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Living Linen Interview LL2_R00/93


Sound Recording on Reel: Doagh, Gilford Mill, Ballievey, Blackstaff Wilson & Wood. Library Transcript: Transcript. Summary: Mr Kirkpatrick obtained a degree in `Chemical Technology & Textile vesting' from LIRA and the College of Technology. The course had a particular emphasis on dyeing. After graduating Mr Kirkpatrick worked at LIRA for 6 years. In 1963 he joined the Doagh Spinning Co, then part of the Linen Thread Co, in their R&D department. He was based in the Ballysillan Mill. By the early 1960s Doagh had stopped spinning pure linen in favour of synthetic yarns and linen blends. The bleaching & dyeing at Ballysillan was for sampling purposes only. Doagh produce was processed by Brown & Adam (recognised specialists in apparel) who were part of Moygashel. Feedback from agents and customers was taken seriously and the product range shaped to meet market demands. Doagh rarely encountered any problems with the vagaries of the fashion industry. In 1967 Mr Kirkpatrick was sent to Dunbar McMaster in Gilford to run the dye house. Gilford was dyeing Evlan - a viscose carpet yarn - in the Fibre state. The senior dyer was Billy Gamble. Working conditions were reasonably good and the process was very safe. Unlike bleaching, dyeing has no effect on the weight, strength or feel of the yarn. The protective clothing worn in the dye house was to protect the worker's clothes from colouration more than anything else. The dyeing water was drawn directly from the River Bann. Dyeing is a specialised process and although the firm worked with samples, each individual batch of yarn had slight variations. The final matching of shade was done by eye. In 1969 Mr Kirkpatrick was transferred to Blackstaff - also part of the LTC, and from there on to Ballievey bleach works. Ballievey was owned by Fergusons, Lamonts and Blackstaff in equal partnership. Mr Kirkpatrick was appointed to take over from Gerry Given, the Managing Director, who had fallen ill. Ballievey was a versatile works with ageing but effective finishing equipment. They specialised in terry towel processing. One of Mr Kirkpatrick' s primary tasks was to improve and maintain quality standards. Health & safety precautions were, typically for the time not that advanced. Common sense prevailed in the bleach house where hazardous chemicals were being used. There was, however, a gas extraction system installed. In mid 1970 Mr Kirkpatrick was placed in charge of the development department at Blackstaff. Blackstaff were weaving apparel and household linen and Mr Kirkpatrick's job was to advise on yarn purchases. A lot of his time was taken up with sampling. Blackstaff produce was finished by Brown & Adam. The LTC was looking to dispose of Blackstaff and Doagh. Mr Kirkpatrick was involved in the management buy-out and setting up of Blackstaff Holdings. He later became Development Director. The firm was split into Blackstaff Fabrics (apparel) and Textiles (household) Blackstaff Fabrics retained control of the weaving and finishing. Spinning at Doagh was geared towards Blackstaffs needs. In 1980 the Fabrics section, along with manufacturing, was shut down and Mr Kirkpatrick was out of a job. Blackstaff Textiles survived for a few years before moving to Manchester. From the mid 1970s the retail outlet Wilson & Wood was being built up. In 1982 this was bought by Peter Stewart and Rolly Kirkpatrick. they started buying in tea towels and napkins before branching out into clothing and other goods such as crystal. Ladies clothing is the firms most important commodity. the firm currently employs some 35 people and has a number of outlets province wide.