Chapter 4

A family business: Looking after our people

Johnstons of Elgin Timeline Chapter 4

Behind every warp, weave and stitch of each Johnstons of Elgin product is the story of our commitment to people. In turn, the loyalty of our team has enabled us to thrive. This emotional connection has existed since our founding.

Nineteenth-century Britain. Alexander and James Johnston institute good working conditions long before it becomes national law. In the 1830s, they build modern homes for their employees. 1856. They bring in doctors to ensure the health and wellbeing of young boys working in the mill.

James sees further potential. He encourages and fosters the workers’ talents. He builds a reading room for their education.

Johnstons of Elgin Timeline Chapter 4

In 1915 the mill is hit by severe flooding and challenges associated with the First World War. The mill keeps running.

During the Great Depression, we innovate, create new products and move into new international markets to save our mill and workers’ jobs.

The team’s willingness to work extraordinarily long hours during World War Two ensures our survival.

Johnstons of Elgin Timeline Chapter 4

The 1970s. We establish flexible hours and shifts for women to enable them to continue working while raising their families.

The dedication of our workforce saves us when a catastrophic fire takes hold in the mill in 1957 and a once-in-a-generation flood nearly destroys our Elgin mill in 1997.

We have always helped people beyond our industry. We’ve shared our resources and expertise - making and washing blankets for Dr Gray’s Hospital, Elgin, from our founding until the 1840s.

We produced Allied uniforms during the two World Wars. We manufactured medical scrubs during the Covid pandemic and raised funds for the British National Health Service (NHS) charities through our Cashmere Rainbow Scarf.

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This commitment to the local, national and international community – has always been keenly led by the Johnston and Harrison families. Alexander Johnston’s work as a town councillor. Edward Harrison’s generous gifts of land and resources to those in need.

And our support for the Mongolian communities from which we source our precious fibres. Johnstons of Elgin embodies generosity of spirit.

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Our Chairman, Jenny Urquhart, represents the fourth generation of her family at Johnstons of Elgin, following her father, grandfather and great-grandfather to serve in the position.

And the ethos of community spirit associated with our history continues today. Since 2019, we have been registered with the Living Wage Foundation and are the largest textile manufacturer to work to this standard, paying more than the UK government’s set minimum wage.

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We invest in young people and reach out to schools and colleges to find the craftspeople of the future. We nurture diversity, offering apprenticeships to people of all ages. We believe that employee mental health is as important as physical health, so, trained mental health first aiders are available to all of our employees, whenever they need them.

Our dedication to people, planet, locality and quality is why, after 225 years, we are still going strong.