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Living Linen Interview LL2_R99/22 2 of 2


Sound Recording on Reel: Bleaching at Ballievey. Library Transcript: Transcript. Summary: The Cross family has had a long association with the linen industry. Bill Cross' father trained at Cowdy's before moving to Ewart's bleachworks at Glenbank. In 1948 Mr Cross Sr took up the position of Factory Manager at Ballievey. Although his father died at a young age, in 1951, the family connection was instrumental in helping Bill join the firm in 1952. Bill Cross attended Belfast 'Tech on day release, following the bleaching, dyeing and finishing course, whilst completing his apprenticeship at Ballievey. Ballievey was a well equipped and efficient bleach works with 'advanced work flows', having been purpose built in the 1930s. Ballievey also inherited a lot of experienced `brown room and bleach house' workers, from rival firms, after the second world war when increased competition and contracting markets forced several local finishing plants out of business. Prior to the setting up of their own laboratory and recruitment of a research chemist in the 1950s, Ballievey was reliant upon the linen institute at Lambeg. On completing his apprenticeship Mr Cross found himself running the bleach house. With the involvement of Blackstaff in Ballievey towards the end of the 1960s, Bill Cross was also given control over the finishing department. The dye house remained an autonomous and specialised unit. Ballievey did a lot of commission bleaching. Their major customers included John Shaw Brown and Achesons of Castlecaulfield. Bleaching batches, known as 'pots', were made up in the brown room and the individual pieces sewn together - from the widest to the narrowest widths. Linen piece goods were boiled, under pressure, in kiers until the required level of whiteness had been achieved. Bleaching was ordinarily performed at ambient room temperature. Although Ballievey had several bleach greens, 'grassing' was phased out in favour of a fully chemical bleaching process during Mr Cross' time. James A Beck were Ballievey's main chemical suppliers. Liquor concentrations varied according to the weight and type of cloth. Bleachers worked from recipes and retained customer samples as a guide. Ballievey operated a strict quality control system, checking the cloth at various stages of its processing. The chemicals were stored and handled with great care. Each member of staff was required to wear protective clothing and to follow safe working practices. Each department had a trained first aider. Chemical bleaching was not only a hazardous process but it could also damage the cloth. All bleached cloth suffered an acceptable level of shrinkage and weight loss, although manufacturers specifications often included a built in tolerance. For instance, napkins finished 20 inch were invariably woven 21 inch to compensate. Ballievey had its own filtration plant for treating incoming water, and a holding dam with a capacity equivalent to one full day’s requirement. Ballievey was very much a family firm. The bleach house recruited staff by word of mouth, although employees would also enquire about the possibility of work for their relatives. This proved to be a very successful system and provided the firm with a better calibre of worker than that being recommended by the labour exchanges. In a number of case employees refused to 'speak for' family members, due to their concern over the family's reputation and status with the firm. Mr Cross left Ballievey and the linen industry in 1978.

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Living Linen Interview LL2_R99/22 1 of 2

Living Linen Interview LL2_R99/22 1 of 2

Sound Recording on Reel: Bleaching at Ballievey. Library Transcript: Transcript. Summary: The Cross family has had a long association with the linen i...