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Living Linen Interview LL2_R99/23


Sound Recording on Reel: Spinning & Twisting - Greeves & Ross; night shift. Library Transcript: Transcript. Summary: Healy's mother was a doffing mistress at Linfield mill. He left school at 14 to join the firm of J & T M Greeves in Cupar Street in 1945. A friend of his mother's, who worked in Greeves, spoke for him. John was hired by the personnel manager - Mr Gray. Mr Healy's first job was in the machine room where the flax was processed prior to roving. He quickly moved to the line store from where the roving rooms were kept supplied with materials on a daily basis. The hours of employment were 8:00am - 6:00pm five days per week and 8:00 - 12:00 on Saturdays. The workers got one Saturday off in four. Of the £1 2/6 that Mr Healy earned per week, he gave his mother £1 . Workers got 3/4 of an hour for lunch and two 10 minute tea-breaks per day. Greeves had a canteen on site that provided good quality meals at a reasonable price. Annual holidays consisted of two weeks in July and two days at Christmas. Greeves were fair employers. 'Big Alfie' Greeves insisted that his son complete a formal apprenticeship with the firm before being elevated to managerial level. John Healy remembers the young Mr Greeves working through the various departments dressed in overalls and playing football with the other boys at lunch break. Mr Healy was instrumental in forming a union in Greeves. John left Northern Ireland for two years and, when he returned, in 1960, Greeves operation on the Falls Road had been closed down and production moved to Whitehouse. Due to his previous association with the firm, John had little trouble securing work as a spinner. Night-work was all that was available. Women were not permitted to work nights, so spinning, a process dominated by female operatives during the day, was a male preserve by night. The hours of the night-shift were 10:00pm - 8:00am, although the foreman often asked the workers to stay on until 12:30pm. The hours, 6:00pm to 10:00pm were termed 'the granny shift'. Few of Greeves original workers moved to Whitehouse due to the distance involved, preferring to look instead for work in one of the other firms in the immediate vicinity. Whitehouse were ring rather than traditional wet spinners. This led to better working conditions. Operatives wore their own clothes and shoes, protected by splashes by an angled aluminium slop-board. Conditions remained, nevertheless, hot and humid. While at Whitehouse Mr Healy became both a spinning instructor, attending a week-long course in Belfast's College Square, and a doffing master. The doffing master's job was particularly important. Doffing masters (doffing mistresses by day) were well paid. The spinning frames were staggered to ensure that only one frame was off at any one time and that none required attention over lunch or tea-breaks. Each doffing master controlled a team of six doffers. An individual frame with up to 240 bobbins could be doffed in less that five minutes by a good team. Whitehouse closed down in 1972 and, following a spell with the Michelin tyre company, Mr Healy started in Ross' mill twisting and winding. His sister-in-law, a winder, helped get him the position. By this stage, 1985, women were working at nights, and all workers were paid a standard piece rate. John finally transferred to day work where he had a female supervisor. Although the night shift paid better than day work, night workers were the more vulnerable of the two sets of employees. lf orders were slow and short-time was imposed, it was quite often the night shift that was suspended. Mr Healy retired in 1988-9.