This one is the sum of its several ironies.
Cogniscenti of Scottish history will know that, on April 3rd, 1603, King James VI issued an edict banning the very name of McGregor. McGregor lands were commandeered and distributed to their rivals; any debt to a McGregor was written off; Men and boys bearing the name McGregor, or the given name Gregor, were outlawed. To wear or display the McGregor tartan was punishable by death
In the 171 years between that date and 1774, when rights were restored to the McGregors by act of parliament, the genes found various ways of escaping extinction. Some simply adopted new names; some took to the mountains and islands to escape the law; some, like the famous Rob Roy, skilfully walked a moral, political, and diplomatic tightrope; many migrated to the New World.
During this period, colonists of McGregor descent in the Americas found cheeky and ingenious ways to subvert their British overlords. In the wool weaving mills of the Appalachians and the Adirondacks, most every lumberjack shirt and hunting jacket produced bore the red and black pattern we now know as ‘Buffalo Check’, but is in fact the forbidden ancient McGregor tartan.
The history of the Faberge brand is similarly and gloriously spangled with controversy.
In 1937 Samuel Rubin started up a perfume company under the name Faberge. He had no connection whatsoever with the very famous and very prestigious House of Faberge in St Petersburg, which produced the famous jewel-encrusted eggs for the Russian Tsars. Rubin just took a free ride on the prestigious name. Amazingly, the real Faberge family did not find out about this incursion until 1951. By this time, Rubin had made such a stack of cash he was able to out-distance with legal muscle, and they settled out of court to allow him the rights to the name for $25,000.
When Rubin sold Faberge on to George Barrie in 1964, to his everlasting credit, he used much of his new fortune for philanthropic purposes. He founded, and funded, the Transnational Institute in 1973, saying: “Since we all agree that the world is suffering from war, from inequities, from the inhuman treatment of perhaps more than two thirds of humanity, let us come together to examine these questions and to see what answers we can collectively produce that may perhaps deliver us, as humanity, as the human race, into a world different from the one we are living in today.” He also established a number of scholarships fellowships, professorial chairs, and lectures known collectively as the "Samuel Rubin Program for Liberty and Equality Through Law". These institutions are aimed primarily at addressing issues of civil and human rights law – issues which would have been dear to the McGregors of old.
In 1983, the “McGregor Corporation” took bought Faberge from Barrie, and in the five years before they sold at a vast profit to Unilever, discontinued many of its product lines, and launched a new one. The name? What else? McGregor.
So what does it smell like?
Well, it is no subtle, genteel Guerlain Heritage. It is not D’Artagnan, or, dare I say, Aramis, delicately flicking his foil. This is Rob Roy whacking heads off with his claymore. It is prodigiously strong, and enduring. It is callous. It is harsh. It is truculent. Irrefutably enjoyable for all that.
It seems to raise its middle finger at its detractors. It seems to roll up its sleeves and bellow “who’s with me?” Not the foppish, fey royalty of Louis XVI. This is royalty of the old kind.
18th March, 2014 (last edited: 02nd November, 2014)