Parties unite in praise of the Weavers

First Minister Alex Salmond and leading representatives of all Scotland’s main political parties have come together to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the Fenwick Weavers’ Society, the world’s...

The text of the original charter of the Fenwick Weavers Society reveals that, 250 years ago, the signing of the original document took place in two stages — at Kilmarnock on 10th March 1761 when five members signed and at Fenwick Parish Church four days later when the remaining 11 put pen to paper.

A new charter recognising the place of the Weavers in Co-op history and acknowledging the values and principles of the worldwide movement was signed by Mr Salmond and all members of the Scottish Cabinet at Holyrood before being taken to Fenwick for the main celebration on March 14th.

There it was also signed by the leaders of the Scottish Labour and Conservative parties, Iain Gray and Annabel Goldie, and by leading Liberal Democrat MSP, Jim Hume, as well as dozens of Co-op Movement leaders and civic dignitaries. 

A debate to mark the celebrations was initiated in the Scottish Parliament by Kilmarnock & Loudon SNP MSP Willie Coffey, founder and co-convenor of the cross-party group on co-operatives at Holyrood.

Mr Coffey highlighted the role of Ayrshire-born David Dale in spreading the co-operative message. He was 22 when the Fenwick society was formed and went on to establish the mill at New Lanark, where he worked with Robert Owen, one of the most influential figures in co-operative history.

Added Mr Coffey: “The Fenwick Charter and the values of co-operation have the wholehearted backing of the First Minister, the Scottish Government, and the Parliament. March 1761 represents the point at which the co-operative revolution really began and it is absolutely right that the Fenwick 16 are honoured for their contribution.”

Mr Salmond said he was proud to sign the charter to mark the 250th anniversary and highlighted the Weavers’ important heritage and their place in history.

John Smith, Chair of the Fenwick Weavers, who attended the debate and reception at Holyrood added: “It was very fitting that the signing of the charter started on March 10th and the society was very pleased at the First Minister’s offer to start the process.

“If Scotland is to get the most benefit from the co-operative model, all members of the Scottish Government and MSPs must get behind our work. The charter offers an opportunity to highlight the importance of co-operatives to Scotland.”

At Fenwick, the society received a cheque for £47,768 from a local newspaper, the Scottish Government and the EU to continue its work to create a heritage project to commemorate the Weavers and also received a crystal globe memento from Marlene Shiels, director of the World Council of Credit Unions.

A lunch following the charter signing ceremony in the church was hosted by Lord Browne of Ladyton (former Defence Secretary Des Browne) and attendees included Dame Pauline Green and Charles Gould from the International Co-operative Alliance, Mikel Lezamiz of Mondragon Co-operative in Spain, Co-operative Group Chair Len Wardle and Joe Hill, representing Scotmid Society.

John Smith told the News: “The event went even better than we expected, with many people coming from near and far to celebrate what the Fenwick Weavers mean to the Co-operative Movement.

“Now the society has to take its heritage project forward, so that anyone visiting Fenwick can follow the Weavers’ story and gain a greater understanding of our great movement.”

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