THE jobs of the 24 employees of the Bridgehaugh Dyeworks hang in the balance.
As fire investigators sift through the wreckage of the huge 200ft factory, the workforce must wait for news of what happens next.
However, they received some assurances yesterday from Keith Hendrie, who built the plant in 1998 – and extended it two years ago – and who retired on April 29.
Mr Hendrie was close to tears as he surveyed the scene, having arrived at the site shortly after 7am.
“It’s utterly unbelievable ... I can’t really take it in,” he told The Wee Paper.
After a brief chat with factory manager Dave Lambert, Mr Hendrie was keen to console his former workforce, telling them that the property was “fully insured, including wages”, but that it would take a few days for things to be clarified.
He told them a loss adjuster would visit the site and the new owners had yet to consider the way forward.
Mr Lambert took over from Mr Hendrie on the day-to-day running of the factory just six weeks ago, but had been preparing for his leading role for the last six months.
Also in a state of shock, Mr Lambert told us: “I came up from Yorkshire and have been living in Selkirk and really enjoying the work.”
He revealed that Bridgehaugh Dyeworks Ltd now had four directors, representing shareholder interests of McNaughtons of Perth, Linton Tweeds in Carlisle and two Yorkshire-based yarn agents.
The process at Bridgehaugh, which specialises in package dyeing, is relatively simple.
Dry spindled yarn is delivered in boxes stored at the south side of the plant, packaged and transferred to the main section for dyeing.
It is then dried and warehoused before delivery at the river side of the site.
The firm has recently received a major order to dye yarn supplied by Robert Noble of Peebles which will be woven into upholstery fabric for trains in Russia.
Another key customer is Botany Weavers of Ireland which supplies upholsterly fabrics for aircraft.
Apart from the loss of stainless steel machinery, some of quite an old vintage, Mr Lambert was fearful yesterday that the firm’s precious colour library, where thousands of shades are stored on sheets of paper along with dyeing “recipes”, has been destroyed.
Although the cause of the fire remains a mystery, the buzz among the workforce yesterday was that it may have started in the drying section at the north end of the factory.
“We had a fire inside one of our RF Dryers about a year ago and that is where the yarn is dry and therefore more likely to catch fire,” said one employee who did not wish to be named.
“We managed to contain it and the fire service were called, but that is the only incident of a fire I can recall.”
If the factory is not rebuilt it will be a major blow to the Selkirk economy with jobs in that specific sector of the textile industry are hard to come by and the nearest comparable dyeworks is based at Langholm.