The Rake

AN ACT OF LOVE

Source: Bolts of finished tweed at Harris Tweed Hebrides’ Shawbost mill in Stornoway.

The Outer Hebrides, a chain of islands off the northwest coast of mainland Scotland, is a remote and barren stretch of land. It’s devoid of many of the fripperies of modern civilisation, and the result is a charmingly simple place of escapism. Life has existed there since the Stone Age, as evidenced by the Callanish Stones, Scotland’s answer to Stonehenge. The population of the Outer Hebrides is minuscule, too. The 2011 census put it at 27,684, and that figure has been falling for decades. However, the speed of its decline is slowing, thanks largely to the work of Harris Tweed Hebrides.

Harris Tweed Hebrides (HTH) was formed in 2007 in a bid to protect and promote Harris Tweed, which is the only textile in the world that has an act of parliament protecting it, the Harris Tweed Act of 1993. It’s governed by the Harris Tweed Authority, which is based in Stornoway, the capital of the Outer Hebrides.. Following his retirement from politics in 2005, Wilson moved to the Outer Hebrides and has since been heavily involved in its revival. Many inhabitants had expressed concern to him about the need for investment in Harris Tweed, and as a result Wilson contacted Ian Taylor, the Chief Executive of the global energy company Vitol, whom he had met over dinner in Cuba in the 1990s. Also sat at the table that evening was Fidel Castro. “In quite a direct way, the origins of HTH went back as far as that dinner with Fidel,” Wilson says. Taylor subsequently invested in the business, attracted by the cloth’s sense of romance and a heritage that dates back hundreds of years.

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