Eleanor Clark

oral history archive

Working in the textile industry was never very highly paid but the Paisley mills were better than most other textile mills.

Place of Birth: Hillington, Glasgow

1954 Began work in Ferguslie as a junior in the Promotions Section (Personnel)
1958 Worked in Administration for 11 years
1969 Worked as Welfare Officer and in Recruitment in charge of the Finishing Departments
1973 Editor of the Company Newspaper for 16 years as well as Curator of the Mills Museum and
In charge of the Company Shops
1986 Personnel
1993 Finished work as the mills closed

Interviewed – 30 January 2018
I began work as a junior on 6 June 1954 and worked my way up to Administrator and then Welfare Officer. My job as Welfare Officer involved me tackling any staff problems or issues, recruiting, supplying overalls etc. We were also involved in organising the annual holidays to Blackpool or Blankenburg, which were done by the Anchor Rec.

In 1973 I was appointed Editor of the Company newspaper and I was sent to the Glasgow Office for training and to spend a year working alongside Miss McIntyre who was the Editor of the Company magazine. I remained Editor for 16 years during which time I covered many other roles including Curator of the Mills Museum and I was also in overall charge of the Company shops. However, with the cutbacks in the 1980s they disposed of the newspaper, magazine and shops and I was moved to the Personnel department where I worked until 1993 when the Mill closed. Because of my role I was one of the last members of staff in the Mill, along with the Pay Clerk. The closure was a very sad time because it had been a great place to work where everyone seemed to work well together and my memories are of happy times.

The social life was excellent and I made friends from my early days in the Mill who are still friends today. When I first started work I was asked if I could play hockey, which I had could as I had learned at school, and so I began to the play for the Ferguslie Mill team and altogether, between school and work, I played hockey for 35 years. As a team we played mainly in South West Scotland including Stranraer, and various towns in Dumfries-shire, Renfrewshire and Ayrshire. We would take the train down to wherever we were playing and it was very healthy for us to go into the country or the seaside and to leave the Glasgow smog behind. I also played badminton and tennis, although I wasn’t as good at tennis and every Tuesday when we went to practise it seemed to rain. In the Ferguslie Mills the sports club was located at Meikleriggs and in Anchor Mills it was located at Anchor Rec, which was a beautiful place, built in 1924, and reckoned to have the best facilities. The two sports clubs were always rivals. The social club offered sewing clubs, drama classes, bowling, tennis and cricket and lots of people were involved.

One of the main benefits of working for the mills was your pension. Almost everyone took up the opportunity to join the Pension Fund, which didn’t always happen in England. When I travelled to England for meetings and conferences I discovered lots of people had never joined the Pension Fund but they did in Paisley. For example, if you were a man who died in service your widow got three times your salary in a lump sum and if he had children still at school there was an allowance for them until they were working. I knew of a couple of cases I dealt with where these payments were a salvation for the women and they were very grateful for this safety net.

I cannot remember any real pitfalls I encountered whilst working for the Company. It was factory work, although I never actually did the factory work, but I think people were happy working there because it was steady work and good pay. Working in the textile industry was never very highly paid but the Paisley mills were better than most other textile mills. I was never very interested in the unions as I felt that the only person who could tell me to work or not to work was myself and if I didn’t like it, I could always go elsewhere because no-one was holding a gun to our heads, we could have left if we wanted to do. I felt they were a jolly good company to work for. After the redundancies and the running down of the Ferguslie Mills some people were brought back from time to time to help out and many of them said they hadn’t realised what a good company it had been to work for once they had compared it to working in some of the Glasgow factories. Many had come to work in the mills straight from school so hadn’t known anything other than the Paisley mills.

I never travelled very far except to the Belfast and Dublin depots, but I did call into factories in Chile, Indonesia, the Philippines, Brazil and Venezuela when I was on holiday with my family.