The once famous and reliable Green Hunter Wellington boot has confirmed its status as nothing more than an over-priced fashion toy, a plaything for wasteful celebrities, as it prepares for its appearance in the glamorous world of fashion, and display by models on the catwalk at London fashion week later this month.
Models will be wearing a new “bespoke” version of Hunter’s original boots, and completing the rural look with a “water-resistant original clear smock”, also made by the company, as part of its autumn-winter 2014 range.
The company is not the original though, which collapsed into administration in 2006, and was bought out of this status two years later, as Hunter Boot Ltd. This company closed the original plant at Heathhall, near Dumfries, ending production in Scotland, relocated it headquarters to Edinburgh, and shifted production (apparently not the manufacturing plant and equipment) to China. The plant was sold of, and seems to have gone to Serbia.
By 2012, turn-over was almost £75 million – but customers were finding their Hunter Green Wellies were falling off their feet and leaking – I’m not saying this, those who post comment on the original story are:
You can still buy proper wellies made using the original equipment, as it seems that the former Hunter production equipment was bought up and moved to Serbia, to a company named as Tigar Corporation:
(Comment are closed on this post, but can be made on the original – Hunter Wellies wade off into the sunset )
While I’m unlikely to ever support the closure of any museum, and I’m also pleased to note that it is a subject I have not had need to comment on for a while, I find I have mixed responses while reading reports about closure of the National Museum of Costume, based in Shambellie House for the past 30 years – a Victorian country house in New Abbey, near Dumfries.
The house dates back to 1856, and was left to the nation in 1977 by local artist and designer Charles W Stewart, who had started collecting clothes from before World War I, found in friends’ attics and market stalls. The house had been built by his great-grandfather, to a design by Edinburgh architect David Bryce.
Stewart left the family home and his fashion collection to the then Royal Scottish Museum in a bid to keep the collection together, as he feared it would be dispersed after his death and “cast away to the dangers and squalors from which so much of it had been rescued”.
But bosses at the Edinburgh-based organisation say it can no longer continue to operate the site, which costs £23 per head per visitor to run and maintain.
And that figure of £23 per head is the one that causes me a problem, and stops me from automatically being against any thoughts of closure.
A spokeswoman confirmed an internal consultation was underway, with a result expected before the end of next.
Items from the original Stewart collection are on display at the museum, along with items from the vast collections held by the National Museums Scotland organisation.
Even so, as one who had to run a business and write the wages cheques at the end of every month, I can’t help but think something is wrong somewhere if it costs £23 per visitor at Shambellie.
Not enough ‘bums on seat’, or cost that are way out of control?
Either way, it just can’t continue as a money pit, or has to find a different way of being funded. Simply holding a hand out in the hope that those on high will drop more cash there is not any way forward, and just means postponement, not salvation.
They’ve announced a review. I hope it doesn’t end with all involved simply saying, “Well, we’re not accepting any cuts.” If it doesn’t bring radical changes, then they might as well shut the doors and disperse the collection and property now.
November should bring the result.
Update – November 2012
Looks like November’s meeting didn’t resolve much:
Museum chiefs have rejected calls for a 12-month reprieve for the closure-threatened National Museum of Costume near New Abbey.
They say a final decision on Shambellie House will be made in February.
A statement on behalf of the trustees of National Museums Scotland said this would allow enough time for further consultation with interested parties.
A debate in the Scottish Parliament last week heard calls for a year’s reprieve to discuss all options.
However, the trustees said they believed such a postponement would prolong uncertainty for both the region and museum staff.
NMS has said high costs per visitor and reduced funding means it has to take action at Shambellie House.
Update – January 2013
Looks like they want to dither into February (is something good being negotiated, but not confirmed), since all they could positively rule out was running for another year to see if they could improve things:
Update – February 2013
That didn’t take long, and wasn’t really anything of a great surprise, since no-one brought anything new to the table.
Even the local MPs played their part, and came up with the standard “They had already decided to close it before all this started” routine, followed by cries of “their” corner of the world being forgotten, and that “All options were not looked at”.
It’s a shame that it has to close, but with no visitors to speak of, there is no real decision to be made, and it is a pity that the local MPs could not work around that, rather than merely come up with the usual accusations of some sort of attack on their area. But then again, isn’t that how the game of politics is played?
It is now planned to display a selection of items from the former museum’s costume collection in the new art and design galleries which are scheduled to open in Edinburgh’s National Museum of Scotland, in 2016.
Shambelie House itself will revert to Scottish Government ownership, and a feasibility study for its options for use has been funded by the Government:
Update May 2014
This is becoming another marathon I had no idea I would be following!
The findings of a report on potential future uses of the former National Museum of Costume near New Abbey will be released “shortly”.
Update June 2014
After the local MP moaned about the state of the grounds, which apparently became the responsibility of the Scottish Government after NMS walked away, the Scottish Government confirmed it would undertake the required maintenance. I’d make a joke about that, only the NMS is just another bit of the Scottish Government, so the money comes from the same pot.
At the same time, it was noted that a report by the Prince’s Regeneration Trust, which had been commissioned by the Scottish Government to produce a report on the future of Shambellie by last November, was yet to be published.
When I mentioned Moat Brae for the first time, way back in 2008 – Tourism opportunity missed, it was really to have a dig at the “50% by 2015% demand by the Scottish Government, which was their subtle request for the tourism industry to increase its turnover by 50% by 2015. The stick was there, but no apparent carrot to help meet the call.
Moat Brae, with its connection to Peter Pan and author JM Barrie seemed to be an ideal tourist trap (or magnet), but had been left to the vandals, with a quick search showing reports of damage dating back to 2003, and no real help to save the house, which might even have been looking at demolition if the damage and decay continued.
Since then, there has been a number of stories that suggested good news and the start of work to save and restore the house, but these always turn out not be the start of real work on the structure, but of plans.
When the name of Moat Brae bubbled up to the top of my news feeds this week, the wording suggested that work was about to start:
But it turns out that its just another planning announcement and prospectus launch, and reveals that the trust looking after the house has yet to complete its purchase:
The Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust is currently raising funds for the upgrade of the building and has secured Joanna Lumley as a patron for its plans.
She said: “I am so thrilled and proud to be here to launch these exciting plans for the future of Moat Brae House and garden.
“There is such wonderful potential to create a fantastic National Centre for Children’s Literature.
“I want to help raise the profile of this admirable project so that Peter Pan fans from all over the world can support this wonderful restoration.”
The house and garden were in private ownership between 1823 and 1914.
It subsequently became a nursing home which shut in 1997 and fell into disrepair.
A local housing association then bought the property and planned to turn it into a residential development.
However, a campaign was launched to stop those proposals and ownership of the building was transferred to the PPMBT for £1 in 2010 with the goal of creating an “attraction of international significance”.
The group is now launching its prospectus with its vision for the historic site which Barrie described as an “enchanted land” which was “certainly the genesis” of Peter Pan.
The trust’s first goal is to raise £750,000 to fund the agreed final purchase price of the building and undertake urgent repair works.
While I like to think I am a realist, and understand how long these projects can take, I hadn’t thought I’d begin to wonder if I would still be writing this Blog by the time the house was opened.
Nor am I criticising the trust – hats off to the members for perseverance.
However, I think those (at the Beeb) responsible for writing the leader for the articles might want to keep the headline a bit closer to reality.
Just after the prospectus was launched, Historic Scotland granted the project £250,000 towards emergency repairs to secure the property from further decay, but this still leaves it short of the £615,000 being sought to complete the these repairs alone.
Urgent repairs funding has been awarded to the house which inspired JM Barrie to write Peter Pan after playing in its gardens as a child.
A grant of £250,000 is being given by Historic Scotland to help restore the Moat Brae building in Dumfries.
Development director Cathy Agnew said the funds would help in its goal of raising £615,000 before the end of the year to carry out emergency work.
She said it would let the trust take the “first steps to deliver this project and save Moat Brae”.
Busy time down in Dumfries, and following the above stories there was yet another, as Joanna Lumley – already noted as a patron of the Moat Brae House project – unveiled a statue of Peter Pan at the entrance to the town:
The Peter Pan statue was provided by the action group, the People’s Project, which is working to improve the appearance and reputation of Dumfries.
Ms Lumley said she was amazed at the work which had gone into the wood-carving.
“I absolutely love it – I am so impressed that it is all made out of one enormous spruce tree trunk,” she said.
“It is absolutely enchanting and it is standing outside the garden centre so everybody who is driving past on the road can see it.”
Yet another update
There must be a regular traffic jam in Dumfries these days, as I just spotted news that the people from the Buildings at Risk register have been there for a look as well, and updated the entry for Moat Brae House:
2013 – Still updating
Five years on from first noticing Moat House, and this is still Work in Progress.
A land deal has been agreed towards plans to create a national centre for children’s literature in a house that helped to inspire the Peter Pan story.
Dumfries and Galloway Council approved plans to transfer ground it owns near Moat Brae for just £1.
It will allow the Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust to take forward its overhaul of the Dumfries building.
Work is currently getting under way to begin the restoration of the house where JM Barrie played as a child.
It is now owned by the PPMBT (Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust), which is spearheading a £4m scheme to restore and redevelop Moat Brae as Scotland’s first Centre for Children’s Literature.
Some stories refuse to lie down, even after it looks as if they’ve been put to bed, and are done and dusted!
This one’s been spotted three times so far:
However, it looks as if things are finally settled, and the house has been transferred to the Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust (PPMBT) for the sum of £1.
The house had formerly been acquired by the Loreburn housing association, which had intended to turn the site into housing. While this plan ensured the survival of the house, which had seen various proposals come and go over the years, and was near collapse after lying derelict and targeted by vandals, campaigners were unhappy with the planned use.
The agreement between Loreburn and PPMBT means the trust can now pursue it plans, which include the creation of a flat for respite care of sick children, and the the construction of a visitor centre, shop and cafe.
Loreburn’s convener, Iain Agnew, said it now felt the trust was “best placed” to lead the restoration project.
“We urge everyone to now ensure that Dumfries and Galloway has an attraction of international significance,” he said.
PPMBT chairman Roger Windsor said the move was proof that “dreams do come true”.
He said: “We need immediate remedial work to stop further deterioration and the trust will be concentrating its initial efforts in raising funds to this end. Work has already commenced to re-establish ‘Neverland’ on the banks of the Nith, and to restore this beautiful house as a cultural inspiration for the whole community. We also acknowledge Loreburn’s contribution in securing and saving the subjects for the benefit of the Dumfries community, and making it available to the trust to restore.”
In a short update to yesterday’s post noting that the Moat Brae House project begins, it seems that there is more to the story than a simple restoration of the house.
In fact, the word restoration would appear to be being used being made in what might be described as the loosest of terms.
It now seems that the Loreburn housing association, which was described in the news as seeking to restore the building actually has plans to preserve the façade of the building, but intends to demolish much of the property to turn it into housing and a visitor centre.
The use of the word restoration is something that has long been contentious in one of my own areas of interest, that of Classic Cars, where the claim of restoration of an original, historically significant vehicle can add many thousands of pounds to its value, and make an otherwise uneconomic restoration of £50,000 economic, as it raises the value of the finished item from a few thousand, to many tens (or even hundreds) of thousands of pounds.
When such sums are involved, it makes sense to ask precisely what was involved. Some so-called restorations with huge price tags have proven to fall at this hurdle, as the prospective buyer discovers that the originality of the car concerned lies in little more than a scrap someone found on a race track. An extreme and anecdotal example, but calling Moat House a restoration if it’s only a façade retention project does not seem to be the most honourable of practices, and throws the intention of the whole exercise into question.
I don’t have any objection to mere façade retention, and saving this part of the building if the engineer’s reports are accurate, and the building has been allowed to deteriorate to the extent that it is unsafe. Even Loreburn cannot reasonably be held to account for the sins of others if it is merely the last party to own the property, and invest in the remains, but that’s no excuse for not being clear about just what the final product will be.
As it is, there is now a campaign fighting to save the building, and which has made a late bid to stop the works. Campaigners have served an interim interdict on the housing association which now owns Moat Brae House, and the Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust has now taken action to stop the works which were due to start this week, and talks are expected to be held between the two groups in advance of a possible legal hearing later this week.
Back in April 2008, I mentioned that the powers that be had missed (yet another) opportunity they could have used to bolster their insane target of increasing tourism revenue by 50% by 2015 (that figure must surely have been created by throwing a dart at a dartboard), when it didn’t seize on Moat Brae House as an asset.
The historic house is worthy of note as is said to helped inspire author JM Barrie in the writing of Peter Pan. In his memoirs, published in 1904, he wrote of Peter Pan: “Our escapades in a certain Dumfries garden which was an enchanted land to me was certainly the genesis of this work.”
Since 2003, the house has been the subject of attacks by vandals, and had fallen into such a state of disrepair that engineers had warned of its imminent collapse.
Moat Brae House was acquired by the Loreburn Housing Association in order to safeguard the property for the town, and the local association has now brought forward its plans to restore the house, and now intends to start on work to make the property safe and preserve its façade, ultimately converting it for residential use.
It will then work with community group the People’s Project and the nearby school Dumfries Academy to restore the gardens and create a visitor centre.
Still can’t help feeling that if we are supposed to want all these tourists to come here and leave their money behind, that the Scottish Government and bodies with pots of money should be preserving, promoting, and financing such places and projects, not last-minute private developments.
I suppose it’s probably a result of having Maxwell’s equations (and quite few others) endlessly hammered into my head over a number of years, but I’d never really thought of James Clark Maxwell as a national secret, or as much of an unknown as he appears to be.
However, according to the BBC, it seems that despite coming up with his set of equations – Maxwell’s equations – which demonstrated that electricity, magnetism and light are all manifestations of the same electromagnetic field, and unifying these disciplines of physics, he remains generally unknown to most people not generally involved in the business.
He took the first colour photograph, defined the nature of gases and with those few mathematical equations had expressed all the fundamental laws of light, electricity and magnetism – in doing so he provided the tools to create the technological age, from radar to radio and televisions to mobile phones. Maxwell has been credited with fundamentally changing our view of reality, so much so that Albert Einstein said of him, “One scientific epoch ended and another began with James Clerk Maxwell”.
Although noted, the 175th anniversary of his birth in 1831 passed with little public interest, in 2004 his theory of electromagnetism was voted the joint-top equation of all time, and he also polled third in a poll of the greatest physicists of all time
Maxwell is now to be commemorated in Edinburgh by the erection of a statue produced by Paisley-born sculptor Alexander Stoddart, and which will be the first statue to be put up in Edinburgh’s George Street for almost a century.
Following his birth in Edinburgh, his family moved to Glenlair near Corsock in Galloway while he was still a child, but he later returned to Edinburgh where he completed most his education before heading to the University of Cambridge.
He would later be elected to the Royal Society, and held the position of professor of natural philosophy at Marischal College, Aberdeen, and then King’s College, London. However, by 1865 he had retired and returned to the family estate in Dumfries and Galloway where he would spend most of his days until his death in 1879, aged 48.
He is buried at Parton graveyard, close to his family home.
More details and many of his papers can be found on the site of The James Clerk Maxwell Foundation, which was formed in Scotland in 1977 to honour one of the greatest scientists who has ever lived.
Given the physics required to make the global positioning system (GPS) operational, it may be fitting that there is a geocache hidden near Maxwell’s burial place.
Earning a mention simply because we like to note things that have been lost, especially if they’ve been found, Eskdale has returned to the political map of southern Scotland after a short absence. Unfortunately, you’ll have to go and hunt its location down for yourself, as we can’t dredge up any maps we can use without being sure of not upsetting someone’s copyright.
A three year fight to retain the name began back in 2005, the “Save Eskdale” campaign, when the council ward name disappeared in an boundary review in Dumfries and Galloway. At the time, the Local Boundary Commission for Scotland suggested the area be called Annandale East, and that is the name which has since been used in local government elections.
Campaigners didn’t stand down though, and took the case to Finance Secretary John Swinney in pursuit of the return of the Eskdale name.
The Scottish Government has now agreed to meet the campaigners demands and ward 13 in the region will now be known as Annandale East and Eskdale, a decision welcomed by Dumfriesshire Tory MP David Mundell and Dumfries Labour MSP Elaine Murray.
John Paul Jones was born at Arbigland in Dumfries and Galloway in 1747 and, as a teenagers, went to America where he joined the country’s embryo navy. From that start, he progressed to become considered the founder of the modern US Navy.
He battled the British Navy In 1779, aboard the Bonhomme Richard, and, as his own ship was sinking off Flamborough Head off the Yorkshire coast, he boarded a British frigate and captured it.
Naval history experts now hope to finally identify the site where the wreck of his most famous vessel is to be found. In what may be one of the craft’s last missions, the Deep Submergence Vessel NR-1, a unique US Navy nuclear-powered ocean engineering and research submarine, will be brought in to help search for the remains. NR-1 (Nerwin) began operating in 1969, and is due to be retired this year. The craft is able to operate independently of the surface, and has sophisticated vision and sonar systems, manoeuvring, navigation, and manipulation facilities. The crew are all nuclear trained, and selected for service on the submarine, which can carry anything up to 13 on board, including crew and specialists. Depths of up to half a nautical mile can be catered for, and duration can be up to 16 days, with a maximum of 25 days. Limiting factors are really supplies, in other words, food.
NR-1 assisted in searches such as that for wreckage from the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster, and HMHS Britannic, sister ship to RMS Titanic and which struck a mine and sank off the coast of Greece while serving as a hospital ship during World War I.
Wonder if the radiophobes come out and protest when Nerwin makes an appearance?
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.