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Living Linen Interview LL2_R00/60


Sound Recording on Reel: Testing House. Library Transcript: Transcript. Summary: The Perioli family has strong links with the textile industry. Mrs Perioli's Father-in-Law, A E Perioli, was Managing Director of the Phoenix Weaving Company in Ballymena. Her husband, Bob, was Managing Director at Campbell's New Mossley before going to Queen's where he took a Chemistry degree (possibly involving textile technology components). On leaving Queen's in 1953/4 he started in the Testing House as Officer in Charge. Mrs Perioli (nee Herron) worked in the Testing House as a Laboratory Assistant. Mrs Perioli had studied Organic Chemistry at Belfast 'Tech and joined the Testing House in 1950. The Testing House was run by Belfast Corporation and was situated on the corner of Ormeau Avenue. There were two laboratories: the chemical and the physical. The laboratories had asphalt floors and were well equipped with chemicals and apparatus. The workforce was quite small: An Officer in Charge, two departmental heads, 5 or 6 lab assistants, an inspector, and office staff. The Inspector went around the various linen firms where simple measurements and other physical calculations could be carried out. He also provided a trouble shooting service. Whereas LIRA was funded by subscription, the Testing House charged for each service or consultation individually. This helped to ensure impartiality and complete independence from the trade. The Testing House was used by the trade, retail customers and by members of the public. They carried out a wide range of tests: strength, fading, abrasion, shrinkage, solubility, creasing and water proofing. They regularly tested seat belts and parachute harnesses for tensile strength and breaking strains. Children's clothing and furnishing were regularly tested for flame resistance. The findings of the Testing House were seen as a certificate and were admissible in a Court of Law. Laundry complaints were very common. The Testing House was also consulted on cloth specifications. For instance Mr Perioli helped draw up the specifications for RUC uniforms. They tested both cloth and yarn and dealt with a range of fibres - not just linen. Very often the laboratories would compare bleached and unbleached cloth to assess the degree of degradation caused by the processing. A lot of work was carried out for the MoD and for overseas governments who wanted to ensure the quality of the produce before despatch and payment. The Hospital authorities also sent a lot of cloth to the testing House. Dales & Hardy were the major chemical supplier. Health & Safety precautions were reasonable good. The staff was well trained. Protective clothing was available (although no safety goggles) and the labs had fume cupboards with extractor fans. The procedures for dealing with chemical spillages were less well defined. Over the years the Testing House began to deal with more synthetic fibres and blends at the expense of pure linen. They worked closely with LIRA and with a number of linen manufacturers including the large Belfast firms and Clark's of Upperlands. The testing House was very particular about their work. They did not work to deadlines although they would try to accommodate a customer where possible. Mrs Perioli left the Testing House in 1957. The Testing House was bombed on a number of occasions before being badly damaged. It was involved in forensic work for the RUC and army. Mrs Perioli is unsure but it probably re-opened for a short period (perhaps in LIRA) before finally closing. Routine Testing was taken over by LIRA.