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Living Linen Interview LL2_R02/59 1 of 2


Sound Recording on Reel: Johnston Allen, Greenmount & Boyne, Spence Bryson, Clendinnings, R&A Irwin. Library Transcript: Transcript. Summary: Although born in the USA, Mr Thompson returned to NI 1933. His mother's cousin (Thomas McGrath) office manager at Johnston Allen helped get him an apprenticeship with the firm in 1946. Mr Thompson was based in the warehouse. Most of his involvement was with household textiles. Mr Thompson worked under Sir John, Tom, Jim and Arthur Johnston. Arthur later took over Clendennings Print Works. Johnston Allen manufactured household linens and handkerchiefs. Their tradename was Sundew. Although the firm did a substantial amount of business with UK wholesalers, they also sold direct to the large retail stores such as Harrods and Selfridges. They had a wholesaIe business in Macclesfield called Gallagher, Johnston Allen. The firm also had a Canadian subsidiary called Lace Goods. The gift trade was important. Goods were carefully boxed on site. Johnston Allen also produced for the tourist trade - embroidering local scenes and landmarks such as the Giant's Causeway on napkins. In 1959 Mr Thompson joined Greenmount & Boyne as New York sales manager. The head office was in Drogheda. The Belfast warehouse was run by Clarence Little. Greenmount produced household damask, sheetings and apparel cloth. The apparel cloth was particularly important for the New York trade. Most of their cloth was processed at Frazer & Haughton, Kilwee or John Hanna's. The Belfast warehouse in Franklin St had a small stitching section. The firm tended to put out a lot of business to the likes of Sturgeon's of Dromore. Most of the New York business was done with wholesalers. The firm was unable to break into the European market. Mr Thompson travelled to N America twice a year: Spring and Autumn. Mr Thompson was free to negotiate both in terms of price and delivery date. The Belfast operation was run more or less independently of Drogheda. They were free to source cloth from any firm on the basis of price, quality or delivery date. Bairds, Whitehouse, Hugh Milling, Larne Weaving and Lurgan Weaving were all regular suppliers. By 1968 Greenmount was in financial difficulty due to a falling away of demand. Although the firm had diversified into rayon, demand there proved short-lived as well. Mr Thompson then joined Spence Bryson. At Spence Bryson he was responsible for selling high quality cambric cloth into the American market. This entire business came down to price. Mr Thompson found that the real threat came from Bairds. After 2 years, Mr Thompson joined Clendennings as Sales Director on the invitation of Joe Johnston. Mr Thompson replaced Victor Carson. Clendinnings were commission printers. They printed all kinds of household textiles, dress goods, curtains, furnishing fabrics and even flags. At Clendinnings Mr Thompson was selling designs as well as the printing service. In 1975/6 Mr Thompson joined R A Irwin of Portadown as Managing Director. Irwin's originated as a handkerchief stitching firm, but then got involved in dyeing, printing and, more recently, in making the fabric itself. When Mr Thompson joined the firm they had just installed a Rotary Printing machine. Turnover increased from £60,000 to £1,000,000 in a few short years. They invested heavily in unwoven fabric machines and ran a very successful business supplying the mattress ticking industry. The cloth is also used for lining everything from shoes to coffins. Mr Thompson retired from textiles in 1992 and is now a prominent horse breeder and owner.

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Living Linen Interview LL2_R02/59 2 of 2

Living Linen Interview LL2_R02/59 2 of 2

Sound Recording on Reel: Johnston Allen, Greenmount & Boyne, Spence Bryson, Clendinnings, R&A Irwin. Library Transcript: Transcript. Summary: Although...