During the Seventies, although the imbalance between costs and sales increased, throwing a progressively heavier burden on the Earl Haig Fund’s benevolence, any thought of applying for grant aid from a government source had been strongly resisted, principally because of the perceived threat of allowing an outside agency some say in the factory’s affairs. Moreover, it was recognised that the unions would be liable to object to their manufacturing members facing competition from a subsidised workforce.
However, by 1982, the factory’s deficit had reached an unacceptable level and it was decided that outside help should be sought. Major Campbell personally lobbied the appropriate person at Westminster and, in 1984 (not without a great deal of negotiation), The Manpower Services Commission agreed to accept the Poppy Factory as an official “Sheltered Workshop”, entitled to grant aid and suitable for the placement of disabled ex-Servicemen on its books.
For the next ten years, the Factory ran smoothly along under its new manager, Major Campbell Graham MBE, a retired Scots Guardsman. Margaret Thatcher paid a visit in 1984. In 1987, Lieutenant Colonel R.W. Smith, late of the Gordon Highlanders, took over as Chairman and a bespoke poppy making machine was installed as a “longstop” against the day an emergency might endanger production.
In 1992, Countess Haig, daughter-in-law of the Factory’s founder, retired from the Management Committee, on which she had served some years, and kindly agreed to become Patron. She has continued to monitor the Factory’s activities closely and ensures a continuity of knowledge and experience which goes back to the beginning.
Then, in 1994, in answer to perceived threats to the inviolability of individual members of the Management Committee following new legislation governing the operation of enterprises, it was decided to give up the Factory’s independence and to integrate it into the Earl Haig Fund.
The matter finally came to a head in 1998 and a near disaster was only just averted.
In 1998, The Earl Haig Fund instructed Management Consultants to review all of its operations and to make recommendations for the future. During this period chairmanship passed from Lt Colonel Ian Shepherd (Highland Fusiliers) to Captain Tim Usher (The Black Watch).
After a repositioning exercise the factory re-emerged as an independent charity, incorporated by shares. Ownership of the shares was vested in the Board of the newly incorporated Earl Haig Fund Scotland Ltd. and the historic relationship between the Poppy Factory and the Fund was preserved.
Not long after this, the Water of Leith burst through its protecting wall and flooded the Factory. Over one million poppies were destroyed as the bottom box of a high stack went soft and collapsed. It says everything for the spirit of the men that, through working at weekends, the shortfall was made up in time for the Year 2000 Poppy Appeal.