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Living Linen Interview LL2_R00/17


Sound Recording on Reel: Falls Flax - Irish Linen Mills. Library Transcript: Transcript. Summary: Trevor Boyd is the son of Austen Trevor Boyd and nephew of Albert Macartney - both of whom were Director's of the Falls Flax Spinning Co/Irish Linen Mills. Trevor Boyd pursued a scientific background, hoping to secure a career in meteorology, before he entered the linen industry at the request of his uncle. Mr Boyd started in the firm as an apprentice Manager in 1954 and spent five years going through the various departments. His apprenticeship was very much, 'hands on' and he gained direct experience of the manufacturing processes. This apprenticeship included a stint in the London office, on Regent St. Falls Flax (the spinning and weaving end of the business) and Irish Linen Mills (the warehouse) were run as separate businesses. The mill was on Conway St, the factory on Cupar St and the Warehouse on Adelaide St. Bleaching was carried out by Frazer & Haughton, and at Kilwee and Cullybackey. There was also a clothing subsidiary which traded under the name of Adela - the first 6 letters of 'Adelaide'. Adela made up children's clothing, mostly from printed cotton, for the mail order business. Although the company tried to use their own yarns wherever possible, Falls Flax also bought through merchants and directly from spinners such as Andrews of Comber. The Conway St mill spun yarns up to 70s lea. The fine handkerchiefs, cambrics and sheers woven by the firm required a much finer yarn; up to 120s lea. These were supplied by Andrews. The Adelaide St warehouse included a making up section where the handkerchiefs were hemmed and packaged. Falls Flax wove a wide variety of linens: dress linens, suitings, handkerchiefs, aero-linens, embroidery linens and household goods. The firm also did a lot of crested commission weaving for large shipping firms. They sold direct to the large London department stores such as Harrods and Lewis' as well as to smaller East End retailers. Falls Flax also had a large export trade. The firm was well represented by agents throughout the major international markets. Mr Boyd was appointed quality controller by the Ministry of Defence for the aero-linens that Falls Flax were weaving for them. These aero-linens, which were used to cover aircraft wings and fuselages, were woven from pure line yarn to a very strict specification. The threads per inch count was much higher than usual and the fabric was supplied, without a finish, to the MoD. Irish Linen Mills strove to stay one step ahead of the competition. Several local firms including Lamonts, Blackstaff and Ewarts were direct competitors. Mr Boyd performed some market research in so much as he requested feedback from agents and customers and acted upon their advice. He contacted designers and either commissioned or bought designs not usually associated with linen products. Mr Boyd left the company in 1959, aware that linen did not hold great prospects. He did however retain an interest in the company as a shareholder. In an attempt to give themselves an edge over their local and overseas competitors in increasingly difficult times Falls Flax invested heavily in new technology. Shortly afterwards the rate of borrowing rose substantially and the repayments on the bank loan became crippling. This burden contributed to the downfall of the firm. Falls Flax was located between the Falls and Shankill Rds. With the onset of the troubles the value of the property fell away markedly. As the loan for re-equipping had been secured against the buildings and business was failing the decision was taken to wind up the firm.