1980s and New Store – The Berry Way

With the increase in yarn demand and also a major change in handling wool we needed more space. The wool grading system had changed from just three main grades of white to five and two grades of colour instead of one. Fault grades were also introduced. We were handling over eighty percent of the local wool clip; this meant a far heavier workload. This might have been a fairer system of arriving at a price for the wool producer but it was harder work and more costly to carry out.

Grading Baskets in Middle Store

At the start of 1980 when the wool had eased off we began the construction of a building in between the old wool store and yarn store. Again I was told this would be done the Berry way, most of the work ourselves. Jim Smith always said when something needed doing you did it yourself; even inventing machinery to help on the farm.

Thinking about this now while writing this it would be a very appropriate for me to acknowledge Jim Smith and his inventions in my time working for the Smith family. There is enough material on that subject for a blog, however, so one will likely follow!

Oliver Grading Into Basket, Middle Store
Middle Store

At the beginning of our building work I was told I would have to manually remove the soil by hand and dispose of it at Berry Farm in Scalloway. “Why by hand?” I asked Jim Smith”, who replied, that because of all the pipes and such like, it would be dangerous with a mechanical digger”! Fourteen trips later the site was ready.

According to Jim Smith as I was so proficient with tractor and trailer, I was to uplift excess turnips from the East Parks at Berry Farm and deliver them to crofters in my old home, Burra, as these were not required on the farm. My first load went to our family croft in Hamnavoe and then to another six crofters throughout the Isle. A very charitable gesture by Jim Smith, he requested no payment other than to fill the tractor with diesel which they were to pay. This was typical of the generosity of the Smith family and much appreciated by the receivers.

The start of the building work meant constructing the concrete pads to fasten the steel uprights and proved to be quite an experience. I asked “how do we get both sides the same height and correct level?” “Easy” said Jim; producing a water hose from his van, he filled the hose with water and it naturally found the same level. I had my doubts about this.. I had a friend who was a surveyor and asked him about this he smiled and said “I will come with my “dumpy “level and check it”. When he measured this with his apparatus I was most surprised that it was spot on. The steel was made up by a friend of Jims’ who helped Jim and I erect it. Jim had to overcome his fear of heights but eventually he was able to walk along the steel beams along the steel beams. We brought in builders to clad the shed and build the concrete blocks. The remaining tasks (laying the floor and some of the plaster work) we did ourselves.

Jim announced, “Its lambing time. Now I will have to go to Berry full time, you and the young boy from the wool store can put in the first floor in the building. It should be easy enough”!

We did in fact put in the new floor and the new store was passed fit by the local authority, (perhaps the walls are a bit rough as my plastering skills left a lot to be desired). I was very pleased when Jim put both our initials in the concrete of the new floor; a great honour for me to be aligned with one of Shetlands’ most famous inventors & entrepreneur’s, Jim Smith M.B.E. of Berry Farm. It would be fair to say I would never make the grade as a builder!

Middle Store Completed in 1980s

This new floor area enabled us to store more yarn and also meant we could increase the colour range expand the yarn range and introduce Jumper yarn oil on cone. This proved to be a great success and we found ourselves supplying many small manufacturers on the U.K. mainland as well as local firms. The business had increased so much that another 4 people were required.

My own circumstances took a downward turn at this time when I collapsed on the wool store floor at the feet of Jim Smith and a crofter. I journeyed to hospital in Aberdeen where after two weeks was told I had a genetic heart problem however it could be controlled by drugs and careful health care. I had retired from football in 1979 and I suggested it could have been I was not so fit now or it could have been down to all the building work!

A measure of the loyalty shown by the Smith family was that in the 2 months I was recuperating the company chose to continue paying my wages.

The first of the 1980s was an interesting time at work I had recovered from my setback, we had more space in which to work and develop our product ranges.

We encountered quite significant changes in the early to the mid-1980s, sadly not all of them positive.

2 thoughts on “1980s and New Store – The Berry Way

  1. Hello Ollie !
    I continue to enjoy your interesting blog so much! It’s so very interesting to learn of your life in wool and learn the firsthand history of J &S yarns… how amazing you’ve been with them in great dedication your whole life! I look forward to each installment, from here in Boston USA!


  2. Another amazing story with lots of hurdles to be overcome…….and they WERE! Putting in a floor, plastering walls HA


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