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Diamonds In Clogs

by Dorothy Skelhorn née Philips of Willows Lane, Bolton - which she left in 1935

I started work at the Dove Mill in Deane Church Lane in 1932 I worked in the cellar. It was to this room that the bales of cotton were brought to be broken up before they went into the carding room. There was two of us working in the cellar, besides a man called Mr Lightfoot, who took the Hessian of the bales and put the cotton into different bays.

We put the cotton onto a conveyor belt which took it through the scutching hole to the scutchers. These machines cleaned the cotton and made it into bales again. Sometimes while you were putting the cotton on the belt a mouse would run down your arm out of the bales, our arms being full of cotton we wouldn't notice them, we would scream but we still had to carry on working. We were only 14 years old at this time.

We were moved up a few weeks later to the cabin in the card room and so saw where the cotton went from the cellar. In the cabin we were given the job of varnishing the rollers, these were the rollers through which the cotton travelled, these rollers were similar to two bobbins on a rod and were covered in leather. It was at this time that I learned a lot about factory life.

I think from the scutchers it went to the combers and on to the Ribbon and Derbys, on leaving the latter it was in large tins coiled like rope. They were then taken to a frame called a Slubber. Two of these tins of cotton went through this frame and made into one large bobbin, again still very thick. Thee bobbins were then taken to the flies or 'intermediates' Called this by the 'posh' then onto the jacks then these smaller bobbins were taken up stairs to the spinners. I've forgotten how many floors of spinners there was.

I was in the cabin a few weeks and again was moved up to be a 'setter on'. This job was to help a tenter, (Woman on a pair of flies), fetching empty bobbins and taking away full ones to the jacks, making her tea, doing her errands (chippy) at dinner time, and helping her to clean the frames, for this she gave me 6d a week.

My wage had started at 10/10 a week in the cellar was now 15/- a week. Of this I got 3d to spend making the grand total of 9 old pence. After about a year I was put on a slubber, we could only manage to run one of these because the thick cotton filled the bobbins so fast, it was all we could do to fetch empty bobbins ready for slipping (taking of a full bobbin and replacing it with an empty one), in between cleaning the frame down.

I was at this time on piece work and earning 25/- a week, very good pay really and my spending money went up to 1/- a week, but I'm only 3d better off for doing a great deal more work.

Around 1936 I moved onto a pair of flies and found I had an even better wage, my own setter on and life was good. I was earning around 30/- a week for which I got l/6d spending money. All my time in the mill was happy and I made lots of friends some of which travelled from Hindley and Wigan and many other places.

We had no canteen and ate our dinner at the frames, sitting on the oily floor with cotton dust in our butties and our tea, but we never noticed the bits of cotton that got in our eyes and up our nose and in our hair, but we were young and didn't really care. We never discussed work the only topic I think was LADS.

I left the dove to take a job at Denvales because we were on short time and if you didn't take a job you were offered you got no dole. The girls were a rough lot but they were DIAMONDS IN CLOGS.