Merton Mill next to Kirklees
by Jim Sant
Even to write it down fills me with nostalgia of the war years. Although we were very happy, many tears were shed for the loved ones never to return. My best memory of the mill was of Mrs Currier who was in charge of the kitchen. What she could do with a bone and a few vegetables was unbelievable, it is a memory I shall keep with me forever.
It was very hot in the twisting room and we were considered to be the worst girls in the mill, (not true). Winders, Warfers and Cake Winders, to be a cut above the rest.
Before the war any girl who got married had to leave the mill. This practice was discontinued in the advent of war and after the war, so we stayed like a family for many years, even today if you meet any of them on the street you can stand for- ages and catch up on the gossip.
The manager was a gentleman but he ruled us with a rod of iron. If we were late for work the gates would be locked and we would have to go home until the afternoon (with no pay). If we did anything wrong like wrong ticket some work we would be suspended for three days. These were the rules we worked by and he was always fair with us. He was a father figure in times of stress or trouble.
Men worked on the night shift, we could see Mr Isherwood our manager, on our way home from the late nights at the Palais, cycling up or down Deane Road he would be in hope of catching one of the men sleeping or dodging work. This was in 'the interest of the women whose machines they looked after. As part of our wage was made up of a bonus, if the machines broke down it would be us who lost out (I told you he was a gentleman).
The mill was owned by, William Long and one of the directors was Mr Greerson. First I must explain how the mill worked. We were a none union place and this is how our grievances were dealt with. First you went to the supervisor, then the foreman and then the manager, through a works committee. If it was not solved the directors were sent for (very democratic).
Mr Greerson was very handsome and even in those days he smelt of perfume. What we now know as after-shave. He would attend these meetings and after the matter had been resolved, he would pull out, a packet of 'Passing Cloud' cigarettes. When we had been smoking pasha. Oh, what a joy.
In the basement of the mill was the shower room which were available to us. The only problem with this was the cockroaches, which sometimes came out while you were still under them. The winding boss who I never liked, he always seemed to pick girls with big busts to work for him, and he was supposed to be very religious. He used to give his pencil away when you asked him for one. No one wanted one of his pencils, he was in the habit of scratching his bum with them (perhaps he had piles). He was a very nasty man and he would sack you for anything. In those days you could be replaced easily.
Quite a lot of characters worked at the mill. The night the watchman had lost his eye and a leg in the First World War. I remember once a fellow worker asked me for some paper. I gave him some waxed paper that the yard was wrapped in thinking he wanted to wrap his lunch in it. Later he came back and said it was very slippy - toilet paper was not provided.