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Living Linen Interview LL2_R99/08


Sound Recording on Reel: Personal background and work as a director/senior manager with Ballievey, Ulster Weavers & Ewart Liddel. Library Transcript: Transcript. Summary: Mr Hutton’s mother and grandmother were both weavers in the firm of Spencer Bryson. His uncle, Robert Hutton, worked for the Glennan weaving Co in Compton’s mill. After completing his studies at Newry Grammar, Mr Hutton worked as an apprentice engineer in the concrete industry. He also worked for a short period with the Ulster Textile Mill in Newry, which was concerned with the cotton trade. Mr Hutton continued his professional/technical education throughout this period. Through his work with P.A. Management Consultants he became involved with William Liddells. In 1970, having completed his Bridge Institute of Management, Foremanship and Supervision course at Newry ‘Tech and his Diploma in Management course at Newry ‘Tech and his Diploma in Management course at Belfast ‘Tech, Mr Hutton was charged with starting up Liddell’s Dromore operation and overseeing the gradual transfer of all business from their North Queen Street (Belfast) plant. Mr Hutton was able to bring his construction industry experience to bear on this project. In William Liddell’s operation, the cloth was generally woven in Donaghcloney, bleached at Ballievey and then transferred to Dromore where it was cut and hemmed. Most of the work they did was in the gift trade – and in particular, table linens. A large proportion of their trade was crested contract work with customers such as John Lewis’ and the Savoy group. Norman Huton served as works manager at Dromore until 1974. Between 1974 and 1982 Mr Hutton was out of the linen trade, serving as General Secretary of the Ulster Unionist Party, although he did lecture part time at the Belfast Tech in Management Studies at this time. In 1982 Mr Hutton was appointed warehouse manager, later director, with Ulster Weavers. He dealt primarily with handkerchiefs and tea-towels. Ulster Weavers produced approximately 3,000,000 tea towels per annum. Again most of their work was contract work. Their minimum order was 1,000 metres of fabric, a quantity that equates with some 250 dozen tea-towels. As warehouse director Mr Hutton took overall charge of the warehouse, adding the apparel section to his control over the made-up goods department. At this time the major fashion houses were beginning to show an interest in linen, especially with the development of crease resistant linens. In 1987 Mr Hutton became Production Director with Ewart Liddell’s in Donaghcloney, the directors of Donaghcloney having drawn his attention to the post. Mr Hutton had responsibility over the weaving and warehouse sections. The firm sent him on a course to Dornier (Germany) to learn about modern weaving techniques, and on completing feasibility/efficiency studies of the weaving department, successfully recommended the purchasing of state of the art, Dornier, shuttleless weaving machines. Business continued to expand, particularly with the airlines such as Cathay Pacific and KLM. In 1994 Mr Hutton joined Clendennings of Lurgan on a supposedly temporary basis, after leaving Ewart Liddell’s on a redundancy package. He subsequently remained on in a permanent capacity as their bleaching and finishing manager. The firm is now in the hands of the receivers, but Mr Hutton is involved in a possible rescue bid.