Family of Ratbags!
My great-grandmother was Eliza Webber, one of the last to leave the island of Samson in 1855. She was two years old and was relocated to St. Mary’s where she married my great-grandfather Benjamin Ashford. From their 12 children, few Ashford’s remain. I have two brothers and a sister all raised here in Scilly and all four of us stayed to raise families. I work with my sister at Ratbags Canvas shop.
The family donkey and trap with Carol's Grandad and Granny feeding the donkey and Carol's mum on her knee.
Ratbags is very much a family affair – we make and sell canvas bags, clothing and hats. Initially, we set out making and repairing sails and boat covers but we didn’t want the off-cuts going to waste. One of our early commissions was a stripy canopy for a café on St. Mary’s, which needed large porthole windows. The offcuts became the first bags. Ratbags is one of the few island-based manufacturing businesses and we like to keep it small as we also run Schooners Hotel.
From the age of 12, I loved rowing Pilot Gigs – we’ve won several championships for Scilly, with half the crew being my co-workers at Ratbags - but now I enjoy coxing and sailing. I got into sailing when I met my husband, Keith. He was building a boat, which together we completed and sailed to the North Atlantic Islands and South America before returning to Scilly in the early 1990s. We visited some amazing Islands on our trip but found none to match the beauty of Scilly – the pace of life is relaxed, with clear waters and white sand beaches. Friends that I made here as a child, now bring their own families on holiday every year. That’s Scilly for you. It pulls at the heartstrings and draws everyone back.