During coffee breaks at Urban Reivers HQ in Edinburgh we have been following Women’s History Month. So much female history is lost over time and here we get militant about honouring our heroines, whether that’s in the media, in books or by representing women on currency, street names or in public art. Our favourites are the Jacobite women – the women who took part in the 1715 and 1745 uprisings. Their stories are choc-a-bloc with derring do. Lady Nithsdale broke her husband out of the Tower of London in 1716 (yes, you read that right). Lady Ann McIntosh was one of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s top recruiters and rode around the countryside with a pistol in one hand and a purse full of gold in the other. She drummed up 600 men to fight in support of the cause.
There was even one women who hid her fiance under her skirts when the Redcoats arrived to arrest him – she blithely sat embroidering by the fire while the soldiers searched (almost) everywhere. This was particularly daring in 1745 because ladies didn’t wear underpants! At the base of this rebellious spirit was the fact that Scottish women had more legal rights than most of their European sisters. Women could own property and keep their maiden name. It wasn’t equality as we think of it today, but it gave these women confidence to express their views and stand up for what they believed in.
We are always inspired at Urban Reivers HQ with stories about the brilliant and brave historical women of Scotland!
Few people outside Scotland (and actually, not all that many inside Scotland) know about the Border Reivers. They were loosely formed bands of raiders that inhabited the Borderlands of Scotland and England between the 14th and 17th centuries. The Reivers were violent, wicked men (mostly men) but folk legends have grown up around them. The Scottish Borders had it rough during this period – Scotland and England were often at war and it was difficult to farm because of troop movements and incessant battles, so the locals raided cattle where they could. There was no Scottish/English bias in this – they’d just team up at will, hop on a horse and steal livestock. And so the name was born, the modern Scottish raiders were to be Urban Reivers.
Scotland is both urban and rural and we liked the juxtaposition of the words Urban and Reivers. Since then we’ve realised how little the reivers are known and that’s provided another reason for taking their name. After all, Urban Reivers, as a project is about connecting with Scottish history – the real deal – so if the name makes people ask a question or two, it’s no bad thing. However we have had some interesting requests about Scottish weaving and inner city book clubs…
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My name is Sara Sheridan. Mostly I’m an historical novelist but this year I’ve taken on a new project. This project. Urban Reivers. From an old mews building behind my flat in Edinburgh, I’ve posed this question: What would Scotland make if there weren’t any tourists? We have a fantastic and rich cultural heritage, yet we turn out tartan purses and oh-so tweed jackets. Or we create internationally acclaimed fashion and jewellery, but it isn’t redolent of place – it’s simply international. What would happen, I wondered, if we made artefacts that were steeped in our real history.
Over the last months we’ve teamed up with experts to mix perfume inspired by the doyennes of the Jacobite uprisings, created silk scarves based on WW2 escape maps and made scented candles that smell of the real Scotland (not lavender, though lavender is very nice!) but peaty like Islay whisky and fruity like the Sloe Gin, like my mother used to have stacked in her pantry when I was growing up. In September 2016 the Urban Reivers site will go live and everything in our ranges will be available.
We’re not up yet. But, for now, this blog is the story of how it happened.