Industry, Trade and Commerce

would be plentiful for several months and that there was likely to be a scarcity of labour because many of the mill workers had joined the armed forces. This was borne out when overtime was needed during November to keep pace with the orders for tartan and khaki. There were also problems when the Border mills lost their main source of yarn as the German army advanced into Belgium, capturing the town of Verviers, and the Yorkshire yarn was judged to be inadequate. The Peebles mills found it difficult to handle the khaki contracts as it was 50 per cent 'shoddy'. What export business there was, such as to America, had to allow for a 40 per cent increase in freight and insurance charges.1

In the aftermath of the First World War and as the armed forces were demobilised, the woollen industry began to experience periods of 'fluctuation' in orders and this continued for a number of years. Fortunately for the Border mills there was some demand for finer woollens and this helped the local mills up to the middle of the 1920s.

More encouraging and reassuring news came for the employees of the March Street Mills in July 1919, when D. Ballantyne & Co. brought under their control the Caerlee Mills and the Waverley Mills at Innerleithen and formed D. Ballantyne Bros. & Co. Ltd. It was now one of the largest and most successful undertakings in the woollen industry in Scotland. The March Street Mills, which started up in 1885 with forty-five slow-moving looms, had these replaced when 200 Hattersley machines, with an employment capacity of some 500 workers, were installed at the Ballantyne mills in Peebles and Innerleithen. These mills produced woollen cloths, from light-weight worsted (seven ounce) to overcoatings (thirty-five ounce) and ranged from the Harris-type cloths to the softest cashmere fabrics. Damdale and Tweedside, equipped with sixty-two looms, had an employment capacity of 360 workers producing high-grade men's suitings, sports cloths with a limited trade in women's suitings and yarn for the knitting trade.

A survey of the textile industry reported that Peeblesshire in 1921 had 2,098 persons working in the wool textile industry, comprising 1,048 males and 1,050 females. This was 10 per cent of the total employed in woollens throughout Scotland (20,931). Woollen workers in the neighbouring county of Selkirk totalled 4,883 (23.3 per cent).

Sadly for those workers, the woollen industry was beginning to find itself in the trade slump of 1921. The industry was

73

 

Contents