Hawick’s Nick Bannerman is a jolly good fellow, and so says college

Johnstons of Elgin managing director Nick Bannerman at the 2017 Scottish Borders Business Excellence Awards.
Johnstons of Elgin managing director Nick Bannerman at the 2017 Scottish Borders Business Excellence Awards.

Proud Teri Nick Bannerman has enjoyed a rare form of success in the world of business.

It’s a world in which success is often measured in air miles and upping sticks and moving tends to be better rewarded than staying put, but Nick has flourished without having to stray too far from Hawick, the town he was born and raised in and still calls home.

Nick Bannerman, Johnstons of Elgin's managing director for Hawick.

Nick Bannerman, Johnstons of Elgin's managing director for Hawick.

His loyalty to the town, and to the Borders and its workforce, will be recognised next Friday, September 27, when he receives the 22nd honorary fellowship bestowed by Borders College.

As managing director of Johnstons of Elgin in Hawick for almost 10 years, and after spending the previous decade in the same role with Peter Scott’s now-closed knitwear factory in the town, his passion for all things Borders has never been questioned.

Nick, 53, will be joining an illustrious group when he picks up his fellowship, among them last year’s recipient, rugby legend Doddie Weir, and former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Steel of Aikwood.

The honour not only acknowledges his role helping oversee a multi-million pound business but also his chairmanship of the Developing the Young Workforce initiative in the Borders, supporting young people to build up the skills and knowledge required by local businesses.

He has played a crucial role in ensuring the Borders textiles industry is once again vibrant and offering a bright future in terms of opportunities and careers.

In tandem with that, Johnstons has resurrected its training school, supporting youngsters to learn the hand skills vital to the industry’s long-term viability.

“It’s very important to get young people emboldened, not just for textiles but for companies across the Borders,” he said.

“Maybe young people were thinking they didn’t want to go into textiles and didn’t want to go into electronics, thinking there was nothing here for them, when actually there is a huge amount. That’s the message to get across.

“It’s for the whole Borders community because we probably undersell ourselves a bit, so it’s trying to say to the youngsters ‘look, there are great livelihoods for you here’ and especially for youngsters graduating in all sorts of degrees and specialities at Borders College.”

Nick, a father of three, said he is humbled by the fellowship honour.

He said: “I came back from holiday and there was a letter from Angela Cox, the principal of Borders College, inviting me to become an honorary fellow.

“The board of Borders College and the senior team each year discuss people who might be worthy of the award.

“My name had come up before, but this year it was overwhelming and everybody wanted it to be me.

“This is great honour. When I look at that list of people, it is very humbling to be among them.

“I am most proud of being managing director of two large companies within the town of Hawick, where I was born and raised, so contributing back to the town is a big thing for me.

“Being typically Scottish, we’re all a little bit embarrassed about receiving awards, but If I can do something as an ambassador for Borders College, and for young people in the region, to show there is a great lifestyle to be had, then that’s super.”

Nick was raised by dad Sandy, a lawyer in Hawick for 50 years, and Yorkshire-born mum Jane, awarded a British Empire Medal for her services to community healthcare in 2016.

His wife Vivian is manager of the bookshop at Mainstreet Trading Company in St Boswells, elder son Calum is a bookseller in Glasgow, where his daughter Ruathy is also a primary school teacher, and younger son Mully, a cafe manager at Mainstreet Trading, has just started playing rugby for Hawick.

Nick added: “That was something I’m exceptionally proud of because I played rugby for Hawick for 10 years. Watching him run out in the green jersey last week was tremendous.”

He added: “I do a lot of travelling and I am also global sales director for the group, so I see a lot of things, but I am always happy working in Hawick.

“It’s been a great place to bring my family up.

“In the Borders’ towns, everybody tends to know everybody else, which is a positive thing because we run this business as a family business.

“It has been a family business since 1797, and the way we work with the staff is that we very much look after each other, which is something I really appreciate and which I think is very important.”

As for his industry’s future, Nick remains very positive, as long as a new generation of skilled workers can be attracted to work within it.

He said: “We especially need the hand skills of our staff.

“You have obviously got technical computer skills in our IT department and programming and there are 50 different roles within Johnstons in Hawick, and we’re going to need youngsters training for way into the future because we’ll have people retiring, at least 10 to a dozen year to year, and we need those people replaced with youngsters. They are the future.”

Nick will receive his award in front of 159 graduates and 410 guests at the Borders Events Centre in Kelso.