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Living Linen Interview LL2_R00/09 2 of 2


Sound Recording on Reel: Library Transcript: Transcript. Summary: The Gee family originally ran a cotton dye works in Bolton - Lancashire. Dr Gee's father came to Ireland at the turn of the century as Dyeing Manager for the Lambeg Bleaching, Dyeing and Finishing Co. Shortly afterwards, he set himself up in the cotton dyeing business. The firm originally known as Gee, Samuels and Dougan, was renamed The Factory Dyeworks Lambeg after Mr Gee's partners dropped out. Brian Gee was born in Lambeg in 1918. Dr Gee entered the family firm and was sent to the Belfast Tech to learn the trade; as his father was of the opinion that a manager should be able to do every job in the factory. The Tech persuaded him to enrol on a part-time University degree course. Although Brian Gee entered the family business and eventually replaced his ailing father as Manager during the Second World War, the firm was suffering due to its reliance on English orders. Brian's elder brother - Albert - took over the running of the Lambeg and Ravarnet factories in 1942. Professor Wren, the head of chemistry, persuaded Brian to study for a PhD promising him part-time teaching work at the Belfast Tech. In 1944 Dr Gee joined the research staff at LIRA. One of the earliest projects that Dr Gee was involved with concerned the rot proofing of tent canvases for the Ministry of Defence. He also worked on flax cultivation - experimenting with different seed varieties and retting techniques. LIRA was funded by the British and Northern Ireland Governments, as well as by subscription from local textile firms. Whereas many projects were initiated from within the research departments, others were undertaken at the request of a member company. Due to his practical experience in linen production (most of the research staff at Lambeg were pure scientists) Dr Gee spent a considerable amount of time trouble shooting for individual manufacturers. He also worked as a consultant for Webbs of Newtownards after leaving Lambeg. In 1947 Dr Gee joined the staff of Belfast Tech, as lecturer in charge of the bleaching and dyeing section. Dr Gee taught two or three classes per week. The number of students in each class ranged from 15-28. He taught both day-release students and evening classes. Many of these students were sponsored by their employers, although the emphasis placed on training, as with Research and Development, varied enormously from firm to firm. Most apprentices had a reasonable grasp of the manufacturing process indicating that they were already working in some capacity. In the case of non-aligned students, employers contacted the Tech asking Dr Gee to recommend someone to them. Dr Gee left the Tech in 1953, having realised one of his major aims. He always felt that the Tech should have offered more in the way of postgraduate opportunities and just before he left, Fred Sloan, later of Kirkpatricks in Ballyclare and Lintrend, submitted his PhD thesis. Dr Gee became principal of Portadown Tech and was surprised to learn that it offered no textile based courses. By this time several of the linen manufacturers in the Portadown area had already closed and the remainder were sending their apprentices to the nearby Lurgan Tech. On making enquiries Dr Gee was forced to concede that there was no demand for a textile course in Portadown. They did, however, run courses on marketing and engineering which overlapped somewhat with the textile industry. The technical college is now the Upper Bann Institute of Further and Higher Education. Dr Gee retired as principal in 1980.

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Living Linen Interview LL2_R00/09 1 of 2

Living Linen Interview LL2_R00/09 1 of 2

Sound Recording on Reel: Belfast Tech, Lira, Lambeg Dyeing Company. Library Transcript: Transcript. Summary: The Gee family originally ran a cotton dy...