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Living Linen Interview LL2_R99/07


Sound Recording on Reel: Work in Ballievey as a Stentino? Supervisor. Library Transcript: Transcript. Summary: Mr Matchett was born in Banbridge, of farming stock. He went straight from school to work in the local yarn bleaching firm – James Anderson & Co in 1934. This firm bleached yarn for Liddells, Coalisland, Walkers and Fergusons amongst others. They took in brown yarn, brought it up to the required shade, and returned it to the supplier. Between 1938 and 1946 Mr Matchett worked as a chargehand rivetter with Shorts. In 1946 Fred Matchett returned to the firm of James Anderson as a leading hand. By the mid 1950s Andersons was experiencing financial difficulties and Mr Matchett secured work at Ballievey (1956) where he was to remain for some 28 or 29 years. He initially operated a hydraulic mangle that closed the weave of loom state cloth. After a spell working the hydraulic mangle, Mr Matchett was transferred into the stentor house. He received on the job training from experienced stentors as well as attending a technical course on Belfast’s Shore Road. Mr Matchett also completed a management course around this time. Ballievey carried out bleaching, dyeing and finishing work. All of their business was in contract orders. Their principal customers included: Liddells, Fergusons, Lamonts, Blackstaff and Moygashel. Business at Ballievey was booming in the 1950s. New stentor houses were constructed to accommodate the expansion of business, and working conditions were consequently very pleasant. Mr Matchett supervised the stenting department. In stenting, the cloth was stretched in a hot dry atmosphere to the required width after bleaching, which often resulted in a slight shrinkage. The department worked to an accuracy of one-eighty of an inch. Ballievey also worked with permanent press, flame retardant and crease resistant finishes. The stentors could handle cloth of 18 – 120 inch widths, or, from napkins to tablecloths. Although Mr Matchett was only ever employed during the day, the department ran 24 hours a day, on a three shift system. Each machine was operated by a three man team: a leading hand, a middle man, and a stripper. The leading hand set the machine, the middle man fed the cloth through the stentor, while the stripper packed the cloth and measured it once it had passed out of the machine. Ballievey also branched out into different fabrics as the amount of linen orders they were given began to dry up. Mr Matchett was responsible for recommending new members of staff in the stentor houses, - his opinion being largely trusted. The workforce of Ballievey has remained relatively constant at around 125. Most of these people live locally, although the firm did provide a minibus service for shift workers. Mr Matchett regards Ballievey as good employers. He was treated fairly, paid satisfactorily and given a rent free house for the duration of his employment. On his retirement he was permitted to stay on in this house, which he subsequently bought, for the nominal rent of 5 pence. Mr Matchett retired in 1985 but still closely follows the fortunes of the Ballievey/Moygashel firm.