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Living Linen Interview LL2_R00/13


Sound Recording on Reel: Finishing and dispatch at Achesons. Library Transcript: Transcript. Summary: There were few family connections to the linen industry on either side of Mr Caldwell's family. The Manager of David Acheson's, Jack Frizelle, was a family friend, and, when an office vacancy arose in 1946, he asked whether Alex would be interested. Alex was working in Dungannon at the time and was delighted to be able to work closer to home. Alex acted as an assistant to the Senior Despatch Clerk, Robert Davidson, and processed all of the export documentation. Acheson's were weavers and finishers. They manufactured tea-towels, deck-chair canvas, interlinings, tablecloths and embroidery linens. The firm also produced significant quantities of rayon and cotton-linen unions. A large proportion of their produce was exported. The firm had agents in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Madeira. Each agent was sent an annually updated sample book. Although they did not employ any travelling salesmen, David Acheson went on regular trips to the USA. Achesons had a London office and secured sizeable orders with BHS and Woolworths. Mr Caldwell often had to send small orders directly to the individual branches of these retailers. The packaged linens were baled, so as to cut down on bulk, and wrapped in brown paper. The goods were then sent by lorry to Belfast. The lorry invariably returned with a consignment of yarn. Acheson's bought their yarns from merchants such as John Preston. Although the railway line passed through Donaghmore this was really only used for coal deliveries. Most of the cloth for bleaching was sent to Cowdy's of Loughgall. Clendinnings of Lurgan did most of their printing work. There was a finishing plant on site. This consisted of a mangle, a beetle and a stitching room After Acheson's converted from coal power to electricity, the boiler was retained and the steam used to start a laundry. The 'Tyrone Laundry' ran for a number of years. A van collected washing from homes around the area and returned it within the week. Exporting was a complicated business. Several nations were reluctant to accept imports and to grant export licenses. When dealing with new customers or potentially difficult countries, such as Kenya or Nigeria, it was important to ensure that payment would be received in full for the goods. In these cases Acheson's demanded that a letter of credit be deposited and released as soon as the goods were loaded on to the ship ready for transportation. The 'Bill of Lading' confirmed that the cargo had been placed on board. The bank that held this Bill then contacted the bank that was holding the payment on behalf of the customer and the money was transferred. Although Acheson's was a relatively small company they attempted to anticipate demand and stockpiled cloth so as to reduce delivery times and to meet smaller orders without having to commit a production line. Any goods that were not sold at the end of a season were bought up by Shevloff's of Manchester, along with a lot of seconds and damaged pieces. Quality control was very important in the firm and only perfect goods were shipped. Seconds were either sold to the workforce or to the Manchester rag trade via Mr Shevloff. Mr Caldwell left the firm in 1966 and went to work for Moypark. Achesons were the major employer in Castlecaulfield. They owned a number of houses, ran annual excursions to Bundoran (to evade rationing initially) and Mrs Agnes Acheson provided a community nurse for the area. The firm itself was first bought out by Initial TowelServices and later by Ulster Weavers.