I haven’t a clue what I was doing when JFK was shot, but I do remember buying my first Barbour. It was in 1986, from a gun shop in Edinburgh. I sold my first shotgun, a Spanish boxlock, and bought a Border and a moleskin cap. I wore that jacket until it wouldn’t zip up. When the time came that I could pretend no longer, I went to Graham’s of Inverness and got a Northumbria in the next size and a Trekker waistcoat to add warmth on colder days.
Back then, the Border and the Northumbria had the same shape and features; the differences between them were that the Northumbria was made out of heavier 8 oz. cloth and had a wool-mix Hunting Mackinnon lining, rather than the 6 oz. cloth with cotton lining of the Border. Today, the Border is pretty much the same except for the pattern of the lining. The Northumbria, however, has a Sylkoil finish instead of the old Thornproof, and is lined with cotton.
The Trekker was more versatile than the old stud-in liner. It is warm and light; and my mother used to commandeer it when she came to stay with me. With her silk squares, wool skirts, and the Trekker, she gave the place a Balmoral look.
Over the years, the Border was my almost daily companion, going with me to church, to cattle sales, out shooting, for drives in the car, and latterly, in the days of the straining studs, to the lambing sheds. Then, in a fit of chivalry, I gave it away.
Friends from America were visiting me in Scotland in the early nineties. The husband had bought a Barbour (I think that it was the old Gamefair) and I had my Northumbria. His wife was left out. I was single in those days, and gave her my old Border. (I had cleaned it). A few years ago, I, now married and with a family, went to visit my old friends at their home in Tennessee. When we walked in the door, the Border was hanging at the foot of the stairs. My friend’s wife gave it to my wife, saying, ‘This belongs to you.’
So, the Border is home again, hanging in the mud room. My wife and daughter wear it when the weather is wet and/or the chores are dirty. I smile when I see my daughter in a Barbour jacket nearly twice her age.
The Northumbria did not stay with me long. I should have gone up two sizes; but the larger jacket was too big over a sweater and the smaller was just right over a sports jacket. However, I had entered into a time of shed and spread: thinning pate and thickening middle. In 1995, I emigrated from Scotland to Oregon and left that jacket with a friend.
In preparation for the move, I sold my guns to Graham’s and stocked up on Barbour clothing. I got a new Northumbria (in the size that I should have gotten in the first place), hood to match, and a Westmorland waistcoat. The Northumbria was perfect for the Pacific Northwest winters which were wet, but not terribly cold. 2003 saw us move to Ontario. Between them, the Northumbria and the Westmorland do very nicely for both Spring and Autumn.
Alas, Northumbria the Second is developing a similar problem to my Border. It fits fine over a sweater and does well as long as I putter about the place. It won’t go over a tweed jacket; nor does it allow a smooth swing with a shotgun. And, my wife likes it for winter chores. So, now I have a Gamefair.
There are four Barbours hanging in the mudroom: the Gamefair (waiting for Spring), the Northumbria, the Westmorland, and the Border. The tartan lined, green waxed cotton protects from the elements memories of fishing, hunting, walking, shepherding, of places, and of the people who were there. Now, when someone grabs a Barbour to bring in firewood, to fill the bird feeders, or to go help friends on a farm, they are adding to the story. Our world might not be failsafe, but it is Thornproof.