Designed with passion – made with integrity
The business began over two hundred years ago at a small farm called Remony, on the banks of Loch Tay near Aberfeldy, Perthshire. Alexander Macnaughton had worked as a tenant farmer, but in 1783 he decided to set up a small spinning mill to process both his and his neighbour’s wool. Later two of his six sons took over and continued the trade at Remony until 1835. In that year, Alexander’s grandson William moved to Pitlochry in the next valley, took a lease on some ground beside the Moulin Burn, and set up a new spinning and weaving company.
The move took advantage of the ‘Age of the Railway’, with Pitlochry being on the main railway line to the north.
On his death in 1857, William’s two younger sons, Alexander and James formed a partnership with their mother Anne, and the firm of A & J Macnaughton was born. In addition to operating the woollen mill, the brothers opened a shop to cater for the needs of the ever expanding local townsfolk. The shop not only sold the wares from the mill, but also had what must have been one of the Highland’s earliest delicatessens.
Following the death of Alan in 1951, management of the firm passed to his only son Blair C Macnaughton, who had trained at the Scottish Woollen Technical College in Galashiels following his demobilisation in 1946, and who had joined his father in Pitlochry a year earlier. The business was subsequently incorporated as a private limited company 1957.
The Firm continued to prosper during the Alexander and James years and with James’ death in 1916, Alexander became the sole partner. He was joined by his sons Arthur in 1920 and Alan in 1924. Alexander’s death in 1929 meant that the business had now successfully passed into the hands of the fifth generation. Although Arthur retired from the business in 1936, he rejoined his brother to “help out” during the war years. The Second World War was generally kind to textiles and the firm prospered throughout, manufacturing blankets and fabrics for the forces and tweeds for everyday life.
During the 1960’s a period of diversification took place, with the Company taking over an Edinburgh based fabric wholesaler, The House of Edgar (Edinburgh) Limited and a Dumfries based weaver, The Isle Mill Limited. This latter company had been established by the Keswick family (of H.S.B.C fame) in a worthy bid to employ returning servicemen after the war. These two new businesses were moved to Pitlochry and Aberdeen respectively.
The 1970’s saw the huge growth of the tourist industry in Pitlochry, and this in turn led to an ever decreasing pool of labour, willing to work in the textile industry, and with the shortage of housing for textile workers, recruiting from outside the area was not an option. In 1983 the decision was therefore taken to close the Pitlochry mill and the production was transferred to The Isle Mill in Aberdeen.
The ownership of the business had however became increasingly fragmented throughout the generations, and in 1987 a management buy-in was led by Blair’s eldest son, who had been working overseas for a number of years. The new managing director (also Blair) enabled the company to move into a seventh generation, with ownership residing with the managing family once more.
Further expansion took place in the 1990’s when the Company bought Whitehill & Wilsons Limited, a long established family business in Paisley. Although previously specialising in the manufacture of neckerchiefs (neckers) for the scout and guide movements, the Paisley factory was re-trained to enable it to become one of Scotland’s foremost kilt factories.
The requirement for additional production capacity also led to the Aberdeen weaving factory to be closed in 1992, when all weaving production was moved to the highland village of Keith, in Morayshire. Textile employment in Keith had suffered in the ’80’s
In 1999 the Group’s head office and warehousing facility was relocated to Inveralmond in Perth. These premises now contain all the design, sales, administration and financial activities of the Group.
The Group divisionalised its operations in 2001, with Macnaughton Holdings Limited becoming the trading company and the subsidiary companies becoming dormant. The trading names of The Isle Mill, The House of Edgar, Whitehill & Wilsons and Macnaughtons of Pitlochry were however maintained.
In 2003 Macnaughtons of Pitlochry, the last retail business in the Group was sold. It does however continue to be operated by a local Perthshire family, and continues to trade successfully under the “Macnaughton” brand.
During the past decade, the company has been associated with many high profile projects and events, including:
” the supply of curtain fabrics used in the refurbishment
of the private wing of the White House, for incoming president Barack Obama;
” the supply of corporate uniforms for more than 30,000 Bank of Scotland employees
for three years; more than 450 kilometres of fabric;
” being a founder member and sponsor of The Scottish Tartans Authority;
” being the main sponsor of the highland dancing events at The Gathering
– Homecoming 2009;
” launching the Red Hackle Tartan, which assists
in the fundraising for the Black Watch Museum Trust;
” providing the tartan fabric used in more than half a million pairs
of Clark Shoes world-wide,
” being the main supplier of Team Scotland’s outfits
for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, 2014 and 2018,
” sponsoring The House of Edgar Shotts and Dykehead Pipe Band,
(15 times winner of the RSPBA World Pipe Band Championships)
In 2017 Blair Macnaughton retired as Managing Director, making way for James Dracup, another well known figure in the Scottish wool trade. Although remaining as non-executive chairman, for the first time in seven generations this traditional highland company was no longer managed by the founding family.
In August 2022, Macnaughton was finally sold to its new family owners. Simon Cotton, who is well known in the Scottish textile trade, and with his wife Clare, bought the company from the Macnaughton family. Building upon such solid and well established foundations the new family, fully intends to take it forward to an even more exciting future.
For a small family business that started more than 240 years ago on the banks of Loch Tay, Macnaughtons has had an interesting journey. It has struggled, survived and thrived, and is widely regarded as one of Scotland’s most successful remaining textile companies. Employing almost 80 staff across three locations, the Company is proud to advertise its products as being “designed with passion and made with integrity”.