‘…he brought wheels, reels, and other implements to begin a woollen manufactory in his village:’

Thus wrote the Reverend John Lanne Buchanan of Captain Alexander Macleod Captain Alexander Macleod in his 1793 publication ‘Travels in the Western Hebrides’. The ‘village’ was ‘Roudle’, which we are more familiar with as Rodel/Rodil, and the Captain himself had died three years prior to the book’s publication.

John Knox also referred to a ‘fulling mill’ in his book ‘A Tour through the Highlands of Scotland, and the Hebride Isles, in MDCCLXXXVI’ which had been published in 1787. Knox wrote, ‘He brought with him the model of a press, corn, and fulling mill, to work under the same roof ; the two latter to go by one water wheel. He also brought the iron work for these machines .’ Clearly the intention was to have a corn mill and a fulling mill powered together but the tone of the writing suggests to me that they were perhaps yet to be built and no such structure appears on Bald’s 1804/5 map of Harris. .

The censuses certainly record millers at Obb/Obe in the years 1841-61 but I believe there’s was a grain mill.

‘Piscator’ in his account of a visit in 1787 appears to firmly locate all the Captain’s activities at Rodel, although the mysterious author (I think it was John Knox!) only speaks of spinning wheels, with no specific reference to water powered machinery.

The point of this slightly convoluted contribution is simply this:
Had Captain Macleod succeeded in establishing a ‘woollen manufactory’ in ‘his village’ then, quite simply, Harris Tweed as we know it might never have existed for, as the 1993 Act puts it, the cloth must be ‘…hand woven by the islanders at their homes in the Outer Hebrides…’ and certainly not in any water-powered factory!

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