AT THE top of Upper Mill Street in Tillicoultry is the Clock Mill – once a woollen mill, it has been a tourist information centre, a business centre and is now flats.

The Clock Mill was built by brothers James and George Walker, whose father Robert had moved his grown-up family to Tillicoultry from Galashiels around 1817 and had bought the Castle Mill nearby.

J&G Walkers Mill, as it was known, was built in 1824 and they manufactured plaids, tartan and blankets.

When James died in 1831, then George in 1841, the business was carried on by George's wife under the management of Thomas Dawson until her son Robert was old enough to take charge.

The mill was eventually bought by the Tillicoultry Quarry Company but by the 1940s, it had a different use.

Polish soldiers used part of it as a barracks, along with the Middleton and Oak Mills in the town.

Postcards and letters to the soldiers from their families remain pinned to the edge of a wall by a window, now hidden by plasterboard in the flats

In 1947, the Clock Mill was converted by the Campbell Brothers for making kilts, tartan, skirts, and women's and children's nightwear then sold a year later to Duncan Condie Sinclair.

He was the youngest of four sons born to Thomas Sinclair, a mechanic, and his wife Christina Aitken.

At the age of 14, he began working at the local Paton's Mill, another woollen manufacturer, where he learned his craft as a loom turner.

In due course, he managed to fund a small enterprise by setting up business in a former wool store, part of Craigfoot Mill up near the entrance to the quarry, and did weaving on a small hand loom.

In 1948, and with just £100, he began his business in earnest at the Clock Mill. At the time, the upstairs section was still used by Campbells who then moved to the former Walker Institute at the top of Stirling Street and renamed the Institute Daiglen after the local hill.

It is also known that at some stage, the upper floors were used for making shrouds. Duncan had use of the first floor at this time. Working alone, he laboured long hours, so much so his wife Mary Ann Paton, whom he had married in November 1937, often had to go to the mill and drag him home. He made scarves, head squares and other small items, but as the business grew, he moved to the ground floor where old looms that had been purchased were reconditioned.

The owner of the Clock Mill in Tillicoultry, Duncan Sinclair, who manufactured woollen goods such as head squares and scarves, was passionate about his trade.

He designed patterns, did warp and weft filling, warping, weaving, and loom turning using the two gas-operated looms, producing tweeds and tartans for skirts and kilts.

Choosing a name for his products was important and he decided on the Gartmorn label.

Duncan's reconditioned looms were soon replaced by modern, more advanced machinery which allowed him to manufacture mohair up to 130 inches wide on them.

This led to a feather weave design that produced a new range of goods for the firm including mohair rugs.

These were very successful in the American market but repeat orders from the home market also allowed the business to thrive.

A showroom within the mill was also established where goods could be purchased.

However, an additional cost to the firm was the construction of fire exits. Fire doors and a metal fire escape stair were installed due to the new regulations introduced in the 1970s with the full cost being met by the company.

As time went on, Duncan began to manufacture cellular blankets, basket weave blankets, and diversified to suit the changing demands in the markets. He continued to design patterns, all of which are kept today in a large pattern book which is bursting with samples of his work.

He is also to be credited with the design of the Dundee tartan, which he designed for Paton's. Due to him being an employee of the company at that time, he could not patent the pattern and Paton's retained the copyright.

Duncan and Mary Ann had four children in all. Christine was born in 1939, followed by Thomas in 1940, Isabella in 1945 and Alan in 1946

As the business thrived, Tom worked at the mill and became a partner on 2nd January 1972, and although Alan worked there for a time, he did not become a partner.

The company became DC Sinclair and Son Ltd when it was incorporated on July 8, 1977. Shortly after this, Duncan retired, and Tom took over, but the business began to decline as sales dropped.

By December 1981 DC Sinclair and Son was in receivership then all assets liquidated, with creditors having until the 31st of that month to prove their debts or make a claim.

The building, machinery and materials were sold, with the mill changing hands several times, eventually becoming the flats of today.

On January 23, 1982, Duncan Condie Sinclair died, aged 71.