The Soap Man: Lewis, Harris and Lord Leverhulme - Roger Hutchinson

I go through phases of reading non-fiction, peppering those in amongst the SFF I'm mostly reading at the moment, and it's usually about a subject or place that interests me - in this case, I visited the location for The Soap Man a few years ago and had heard a little of the story but wanted to know more...

 

The book starts with a brief introduction to the life-story of William Lever, who would later become Lord Leverhulme, a self-made industrialist who made his money mostly from soap. His company would later go on to be part of the multi-national conglomerate Unilever. After setting up a model factory and village in the middle of a marsh in Lancashire, which he called Port Sunlight, Lever found himself with the opportunity of buying the entire Hebridean island of Lewis (and later its neighbour, Harris), the economy of which he believed he could revolutionise. 

 

As long, of course, as the people of Lewis did what he wanted and, for a number of reasons, they were not inclined to do so. Lever had bought the island but he'd inherited a bunch of historic issues around land ownership, as previous lairds had spent money on deer and grouse while the island's inhabitants wanted land for crofting. All of this was happening around the time of World War I and the returning servicemen were even less likely to go along with what Lever was proposing. 

 

All in all, I found The Soap Man an interesting example of that old adage about the irresistible force and the immovable object, with Lever as a man who was unable to see that he was half the author of his own problems with the people whose lives he wanted to up-end.