Weavers’ memories brought to life

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TALES of life in the textile factories will be re-told next week at an open door event staged by the East and old Parish Church.

From Monday to Saturday those who worked in Forfar’s textile factories are invited to gather together to share their tales in an event prompted by preparations for the 500th anniversary celebrations of the Dundee Weaver Incorporation in 2012.

The drop in event will run from 9.30 am to 12.30 from Monday, September 12 to Saturday, September 17. A small team of volunteers will be on hand to listen to stories about life in the jute and flax factories, girls’ nights out, trips to Dundee, going to the “pictures” and works picnics.

Everyone who has had any experience of life in the mills or have heard stories from their parents and grand-parents will be most welcome.

Local people are encouraged to take along photographs of factories, long service certificates, factory dances and picnics.

These will be scanned into a computer and photographed or copied for use in an exhibition celebrating Forfar’s textile past in the church later in the year.

Any items that reflect factory life such as a pair of rovvies, weaver’s shears or leather hand guard, shuttles, commemorative mugs and presentation clocks will also be most welcome and will be recorded and catalgoued on the day.

Anyone who cannot manage to attend in person can be visited at home.

The Rev. Barbara Ann Sweetin said: “I am delighted that the East and Old can host a doors open, drop in event that will allow memories from the past to come to life again. When you see Forfar today it is difficult to imagine the sheer size and scale of the jute and flax works that existed not so very long ago. Since moving to Forfar I have learned a lot about its past, the influences these factories had on the lives of the towns’ people and the sense of community that they shared together.”

On the religious side of weaving, the Rev. Sweetin continues: “Weaving and trades and goods related to weaving are mentioned in numerous places in the bible. Stories like David and Goliath, Samson and Delilah and the making of the Tabernacle for the Ark of the Covenant. As a Church of Scotland minister I am very interested in the community aspect of church life and the ways in which the church can interact with the wider community. Because the weaving industry was so vast and affected many people’s lives, it still plays a large part in the community of Forfar, even though most of the factories have now disappeared. Stories of the past are important and need to be remembered and recorded for future generations.”

She concluded: “I am quite familiar with the industrial heritage of my native Glasgow but I am really keen to tap into the early life of my parishioners and the community at large. I can assure everyone who drops in to the open door event that there will be a warm welcome and a nice cup of coffee or tea, Fair Trade of course!”

Ron Scrimgeour, Deacon of the Dundee Weavers who has been instrumental in promoting the event said: “I know that the Angus burghs were a rich source of jute flax and polypropylene products with generations of mill owners and factory workers providing high quality product that went round the world. This is a period in the history of towns like Forfar that we should be proud of and remember the good times (and the not so good times) of life in the factories.

“The open door event is not just about weavers. It took a lot of other trades and skills to get the yarn to the stage of being woven, then finished and exported. All those involved in any stage of the process are welcome to come and share their tales and memories so that a permanent record can be kept. Much of the day to day experiences in the many mills and factories in Forfar will be lost if we do not record them now. For example, long before the days of credit unions, someone in each section of the factory would organise a “ménage” or “clubbie”. A group of workers, usually about a dozen, would pay a certain amount each week for 12 weeks and one person would be able to use the grand total in turn. I am sure there are many stories about this and many other aspects of factory life that will bring the old photographs we have to life.”