Estate Tweeds on Islay

Sue Visser, a friend from the Islay Genealogy list, posted a link last week on the Islay list to the Islay Estates page. Much to my surprise a very interesting reply came a couple of days later from Steffenie Kirkpatrick. Apparently, and I wasn't at all aware of this, it seems that estates in Scotland have their own tweeds, comparable to clans who had their own tartans. Steffenie was triggered by the images I have on the Islay estates page of Donald James McPhee, head keeper of Islay's Dunlossit Estate.

Steffenie: In the photos, Mr. McPhee appears to be wearing the Dunlossit Estate tweed. Estate tweeds came about in the mid-19th century. The first true estate tweed was designed by Prince Albert himself for Balmoral, when he bought the Balmoral estate in 1848. It's appearance mimics the granite mountains of Aberdeenshire around Balmoral, and was designed to provide camouflage while stalking. Whether to camouflage the stalkers from the deer, or to camouflage the gamekeepers and ghillies from the stalkers (servants should not be seen!), is somewhat disputed! Continue reading....

The Dunlossit tweed also mimics the colors of the Islay hills. It is a simple overall check of two shades of green with overchecks or red and blue. It is thought to have been designed in the 1920s. The Islay Woollen Mill was leased by Mr. J.T. Christie at that time, and is assumed he was the designer. Mr Gordon Covell, the present mill owner, could probably provide more information. I think it's likely that the tweed is produced at his mill today for the estate.

Ethically, only the estate owner and estate employees should wear the tweed, but in today's world of commercially letting stalking, some estates "permit" visiting stalkers to wear and/or own the tweed. Islay Estate and Ardtalla also have estate tweeds, and Laggan and Foreland may as well. As a weaver I find it all fascinating. Anyone who is smitten as I am can find more information in "Scottish Estate Tweeds," by E.P. Harrison of Johnstons of Elgin, a mill that for more than 200 years has designed produced many of the estate tweeds.

Tag: estate tweed