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Living Linen Interview LL2_R02/15 1 of 2


Sound Recording on Reel: Wolfhill, Greeves, Bessbrook, Doagh, Ulster Spinners. Library Transcript: Transcript. Summary: Mr Greer joined Ewarts in 1938. He worked in their Mountain Mill - cutting hemp ultimately destined for use in covering aircraft. After 2 years, Mr Greer moved to Wolfhill Mill where he worked under Mr Malone. Only Mrs Finlay remained of the owning family. Wolfhill was a very old mill with between 20,000 and 30,000 spindles. The frames were made by Coombe Barbour and the mill spun yarns up to 240s lea. Wolfhill sold their yarns throughout NI and had a sizable export business. The company used the Wolfs head as their trademark. Mr Greer remembers a large water wheel and turbine that drove the machinery. Working conditions in Wolfhill improved once dust extraction systems were introduced. The workforce was drawn from Ligoniel and the N and W of the city. The trams were full of textile workers every morning! Wolfhill owned a number of houses in the area and there was a real community atmosphere in both the works and the village. The women in the mill ran a savings club. The workforce was largely mixed and labour relations excellent. Mr Greer trained as a fire prevention officer in Wolfhill - something that stood him in good stead in later years. It was the carding machines that were particularly prone to catching fire. Mr Greer left Wolfhill in 1945, although Mr Malone asked him to stay and assured him that his prospects were good, and joined J & T M Greeves as a preparing master. Greeves mill was largely run by the Eves family who were Exclusive Brethren. Most of the departmental overlookers were also Brethren and a religious ethos permeated the workplace. Mr Greer was in charge of GL room, which processed the coarser line and tow yarns. The preparing department included hackling, spreading, carding, drawing and roving. Greeves was possibly the biggest mill in Belfast at the time, employing 1,000 people. Greeves spun yarns up to 240 lea. It was a rather secretive place - no one knew much outside of their own department and information regarding sales and customers never filtered down from senior management. The atmosphere in Greeves was very different to that in Wolfhill. The community spirit was lacking. Mr Greer joined Bessbrook in 1947, managing the largest preparing dept of 63 giris. Bessbrook was a very interesting village and the workforce, though largely Protestant, was mixed. Mr Greer enjoyed his time at Bessbrook but left in 1949 after an incident involving a clash of two trade unions. The Richardson family took a hands on approach in the mill as they did in the village. Bessbrook had some 30,000 spindles and was extremely well equipped and modern. The community atmosphere was carried over into the works. After leaving Bessbrook, Mr Greer joined Doagh Spinning Ballysillan Mill, where he worked under the formidable Mr Robb. Doagh was owned by the Wilson family who Mr Greer describes as being very progressive and forward looking. The death of Archie and Howard Wilson, and the retirement of Wilgar Chapman ultimately led to the closure of the firm. Mr Greer was transferred to Doagh at the request of the mill manager Jack Cullen to run the new synthetic division. Doagh also processed rayon and wool. The firm also owned the Mallory factory on the Castlereagh Rd. After leaving the textile trade for a year, Mr Greer was coaxed back by Tony McCleery, John L’Amie and Garfield Brown to set up NI Spinners at Killinchy. Killinchy spun synthetic carpet yarns on purpose-built Mackie machinery. Mr Greer finally left the textile industry in 1963.