Listen to our latest conversation for the The Kathleen Project – collecting stories about Manchester’s industrial past, in the words of those who lived it.
In our ninth conversation for this project, we chatted with Chris G, who started work in the textile industry in the 1968 at age 15.
Chris G left school in 1968 aged 15 and started work in the textile industry.
Her first job was at Whirlies in Sharston, next to the Mr Kipling cake factory. Chris used to get to eat the damaged cakes! Whirlies was a single-storey factory with about 100 employees and Chris used to work on sewing pram sets for babies – matching covers and pillows to go in the pram. And sewing school uniforms.
There were rows of Singer sewing machines and big brown bins on wheels where all the garment pieces sat waiting to be stitched. It was a noisy place, but lots of fun, with the radio playing 60s pop tunes over the hum of sewing machines. During winter it got really cold as there was no central heating and people used to wear their hats and coats inside! And sometimes the flying fibres made the machinists cough, though Chris managed that by brudhing out her machine often.
During breaks they all used to go outside and sit on the wall, smoking and watching the boys go by!
At one point Chris’s boss asked her to go and work in the cutting department, but the cutting table was high and she was too short to use it, so she had to stand on a box.
One memory that stands out for Chris is the time that she got a sewing machine needle stuck in her finger! It happened when the sewing machine mechanic was out to lunch, so she had to wait for him to get back to be freed from the machine! Then she had to go to hospital to get the needle removed.
Chris loved working there, and stayed for three years. She got married at 19 and then didn’t return to the industry after having her first child.
The Kathleen Project, episode 9: In Conversation with Chris G
Thanks so much to Chris for sharing her story with us! If you know anyone who worked in Greater Manchester’s textile industry and would like to take part in the project, please do ask them to contact us.
The Kathleen Project is led by Stitched Up and supported by Historic England