Arthur’s tartan legacy lives on

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WARM tribute has been paid to the talents of Forfar man Arthur Mackie and his legacy of tartan designs which are recognised around the world.

Arthur (85), who died peacefully last Thursday, is recognised in the industry for his enthusiasm and professionalism in bringing to life new tartan designs, including those for the Royal Air Force, the Royal Army of Oman and, more locally, the former American Air Base at Edzell and Forfar Athletic Football Club.

He died peacefully at the Whitehills Health and Community Care Centre last Thursday.

Born and brought up in Forfar, Arthur was educated at the West School and Forfar Academy, before starting work with Don Brothers Buist at the age of 14.

From 1943 to 1947 he served with the Royal Air Force, returning to Don Brothers where he was to become instrumental in the firm’s diversion into the woollen business.

He was sent to Galashiels to further his knowledge of the trade, and then played a leading role in the establishment of the Strathmore Woollen Mill in North Street.

Mr Mackie became heavily involved in the design work of the company, and laid claim to the design of a number of tartans that have become well-known, both locally and further afield.

His Air Force tartan was worn by Bill Walker, the former MP for the area, in the House of Commons, and was first worn by the RAF Pipe Bands at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo in 2002.

Away from work, Mr Mackie enjoyed a long association with the Air Cadet Force in the town, serving as a cadet with the then 1043 Squadron in the early forties and going on to become Commanding Officer of 2231 (Forfar) Squadron for an 11 year spell.

A keen bowler at one time, he served as the last president of the Reid Park Bowling Club prior to it folding.

Arthur and his wife Margaret celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary in July, 2008.

Paying tribute to Mr Mackie’s “natural talent” on Monday, Mr David Cowley, managing director of the Strathmore Woollen Company said his talent was “greatly appreciated by the whole industry.”

He spoke warmly of his work with Arthur, who was the former mill manager when the business was owned by Don Brothers Buist.

Mr Cowley said: “Arthur was very well known. I came from the Strathmore Woollen Company in 1979 and in 1983 my family put together a management buy-out and Arthur continued as manager under the new ownership.

“We had a wonderful time because Arthur was able to continue working in a field he adored - the manufacture and supply of tartan. He was also able to develop and pursue his design skills in the creation of new tartans, all of which was very helpful to the business.”

Mr Cowley explained Arthur’s talents were used to design a number of new tartans, whilst at the same time he reinterpreted old historical designs.

He continued: “He was greatly appreciated by the tartan industry as a whole for his input.

“He belonged to an older generation who designed tartan by inspiration rather than by electronic means, which is what you see now in tartan design.

“I’m not knocking it as it is part of the future of this business. Much of the new design work that goes into tartan is all computer generated, but Arthur belonged to the old school where it was natural talent to combine colours to create tartans. You never really knew what it would look like until it was woven.

“Arthur was involved here through a long period of my ownership until declining health prevented him for coming, which was not much more than a year ago. He always kept an interest and was very welcome.

“THE RAF tartan was one of Arthur’s great personal achievements - he did that after his retirement.

“Arthur and the Strathmore Woollen Company are well-known for producing quality tartan which is sold all over the world, and Arthur’s name is part of that connection.”

Arthur is survived by his wife Margaret, son Arthur, daughters Maureen and Alison, five grand-children and two great grand-children.

His funeral takes place on Thursday (tomorrow) at the East and Old Parish Church at 11 am, followed by interment at Newmonthill Cemetery.