Call for mill artefacts to remain in town

FORMER Hawick mills Pringle and Lyle & Scott have come under fire for collecting archives on the work done in the town and displaying them elsewhere.

Lyle & Scott is the latest company appealing for help from Teries as it launches a campaign to restore the company’s archives, with an ‘Archive Exchange’ in Beanscene tomorrow.

The firm is looking for any vintage L&S memorabilia – garments, historical documents, photographs or cuttings from newspapers – which can be photographed for their records, with the offer of a brand new L&S item in exchange.

“Unfortunately somewhere along our 137-year history substantial parts of our archive have been lost,” said Jen Kent, designer at L&S, who is working on the Archive project. “We see this as a real tragedy to be missing these portions of our rich history and so many beautiful designs. This is where the Archive Exchange comes in. We are hoping to start building back our archive and filling in the blanks whilst also learning more about our history.”

The material, however, will be held in the company’s Selkirk office, although it will also be accessible to the design team in London to use as a reference.

It comes almost a year since Pringle held its ‘Day of Record’ at Glebe Mill, in collaboration with St Martin’s School of Art in London, with archive material used as part of a display in Harvey Nichols, Edinburgh.

Referring to L&S, one former worker said: “It is astonishing that a firm established in Hawick in 1874 has few garments in their own archive. At one time I believe Christian Dior designed for them. With such a rich heritage what has happened to their own in-house archive? Did they dump everything into a skip when they left town? If they neglected their own collection, what will they do with the ones they hope to collect this Saturday? Take them over to Selkirk, or will they disappear to ‘God knows where’ never to be seen again? Any of your readers with a Lyle & Scott Ltd, made in Hawick garment, or material relating to this distinguished company should consider offering them to a Hawick archive – Border Textile Towerhouse for example – instead of exchanging them for a paltry ‘Lyle & Scott item’.”

And Provost Ron Smith agreed that every effort should be made to support the excellent work being carried out at the Textile Towerhouse. He said: “It’s important for the town’s heritage, and for economic history generally, that records and artefacts from our knitwear past are retained in the town, and are freely accessible within the town for researchers.

“It would be unfortunate if such material was to be lost , to a mere store room or to a company headquarters in some more distant location. For a century and more, hosiery workers have committed themselves to the success of our local mills. Let’s build on that principle of accessing our local history locally, and ask what the Borders Textile Towerhouse and the Heritage Hub could do to work with Lyle & Scott, and with any of the other big names, to preserve Hawick’s knitwear heritage.”

Hawick MSP John Lamont added: “It is not surprising that Pringle of Scotland and now Lyle & Scott are keen to play up their Hawick heritage, After all, it’s a valuable part of their brand.

“However, it was the community of Hawick which made these companies what they are. The Border Textiles Towerhouse now plays an important part in telling that story and it would make sense to support their collections in order that Hawick’s proud heritage is kept in the town.”