PART THREE

 

1950 - 1990

 

 

CHAPTER 9

 

Industry, Trade and Commerce

 

THE SECOND HALF OF the twentieth century began splendidly when the woollen-mills in Peebles were working at full capacity, agriculture was flourishing and the Peebles Hotel Hydro had reaped the benefit from one or two conferences and were reporting a 'satisfying increase' in their turnover for 1951. The only economic blot on the local landscape was the closure, in June 1950, of the Peebles to Symington branch railway line to passenger traffic. It was the first of many changes to the pre-war settled pattern of economic life that Peebles would face in the 1960s.

The local woollen-mills had done rather well as they played their part in the splendid efforts made by the British textile industry to reach their pre-war volume in the overseas markets by 1950. The home market had been controlled up to 1949, as clothes were 'on ration' but when that ended it released a new pressure of demand which benefited the mills. However, a different kind of pressure faced the Peebles mills when, in the middle of 1950, there was a dramatic increase in world wool prices that had been precipitated by the American purchases made at the start of the Korean War (1950-53). For the United Kingdom textile manufacturers, there was the additional burden resulting from the devaluation of sterling which had occurred the year before and had put up the cost of importing raw materials. Devaluation should have benefited the export trade but this was offset by the increased competition that was re-emerging in the world markets from the textile industries of Japan, Italy, Czechoslovakia and Germany, which were in the process of recovering from the war. However, the problems for textile manufacturers did not end there because the home market became rapidly depressed when purchase-tax at the rate of 66.6 per cent was levied on clothing. The inevitable consequence of these pressures was the greatly depressed demand at home and abroad.)1

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