Remembering Queen Elizabeth at this time is on the hearts of many. Yet earlier this summer I had the great honour of meeting a woman of the same generation. One with a unique link to the Queen herself.
You know what it’s like! When you meet a person who blows your socks off with their joy, kindness and great humour. Amazing, right? Well, during our fabulous family gathering on the Isle of Man, I met Jean Collister. This dynamic 94 year old heard that I work with handweavers, and made a bee-line to chat with me after church.
Once I knew Jean herself had been a hand weaver, it was her story I wanted to hear.
‘I wove the Queen’s wedding blanket!’
When Jean opened with, ‘I wove the Queen’s Manx Tartan blanket, given as a wedding gift for her and Prince Philip.’ I was hooked!
Although she did well at school, in the post-war 1940s there were few jobs available. She applied everywhere. So, rather than sit at home, she tried for work at the local weaving mill in Laxey. Much to her father’s dismay, ‘What a waste of your education!’ he said. But, Jean shared with a conspiratorial wink, ‘Right from the start I loved it – everything about it. The smell of the wool, the feel of it and even the deafening noise!’
Starting as a twister, she quickly moved up to spinning, then prepping the looms. Within a short time she became a weaver. Jean shared how she simply loved going to work – no matter how hard it was. The joy of building beautiful textiles, thread by thread, until a gorgeous fabric was ready for someone to enjoy was its own reward. When asked to weave the Isle of Man’s royal wedding gift, this young, talented weaver was ready and thrilled to do so with her whole heart.
As you can see below, Jean is still a bright-eyed woman, full of curiosity and love of life. Meeting at Kirk Andreas on the Isle of Man was special. She and I were baptised in the same font, married at the same church, and surrounded by our family stories inscribed on the stones outside.
Jean taught Sunday School with kids for 37 years. Sharing her passion for creativity let each child experience the love of making, and joy of sharing the results. Many projects like this super banner of hands, were valuable lessons for her young ones.
It’s very special to share with you this brief encounter with Jean. A woman whose unique connection to Elizabeth and Philip’s happiest moment will be a comfort to her in these days of mourning. It is to me. The societal DNA of that generation created many resilient and generous-hearted people. Although I only ever got to wave at the Queen, I’ve been hugged and blessed by Jean Collister, A Hand Weaver of the Isle of Man, and I am thankful!