Photo (l to r) Neil MacLeod (Weavers Association); D.I MacDonald; Brian Wilson (Harris Tweed Hebrides) Calum George Buchanan; Seonaidh Buchanan
Harris Tweed weaving has returned to the Uig area of Lewis for the first time in a quarter of a century with two young local men now working flat out for the resurgent industry.
Domhnall Iain (D.I.) MacDonald in Gisla and Calum George Buchanan in Valtos have led the revival. This has contributed to considerable interest from others in the district who see weaving as a good means of earning their livelihoods locally.
For more than 50 years, Harris Tweed flourished in Uig. One of the last of the old weavers, Seonaidh Buchanan, recalls the first six Hattersley looms coming to Valtos in 1938. They cost £35 each and the weavers were paid £7 a tweed.
At the industry’s peak, in the post-war years, says Seonaidh, there were 34 looms in the Valtos peninsula alone. In Uig as a whole, there were at least 100 weavers and for most of these families, the loom was the main source of income.
The industry went into sharp decline in the 1980s and the last of the Hattersley weavers in Uig retired in the early 1990s.
Seonaidh’s son Calum George has been able to return to live in Valtos with his wife Mairi and infant son Fionnlagh because of the opportunity created by weaving. He already has his dad working for him at the painstaking business of tyIng in. “At first he wanted to find out if he could still do it. Now I can’t keep him away from it”.
D.I. also had weaving in his family. His father and latterly his uncle in Gisla were weavers. D.I. continues to work two days a week for the council but says weaving gives him far more flexibility to be at home and help Ann with looking after their three year old son, Seumas, who already sits beside him as he weaves, watching every movement of the loom.
Neil MacLeod, chairman of the Harris Tweed Weavers Association, mentored Calum George – now seen as an effective route for new weavers to learn the skills. Neil said there are more than 60 people looking for looms, many of them working offshore and seeing this as a means of making their livings at home.
The chairman of Harris Tweed Hebrides, Brian Wilson, who lives in the Uig village of Mangersta, said: “It is great to see weaving back in Uig. This sums up why the Harris Tweed revival is so important.
“It allows weavers like D.I. and Calum George to remain in their own communities, earn good livelihoods and raise their families here. We just need to keep it going and ensure a strong, stable future for the industry”.