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Living Linen Interview LL2_R01/81


Sound Recording on Reel: Grove Weaving. Library Transcript: Transcript. Summary: Mrs Haldane's great-grandfather on her father's side, was a farmer in Dunadry. Her grandfather was the first member of the family involved with the linen industry. This Hugh Joseph Davison started work in Acheson's of Portadown. He ended up owning the Grove Finishing Co and always owned shares in Acheson's. Mrs Haldane's father, Alexander, joined the Grove Weaving Co in the 1930s. The firm was founded by the Paul family. Mr Davison became a Managing Director of the Grove Weaving Company and succeeded Mr Paul in the early 1940s. Mr Davison bought out Mr Paul and became the (?) sole proprietor of the Grove Weaving Company. There were a number of other Directors who were also shareholders. Mr Paul passed away in 1944. Mr Davison and his brother, Cecil Joseph, ran the Grove Weaving and the Grove Finishing Companies. Cecil Joseph was also involved with the Grove Spinning Co. Alexander Davison was born in 1895. He joined the army during WWI. He was captured and spent 18 months in a German prison camp. Mr Davison married twice. His first wife, Emily Margaret Morrow, tragically died when her car backed into the Pollock dock at Belfast in 1940. In 1945, he married Mrs Haldane's mother, who had been the family's nanny and who was 23 years his junior. The Grove wove linen, cotton and rayon. They specialised in furnishing fabrics. Mrs Haldane's memories of the factory are as a small child being taken through the works by her father. She was struck by the size of the buildings and the noise of the looms. The family moved to the Paul's residence at Dunmurry. Dunmurry House was a traditional linen house and the Davison's had a sizeable staff. The staff consisted of a cook, two maids, two gardeners and a chauffeur. The house was sold in 1963 after Mr Davison learned of plans to vest part of the property to build a housing estate. The house was converted into flats and slowly fell into a state of disrepair, before becoming derelict and finally demolished. The Davison' s didn't lead a lavish linen lifestyle. They didn't entertain on a regular basis and rarely attended linen functions together. Mrs Haldane feels that her mother was conscious of her background and was uncomfortable mixing with `linen lords'. Mrs Haldane also suspects that the linen community somewhat frowned upon the marriage. Sir Graham Larmor was regarded as a close personal friend and spoken of in favourable terms. During WWII Mr Davison travelled regularly to England on behalf of the Irish Linen Guild or Chamber of Commerce. Mr Davison involved his sons in the affairs of the business and wanted them to follow him into the trade. One son became an actor while the other became a doctor. As a strict Victorian gentleman, Mr Davison felt that his daughters should marry well rather then seek an education and a career. Mrs Haldane, and her sisters, inherited shares on her 22nd birthday, but never took a direct involvement in the running of the firm. Mr Davison was advancing in years and the business was affected by imports and a declining interest in linen. The Grove stopped weaving in 1958/9 and converted to a property company. The main buildings were let out as small units. Whitebirk Weaving was a tenant. The company also owned a number of worker's houses. These were, however, regarded as a liability and sold to the tenants wherever possible. Mr Davison finally sold the company in 1983. He passed away the following year. The Davison' s and Haldane' s remain shareholders of the firm to this day.