As you may know, Aberdeen is called “The Oil Capital of Europe”. Since the discovery of the North Sea Oil in the 1970s Aberdeen has grown tremendously and the resulting oil boom has driven our economy for more than 40 years. This has provided the people of Aberdeen with the opportunity to play host to visiting dignitaries from all over the world.
What you may not know is that Aberdeen and the North East of Scotland has a personal connection with Japan, in particularly, with the people of Nagasaki. Thomas Blake Glover, born in Fraserburgh in 1838 and raised in Aberdeen, the fifth of eight children and the son of a coastguard officer, began his career with a trading company and travelled around the world. In 1859 his travels took him to Nagasaki, where he eventually founded his own firm, and due to his business successes, was known as the “Scottish Samurai”. He was key in the industrialization of Japan, building the first “western-style” home, helping to develop the first coal mine at Takashima, bringing the first dry dock to Japan and bringing the first steam locomotive, called “Iron Duke” to Japan. Thomas Blake Glover married Tsura, the daughter of a Samurai, in 1867. The couple are thought to have inspired John Luther Long to write the story that Puccini later based the Opera Madame Butterfly based on. He was the first non Japanese citizen to be awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, one of the highest honours of the Country.
More than 150 years later, his house is still standing in Nagasaki, a testament to the contributions that Thomas Blake Glover of Aberdeen made. It is now a tourist attraction that attracts two million visitors every year and is surrounded by beautiful grounds called Glover Garden.
Recently, our relationship with Nagasaki, Japan came full circle and when in November 2010, Aberdeen’s Lord Provost Peter Stephen MCIBS OStJ visited Nagasaki and met with its mayor, Mr. Tomihisa Taue. Upon his return to Aberdeen, our Lord Provost asked us here at Kiltmakers to make a full highland outfit in the famous Glover tartan, a fitting gift he thought, for the mayor of Nagasaki, whose city is a “sister” to Aberdeen in more ways than one.
We were extremely happy to receive a thank-you letter recently, forwarded from our Lord Provost, along with photographs of Mr. Taue dressed in his Glover tartan highland outfit in front of the Glover House in Nagasaki. The gift was definitely well received and it is also quite exciting to realize that a kilt made right here in Aberdeen, in our shop, will hold a place of honour forever in the Glover House museum.