It was a beautiful Saturday morning in August 2017.
The annual Aboyne Highland Games, held a few minutes walk from Hilltrek, was in full swing. Like many local businesses, we set up shop on the Aboyne village green, eager to greet new and old customers, some of whom had travelled from around the world.
Established in 1867, the Games celebrated its 150th anniversary that year, and there rumours that Queen was planning a visit. Balmoral, her summer residence, was only a 25 minutes drive away.
The Queen arrived and went
My day was about to change.
Over the din of practising pipe bands, I heard my phone ring. It was Dave, my colleague who was manning the shop, "Are you sitting down?” We had just received a letter from lawyers representing the National Trust For Scotland (NTS) instructing us to stop using the name Glencoe on our jacket. “Is this something that you were aware of?"
I was flabbergasted.
I had been an NTS member for years. I thought it was a fairly staid organisation, and certainly didn't expect an aggressive legal letter from them.
My annoyance turned to anger, after all we had been manufacturing the jacket for 30 years and Glencoe was a place I knew well and loved. How could an organisation largely funded by the public act in such a way? I felt powerless. We just didn't have the resources to fight the NTS, would we just have to accept their demands?
I was determined to fight back. I took to Twitter and Facebook to see if I could mobilise support on social media, instead of using expensive lawyers.
Within hours prominent outdoor people such Cameron McNeish, Chris Townsend and Alan Hinkes, the British Himalayan high altitude mountaineer, had tweeted support.
By the end of the afternoon a reporter from Associated Press contacted me and her story was circulated to newspapers which was then ran by many of the UK Sunday Papers.
The NTS were strangely quiet. I suspect that their social media team had the weekend off, but their membership didn’t, and many were threatening to withdraw their subscriptions. Although it might come as a surprise, this was the last thing we wanted.
The press and media now had the story and I was interviewed on Sunday afternoon by BBC Radio Scotland.
At around 8.25, still in my dressing gown, I went live on national radio.
Early Monday morning, while still in bed, I switched on my phone to catch up on emails, of which there were many from people offering support. I almost fell out of bed when I saw that BBC Radio 4 Today program wanted to interview me between 7.30 and 9.00. It was 7.45!
On the same morning, the Scottish TV channels arrived at our workshop to camp there for the day. It was a challenging working environment with outside broadcast cables everywhere and customers arriving to the shop in large numbers to commiserate with us and offer support. The phone rang unceasingly and emails were piling in. We received one from a trademark specialist in Glasgow who provided excellent advice at a fraction of the cost. Things were looking up.
Politicians of all political hues were getting into the act, voicing their support and offering to mediate with the NTS.
Fellow outdoor manufacturers also got in touch, one of which had received a similar letter from the NTS but it was for a product they no longer manufactured.
It was the best August month for sales in the history of our small business!
We had just completed a project to update our website which was rather fortuitous because orders, particularly of the Glencoe Jacket, came flooding in.
The NTS were talking to the media but not to us. By the end of the day, however, they had made contact and were backing down. Phew...
We had several fruitful discussions on the phone with the NTS and I was invited to their headquarters in Edinburgh where I had a meeting with several directors and the CEO. The meeting was open and positive.
By the end of the month we had reached an agreement.
Let's hope that this weekend's Games, five years on, is a little more relaxing
We’ll be there, like every year - so come by and say hello!
And yes, if you’re wondering, we’re still waiting for that email from NTS requesting to stock Glencoe Jackets in their shop…
See earlier Blog posts on the trade dispute.