Living Linen Interview LL2_R01/83

Description:

Sound Recording on Reel: Belfast Silk & Rayon, Textile Prints. Library Transcript: Transcript. Summary: The Sochor's were a prominent textile family in Czechoslovakia. They owned a vertical firm that employed 2,000 people. Mr Sochor Sr (Zdenek) developed and patented a lot of textile machinery. The factory was taken over by the Germans in WWII but the Sochor's never got their factory back as the post-war socialist government nationalised all manufacturing industry. The family came to Ireland in 1939 and set up Belfast Silk and Rayon in Waterford St, with the help of the Ministry of Commerce, to print dress material. Mr Sochor Sr diversified into weaving cloth and established Crepe Weavers in Newtownards in the Miles aircraft factory. Crepe Weavers was sold to the Mladeks in the 1950s. Around this time that Mr Sochor completed a textile technology degree at QUB and joined Belfast Silk & Rayon. The firm bleached and dyed cloth as well as printing it. This gave them greater control over the whole finishing process and led to a more predictable and a better standard of work. In printing it is very important to have the weft fibres straight. This is all the easier where the cloth preparation is correct. The firm processed cotton, linen and viscose. The firm eventually moved into household textiles as well as dress goods and printed tea-towels for Hennings, Blackstaff, Ulster and Lamonts. The printing was all done manually on silk screens. This process was later automated. The apparel cloth had crease-resistant and other handling effect finishes padded on at the stentor. On the apparel side of the business the firm's major customers were English. Working conditions were quite good. The resins were, however, highly flammable. They also gave off noxious fumes when curing, and extractor fans (themselves potentially dangerous) were installed to clear the air. The firm drew water from a bore hole and the mains supply. One of Mr Sochor's major customer's - Pasman Textiles - was taken over by Carrington & Dewhurst who in turn threatened to remove the Pasman business if Mr Sochor didn't sell Belfast Silk & Rayon. Carrington bought the firm outright in c1960 and retained Mr Sochor as Marketing Director. In 1970 Carrington closed the firm and Mr Sochor started Textile Prints Ltd. The firm was based in Whitehouse and, to keep the business uncomplicated, was solely a printing operation. Mr Sochor often had the cloth bleached himself, at Ballievey and Murlands. After a few years the business relocated to newer premises at Dunmurry. M & S were major customers, through Ewart Liddell, for many years. Textile Prints also installed a wide machine that was capable of working on cloth up to 100 inches wide. Textile Prints also had a hemstitching section and its own design section. The screens were made on site. Textile Prints tried to absorb set-up costs in the hope that their quality of work would guarantee repeat orders. Although the screens were owned by the printer, the design was often owned by the customer and couldn't be used for any other contract. Ulster Weavers became an ever-larger customer, and, in 1984, bought the firm. Derek Bailie was moved from Castlewellan as MD. Mr Sochor stayed on until the mid 1980s. Under Ulster the renamed `Dunmurry Print' lost its outside customers who were put off by their rivalry with Ulster. These customers may not have wanted Ulster to see what they were producing. Dunmurry print is still running as part of Ulster Weavers today. Mr Sochor is still working in textiles today. Buying and selling imported linens - many sourced in Czechoslovakia and the old Sochor factory itself.