Cashmere is as Scottish as clans and kilts - really! A visit to Edinburgh in the past week reminded me just how much the city and its tourist industry makes of Cashmere scarves and similar. Towards the top end of the Royal Mile, as you approach the entrance to Edinburgh Castle, every other shop is proclaiming that it sells the best 'made in Scotland' Cashmere goods. One of the posher shops on what was, as so often up there, a slightly misty morning, boasted of its stock of 'Fabulously Scottish Cashmere'.
And yes, for 'Cashmere' read 'Kashmir'. So, back in the nineteenth century, Kashmir was generally known in the west as Cashmere. Its fine shawls made with goats' wool were prized in western Europe. So much so that from about the 1830s onwards, small mills in the south of Scotland started making scarves, jumpers (aka sweaters) and similar fashion accoutrements from imported Cashmere wool. And that's what they are still doing.
One of the biggest knitwear factories, at Hawick in the Scottish Borders, employs more than 200 people and produces 90,000 jumpers a year - almost all of them made from Cashmere.
Most of the goat's wool now comes from China and Mongolia - though a little of the highest quality pashmina wool continues to be produced in Kashmir itself. And the market? Well in one of those 'coals to Newcastle' ironies, Cashmere scarves made from Chinese wool and sold in Scotland often find their way back to ... China.
Edinburgh city centre is choc-a-bloc with Chinese tourists, many of them high spending. And one of the shops that specialises in Cashmere good had a sign in its window - they are recruiting Mandarin-speaking sales assistants.
Mind you, a few years back a business on Edinburgh's Royal Mile that boasted of selling Scottish-made Cashmere was fined £4,500 when it was discovered that the goods on its shelves had been woven in, yes, China!
All told, Scotland's Cashmere industry is worth about £200 million a year, and for a small place - Scotland's population is about the same as that of the Kashmir Valley - that's an awful lot of finely woven, made in Scotland, money.
Just back from a few days in Edinburgh - and how nice to discover a city which still values second-hand books. I spent a few happy hours browsing in half-a-dozen different shops, and Peter Bell's establishment in particular was a real delight.
The best buy - an edition of Peel's speeches from 1835, which opens with his renowned Tamworth Manifesto from the close of the previous year. This is seen as a foundation stone of modern Conservatism - accepting the need for reform but in a measured manner, and to preserve established institutions rather than to transform them.
In this, Peel described the 1832 Reform Act as 'a final and irrevocable settlement of a great constitutional question'. It wasn't of course - but with these words Peel signalled that the Tories acquiesced in Parliamentary reform. And of course the next Reform Act, in 1867, was introduced by a Conservative administration - headed by Disraeli.
And here are two gems - W.E. Adams' renowned Tyrannicide: is it justifiable? - he'd initially wanted to call it 'Tyrannicide: a justification' - which sought to excuse Felice Orsini's attempt on the life of Napoleon III of France. The stalwart radical publisher Edward Truelove was prosecuted for bringing out the title in 1858; he escaped with a caution. Orsini suffered a far worse fate - he went to the guillotine.
Charles Bradlaugh's pamphlet is an evisceration of the House of Hanover from Britain's leading Republican (and atheist) of the Victorian era. One of his most successful publications was entitled The Four Georges. In the 1880s he had a monumental battle to be allowed to take his seat in Parliament as the duly elected MP for Northampton.
And then below, an extract from a squib published by William Blackwood in about 1880 entitled The Liberal Mis-Leaders. The radical - and unorthodox - Sir Charles Dilke ('Sir Citizen Dilke' he's renamed here) made an easy target ... though he had not as yet got embroiled in the divorce case with more-or-less ended his political career. You may see a passing resemblance to the people's Jezza - beard, cap and, can it be?, clogs.
Dilke's wheelbarrow bears the slogan: 'DOWN WITH EVERYTHING'. The casks in the barrow are labelled; Petroleum. And that looks like the Phrygian cap of liberty so associated with the French revolution at the end of a pike. Looks like our man is intent on blowing something up ...
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