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Our Thoughts & Experiences

10 Feb, 2023
Valentine – Celtic Hearts, Heritage and Knitting

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and we all have one love close to our hearts…KNITTING!

Knit our hearts with an unslipping knot – William Shakespeare

Here are 10 things you probably didn’t know about Valentine’s, love and knitting in our Celtic lands!

Saint Valentine in Ireland

Did you know there is a shrine to Saint Valentine in Dublin that contains his heart? It was a gift from Rome to Father Spratt, as he was so dedicated to his work in the Fair City. It is  now held in the Saint Valentine’s Shrine in the Whitefriar Street Church. The heart of Saint Valentine in the heart of Dublin. Thankfully we have moved onto flowers and chocolates as gifts!

Sweetheart Abbey

Keeping on the theme, Lord John Balliol was King of Scots in the thirteenth century. His distraught widow, Lady Dervorgilla, was unable to let her husband go and had his heart laid in an ivory casket. She took with her wherever she went and in his memory, she founded the aptly named Sweetheart Abbey. When the Lady passed away, she laid to rest here, clutching Lord Balliol’s heart to her own.

Doctor Valentine

Ireland has its own Valentine! He was Valentine Greatrakes, born on Valentine’s Day (when else?) in County Waterford in 1628. He called himself doctor and had a reputation, albeit chequered, for being a healer throughout England and Ireland.

Shetland Lace Wedding Ring Shawl

There is a Shetland Lace Shawl known as the Wedding Ring Shawl, which has such a fine knit, the whole garment can be pulled through a wedding ring! Many brides have worn Shetland Lace veils over the centuries and the one below is by knitwear designer Sheila Fowlie who features on some of our Shetland tours. 

Sheila Fowlie – Shetland Lace Shawls

The Scottish Luckenbooth Brooch

In medieval Scotland, a Scot would gift a Luckenbooth brooch to his or her beloved. The design was two entwined hearts with a crown above. The name came from the small jewellery stores along the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, called Locking Booths. The first such brooch was a gift to Lord Darnley by Mary, Queen of Scots.

The Claddagh Ring

Of course, Ireland’s version of this is the world famous Claddagh ring. It originated in the small fishing village of Claddagh on the outskirts of Galway city and dates back to the seventeenth century. The clasped hands are for friendship, the crown for loyalty and the heart for love. If you wear the ring with the point of the heart pointing inward, you have found your love. If you wear the ring upside down with the point away from you, then you are still looking!

Irish Claddagh, symbol for Irish weddings and friendship

From Valentine to Hallmark

James Valentine was a pioneering Scottish photographer known for his photos of Shetland life, who founded Valentine & Sons in Dundee in 1851. They went on to become Scotland’s leading picture postcard manufacturer, before selling to Waddingtons. In 1980, it was purchased by Hallmark! Valentine – Valentine’s Card – Hallmark! It was meant to be!

Aran Knitting and the Marriage Line Stitch

Edel MacBride Zigzag Aran Stitch – Knitfield

The Aran stich known as the Zigzag stitch represents the twisting pathways of the Aran Islands down to the shores and the Atlantic Ocean. Known as the marriage line stitch, it reflects the ups and downs of married life.

Gansey Knit and the Arbroath Marriage Line

Not to be outdone, Scottish Gansey knitwear often includes what they call the Arbroath marriage lines stitch. Similar in style to the Aran Zigzag, instead of meandering pathways, the alternative to marriage representation is thunder and lightning!

The Celtic Trinity Knot

The Celtic Trinity Knot pre-dates the fourth century in Ireland and features in the Book of Kells. It has pagan origins, representing the cycle of life, the past, present and future and the earth, sea and sky. In Christianity, it represents the Holy Trinity but our interest is love! From the 1800s it become a symbol of love. The unending knot symbolising eternal love.

So there you have it – from Valentine to love and marriage, and of course…KNITTING! 


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