Monday, May 22, 2006

In my last posting, I wrote about a quilt that made by my great-great uncle William Fist. The quilt was apparently commenced during his service with the British army in India in 1869, and at some stage...we do not know when...was sent back to England to his sister Sarah Castle.
My own mother remembered the quilt well as a child, because it was draped over a small round table in her grandmother's front parlour. It must have been there for some years, because there is still a circular area stretched out of shape. Mum also recalls talk about a "rich uncle" in Australia, but when she asked if he was likely to leave them any money, she was told that he had lost all his money playing cards!! There may be some truth in that, because the quilt is described as a "cloth" and is just the right size for a card table cover!!
The quilt, along with William's India medal and a photo was passed down to Sarah's unmarried daughter Sally...the one who did crazy patchwork. She in turn passed it on to her niece Rose, who was my aunt and godmother.
About 20-25 years ago, when visiting her relatives in England, my mother was handed the quilt by Aunty Rose, with instructions that it was to be given to me. I was delighted to receive it, but funnily enough, at the time I was more intrigued with it as an article of historical interest than as a piece of patchwork.
A year or two later, I met up with the then vice-president of the N.S.W. Quilter's Guild, who was holidaying on the island. When I showed her the quilt, she was extremely excited. The result was that it went on display in the Antique Quilt section of the big Bicentenary Quilt Show in Centrepoint Tower in 1988. It also featured in the first version of Margaret Rolfe's book of the History of Quilts in Australia. It was through the article and the photo in this book that I came into contact with the descendants of William's brother John. Bevin Fist, a Uniting church Minister in Melbourne, has been able to give me much more information about the Fist family and about uncle William, and he also gave me the photo of a younger William, shown here.
Along with the quilt, I received the medal, and an old photo of William that was sewn to a piece of card. The following words were written on the card. We believe it is in Aunt Sally's handwriting:
Soldier as Seamstress
Mr W. Fist of Richmond Australia. An Army Veteran. Since the year 1869 in fashioning a Table Cover of Military Cloth showing all the colours of the Regiment to which he was attached. 9th Lancers. 16th Lancers & the 19th Hussars. This cloth is worked in 32 inches square & is made up of 5,593 half inch pieces. The foundation is in emerald green cloth which is an effective foil to the scarlet, blue and yellow. Several fair fingers offered to help. But the Veteran went on with his task alone and unaided.
Mr Fist wears the red and white Riband of the Indian Mutiny & these colors are given a prominent place in the Cover-"
There is still more to tell you about this wonderful heirloom, and in the next post, I will show you some close-up pictures.

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