Ayrshire Lace Industry – 26 March 2019

We were recently honoured by the guest presence of two members from the Rotary Club of Loudoun. Ian Pollock had come to tell us about the history of lace-making in Ayrshire and he was ably assisted by his demonstrator for the evening, Bill Bryden.

Ian is a proud Ayrshire man, born and raised in Newmilns, and is company director of the world-renowned, lace-making firm, Haddow Aird & Crerar Ltd. He began by relating some of the history of weaving and lace-making in the Irvine Valley and that of HA&C. Two local men, Joseph Hood (born in Newmilns in 1821) and Alexander Morton (born in Darvel in 1844) are credited with having pioneered the industry’s development in the valley.

The success of the local industry can be measured by the number of factories (some 37 at its peak) and the growth in the Newmilns population from 500 in 1750 to 2000 in 1850 with 50% employed in textiles. Unfortunately, due to a reduction in the demand for lace and the impact of cheaper foreign products (such as Terylene), the trade collapsed and there are now only two such firms still operating in the valley.

Ian went on to show off wonderful examples of lace products made on the original massive wooden looms, originally developed by the Frenchman Joseph Marie Jacquard, that had been brought from Nottingham (another centre of lace-making) in the 19th century and which were irreplaceable. During the war years, these had been used to manufacture camouflage netting, black-out curtains and mosquito nets.

Ian delivered his talk in a relaxed and humorous style, unveiling his “prized” exhibit – a lace curtain used in Only Fools and Horses’ Nag’s Head bar scenes – and he amusingly described lace as “a number of different size holes tied together”. Ron Ireland gave the vote of thanks to both Ian and Bill.