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Recorded Memories

Arthur Amos Interview. 30th October 2001

’Working life as a mechanic at Nicholls and Wileman: ‘I was dead interested [the ‘W’]

…really fascinated me…I wanted to know exactly how it worked – what did what’

‘I suppose really I’ve been a bit of a Bolshoi sort-of a chap’

Arthur was able to talk about the progress made in the production of stockings – the stockings dropped off the knitting machines into a tray and after two or three stockings had been knitted the knitter would then have to cut each stocking – the stockings came off the machine in one continual line and the knitting machine had been set so that it knitted a piece of yarn that could be cut with a scissors to separate each stocking.

With innovation the heavier yarn which was automatically knitted between each stocking was replaced with a lighter yarn which could be torn rather than cut with a scissors making the process quicker. A knitter had 12 machines to look after and had to be ‘fairly quick’ and Arthur remembers the women had the same number of machines as a man and earned the same money as the men and during the war he commented that they were essential to the factory. Wileman’s had one set of machines that made patterns in the leg – fully patterned machine – the machine was very sensitive and the knitter had to be very careful. Arthur seems to remember it was one of the ‘early-day jacquard machines’ knitting Courtaulds yarn.

Arthur was born September 1918 and would have started work at the age of 14 in 1932 or early 1933 depending on when he left school. When Arthur started work at Nicholls and Wileman he would have been working with artificial silk ‘all courtaulds…it may have been 120 denier…which was the finest denier at the time’. When Arthur had been taken on as a trainee mechanic the management had not been aware of his age and he was told that ‘they’d never have given me the job mechanicking if they’d known my age’. He was probably about 17, possibly a bit younger. As mentioned earlier Arthur would bike over to Burbage to join his friend, Alan Hunt, where he learnt to mechanic the ‘W’ machines. He was probably ‘late 14’ and it was Alan’s idea, ‘Why don’t you come and I’ll show you, sort of words used in them days, not I’ll learn you, come and I’ll show you’. Arthur was curious about the type of work that Alan did. He didn’t work at the quarry where most of the men in the village did although he did know that some men and women worked in the shoeing and they earned more money than the quarrymen. They would commute to Earl Shilton and Barwell on Vernon’s buses and arrive back in Stoney Stanton at 6.15. Arthur and his friends could be found playing football, the football made from a pigs bladder.

Arthur did not like his job in Eatough’s, his first job, he felt it was a skilled job which he should not have been doing – painting the heels on the slippers ‘and not getting a blemish on it’. He remembers the ‘peardrop’ smell, it was terrible, and I loved peardrops’. He was inhaling the paint and there was no ventilation –‘just the brush, the pot, the slippers…stood up to do it’. Two people in a very small space ‘not to my liking’. Arthur remarked that he was a bit of a ‘bolshie sort-of a chap’. Arthur did realise that he could have progressed in the job but he ‘couldn’t wait that long’. Mr Bird, his boss, told him he couldn’t leave but he did leave and he did get in trouble with his parents. He did know someone at Toon’s, a Mr Middleton, who was able to vouch for him – you couldn’t just walk in. After approximately a year he left Toon’s after having a row with the boss (this is described in more detail in the local history section) and went to Nicholls and Wileman where he spent the rest of his working life.

Arthur retired in 1985 when he was 67 and at this time the hosiery and boot and shoe were still thriving. He continued to visit the factory until it closed and believes that half the knitting machines were bought by an Italian company and half went to China. Over the years his favourite machines were the TJs and K machines. Arthur had worked with various Italian knitting machine companies over the years with the demise of the British knitting machine industry.

Arthur's Interview No2.
Run time 17 minutes & 40 seconds.

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