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18 June 2014
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Work
Borders textile industry



Today, the Borders are well known for the production of woollen cloth, but it was linen production which began the modern textile trade, chiefly in Melrose, which produced more than 33,000 yards of linen cloth.
Hecklers
Heckling was a part of the process of preparing flax. Fibre from the plant was pulled through a heckle by workers known as hecklers. Hecklers often worked in groups in ‘heckling sheds’. When flax was in demand, they could command high prices for their services, and to provide a distraction from the arduous task in hand, often paid someone to read newspapers or political pamphlets to them. As a consequence, they became very well informed, and developed a reputation for asking awkward questions at public meetings. Their trade became obsolete with increased mechanisation, but the name passed in to common usage to mean anyone who interrupts a public speaker.


The growth in the linen trade was in part due to the encouragement of an organisation called the Board of Trustees for Manufacture, set up to promote Scottish industry.

Farmers were encouraged via subsidies to grow flax, and large numbers of Border farms supplied to the industry. However, by the end of the 18th Century, there was a decline in linen output in Melrose, due in part to a skill shortage created by the emerging woollen industry in Galashiels.


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