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Living Linen Interview LL2_R02/67 1 of 2


Sound Recording on Reel: Hamilton Robb, Robert Stewart, Hennings, Bairds, Clendinnings. Library Transcript: Transcript. Summary: The Lavery family lived in Grattan St Lurgan near three weaving factories: Johnston Allen, The Lake and The Ltd (Lurgan Weaving Co). Mr Lavery's father worked as a weaver and had benedict signed up as a union member at the age of 13. Labour relations in Lurgan were particularly poor and the weavers refused to train any new workers. Mr Lavery couldn't find work in Lurgan without experience and went first to Hamilton Robb in Portadown and then to John Hennings in Waringstown to learn to weave. Mr lavery's first job in the textile trade was in 1945 when he started work as a doffer in Robert Stewart's of Lisburn. Mr Lavery developed some sort of allergy to flax and his skin broke out in an unsightly rash. Along with a number of other Lurgan lads, Mr Lavery refused to doff the frame whenever the foreman gave the signal by hitting a wrench off the side of the machine. He was sacked! Mr Lavery then joined Hamilton Robb. Robbs brought a busload of workers from Lurgan to Portadown. Mr Lavery wasn't paid for the month he was being trained. Billy Mullen owned the factory. In later years Mr Lavery was part of a group of strikers who walked from Lurgan to Portadown. Mr Mullen promised the entire workforce fish and chips if they stayed in the works over lunch and didn't join the strike! Mr Lavery didn't settle in Robbs and made up his mind to leave and deliberately damaged some cloth. He was summoned to appear before the cloth passer and foreman and was sacked! The Lurgan firms still felt that he lacked experience and Mr Lavery joined Hennings to continue his training. The working conditions at Waringstown were poor. The factory was weaving very dusty rayon fabric and had no extractor fans. Mr Lavery was heavily involved in the union movement in Waringstown and was involved in a strike for higher wages. At Hennings, Mr Lavery was weaving four small napkin looms. Throughout the Portadown/Lurgan/Waringstown area, the Lurgan men were regarded as being militant. Mr Lavery met his wife at Hennings (the factory employed both male and female weavers)and they left to return to Lurgan when they married. Mr Lavery found work in W F B Bairds. At Bairds Mr Lavery was weaving four looms: 2 drop boxes (that put borders on handkerchiefs) and 2 plain looms. Bairds deducted 12½% from all weavers wages to pay for the drop boxes. This was generally accepted within the works until Mr Lavery discovered that the looms were almost 50 years old and had been paid for many times over! There was a strike over this with which Mr Lavery as shopsteward was centrally involved. There was a further dispute when the method of payment for weavers changed from a rate per web, to a less favourable rate, per pick. Mr Lavery again challenged the employers and under threat of sack - he resigned! Mr Lavery then moved to the Grove in Belfast where he worked under Alec Davison, weaving silk. Mr Davison was a popular and generous man - very different to the Lurgan employers according to Mr Lavery. He refunded Mr Lavery's train fare when he came to Belfast for an interview and readily granted a wage increase. Although the factory was well run, the machinery was old and it closed within a few years. Mr Lavery then worked for a while in a wire-weaving factory, before joining Clendennings as a printer. Mr Lavery speaks highly of Clendennings as employers. Mr Lavery finished his working life in Ulster Paper Mills where his union stance earned him the name `The Godfather'.