne B Kaar to find that she has now completed the replica grass trousers. That's Joanne above, with the trousers mysteriously hovering directly in front of her. 

To compare them with the original, here they both are:

Saturday, 3 December 2011

The view from Shetland

From the Shetland Times, Spaekalation (link to the full article here):

"In much the same way as Shetlanders cared for their boats, the Uist people nurtured and nursed their homes. Mingling love and economic necessity, they created bridles and harnesses for their horses, long strands to rein in and control the most unruly steed from the grass found upon the machair.

"In his years of exile in Inverness, Angus MacPhee, however, did much more than this. Incorporating beech leaves and other material from the trees around the asylum, his artful fingers sculpted a bizarre wardrobe from grass. A swallow-tailed coat. A pair of shoes. An astonishing haberdashery of hats, from Tyrolean to Stetsons. Most of the time, however, he hid these creations away. A private artist, it was the fierce and secret obsession of a man miles away from the touch and texture of his beloved marram grass."

From a review of:
The Silent Weaver: The Extraordinary Life Of Angus MacPhee, by Roger Hutchinson, is published by Birlinn, £9.99.
by D.S.Murray