How tweed defeated famine
Tweed is a unique fabric. It is not only beautiful but also durable. It is not only warm but also impermeable. It is not only elegant but also protects from bad weather. At the proper time tweed could rescue a whole region from hideous famine. All this was thanks to one wonderful woman.
In the 19th century Irish and Scotch farmers planted potato. The poorest, who suffered from onerous taxes, avoid hunger thanks to potato. Potato came to Great Britain approximately in the end of the 16th century and at once gained popularity. Root crops grew even in infertile soil and yielded a good harvest. Cattle were fed with potato and people ate it also. Potato was a great part of their daily ration.
The worse was a catastrophe, which burst out in Europe in the 1845. It took place in many countries but Ireland suffered most of all. There were also hard times in Scotland in the 1846 – 1847. The catastrophe consisted in bad harvest of potato. But it was not just a bad harvest, it was a disease, which is called late blight. This infection was water-related and accumulated in soil.
Infected tubers began to rot in soil and in storehouses. All harvest suffered. Moreover, in the next season people were forced to plant infected potato, what led to new bad harvest. People were without work, money and, what was much worse, without food. It is unknown, what it would lead to, without enterprising Catherine Murray, widow of the count of Dunmore.
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Lady Dunmore understood that development of weaving could help to manage with the catastrophe in the region. Firstly, she ordered consignment of tweed clothes for her foresters in tartan of family colours. When she got it, she valued possible benefit, which production of this fabric could bring. At the same time she found out disadvantages connected with quality, which the fabric had then.
It can be said that Catherine Murray understood basis of economics: the unique trade possibility, which the region had. Quality problems could be solved with the help of technical progress, what lady was occupied with: she organized weaving equipment, which was up-to-date at the time. Besides, she established training courses and advanced training courses for local weavers, where they learnt to work with new machines.
Tweed began to spread beyond the region, sales grew, and production developed. The unique material became national treasure, and, what is more, saved starving compatriots.