Reid's Hotel, Madeira
The Scottish Connection

Reid's Hotel, Madeira

In 1836 a young boy of just fourteen years old arrived in Madeira. His name was William Reid, the son of a Scottish farmer and one of a family of twelve children, who had been recommended for the sake of his health ( as Robert Louis Stevenson also was) to leave the colder, damp and dreich weather of Scotland and move to a warmer climate. His father sent him off to seek his fortune and better health, with 5.00 in his pocket. He worked his passage first to Lisbon and then on to Madeira. With a true sense of Scottish thrift he still had his father's five pounds intact.

The young William first secured a job in a bakery, which did not pay very well despite working long hours through the night. He persevered, saved what money he could but when he observed the developing Madeira wine trade he knew that was the direction to follow. With a keen eye for business he became very successful and by the time he was only 25 he owned a small wine exporting company.

William ReidWilliam Reid was a true entrepreneur with incredible vision. He knew from personal experience that the island of Madeira offered the perfect all year round destination for people requiring a warm climate for health reasons. Summer temperatures rarely rise higher than 27c ( 87f), and in winter, never falling below 10c (52f) with rain falling on only six days a month. Conditions such as TB, bronchitis, colds and fevers were best treated far from the notorious damp fogs of London. Even the Lancet journal recommended the island for consumptive patients; "there is no warm country in the world where the irritating influence of wind and dust is so completely absent as in Madeira."

This natural beauty thus offered a very lucrative potential in promoting the island for medical reasons as well as for leisure and the opportunity to kickstart a tourism industry in Madeira - before it had properly taken off. It was some time later when Thomas Cook is said to have instigated the idea of travel for tourists through his package deal Grand Tours of Europe.

MadeiraWith a partner, William Wilkinson, Reid developed a property business which involved the letting and administration of the island's quintas - large, private houses owned by the Portuguese aristocracy or foreign merchants. As a forerunner to the current popularity in renting holiday self catering villas, these quintas were let out for the winter season, from October to June, and soon many wealthy British people would spend six to eight months on Madeira, often bringing their entire family, servants, maids and governess.

One such winter visitor was the Marchioness Camden who arrived with her friend, Margaret Dewey. She promptly captivated young William, they fell in love and were married in 1847.

Next page > Reid's Hotels Are Born > Page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

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