From the Misty Isle of Bute: The Drake’s Wool Raglan Coat
The tourist website for Bute says that it is “The island of sea, and rainbows,” but on this late afternoon it’s mostly the island of faint mist, hanging low and light across still grey water. A short ferry ride from Wemyss Bay, near Glasgow, across the Firth of Clyde, we’re on this small and beautiful Scottish island to see the origin of two very special Drake’s raglan coats, woven in a historic mill in Rothesay, the island’s capital.
Just 15 miles long and less than five miles wide, the sleepy harbour is flanked by rows of weather-beaten terrace houses and a neat pavilion. A fish and chip shop and pub, The Golfers, sign faded and dim light faintly visible through a narrow window. This used to be a popular holiday resort during Victorian times, and boomed during the industrial age. The relics are still there; large and slightly spooky Gothic buildings stand solemnly along the cloudy coastline.
A few miles inland, through empty country roads, we find Bute Fabrics, our friends who are in the process of expertly crafting the material that will become a pair of beautiful wool raglan coats. An unassuming, squat building, inside we find craftspeople busy at work inspecting the final rolls of fabric. Prince of Wales check and a deep green Donegal wool with flecks of unique colour. Bute have a reputation for making some of the most desirable fabrics in the world. Rigorously tested and then tested again for quality and durability. They’re the best in the business.
The mill was founded in 1947 by the 5th Marquess of Bute, with the intention of providing jobs for service people returning home from the Second World War. Today it’s still supported by the Bute family, with workers employed from the local community. A quality inspector handles a roll of Prince of Wales check. “It looks pretty good to me, don’t you think!”
Once the weaving and inspections are complete, the wool is sent to Italy, where it’s shaped into our signature raglan wool overcoat. A dense, warm finish, it is unstructured with a strong collar, split raglan shoulders and buttoned sleeve straps. Perennial outerwear specifically designed for every winter eventuality.
After a quick tour of Mount Stuart, a sprawling and extravagant country estate surrounded by conifers and botanical gardens, the crown jewel of island, we have a ferry to catch. We find time for a quick refresher in The Golfers, Oasis B sides on the juke box, an old dog snoozing at our feet. On the boat, the harbour shrouded in mist, fading from view as it begins to rain. Light at first, and then heavier. A chilly wind begins to whip across the bow.
Luckily for us, we have just the coat for the job.