Selkirk tartan mill stars in television show

Susan Calman with Nick Fiddes and Crena Bell at D C Dalgleish mill in Selkirk.
Susan Calman with Nick Fiddes and Crena Bell at D C Dalgleish mill in Selkirk.

Selkirk hit the small screen last week as Channel 5 show Secret Scotland paid a visit to attractions and business across the Borders.

The town featured alongside Heriot, Abbotsford, Bemersyde and Melrose in the fourth episode of the new travel series, aired last Friday evening.

Glasgow-born comedian and programme host Susan Calman turned tourist on her first visit to the region for the five-part series.

The former Strictly Come Dancing star opened the show saying: “Like a lot of people, I have travelled through the Borders by train or by car, but I am really excited to stop and finally have a good look around.”

In Selkirk, she enjoys a tour of DC Dalgleish’s tartan mill with head weaver Crena Bell.

“People laugh at me because I love tartan,” Susan said. “I think it’s just beautiful.”

Explaining why the Dunsdale Road tartan mill is so special, Crena told Susan: “Because everything is hand-woven, everything is done by hand.

“It’s nice because every fabric is unique. There’s nothing too exact about it.”

The firm, which boasts customers including the Duchess of Cornwall, is the only hand-crafted tartan mill left in the world.

Susan added: “The Borders has been the heart of Scotland’s tartan industry since the first mill was built here in 1800, and this is the only remaining mill using the hand-crafted traditional methods.

“It may be a thriving business today, but it’s also a bit like seeing living history.”

She watched the process of hand-warping and remarked: “This is incredibly skilled manual labour work, but 200 years ago the technology seemed impossibly advanced.”

She also learned about the chain-powered loom before watching the three ladies in action making the finished product.

“And that’s how this mill makes the last hand-woven tartan in the world,” she added. “And long may it continue.”

Before she left, Susan met managing director Nick Fiddes to learn about her own clan tartan, the McMillan.

“It’s good to know that the Calmans are a branch of a clan that is not shy of having a large wardrobe,” she joked before trying to strike a deal for two tartan sofas and a pair of curtains in exchange for a fiver.

The show also shines a spotlight on the River Tweed at Bemersyde, Melrose’s abbey and rugby club, Abbotsford House and Neth Hill Farm, near Heriot.