Harris Tweed Hebrides got the stamp of royal approval when HRH The Princess Royal – who is President of the UK Fashion and Textiles Association – officially opened the new mill extension which includes state of the art dyeing and blending parts.

After touring the tweed mill with chief executive Ian Angus Mackenzie and brand development director, Margaret Ann MacLeod, she praised the “unique quality and community values” of Harris Tweed.
The Princess Royal, to use her formal title, expressed the hope that many of the people who bought products made from the fashion fabric had an awareness of the skills that go into its production, including those of the home weavers on whom the industry depends.
Everyone present was impressed by her knowledge of the industry and very genuine enthusiasm for Harris Tweed. She described the new facilities as “an investment for the next generation”.
The company’s chairman, Brian Wilson, said that the industry depended on “unique protection and a unique structure”. In return, its custodians owe an obligation to the islands to pass it on in robust health, which the latest investment would help to ensure.
He said it was sometimes assumed that investment in peripheral places was dependent on public funds but that 90 per cent of the latest investment had come from the company’s own resources. “It is possible to be both peripheral and successful, which is an important lesson”, he said.
Ian Angus MacKenzie, chief executive of Harris Tweed Hebrides, said: “This is a major investment in the future of the industry and a statement of confidence on the part of our company.
“A decade ago, Shawbost Mill was closed and derelict. We are very proud of what has been achieved since then and are confident that Harris Tweed can continue to be a major force within the Hebridean economy for many years to come”.
Sadly, the funeral of Derick Murray – who sold the then-disused Shawbost mill to Harris Tweed Hebrides – took place on the same day as the royal event. This was Derick’s family mill, founded by his grandfather, and he tried very hard to keep it open for as long as possible through the 1990s downturn in the industry.
The day’s events could be seen as a passing of the baton – with the new investment helping to ensure that Harris Tweed will continue to be produced on the Shawbost site for many years to come.


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