Sampler by Catherine Simpson, 1860.

Cotton canvas, wool threads, 400mm x 290mm.

This sampler has a plain open weave cotton canvas ground, embroidered with polychrome wool threads. It is bordered by a zig zag design of red, while the rows of letters and numbers are also divided by rows of border patterns in various designs. The sampler has two complete alphabets in upper case, interspersed with a sequence of number one to ten, followed by a third alphabet in lower case. The sewer’s name, age and year of completion fill the lower portion. This is a relatively simple design without the more sophisticated spot motifs and picture designs of some of the more elaborate examples shown here.

Catherine McKay Simpson was born in Scotland c1845. She came to Otago with her parents and older sister as a two-year-old, arriving on the Mary in 1849. Her father Thomas was a bootmaker and the family lived in ‘Glenlythan Cottage’ in Walker Street (now Carroll Street) in central Dunedin, later moving out to Caversham. The cottage’s name is that of a village in Aberdeenshire, possibly where the Simpsons had lived in Scotland. Catherine attended Alexander Livingstone’s school in Dowling Street in 1858 but it is not clear if she was still there in 1860 when she worked this sampler. In 1867 she married William Caven (or McCaven), a Scottish shepherd, and they moved to Lake Wanaka where she gave birth to a daughter, Xaveria, the following year. The child died just eight months later followed in 1869 by William. Catherine remarried to Duncan Muirhead in 1871 and had at least two further children. She died in Dunedin in 1916 at her daughter’s house in Dundas Street. The same daughter, Mrs Elizabeth Davidson, donated Catherine’s sampler to the Museum in 1930.
Catherine Simpson
Production Date
Sampler 320x220mm
Mount 455x350mm