Harris mill workers’ relief at reprieve


WORKERS at a centuries-old mill have expressed their relief at being rescued from the brink of closure.

Carloway Mill, one of three Harris tweed mills on the Isle of Lewis, last week came dangerously close to shutting its doors for good due to rising costs.

The news came as a shock to its 27 employees, who were worried that they may lose their highly-skilled jobs and be left to fend for themselves.

However, an unexpected cash injection has meant that the mill will be able to stay open – at least until the current owner sells it on.

Workers were thrilled to hear the mill will remain open
Workers were thrilled to hear the mill will remain open

And the workers have said the news comes as a “big relief”.

Annie Macdonald, who has worked at the mill for a year, said: “We’ve been told that the owner has put in more money to keep the mill open until it is bought.

“We’d like to see someone with a love for the tweed itself to take over. I think we need someone who has a passion for it.

“It’s a big relief for us and we will just carry on working as normal. We have lots of orders, and a full order book until the end of April.

“We hope there will be a new owner soon so that we can stop worrying.”

Last week, owners Harris Tweed Textiles said operating costs have risen by more than 30% in recent years, while the price of tweed has fallen by 10%.

Chairman David Reid explained the business needed between £200,000 and £250,000 to stay afloat after running into financial difficulties.

The size of the much-needed cash injection is not known, although it is enough to keep the mill running until May when it is hoped someone new will take over.

The Carloway Mill is smaller than the very progressive Harris Tweed Scotland and Harris Tweed Hebrides mills.

It delivers a beautiful bespoke Harris tweed in a myriad of colours and patterns, and its customers include world famous brands such as Chanel.

Annie added: “We are hopeful that others will recognise this and realise that there is much to build and profit from the dedicated workforce here.

“We trust that someone somewhere will see this as an excellent opportunity.”

Carloway is the smallest of three mills producing Harris Tweed in an industry which employs around 380 people in the Western Isles.

At its height in in the mid-1960s, around 1200 weavers worked to produce seven million metres of cloth every year.

Sales fell into decline in the 1980s, partly due to cheaply mass-produced imitation fabrics, and the industry came dangerously close to disaster.

Harris Tweed has enjoyed a revival in recent years as a luxury fashion brand and is the only fabric in the world protected by its own act of parliament, which means it can only be produced in the Hebrides.