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Living Linen Interview LL2_R00/12 2 of 2


Sound Recording on Reel: LIRA. Library Transcript: Transcript. Summary: Ian Hamilton's family were flax farmers on both his father's and on his mother's side. They also owned scutch mills. The farms, which produced flax up until the late 1940s, were in the Tyrone and Donegal areas. They supplied Herdman's during WWII. Mr Hamilton applied to the Linen Industry Research Association - Lambeg (LIRA) after completing a degree in Chemistry at QUB. Mr Hamilton entered LIRA in 1961, as a Research Officer, where he was involved with attempts to perfect a chemical retting process. LIRA was established in 1919, in Glenmore House, and served the linen industry throughout the U.K. It would later become the research institute for Rayon and jute as well. LIRA was funded by the British and Northern Ireland governments. Individual textile firms paid an annual subscription fee, which entitled them to use the facilities at LIRA and to call upon the staff at Lambeg to investigate any problems that they were experiencing with production. Members were also regularly invited to open days and received monthly updates of research programmes and initiatives from within LIRA and the textile industries generally. Although several individual firms had their own laboratories, these were often little more than testing and checking facilities. LIRA guaranteed member firms absolute discretion and confidentiality when dealing with any problems. Even if a particular problem was resolved successfully the information would not have been shared amongst the other members unless the original firm wanted it publicised. LIRA established a close working relationship with other scholarly and official organisations such as Belfast Tech', QUB and The Linen Guild. LIRA also took over the work of the Belfast Textile Testing House. LIRA took part in a number of textile exhibitions - demonstrating linen's natural absorbency and durability. Within Lambeg the Spinners, Weavers and Bleachers/Dyers/Finishers had their own sections and all were represented on the various committees. LIRA carried out extensive work on the flammability of linen and pioneered international conferences on textile flammability. LIRA also worked on flame retardant finishes for cloth in response to new regulations concerning household furnishings. Crease resistance was another area in which LIRA was heavily involved. They also worked on blends - mixing linen with other yarns to maximise the good qualities of linen and overcome its disadvantages. Despite their reliance on Lambeg the linen industry did not invest adequately in Research and Development. This became of particular importance in the 1960s when competition from overseas linen producers and other fabrics began to impinge greatly upon the markets and the profitability of local manufacturers. During his career at LIRA, Mr Hamilton took on more of an administrative role -he edited LIRA's monthly publication Linen Research, set up a quarterly magazine and was also given the job of recruiting and training new members of staff. As linen became increasingly more difficult LIRA diversified into Geo-textiles and attempted to provide a lead for the traditional textile manufacturers. This met with only limited success as several firms clung resolutely to linen. LIRA closed in 1993 due to a lack of funding. Subscriptions declined along with the industry itself. Ian set up a private consultancy company, 'Textile and Clothing Technology' (TACT). This proved quite successful and remains in existence today as 'Newton'.

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Living Linen Interview LL2_R00/12 1 of 2

Living Linen Interview LL2_R00/12 1 of 2

Sound Recording on Reel: LIRA. Library Transcript: Transcript. Summary: Ian Hamilton's family were flax farmers on both his father's and on his mother...