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Living Linen Interview LL2_R00/52 1 of 2

Description:

Sound Recording on Reel: Ewarts Spinning. Library Transcript: Transcript. Summary: Mr McCready describes Ewarts as 'The Family Firm'. His grandmother was a Ewart, and his father, Hugh Latimer, Chairman of the company. Although it was his own decision Mr McCready feels that he was expected to enter the firm. Herbert McCready joined Ewarts, as a general apprentice, in 1949. He served a full hands-on apprenticeship; spending time in every department from the spinning mill to the bleach works at Glenbank. During WWII Ewarts had processed flax at Lisdoart. Little had changed from 1840, when Ewarts was established, until the 1950s. The spinning frames were effectively the same design, the building and production process unchanged. The Crumlin Road site still made its own power from a steam engine and a bank of 16 Lancashire boilers. The machinery, on each of the five storeys, was driven via a system of pulleys, belts and unprotected line shafting from the main engine. Ewarts main mill was a five storey building. On the ground floor there was Number 1 preparing room. Above that there were two rooms: Number 2 spinning room and number 2 preparing room. Numbers 3 & 4 spinning rooms were on the second and third floors respectively. The top floor was given over to reeling. Mill discipline was very strict. Workers were locked out for being late and could be dismissed without appeal. After a period of little change (1840-1950) the spinning process was to undergo radical changes in a relatively short space of time. By 1965, when Mr McCready left Ewarts as Mill Manager, all of the frames had been replaced, the cards were in a new purpose built shed, the preparing departments had individual dust extraction units and each machine was powered by a separate electrical motor. Mr McCready was transferred to Ewart's Mountain Mill in Ligoniel. Mountain Mill, which had been purchased in about 1850, had been unprofitable due to the age of its equipment and the main focus of its work. It was a coarse mill with both wet and dry spinning. In response to changing demand in the 1940s a large shed had been set aside for the production of rayon. As the rayon trade was in something of a decline and dry spun yarns were no longer wanted, the decision was taken to totally overhaul Mountain Mill. A batch of Mackie ring spinning frames was installed along with new high-speed winding machinery. All of the yarn bleaching and dyeing was carried out at Glenbank. When Mountain Mill re-opened it spun no flax. The mill only spun two types of rayon and Acrylan. Ewarts weaving factory remained their single largest customer. The atmosphere in Ligoniel was different to that on the Crumlin Road. Ligoniel was very much a mill village with a separate identity. Ewarts owned a large number of houses in both Ligoniel and on the Crumlin Road, but in Mr McCready's day these were let on an ordinary commercial basis and were not linked to employment. Ligoniel was a mixed community and the Mountain Mill provided employment for several generations of the one family. There was rarely any need to advertise vacancies. Positions were filled from within the community and prospective employees were informed of vacancies by word of mouth. The mill was given over to Hicks Bullick (Ewarts thread works) in 1970 or so and the spinning operation centralised in the Crumlin Road site. Mr McCready left the Northern Ireland textile industry at this time, although he did subsequently move to Scotland to set up a fibro spinning unit on a green field site for a Dundee Jute firm.