David Hainsworth

DAVID Hainsworth, the former managing director of A W Hainsworth and Sons Ltd, one of Yorkshire’s longest-established textile businesses, has died aged 76.

The company had been founded by his great-grandfather Abimelech, but the Hainsworth family had been in the wool textile business in the Farsley area since the 18th century.

He was brought up in Farsley and later lived in Horsforth. He and his wife Mai-Lis later moved to Glasshouses, near Pateley Bridge.

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After studying textiles at Leeds University, Mr Hainsworth received a John Speak scholarship to work abroad and spent three months in Vienna and three months in Munich before starting his National Service in Celle, Germany, where he joined the Royal Artillery and passed out top of MONS Officer Training School.

Unfortunately, his father was diagnosed with cancer and his services were needed in the family textile business He returned to England early and joined the family textile company in 1960, working alongside his brother John and great-uncle Peter.

It was a time of great change in the UK textile markets with firms closing as demand for woollen and worsted cloth from UK mills dropped. The team navigated those changes using the opportunity to buy failing businesses whose limited product offering made it uneconomical for them to continue.

During his 41 years with the company, his engaging character, combined with a clear focus and purpose, created business relationships built on the solid foundations of trust and mutual respect. These values of doing business person to person allowed him to steer the company in very turbulent times and change the direction of many markets.

In the 1960, he met a Jordanian who was building a new weaving and finishing mill on the outskirts of Amman to manufacture uniform cloth for the armies of the Middle East. Hainsworth provided technical help and in return the mill bought yarn from Hainsworth. The contract kept Hainsworth’s spinning department, and that of many other spinners, full for many years.

The decline in textile manufacturing in the 1970s and ‘80s meant firms could be bought cheaply and almost every year Hainsworth bought at least one. Over this period the company bought at least 15 companies and built up a portfolio of specialist products.

A major development was in 1972 with the purchase of a Leeds dyeing and finishing company in which Hainsworth had been a sleeping partner. Hainsworth moved the machinery into its new finishing department and so Hainsworth was almost entirely vertical - turning raw wool to finished cloth.

Another significant development was in woollen cloths created to protect firemen and foundry workers. At this time the American fibre producer DuPont had developed a new fibre for the NASA space programme called Nomex which was light and strong and, above all, did not burn. Mr Hainsworth partnered DuPont and introduced the product to the Ministry of Defence and later to his contact in the Middle East.

In the 1980s and 1990s he worked with Pat Hill, a long term partner and friend at Bristol Uniforms, on fabrics that would revolutionise firefighting clothing in the UK and Europe. Some of the fabrics created then are still worn by firefighters today.

He was an active member of Rotary for over 30 years and passionately shared their belief of advancing world understanding, goodwill, and peace through the improvement of health, the support of education, and the alleviation of poverty. He was extremely proud to lead many projects and be recognised with the award of becoming a Paul Harris Fellow the year before he died.

During his retirement he maintained a very active life playing tennis and walking in his beloved Yorkshire Dales with dear friends.

He leaves a widow, and four children: Paul, Thomas, Ivan and Jana. Thomas is now the family business’s managing director while Paul is the firm’s non-executive chairman.