The Scottish Borders has long been the thriving manufactory domicile for the production of the finest luxury cashmere and Merino wool knitwear. Occupied by some of the most famous Scottish knitwear brands such as Pringle of Scotland and Lyle & Scott, the textile mills have been the hum of the local economy and the crux of the community for generations. The first knitting machine was brought up to Hawick in 1771 by John Hardie. In more modern times, the knitwear industry on the Scottish Borders has been beset by closures, including the cease in production of the aforementioned brands. Swallowed up by multinational corporations, the beleaguered industry – clings onto the last of the independent Scottish knitting factories. One such heritage brand is McGeorge of Scotland, who in the last few years has acquired a mill in an old building in Walkerburn.
Founded in 1881, the firm was established by the eccentric James McGeorge. Originally operating from his diminutive family knitting workshop in Dumfries – his nonconformist traits and well-defined knitwear identity soon called for a move to larger premises as they expanded. An innovator with a revolutionary spirit, the company soon moved to a farm, employing women for the first time. It was due to the stubbornness of J.C. McGeorge, that made the manufactory so successful. A primary factor was that the gentlemen in the business made the unimaginable possible by allowing women to use “Wooden Looms”, which resulted in the families having two sources of income. By this stage the company was producing high-quality cashmere, Shetland and cotton sweaters.