oral history archive
Name: Edna Haran
Place of Birth: Elderslie
1961 to 1963- Twining
Ferguslie Thread Works – No. 8 Mill
1975 to 1978 – Twining (Mistress)
Ferguslie Thread Works – No. 9 Mill
J & P Coats
As far as I remember nobody left the mills because they didn’t like it. They only left because they were getting married, having children or moving away. It was a good place to work.
Interview – 19 March 2018
I went to work in No. 8 Mill when I left school at 15. It was a big employer in the area and lots of school leavers went to work there. 12 other people started with me in the same department on the same day. We were given green wrap around overalls, made of heavy cotton, and white hats to keep your hair inside, to protect you from the grease on the machines and the cotton in the air. I worked there for 2 years and then left. In 1975, when my children were young, I returned for 3 years to No. 9 mill working the Twilight shift for four nights a week. The Twilight shift was from 5.50 pm to 11.00 pm, which suited me. On a Tuesday and Thursday my husband worked late so my dad would mind the children for me until my husband got home and they still talk about my dad buying them shandy ice lollies and going to the park while he was looking after them. I still bump into people today in Paisley that I used to work with at that time. On the first day you were given instructions on how to use the machines, how to tie the knot and how to thread them. You spent the rest of the day practising. The instructions were given by a woman called the Mistress. Minnie Kemp was a nice lady and she was the woman who gave us our instructions. A short time after I returned in 1973 I was promoted to Mistress. I left in 1975 to take a job in the local hospital.
The other women were very friendly and everyone would help each other out. There was no bitchiness among the women and you looked out for each other. I worked on the big machines, called the Frames, and they were very long with 20 sides to them. Sometimes a thread would break and it would run round the rollers and if you weren’t quick enough it would spread and another and another would break. You were given a Stanley knife to cut the thread and a waste bag which you filled with any cut thread. If someone saw you in trouble with breaking threads they would come over and help you to get it sorted and you in turn would help them if they needed it.
The social life was very good. The older ones would take the younger ones under their wing and tell them the best places to go and things to do. We would often go to dances at the Town Halls in Paisley and Johnstone and to the Co-op dances on a Saturday night with people you worked with. Many of the women were hairdressers and on a Friday hair was done in the toilets and people left work with the curlers in and their hair done for the weekend.
There were many benefits to working in the mills. The wages and conditions were good, there was plenty of company and you made lots of friends and there was a huge canteen for the staff. I very rarely used the canteen as I would take my lunch in with me and sit in the cloakroom and get tea from the tea urn. I did go to the canteen for Christmas dinner, everyone went for their Christmas dinner and it was a really good time. When they put the buses on I went home for my lunch to Elderslie. You would come out and the buses would be lined up going to Linwood, Elderslie and other places nearby.
I personally never found any pitfalls working in the mills. I liked my job there. I only left because I moved away. My sister also worked in the mills. She worked originally in No. 8 mill but left for 15 years after she got married and had a family. She went back later and worked in No. 9 mill and she loved it too. My mother had worked in the mills in the 1920s when they worked in bare feet because of the polished floors and grease from the machines. That’s one good thing about the mills – you always had lovely soft hands from the grease on the machines.
There were many romances and scandals. I remember the barrow boys who brought in the new bobbins to replace the empty spools and then filled the machines up. There was also a man called Willie who brought in clothes, bedding etc. and would sell them in cloakroom. You often came home from work with a new jumper.