Crofter Hand Woven Harris Tweed Company v Veitch

JurisdictionUK Non-devolved
JudgeThe Lord Chancellor,Viscount Maugham,Lord Thankerton,Lord Wright,Lord Porter
Judgment Date15 December 1941
Judgment citation (vLex)[1941] UKHL J1215-2
CourtHouse of Lords
Docket NumberNo. 1.
Date15 December 1941
Crofter Hand Woven Harris Tweed Company, Limited, and Others
Veitch and Another.

[1941] UKHL J1215-2

Lord Chancellor

Viscount Maugham

Lord Thankerton

Lord Wright

Lord Porter

House of Lords

After hearing Counsel as well on Thursday the 20th, Friday the 21st, Monday the 24th, Tuesday the 25th, Thursday the 27th, Friday the 28th and Monday the 31st, days of March last, as on Tuesday the 1st, Thursday the 3d, Thursday the 24th, Friday the 25th and Monday the 28th, days of April last, upon the Petition and Appeal of The Crofter Hand Woven Harris Tweed Company, Limited, incorporated under the Companies Act, 1929, and having its Registered Office at 42 Point Street, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis; Colin Murray Orrock, Harris Tweed Manufacturer and Merchant, Granite Buildings, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, carrying on business under the name of Maclennan & Maclennan, Harris Tweed Manufacturers and Merchants, Granite Buildings, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis; Angus MacLeod, Harris Tweed Manufacturer and Merchant, 71 Kenneth Street, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis; Donald MacIver, Harris Tweed Manufacturer and Merchant, Creagan Dubh, Leurbost, Isle of Lewis; Angus MacLeod, Harris Tweed Manufacturer and Merchant, 20 Leurbost, Isle of Lewis; Kenneth MacLeod, Harris Tweed Manufacturer and Merchant, 20 Balallan, Isle of Lewis; and James Borland, Harris Tweed Manufacturer and Merchant, The Esplanade, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, carrying on business under the name of Stuart & Stuart, Harris Tweed Manufacturers and Merchants, The Esplanade, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, praying That the matter of the Interlocutors set forth in the Schedule thereto, namely, an Interlocutor of the Lord Ordinary in Scotland (Lord Jamieson), of the 8th of March 1939, and also two Interlocutors of the Lords of Session there, of the Second Division, of the 22d of December 1939 and the 28th of March 1940 respectively, so far as therein stated to be appealed against, might be reviewed before His Majesty the King, in His Court of Parliament, and that the said Interlocutors might be reversed, varied, or altered, or that the Petitioners might have such other relief in the premises as to His Majesty the King, in His Court of Parliament, might seem meet; as also upon the printed case of John Veitch, 24 Park Circus, Glasgow; and William Mackenzie, 22 South Beach, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, lodged in answer to the said Appeal: and due consideration had this day of what was offered on either side in this Cause:

It is Ordered and Adjudged, by the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, in the Court of Parliament of His Majesty the King assembled, That the said Interlocutors in part complained of in the said Appeal, be, and the same are hereby, Affirmed, and that the said Petition and Appeal be, and the same is hereby, dismissed this House: And it is further Ordered, That the Appellants do pay, or cause to be paid, to the said Respondents the Costs incurred by them in respect of the said Appeal, the amount thereof to be certified by the Clerk of the Parliaments: And it is also further Ordered, That unless the Costs, certified as aforesaid, shall be paid to the parties entitled to the same within One Calendar Month from the date of the Certificate thereof, the Cause shall be, and the same is hereby, remitted back to the Court of Session in Scotland, or to the Judge acting as Vacation Judge, to issue such Summary Process or Diligence for the recovery of such Costs as shall be lawful and necessary.

The Lord Chancellor

My Lords,


The Appellants are seven producers of tweed cloth in the Island of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. Their business is carried on by purchasing yarn, which they give out to crofters for weaving in their own homes, so that the Appellants may sell the tweed so woven. The Respondent, Mr. Veitch, is the Scottish Area Secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union, which is a trade union, and the Respondent, Mr. Mackenzie, is the Stornoway Branch Secretary of the Union.


The Appellants are seeking interdict against the two Respondents in order to stop what is called an "embargo" imposed by their order or inducement upon all yarn arriving for the Appellants at the port of Stornoway, which is the main port on the island and is connected by a service of steamers with the mainland, and upon certain tweeds despatched by the Appellants from that port.


In argument before this House it was conceded that no issue is involved which might bring into the case any provision of the Trades Disputes Act, 1906. The Respondents are sued as individuals and not in any representative capacity. The question is whether the Appellants have established that the Respondents have committed a delict or tort at common law against them by thus interfering with their trade. It was not suggested that, as regards the law applicable to the present action, there was any material difference between the Scottish law of delict and the English law of tort.


The dockers at Stornoway are all members of the trade union, and as from January 24th, 1938, they refused to handle yarn imported from the mainland and consigned to the Appellants, and also cloth made by the Appellants which the Appellants wished to export. This refusal was in accordance with the instructions of the Respondent. Veitch, which were communicated by him to the Respondent, Mackenzie, and were passed on by the latter to the dockers, who at once complied. The embargo against the exportation of finished tweeds was raised four days later, but in other respects the embargo continued, both as regards the importation of yarn for the Appellants, and as regards the exportation of their unfinished tweed, despatched for "finishing" on the mainland, until interim interdict was granted on February 24th, 1938. On the trial of the cause in March, 1939, the Lord Ordinary (Lord Jamieson) gave judgment for the present Respondents and recalled the interim interdict. On appeal to the Second Division this decision was affirmed ( dissentiente Lord Mackay). The matter now comes before this House, and we have been much assisted in examining what is undoubtedly a difficult case by the arguments of counsel on both sides.


The evidence is voluminous and gave rise to a large number of questions as to the effect of it and as to the inferences to be drawn from it. For much of this detail I would refer to the full and careful judgments that have been delivered in Scotland. I accept, broadly speaking, the account given by Lord Jamieson, and the majority in the Court of Session, of the facts derived or deduced from that evidence. On one conclusion, however, which is apparently reached by the majority of the Inner House, I must express my hesitation later on. For the purposes of laying the basis of fact upon which my view of the legal consequences rests, it is sufficient to summarise the ascertained situation thus.


The description "Harris Tweed" was originally applied to woollen cloth, which was not only woven by hand-looms in the cottages of the Outer Hebrides, but was so woven out of yarn spun by hand in the islands. (The trade-name "tweed" is not, it appears, derived from the river near which the cloth-weaving industry of Galashiels and neighbouring towns is established: it is a transformation, now nearly a century old, of the word "twill.") Moreover, "Harris Tweed" was hand-finished in the islands. It was thus a hand-produced and island-produced product throughout, and in 1911 a Company limited by guarantee was registered under the name of the Harris Tweed Association Limited, which obtained a Trade Mark (referred to as the "Stamp") under section 62 of the Trade Marks Act, 1905, to apply to Harris Tweed which satisfied these conditions. After a time, the hand-spinning of wool into yarn ceased to be commercially practicable and in 1934 the conditions of the Trade Mark were varied, with the result that it could apply to tweed hand-woven by the islanders in their own homes out of yam spun in island spinning-mills, and finished in the island-mills instead of by hand.


Five such spinning-mills have been established in Lewis. They do not use weaving machinery, but by placing their yarn in the hands of the hand-weaving crofters, cloth is produced which the mill-owners, after "finishing" it, can sell under the "Stamp." Ninety per cent. of the spinners in the mills are members of the Transport and General Workers' Union—the same trade union as that to which all the Stornoway dockers belong. The percentage of trade-unionists among the weavers in the cottages is much smaller. The officials of the Union desired that none but members of their Union should be employed, but when this was asked of the mill-owners in 1935, together with a rise in spinners' wages, the answer of the mills was that this was in existing circumstances impossible, and that a reduction in wages was more likely, owing (as was alleged) to the cut-throat competition of independent producers of cloth such as the Appellants, who obtained their supplies of yarn from the mainland at a cheaper price than that charged by the mills. Cloth made out of mainland yarn could not carry the "Stamp," though it could be sold as Harris Tweed as having been woven in the Island.


How far there really was injurious competition may be seriously questioned, but there is no evidence that the Union officials did not believe it and what is clear is that the Union official then mainly concerned, a Mr. Buchan, set himself to assist in establishing a minimum selling price for island cloth, and that he, and after him Veitch, conceived that it would benefit their Union members if conditions of collective bargaining could be established in the Island between employers and employed. To this end, Mr. Buchan in 1935 proposed to Mr. Skinner, the Secretary of the Mill-Owners' Association, a scheme whereby the Trade Union could "provide definite safeguards to the...

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