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Living Linen Interview LL2_R02/36


Sound Recording on Reel: MaKinney & Company; Henry Taylor. Library Transcript: Transcript. Summary: Mr Wallace's father, Eric Wilfred Wallace, took over the ailing dressmakers McKinney & Co in 1920. The dressmaking side of the firm was wound down and the firm expanded its interests in the household and fancy linen business. The firm was based in the Glendinning McLeish building in Murray Street. Derek Wallace joined the family firm in 1957 after his father fell ill. Prior to 1957 Mr Wallace had worked in Henry Taylor & Sons Ltd on Townsend Street. This was also a family concern! Mr Wallace was a great-grandson of the original Henry Taylor. Taylor's were mill furnishers, manufacturing card clothing, hackles, gills for spinning, loom picks and leather belting. The leather belting was used to drive machines and had numerous applications outside of the textile industry. The building was an old red-brick two-storey warehouse. Their major customers were machinery manufacturers such as Mackies who bought components to fit to machines. They also supplied mills and factories directly with replacement pins and other items. Taylor's equipment was only suitable for flax processing. The firm employed between 30 and 40 people and was eventually bought over by Mackies. In 1957 when Mr Wallace joined McKinney & Co the business was split into a number of depts: Machine room with 20 or 30 hemstitching and embroidery machines, boxing and warehousing. The firm produced a range of fancy linens including: tray sets, table centres, chair backs and pillowcases. Most of this work was originally on linen, but as the years passed rayon, cotton and blends became increasingly common. Their linen cloth was sourced from Blackers, York St, McCaw Allen and Achesons of Portadown. The linen was ordinarily purchased loomstate and sent to processors such as Cowdy's. The cotton cloth tended to be Indian - imported via UK agents. McKinney's employed a designer who worked on embroidery patterns and printed tea towels. Most of the embroidery was coloured on cream. McKinneys had an enormous number of small accounts throughout the UK. Within Belfast they supplied Robinson Cleaver, Anderson McAuley and Smyths. The South of Ireland was also a major market for McKinney and, through secondary exports, their produce found its way across the world. The firm had a network of agents throughout the UK and an office in London. McKinney manufactured almost exclusively for stock. As a small firm engaged in a seasonal business, the ability to deliver on time was paramount. The company tradename was Standall. Although the firm steered clear of advertising and exhibitions, Mr Wallace did set up a small showroom in Murray St and dabbled in the mail order business. McKinney had no finishing equipment. The cloth was simply ironed and boxed ready for despatch. The nature of the business changed quite abruptly towards the end of the 1960s when the demand for embroidered Irish linens began to fade. This was partly due to the volume of cheaper imported goods. Mr Wallace began to import finished goods from China with considerable success. As a result of this change the percentage of linen used fell away and the stitching machinery was done away with. The workforce also contracted from 35 to 2. The firm was twice bombed out of the Murray St area and moved to Adelaide St (the old Wm Adams warehouse building) before settling in the Owen O'Cork mill on the Beersbridge Rd. As Mr Wallace had no family following him the firm closed on Mr Wallace's retirement in 1994.