Shock as Guardbridge Paper Mill closes its doors

SHOCKWAVES reverberated through north east Fife yesterday (Thursday) following the sudden closure of one of the area's largest employers.

It is understood Curtis Fine Papers told employees at noon that the business was to close.

One stunned employee spoke of the shock of finding the mill was closing at lunchtime.

While rumours have been rife no-one expected the doors would be closing without warning.

The employee told the Citizen workers had planned a sit in on Thursday to try and persuade management to keep the doors open until it broke up for the summer holidays.

"I just left. I don't want to be there anymore. It's devastating.

People have booked and paid for their holidays. I know two people who were getting married in the next few weeks.

"Next week would have been the dearest week in the year for the bosses —they must have been due to pay out about million in holiday and overtime payments.

"We went in this morning as normal and all the machines were shut down.

"We were called to a meeting at 12.15 when we were told the place was closing down.

He added: "Some people are being kept on to dismantle everything and get the stock out as there must be about 2 million of stock still there.

"Staff being paid monthly have nothing and we were paid last week but that's it. I was due about 1200. I don't even know where the job centre is or how long it will be till we get what what we are due."

It is understood housing developers Barrats had pulled out of buyingground from the factory, and this had had a severe knock-on effect for the business.

The rising price of gas and the current credit crunch are also said to have played their part in the decision.

Employing more than 250 personnel, the workforce is predominantly local with over two-thirds living within a five-mile radius.

Although profitable during the 1990s it has experienced considerable financial difficulties in the last five years due partly to rapidly changing market conditions.

Curtis has a history of paper-making dating back more than 160 years.

The company was originally formed in 1837 at Dalmore Mill, near Edinburgh, and some 40 years later William Haig and two of his sons formed the Guardbridge Paper Company to find a more profitable use for their Seggie whisky distillery.

The mill went into production in 1874 and went from strength to strength, as did the village of Guardbridge, which grew with new housing and roads to attract and accommodate workers. Before the first world war the labour force reached over 400, reaching a peak of 620 in the late 1950s.

In 2004, the Dalmore Mill closed with the loss of 127 jobs in order to consolidate production at the Guardbridge site, and last January the company underwent a secondary management for an undisclosed sum.

No one from Curtis Fine Papers was available for comment but it is understood the company is now in the hands of receivers KPMG.