Octopus bag

This bag has different floral designs on each side. A vase filled with roses decorates one surface, while the other shows a second vase with stylized leaves and flowers, some of which resemble thistles. The style and choice of designs suggest that the bag was most likely made by a woman of Cree heritage around the 1860s. Octopus bags like this were available in the Red River settlement, which William Watt would have visited at this time, but he could equally have acquired it through trade at another post or by some other means.

William Watt made no reference to his collection in any of his letters home, and so it seems likely that he brought these items back with him to Orkney when he retired. They remained on display in Watt’s home, Holmlavoe, for almost one hundred years until they were loaned to the Stromness Museum by family members.

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© On loan to Stromness Museum from The King Family. Photograph courtesy Orkney Library and Archive