June 2019

For Mike Mathieson, the sights and sounds of the textile industry take him back to his childhood, when his mother worked at our Elgin mill. Fast forward five decades and he and his talented daughters are all part of the Johnstons of Elgin story, making Carrie and Asia the third generation of their family to join our highly skilled team.

With forty-four years of service under his belt, Mike is our longest serving employee and has seen endless progress, including the opening of our Hawick mill, flood recovery in Elgin and innovation in design and technology across our business. Reflecting on his career, Mike says he wouldn't change a thing.

"One of my earliest memories is the smell of the mill," explains Mike, 59, whose mother Marie, 79, worked at the Elgin site during the 1960s. "She worked in the twisting department when I was just a kid," he says. Twisting is the process of plying the spun yarn after the dyeing, carding and spinning processes. The yarn is twisted in preparation for weaving.

Mike initially worked as an apprentice carding engineer and has undertaken a number of other roles over the years, most recently as Maintenance Manager. Asked what he would do differently if he could have his time again, Mike insists he wouldn't alter any of it. "I think if you change anything then everything else changes too. A ripple effect. I think the biggest change I have seen at Johnstons has been the personnel. There were about 200 employees (in Elgin) and now it's more than 700." Mike explained that Johnstons of Elgin's Modern Apprenticeship Programme is helping to drive skill development and retention of staff.

Mike's eldest daughter Carrie, 30, is in her fifteenth year with the company. She is a dyer at our Elgin mill. "We do colour development, developing new shades and creating the colour recipes," Carrie explains. "We have more than 7000 colours and we are always creating more." Carrie says she enjoys her role in the dye house, where yarn, fibre and fabric are dyed in batches of differing sizes. Around eight tonnes of fibre is dyed each week using loose fibre dyeing methods, which ensure delicate cashmere fibres retain their natural softness and strength. Small samples of only five grammes of fibre are dyed with equal care, to see how a colour will look before dyeing a larger quantity.

Carrie's sister Asia, 23, joined the Johnstons of Elgin family eighteen months ago and is an Acceptable Quality Level Inspector. "It's the final step in the process," Asia says, explaining that every detail is checked meticulously, right down to the labelling. She, too, talks passionately about the company and hopes to progress within the business over time.

As the girls look forward to a bright future, Mike is looking forward to a little more downtime. With retirement just around the corner, he plans to travel and to start playing golf. In the meantime, he is happy to work for a company with such a great community spirit. "It's great having a job you love doing," he says.

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