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Recorded Memories

Eileen Robinson Interview. December 2000.

‘I liked being the floater that meant I didn’t get bored…and that comes from moving round

from place to place’

Eileen’s favourite job was working as a floater because she didn’t get bored. She could do all the jobs and that was because she moved from one factory to another, ‘I could have a pile of work sitting here, start on that, and someone say – can you just go and do that there – so I’d have job started there, one started there, one started there…’. During her working life Eileen has done overlocking, flatlocking, lockstitching, elasticating, binding. Lockstitching is done on an ordinary sewing machine and overlocking is where you put two pieces [material] together and it oversews them. Eileen has also done button holing and button sewing and thinks button sewing was her favourite but most ‘mind blowing’ to some people. Eileen did the button sewing and could earn good money. The button holing machine, however, could be ‘notoriously temperamental’ and ‘breakdown a lot’. A button sewing machine consists of one needle and one bit of cotton comes through and ‘whack’ and nothing much could go wrong with them. With the button holing machine it would lock and the boss would repair it. Eileen can’t remember the name of the factory but the boss was called Bob and a mechanic was only called out if he was ‘absolutely desperately pushed to do so’. They made boxer shorts and the boss was a bit of a ‘rogue’- that was the one who ‘sent the coffee up the wall and not let you talk’. One very hot day while some of the girls were having a picnic lunch two blokes came to the factory and they heard lots of shouting and sweating – there had been a spate of a black fella and white fella robbing old people and factory offices – they were thrown out but threatened to come back and set fire to the premises. That day the girls were allowed to knock off early. Eileen referred to him as having a heart of gold – he would buy fabric, because at this time they were making waistcoats, Eileen used to buy fabric off him for £1 or £2; another thing – ‘Going out tonight me old duck’ – I used to play darts – ‘and he would give me a sub of me wages’. He had got his good points but you ‘did have to have a hell of a sense of humour to work there’. Eileen worked there for just over a year.

She really enjoyed working at Parratt’s, they had brilliant Christmas parties, one year the boss took the Christmas tree with all its decorations and three it out of car window and they made him get a new one. She worked ‘some stupid hours’ for him because he was so nice. His dad started it [the business] and Geoff finished it’. Parratt’s was situated in a unit in the old Simpkin Son and Emery factory. The Wool Marketing Board also had offices in the building. All these buildings gone now a magistrate’s court stands where Timothy Jennings factory was and flats have been built where Simpkin Son and Emery factory stood. When Eileen first came to Hinckley Castle Street was a two-way street and she also thought of Hinckley people as being very friendly and she thinks they still are but someone else pointed out Hinckley people aren’t friendly they are ‘just nosey’. She remembers when looking for a job, she’d buy the Hinckley Times ‘go to a café’ – hundreds and hundreds of jobs in it at that time and because she didn’t know where the various factories were situated she would ask someone in the street ‘Oh yeah we’ll take you’, and while they were walking with you they were asking you questions. Eileen didn’t put this down to nosiness – ‘to me they were friendly’. Atherstone she thinks of as a horrible place now, it’s changed so much – lots of things closed down including the hatting factories. Eileen’s mother worked in a hatting factory ‘hard, horrible, wet work’. We had a chat about the factory buildings some of them ‘going back in time’. Many of the factory buildings, the ones that are still in use producing hosiery and knitwear and other factory buildings converted to flats, were built at least one hundred years ago and those still producing hosiery have had to adapt to changes in the industry with the introduction of factory legislation and health and safety. Eileen prefers the modern factory buildings to the older buildings.

We had a chat about Joe Lawrance who still worked two or three mornings a week at Hall’s (at time of interview) and Bill Partridge who was involved in the history or the hosiery industry in the Hinckley area. We also chatted about a hosiery day which we organized and Eileen attended where one of the speakers told Eileen that ‘women wearing trousers got rid of tights and fleeces were getting rid of knitwear…’

Eileen's Interview No3.
Run time 15 minutes & 21 seconds.

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