It may be remembered, too, that she opened a shop, near Bond Street, for the purpose of selling these manufactures. The writer has often visited this shop and admired the texture and design of the goods which these humble crofters send from their cottages in the far north, beyond the Tweed. And at frequent intervals the Duchess visits nearly every cottage and dwelling to advise the workers.on the colours and on the style of their manufactures. And real practical advice it is, for her Grace possesses a rare knowledge of dress materials. She is never tired of singing the praises of the homespun, and constantly wears it. Some time ago she stated frankly to an audience what good wearing stuff the homespun was that she had on then, and how long it had served her.
It might be mentioned, by the way, that the manufacture of Harris tweeds had been almost given up years before the Duchess interested herself in the matter; but her Grace sent competent instructors to the Highlands, and soon the crofters found it a profitable industry.
Reference has already been made to the interest of the Duchess in the pottery workers, and that it is largely owing to her persistent efforts that the use of leadless glaze in the factories has been much ex-tended. The
Duchess found that the people were working under dreadful conditions of life and labour. She at once tried to find a means of improvement, and, while still occupied by thoughts of educating and helping these workers, she happened to hear that Miss Margaret Mac-millan, a highly educated woman and a leader of Socialist activity, was lecturing at Leek.
The Duchess went to the lecture hall, and afterwards chatted with Miss Macmillan, without letting the latter know who she was until they had had a long talk together. Later on, these two ardent workers became great friends. The Duchess visited other towns to see the conditions of labour there, and the knowledge she thus gained she has turned to practical account in her dealings with those for whom she works.
And then one might refer to the fact that Golspie, where Dunrobin Castle is situated, owes to her Grace's efforts the development of the school there, to which she has been the means of adding a library. Technical education has in her a keen supporter, and, as an illustration of her democratic tendencies, it might be mentioned that her two sons - the Marquess of Stafford, heir to the dukedom, who came of age in 1909; and Lord Alistair - for some years attended the Board School at Golspie.
Then, again, not only has this many-sided woman made a study of labour questions and socialistic problems, but she ranks with Lady Henry Somerset as one of the keenest women advocates of temperance. She herself is a total abstainer, and when staying at one or other of the Duke's country seats makes use of every opportunity to induce the wives of the peasants and colliery workers to sign the pledge, and persuade their husbands to do likewise; and her intense personal magnetism and simple, unaffected address have exercised a potent influence over these poor working women, for the Duchess is a woman of rare personal charm. Her tact is proverbial, and no one knows better than her Grace how to mitigate the sufferings of others in a delicate and inoffensive manner.
Being herself an ardent and accomplished musician, she has of late interested herself in the Highland " mods," which take place principally in Sutherlandshire. A " mod," it might be mentioned, means in Gaelic no more nor less than a gathering; but the word has become restricted in practice to the competitive musical meetings organised in the Highlands, in emulation of the Welsh Eisteddfods. A short time ago her Grace traversed Sutherlandshire in a motor-car, making arrangements for the "mods" to be held at various points.
Nor is this the end of the Duchess of Sutherland's interests. "Surely," omeone remarked to her on one occasion, "you find no time whatever for recreation ?"
"I am afraid I must confess," replied the Duchess laughingly, " that work is my only recreation." Which is really true, for when she is not visiting and holding exhibitions and sales in connection with the various industries in which she is interested, she is writing articles for the magazines and newspapers or painting pictures. Under the name of "Erskine Gower," she has made many contributions to the literature of the day.
It was a result of her studies among the potteries of Staffordshire, and among the crofters of Sutherlandshire, which led to her writing the novel, " One Hour and the Next," published in 1899. This was followed by "Seven Love Stories " and a play, entitled " The Conqueror." Previously, she had written an interesting volume of reminiscences, entitled ' How I Spent My Twenty-first Year."
It might be mentioned that ner twenty-first year was four years after her marriage to the Duke of Sutherland. The Duchess was Lady Millicent St. Clair Erskine, the eldest daughter of the late Lord Rosslyn, and her marriage was the romance of 1884. When only a girl of sixteen, Lord Stafford, eldest son of the then Duke of Sutherland, came to stay with her parents, the Lord and Lady Rosslyn of the period. He was about thirty-three, the greatest parti of those days, and had never been known to pay much attention to any woman. The story goes that the day after his arrival he went up to tea in the schoolroom, and there saw a vision of beauty in the youthful daughter of the house. She proved as bright and clever as she was attractive. The fairy prince made up his mind, and on October 20, her seventeenth birthday, she became Lady Stafford and the future Duchess of Sutherland.
A Romantic Marriage
There is another version of the story, to the effect that it was at a dinner-party, given by her mother, Blanche Lady Rosslyn, that the Duchess' met her future -husband. It was discovered that the company at table numbered thirteen, and Lady Rosslyn, being superstitious, sent in great haste for her daughter to make fourteen. The then Marquess of Stafford was of the party, and he immediately fell in love with the fourteenth guest. This story may or may not be true, but there is no doubt that the marriage has proved an ideal one in every way. The Duke is the largest landowner in the kingdom, as his estates in England and Scotland extend to something like 2,000 square miles. He is a man of philanthropic tendencies, and has identified himself with many movements for the benefit of his tenants. To the public, perhaps, he is not known quite so much as the Duchess, but he has supported nobly the schemes which have caused his wife to be regarded as a real Lady Bountiful.