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....

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Too much!

Esther has put together a great tour for 2013 - it's now on our website on the Angus page as well as on the righthand column here. But yesterday we discovered a problem - this itinerary means that the cast, the English members anyway, don't get to go home for 9 weeks. Travelling back home simply isn't do-able within the available time. So Esther, already up to her neck in Arts Council reporting deadlines, as well as moving house, Alison and I got together and had an emergency meeting in the H+B kitchen. 

The result? Two shows needing to be cancelled I'm afraid, plus closing down the opportunity for an additional show or two in the existing short 'gaps' in the tour. But, this is a small price to pay for a happier company. 

It brings it home how hard it is to produce, manage and book a tour. These days everything needs to break even financially, if not actually make a surplus - the cast need to get paid and are anxious that there aren't periods of unemployment. But at the same time sensible breaks to see partners, and to recover from the very hard work of touring, are essential. Then there's the need to put together an itinerary that is sensibly sequential in a geographic way, especially in a country like Scotland where distances between venues are often long. Altogether a big ask, and Esther does it brilliantly. 

In the meantime a reminder of Angus himself. A lovely photograph of rope-making on South Uist in the early 20th century, by Margaret Fay Shaw; courtesy of the Highland Folk Museum.

Homemade rope was usually made from heather but sometimes long grasses were used, as in this photograph. A special tool, known as a corthsagan, was used to twist the grasses together, and it's variations on this process that Angus MacPhee took to new levels of creativity during his 50 years in Craig Dunain hospital.


  1. The tool they used would have been corragan. They were fingers.

  2. Angus certainly used his fingers - and a broken piece of metal from a fence, I think