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 eighth conversation for this project, we chatted with Lynne, who started work in the textile industry in the 1960s at age 15.
Lynne left school in 1961, and started work in the textile industry after Christmas that same year, aged 15.
Lynne’ first workplace was Walter Swinn and Sons Ltd (‘Swinns’). It was a three-floor factory at 11 Charles Street Manchester – Lynne worked as a machinist and pieceworker on the third floor making womenswear including trousers, skirts and maternity wear. The Singer and Willcox industrial sewing machines she worked on were lined up opposite other machinists, each with a box or trough in front of their machine to catch their work. There were also boxes next to each machine which contained a machinists bundle of work. The first needle given to Lynne was free; if you broke a needle thereafter, you had to pay a penny to replace it.
A shift at Swinns would start at 9am and finish at 5pm. There was a little kitchen at one end of the workroom to brew up, so workers would go out for their lunch, usually to buy a sandwich or to the chippy. Machinists were allowed to smoke at the machines, but the room was so large the cigarette smoke didn’t affect conditions too badly. Everyone got on in the workroom and Lynne enjoyed working there.
Lynne gave £3 of her wages in keep to her mum every week so whatever was left was hers to spend. She would get back bus fares and lunch money.
Lynne stayed at Swinns for approximately 2-2.5 years before the business moved to new premises in Bellevue. Lynne didn’t want to take two buses to get to work every day, so she found a job in Sale, working for Selba Textiles.
Selba Textiles operated above a garage on the Washway Road in Sale, between the junction of Dane Road and School Road. They made tartan kilts and ‘troose’ for Marks and Spencer.
After approximately 18 months, the business moved to purpose-built premises off Dane Road, Sale. It was at this point that Lynne went back to Swinns in Bellevue. She and her friend Vina would travel together to work at the Swinns premises on Williams Road, Bellevue. She worked at Swinns until 1968 when she got married and moved to Prestwich.
Lynne had two boys and when they were both at school, she got a job at Slaters Quilts in Prestwich. There she made sleeping bags, cagoules, skiing jackets, and waterproof clothing. Lynne worked in the cellar with two other women making sleeping bags – one would fill the bags with duck or curl down; Lynne would then sew up the bags, matching the lines and sew on the zips and the third lady would roll up the sleeping bag into its bag.
Lynne worked part-time at Slaters and job-shared with her co-worker: Lynne would look after her boys and her co-workers’ girls in the morning then swap with her coworker so that her coworker looked after the kids in the afternoon while Lynne worked on the sleeping bags.
Lynne earned 7/6 per ski jacket, knowing that they sold for much more in the shops. Her shift Lynne worked for Slaters for roughly 10 years, throughout the 1970s.
The Kathleen Project, episode 8: In Conversation with Lynne
Thanks so much to Lynne 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