Harris Tweed revived in Uig community after 25 years

Harris Tweed is renowned for its quality and is exported all over the world. Picture: Getty
Harris Tweed is renowned for its quality and is exported all over the world. Picture: Getty
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WEAVING of the ancient Scottish cloth Harris Tweed has returned to the Uig area of Lewis for the first time in a quarter of a century.

Two young local men, Domhnall Iain MacDonald in Gisla and Calum George Buchanan in Valtos, have led the revival.

This has contributed to interest from others in the district who see weaving as a means of earning their livelihoods locally.

For more than 50 years, Harris Tweed flourished in Uig.

One of the last of the old weavers, Seonaidh Buchanan, recalled the first six Hattersley looms coming to Valtos in 1938. They cost £35 each and the weavers were paid £7 a tweed.

At the industry’s peak, in the post-war years, he said there were 34 looms in the Valtos peninsula alone.

In Uig as a whole, there were at least 100 weavers and for most of these families, the loom was the main source of income.

The industry went into sharp decline in the 1980s and the last of the Hattersley weavers in Uig retired in the early 1990s.

Seonaidh’s son Calum George has been able to return to live in Valtos with his wife Mairi and son Fionnlagh because of the opportunity created by weaving.

He already has his dad working for him. He said: “At first he wanted to find out if he could still do it. Now I can’t keep him away from it.”

Mr MacDonald. also had weaving in his family. His father and his uncle in Gisla were weavers.

He continues to work two days a week for the council but said weaving was giving him far more flexibility to be at home.

Neil MacLeod, chairman of the Harris Tweed Weavers Association, mentored Calum George – now seen as an effective route for new weavers to learn the skills.

He said there are more than 60 people looking for looms, many of them working offshore and seeing this as a means of making their livings at home.

The chairman of Harris Tweed Hebrides, former MP Brian Wilson, who lives in the Uig village of Mangersta, said: “It is great to see weaving back in Uig. This sums up why the Harris Tweed revival is so important.

“It allows weavers like D.I. and Calum George to remain in their own communities, earn good livelihoods and raise their families here. We just need to keep it going and ensure a strong, stable future for the industry”.

Harris Tweed is cloth, hand woven only by the islanders of Lewis, Harris, Uist and Barra in their own homes, using pure virgin wool that has been dyed and spun in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.

This is the definition of Harris Tweed clearly stated in the Harris Tweed Act of 1993 and it ensures that all cloth officially certified with the world-renowned Harris Tweed Orb symbol complies with this definition, making it genuine Harris Tweed – the world’s only commercially produced hand woven tweed.

It creates employment for over 350 craftsmen and women.

The ancient Scottish cloth has been worn by Gwyneth Paltrow, Madonna and former Dr Who Matt Smith.