Memories of the mills

Do you recognise these unique mill footwear?
Do you recognise these unique mill footwear?

OUR recent article on drop-in sessions where memories of life in the Forfar mills will be recorded has sparked off some reminsiscing amongst those who worked in the town’s various mills.

Forfar man Ron Scrimgeour, Deacon of the Weaver Incorporation of Dundee, will lead the sessions which will catalogue photographs and memories.

Ron worked in the Dundee mills in the 1960s when he was a student and regrets not recording his experiences at the time.

He said it is difficult to imagine what life was like a 100 years ago or even 50 years ago when we pass the sites of former textile factories in Forfar. The sheer scale of the operations where thousands of workers toiled on shifts to produce miles of cloth has no comparable setting today in our retail driven economy.

The noise and dust – “stoor” – was legendary and there was a language and culture quite unique to those times. The workers of the various factories had pride in their products and an allegiance to the dynasties who owned the mill.

The drop-ins planned at the East and Old Kirk in the autumn hope to capture some of these times with Forfar folk taking along photographs, certificates and other memorabilia which will be photographed and catalogued for use later in the year - and there will be plenty of time for a cup of coffee and good old “crack” about life in the mills!

Ron said: “I am not an expert in jute or flax production but I am keen to expand my knowledge, particularly of the local area. As a student I worked in a number of mills in Dundee in the 1960s and very much wish I had recorded the images of those times. By the time I finished my studies in the late 60’s the mills had almost all gone.

“The earlier item in the Dispatch advising people of the planned drop-ins has stimulated a lot of interest and I have drafted a number of questions to help get people thinking of the bygone days where the clatter of the looms resounded through many Forfar lanes and wynds.”

1. Who or what was a tenter?

2. Where was the factory complex known locally as “the Tails”?

3. Whose factory was it?

4. What was Benholm house used for after the Second World War?

5. What was produced in George Brodie’s Chapel Street works?

6. Which textile family lived in Viewmont House?

7. What was a factory “bummer”?

8. What was different about the St James works “bummer”?

9. Where was the factory popularly known as “little Donnies”?

10. The Dispatch referred to an incident at little Donnies in August 1932 as “the outstanding local event of the week.” What had happened?

Ron continued: “If you or your family know the answers to any of these questions, then you are exactly the people I would like to meet later in the year. Our industrial past is too good to simply fade into the distance through lack of interest.

“Of course, I have no illusions. Life in the mills and factories was hard but the people who worked there were more than able for it and developed a sense of pride in their work and some very admirable Scottish qualities.

If you think you scored well in the quiz, can you recognise the truly unique mill footwear in the picture?”

The dates and times of the Big Kirk drop-ins will be announced in the Dispatch.