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Man, 75, to set up knitting business following Masters graduation

Michael Harrigan has completed a Masters degree in Scottish history from the University of Dundee, after studying remotely in Thailand.

A 75-year-old man has turned his childhood knitting hobby into a business as he prepares to graduate with a Masters degree which involved researching the craft.

While others may enjoy rest and relaxation after retiring, Michael Harrigan resigned from a career in professional development training to start his own trade in knitting.

Mr Harrigan, who is due to graduate from the University of Dundee on Thursday, previously trained lawyers and financial service providers, and will graduate with a Masters degree in Scottish history.

He is also part of a knitting guild and is a certified “master hand knitter”.

Michael Harrigan surrounded by knitwear and holding a book
Michael Harrigan has had an interest in knitwear since he was a boy (University of Dundee/PA)

Mr Harrigan said he has enjoyed studying at an age when many of his contemporaries are retired.

He said: “At my age you have to keep your mind active, I think that’s very important.

“Try not to think about it as a lot of work. If you take one day at a time and find something you’re genuinely interested in, it’s very enjoyable.”

During his course, Mr Harrigan studied Scottish bonnet-makers, and found most of them did not have particularly lucrative careers, but also found that Ayrshire bonnet-makers were generally more successful than others around the country.

He learned about the hand-knitters, who made bonnets in Dundee from the 15th century, and later those of Stewarton, in Ayrshire, who gained prominence with their diversification of products and marketing of their wares abroad.

Ayrshire makers shipped many of their bonnets overseas and sold in Europe and Canada, a relatively new approach at the time, whereas Dundonian bonnet-makers kept their business local.

Mr Harrigan said: “I wanted to learn why it was men who predominantly knitted these bonnets, how they did it and how they managed their businesses.

“I carried out research through the National Records of Scotland and found through death records that they were not particularly wealthy and that they passed on their craft to family members.”

Michael Harrigan pictured from behind working on a piece of knitwear
Michael Harrigan works on a delicate piece of knitwear (University of Dundee/PA)

Mr Harrigan, originally from northern New York State in the US, currently lives in Thailand and has studied part-time for the last three years as a distance learning student.

He said: “I’ve had everything I needed to study from afar.

“People were there if I needed them and I could be independent if not. The support has been fantastic but not overbearing.

“I’ve made a few friends and have a real respect for the professors who went out of their way to make sure we are all digging in deep enough, learning all we can and getting what we need to out of our studies.”

Having arrived in Dundee on Wednesday, Mr Harrigan says it is the first time he has visited the city, and he is looking forward to his graduation.

He said he intends to carry on his research beyond graduation.

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