Hunter Wellies wade off into the sunset
Having survived their first brush with the administrator in 2006, the company succeeded in surviving a number of trials, but ultimately had to yield to economics and transfer its production to places such as Serbia, China, and Brazil. The changes are expected to see its head office move from it Heathhall works near Dumfries, and result in the loss of up to 22 jobs – with only seven employed in boot manufacture. In 2006, staff had numbered 101, with most involved in manufacturing, and the company then ranked amongst the largest employers in Dumfries.
Beginning as the North British Rubber Company in Edinburgh in 1856, it made its place by using a new process to cure and stabilise the rubber – vulcanising. World War I saw its fortunes lift, as the War Office needed waterproof boots for troops fighting in flooded trenches, and almost 1.2 million pairs were supplied. Taking the place of another Scottish manufacturer that sadly succeeded in becoming a failure, they moved to Dumfries in 1946 after acquiring the factory of the Arroll Johnston motor company, which had gone into receivership and closed in 1931.
Your scribe has had a pair of faithful Hunters for years, and is not a member of the ‘horsey’ set. His are still as good new, despite having been across a fair number of muddy fields in search of various artefacts related to the country’s First, Second, and Cold War remains, and have survived the attentions of various noxious materials they’ve had to plough through, both animal-made (and man-made in some instances), as pollution comes in numerous guises.
While that sort of crap can generally be removed with some soap and water, a splash of disinfectant and a hose, nothing can remove the embarrassment that has come to be associated with a pair of Hunters ever since ‘Celebrities’ began to consider they were ‘Kewl’ to be seen in. But, since they work (the Green Wellies, NOT the useless celebrities), they still get thrown in the back of the car when they’re needed (unlike the celebrities, who’d be thrown under the car.)
From the comments below, it seems that the former Hunter production equipment was bought up and moved to Serbia, to a company named as Tigar Corporation:
There’s no hiding the fact that this move came about to keep production costs down, as this sort of facility just isn’t possible here. Of which I’ll make no further comment.
What is worth mentioning is the sole pattern on these boots, which can be seen to the right. This is EXACTLY the same as the pattern on my own original Hunters, which have had light, intermittent use for almost 20 years now, and are not leaking or coming apart anywhere, nor are they rotting or decaying. The look used, and the surface colour is no longer perfect, but that no surprise given their age. And when I use them, I am usually to be found paddling up to my knees in water which has collected in underground Cold War bases, shelters, and similar abandoned sites, so they’ve probably been immersed is some odd stuff. Many places are reached via farmland, so they’ve had to put up the usual stuff that comes out of the back end of livestock as well. Walking across a couple of miles of field with crops (yes, I walk between the rows) just after heavy rain means they’ve also been flooded inside, as the rain on the leaves first soaks your trousers, then runs down into your wellies, and there’s little you can do to stop them collecting this run-off.
I can’t comment on this ‘new’ boot, so here’s a review from a hunting and conservation blog:
The quality of the boot would appear to on a par with the original boot which carried the ‘H’ name ( I better not use it when referring to these boots, lest I be sued or something), but these are known as Century Dip-Tech boots (CLOSED in 2014). Since they are produced using the machines and techniques that the original Hunters were manufactured prior to 2006, it seems safe to assume they are not like the modern boot of that name, which seems to be made using different techniques that result in little more than a leaky fashion boot with a short working life if the owner is careless enough to actually wear them and walk around while wearing them.
For completeness, I have updated the poll to include an option for Century Boots, so readers can quickly record the satisfaction level with this boot.
See the range, and the contact details for the Scottish agent here:
Scotland DG1 1QA
Call. 01387 266 461
Century has CLOSED!
Sadly, that didn’t last long, and a comment received in April 2014 alerted us to the fact that the Century operation had closed, with the following message greeting visitors to their web site:
Visiting the TIGAR site (as mentioned above) did not appear to provide any information about this subsidiary, and clicking on the section which used to lead to TIGAR RUBBER FOOTWEAR returned a “Server Application Unavailable” message, while clicking on other links to other products still opened up further information. This appears to further confirm that Century has been closed, as per the message above.
According to one of out commenters below, TIGAR suffered a couple of years of severe financial difficulty… so it looks as if Century was the sacrifice needed to save the rest of the business.
Confirming more interest in its position as a fashion accessory that a working pair of wellies, 2014 saw the Hunter Boot makes it way onto the catwalk at London Fashion Week.
I think we mark this as the end of the reliable Hunter.
While we’ve no interest in this nonsense, the story did come with some history of the original company:
In 1856, the North British Rubber Company consisted of only four people, which expanded to a team of more than 600 after 20 years.
With the arrival of the First World War, the company found itself drastically increasing its production of wellington boots. This was at the request of a War Office that required a boot sturdy enough to cope with flooded trenches. It ordered more than a million pairs.
Hunter was also busy in the Second World War, once more producing high quantities of boots, as well as life belts, gas masks and ground sheets.
In winter 1955, the famous green wellington – the firm’s first orthopaedic boot – appeared. It was a big success, remaining in production to this day – as does the Royal Hunter that was launched alongside it.
Hunter was awarded a royal warrant from the Duke of Edinburgh in 1977, and the Queen in 1986. The firm has grown recently and its products now sell in more than 30 countries.
Although, I think some may find the line “In winter 1955, the famous green wellington – the firm’s first orthopaedic boot – appeared. It was a big success, remaining in production to this day – as does the Royal Hunter that was launched alongside it.” a bit of an exaggeration.
Since they sold off the manufacturing equipment to Serbia (which probably could make that claim with more credibility), and left the experience and skills of the staff in Edinburgh, it’s a but of a stretch of the imagination to say the boots “remain in production”. It might be truer to say something closer to “have been reproduced or recreated” by the new company using a similar name.