33 jobs go as Caerlee Mills set to close

ATTEMPTS to save Scotland’s oldest continually operating textile mill from closure have failed, resulting in 33 job losses.

Caerlee Mills, in Innerleithen, has shut down production 225 years after it first opened with administrators failing to find a buyer for the ailing business.

Liquidators had hoped the Peebleshire-based company, which made luxury cashmere garments, would be bought up, but the lack of interest resulted in an immediate shutdown.

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Three staff are being kept on in the short-term to help wind down the business.

The company is said to have been in a state of financial difficulty for “a number of months”.

Ken McIntosh, shadow Cabinet secretary for finance, called the losses a “real blow” for the community. He said: “Any job loss at this time is a real blow, but especially in such a small place like Innerleithen.

“The textile industry has over the past two decades dramatically decreased, but it is especially disappointing when companies specialising in a niche market suffer. Hopefully the government will support both the workers in retraining and the community in bringing fresh business to the area.”

During its heydey, the mill, which dates back to 1788, employed 400 workers.

Previous owners JJ & HB Cashmere went into administration three years ago with the loss of 132 jobs, but the site was saved by a management takeover under Tom Harkness.

Difficulties arose after the firm’s main customer reduced its volume of orders.

Liquidators KPMG thanked the best efforts of the staff as the mill’s closure was announced. Blair Nimmo said: “Despite our best efforts to secure the sale of the mill, we have been left with no option other than to cease all operations with immediate effect. Unfortunately, 33 of the company’s 36 employees have been made redundant, with three staff being retained in the short term to assist in winding down the business.

“There was no interest expressed from parties looking to continue running Caerlee Mills as a going concern, which has ultimately led to its closure.

“We would like to thank staff for their co-operation through this difficult process. We will be working with employees to ensure that support to find alternative employment is available for all those who need it.”

In its heyday under Ballantyne and Dawson International, the mill employed 400 workers in the Borders town.

Caerlee Mills date back to 1786 when philanthropist Alexander Brodie acquired an acre site for a woollen mill. Two years later, Brodie’s Mill was built at a cost of £3,000.

In 1841 the factory was sold to textile businessman Robert Gill who modernised the plant using steam power. Around 25 years later, Gill’s heirs sold it to the Ballantyne family.

The Queen gave the factory the royal seal of approval during a visit in 1966, and Ballantyne Sportswear won the Queen’s Award for Industry in 1967, 1982 and 1991.