The Final Curtain Closes on Hunters of Brora

The year 2000 did not start well. Hunters’ yarn quality was nothing like what we had been used to in the past, and although they tried to rectify this, it simply was not to be.

They only supplied yarn on cone as they had stopped supplying yarn on Hank; this was a major blow to us as our business was supplying customers yarn in hanks. In order to help us solve this problem Hunters sent us up their huge reeling machine which it took the yarn from the cone and on to hank. This meant a lot more extra work for us as well as taking over most of the middle store.

Reeling Yarn Middle Store, 1999

 In early 2001 I took another devastating phone call, the receivers had been called in yet again. New owners took over at Hunters with little success and sadly in 2004 the mill closed for good, ending 100 years of trading wool and yarn with Shetland.

Hunters New Mill

I was told the reason for this was because the market was badly depressed, and due to competition from third world countries, as I mentioned in an earlier blog the likes of Mauritius was producing a so called “Shetland” offering it to trade at a ridiculous price. Our own thoughts were they had changed the way of spinning yarn and had lost their way. 

My thoughts were with the community of Brora who now faced life without the mill and the loss of many jobs directly and indirectly.

It appeared to be the end of the road for us as well due to having no spinner or outlet for our wool but the Berry resolve was not to be defeated, as in 2001 we found a new spinner. We also were fortunate one of the companies had a lot of experience in working with Shetland wool having been already buying some wool from us, and had in fact been responsible for the Papa Island project I mentioned in my last blog. They now took over from Hunters of Brora as the major buyer of wool from us.

Last Load to Hunters of Brora

Our  Shetland wool, which was purchased from Shetland crofters and farmers and had been hand sorted by us and held in a wool “bank” which we owned we now moved down to Bradford where it was held in storage before being scoured and used by our new spinner.

We refocused on the way forward, our spinner was almost identical to that of Hunters former mill and the owners had been spinning wool for five generations. The down side was that our new spinner had to match up all our shades as we were unable to procure the recipes for the various dye lots required in producing the yarns. The batch lots were also larger meaning we had to hold on to a larger volume of yarns.

Oliver and New Spinner 2004

This was a very difficult time for us and our customers; the recovery time stretched into years before we were able to make up lost ground, and it would be fair to say we did not fully recover.

I paid a visit to Brora several years later and met up with some of my old friends, however I was very aware that something serious was missing, the magic, which Tom Simpson had invited me to come and see all that years ago had gone!  One of the saddest moments in my working life!

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