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Hebrides News


One of the giants in the world of Harris Tweed has died aged 74 years.


Donald Roderick Murray was the last of his family to run a tweed mill on Lewis.


Known as Derick Murray, he experienced repeated rise and falls of the famous textile, controlling over 90% production by the time he left the industry just over a decade ago.


Mr Murray was born in May 1943 next door to the mill his maternal grandfather Kenneth Macleod established a century ago.


As a teenager Mr Murray joined the family business and just five years later found himself the boss when his father died in 1966.


He was a main player in the industry for 50 years, enjoying boom times in the 70s when the Harris Tweed was exported to fashion hungry market across the world.


But a deep slump in the 1990s hit hard and a drive to introduce the double width loom to produce a wider lighter cloth favoured by the market met with resistance by many weavers. Rows over public investment also overshadowed the sector.


As the industry continued to decline Mr Murray eventually ended up owning two out of three remaining main mills on Lewis - Kenneth Macleod at Shawbost plus the Kenneth Mackenzie mill in Stornoway.


He retired from the textile sector in 2006 and moved into the haulage business.


At the time he admitted it was huge wrench to walk away from the trade and “very difficult” to put up for sale the mill his grandfather established.


Yorkshire millionaire Brian Haggas purchased the Mackenzie mill and promptly announced he was dramatically slashing output and restricting sales to his own in-house retailer.


By then the Shawbost mill had been mothballed but Mr Murray negotiated a sale to the then fledging Harris Tweed Hebrides which restarted production, marketed heavily, built up sales and hired weavers and mill staff.


Brian Wilson, chairman of Harris Tweed Hebrides, said: "Derick was a highly-respected and knowledgeable figure within the Harris Tweed industry over many years and was largely responsible for ensuring that it survived through an extremely difficult period in the 1990s.


“In particular, he kept Shawbost mill open long after it might have made purely economic sense to close it.


“The fact that he did so, and then sold it to Harris Tweed Hebrides relatively intact, made it possible for our company to come into existence a decade ago and to restore life to the mill.


“Derick maintained a close interest in our progress and was always a good and reliable friend.


“I express the sympathy of everyone at Harris Tweed Hebrides to Barbara, Ross, Ann, brother Duncan, sister Mairi and the wider family.”

Death of Harris Tweed patriarch

27 July 2017