LIVING ON THE BORDER OF DISASTER; Clockwise, from Top Left, Butcher Lindsay Grieve, Pet Shop Owner Libby Potts, Hairdressers Sharon McLean and Leigh Armstrong, and Carpet Shop Proprietor Andrew Dobbie

Daily Mail (London), January 17, 2009 | Go to article overview

LIVING ON THE BORDER OF DISASTER; Clockwise, from Top Left, Butcher Lindsay Grieve, Pet Shop Owner Libby Potts, Hairdressers Sharon McLean and Leigh Armstrong, and Carpet Shop Proprietor Andrew Dobbie


Byline: Maureen Culley, Robert Fairburn

HAWICK is no stranger to hard times. It is a town hit harder than most in recent years, with the gradual demise of its oncethriving textile industry leaving the thronging mills empty and skilled workers jobless.

But as the rain falls heavy on its streets in the bitter chill of a January morning, the outlook for the Borders community now seems bleaker than ever.

Despite Hawick's efforts to recover from the loss of the mills, it has become one of the country's first towns to fall victim to the recession on a sweeping scale. In the space of only 24 hours last week, a clutch of local businesses announced job losses making what was described as a 'black day' for the local area.

And yesterday, CBI Scotland spokesman Iain Ferguson warned: 'What's happening in Hawick may happen elsewhere - times will get tougher before they get better.' In Hawick, times are already extremely tough. Last week, hitech cable and cutting company Emtelle, with sites in Hawick and Jedburgh, revealed plans to cut 35 posts, blaming the move on a 'significant slowdown' in its business.

Then it was revealed that local car dealer Thornwood Motors, based in the town's Commercial Road for 34 years, was going into liquidation with 16 jobs axed after it lost its lucrative Volkswagen dealership.

Within hours, the bedding firm Slumberdown said it was looking for 38 voluntary redundancies. If that target is not achieved, it may have to switch to a four-day week at the Hawick factory, which presently employs 130 people.

Specialist Glass Designs, which has produced ornate double-glazed door panels in the town's Croft Road for the past eight years, also laid off six of its 14 workers. A spokesman said: 'The economic downturn has forced us into this situation. Our first priority must be to ensure the company's survival.'

It is the spate of job losses, and the potential repercussions for the whole community, that is worrying locals. For car mechanic Michael Smith, 28, who has just been made redundant from Thornwood Motors, life has now become a matter of day-to-day survival.

I HAVE worked here over a tenyear period and it is hard to believe it has come to this,' he said. 'It's all about earning a wage to keep your family, so it is a worrying time. There are not too many jobs going about in Hawick at the moment.' Local butcher Alister Pow, 52, agrees: 'The state Hawick is in now is pretty worrying. We've had so many closures over the years, with the mills going - it's been tough.

The workers from the mills used to go by the shop in their hundreds, and they just disappeared.

'It really brings it home to you when the local garage goes. We know them all, they are all our customers. That was the big one and it makes you think, "Who next?" This is the worst I've seen it.' For Hawick, such losses are perhaps more significant as these posts are not related to the knitwear trade but were part of the town's attempts to diversify from the traditional industry.

The power the Teviot and the Slitrig Water provided was central to Hawick's growth and, in the late 1800s, the size and number of mills continued to increase, putting the town on the world map. Among those to set up locally at that time was the now world-famous Pringle.

But last autumn, Pringle of Scotland's decision to stop manufacturing in the town after 193 years, with the loss of 80 jobs, was another blow to the local knitwear sector, battling against the flood of cheap imports from the Far East. Then, in November, Hawick Knitwear, one of the UK's largest woollen manufacturers, shed 36 jobs.

So what now for the future of Hawick and its population of 16,000, when sectors other than textiles are suffering as the credit crunch bites? Libby Potts, 60, who set up her pet store in the High Street when she was made redundant from Pringle 11 years ago, said: 'Ninetyodd jobs going in a day is shocking.

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LIVING ON THE BORDER OF DISASTER; Clockwise, from Top Left, Butcher Lindsay Grieve, Pet Shop Owner Libby Potts, Hairdressers Sharon McLean and Leigh Armstrong, and Carpet Shop Proprietor Andrew Dobbie
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