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Living Linen Interview LL2_R00/03 1 of 2


Sound Recording on Reel: Cowdy's Webbs, Milltown Bleaching. Library Transcript: Transcript. Summary: Mr Crory's family has a long association with the linen industry in the Banbridge area. His father and Great Uncle worked in Hayes' mill in Seapatrick, while his Grandfather and Uncle, on his mother's side, were involved with Lenaderg Bleach Works. Mr Crory describes himself as being, 'born into the linen trade'. When Lenaderg went out of business in 1938 it was bought by the Bleachers' Association to prevent an outside firm coming in and upsetting their cartel. Mr Crory was educated at Seapatrick Primary School, which had been built by Hayes'. Although Mr Crory wanted to join the Navy, his father who had been in the army with Lloyd Cowdy, secured him a position as a Management Apprentice. He joined Cowdy's in 1947 or 48. After one year, Alan attended the Belfast Tech on a day release basis. This delay, which gave apprentices a certain working knowledge of the industry, was a common practice. Cowdy's was probably unique in the area in that it employed a roughly equal number of catholics and protestants. Cowdy's major customers were Blackstaff, Ferguson's, Johnston & Allen and Spence Bryson. Even though Johnston & Allen and Spence Bryson had their own bleachworks (at Milltown), Cowdy’s processed a lot of their heavier suitings. Cowdy's also produced hand-painted rayons. Although Cowdy's was downstream from the other bleaching firms on the river Bann, they experienced little problems with effluent discharge. Mr Crory does, however, remember seeing dead fish floating in the river above the firm. Cowdy's was very much a family firm and Mr Crory felt that this restricted his prospects for promotion. In the mid-1950s Alan left for Webb's of Newtownards. Webbs were also a customer of Cowdy's, and Alan was well known to the company. Webbs mainly wove towels: terry towels, linen glass cloths and huck towels. Webb's were a well established firm with an agent in London and a reputation for attractive packaging and presentation. They dealt with all the major retail houses in the U.K. Mr Crory was in charge of the bleaching and dye works. The firm came under increasing pressure from cheaper imports and decided to concentrate on the quality end of the market. Their weaving operation required considerable investment and the decision was taken to shut down the looms and use outside contractors rather than modernise their own plant. Ewart Liddel won the weaving order. Webbs continued to experience difficulties, particularly after Ewarts and Coats -Viyella began to compete directly in the terry towel business. Mr Crory was considering moving on when the position of Works Manager was advertised at Milltown Bleach Works. Milltown was owned jointly by Johnston & Allen and Spence Bryson. The Managing Director held a single share that was used to settle disputes between the two partners. Milltown concentrated on light-weight fabrics and handkerchiefs. When Johnston & Allen went out of business Spence Bryson bought out their share of Milltown. Spence Bryson were also in difficulty and were eventually taken over by Richards. Richards really only wanted Spence Bryson's carpet division but John Bryson refused to sell off the company in parts. The linen end was quickly run down, prompting Alan (who by then was Managing Director at Milltown) to leave, and eventually sold off to Ulster Weavers. Milltown simply closed down and Alan finished his career doing consultancy work in the far East and America.

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Living Linen Interview LL2_R00/03 2 of 2

Living Linen Interview LL2_R00/03 2 of 2

Sound Recording on Reel: Library Transcript: Transcript. Summary: Mr Crory's family has a long association with the linen industry in the Banbridge ar...