Nan Aitken

(salle and cutter house)

2002/83, Nan Aitken interviewed in her own home in Edinburgh by Sarah Bromage on 16/09/2002

Nan Aitken worked at Henry Bruce and Sons Kinleith Mill between 1930 and 1966. She began work in the cutter house and then transferred to the salle.

000 Was 14 when started in the mill, sister and brother worked there.
012 Stayed locally. Went for interview, first job was bagging the shavings which was done by young girls and boys. Would work 6.30 am until 5pm. Latterly times changed and started at 8am.
049 Work in the cutter house was dirty, fluff coming off machines. Was an assistant to the machineman in the cutter house, each machineman had one assistant.
070 Kept bad paper for them to train on. Paper then went up the mill to be remade. Would train for a few years.
090 Man on tying and a counter. An older person would be there to train people, 4 or 5 people training at the same time. 25-30 people in the main salle.

103 Layout of the salle and how you would work at the overhauling. Other people would tie and count. Ten to a bench.

129 Many years started on the finishing. Very heavy work. 2 men worked the pallets carrying paper.

147 Thin paper was terrible to overhaul, hard and heavy work. Before started has to wear a bib overall. Paper cuts; 2 rubbers on fingers to protect them.

177 Tables were at waist height carrying things. Finishing paper: number of quires to a ream.

204 No bonus until soon before she left. Started on 99p a week. Wages were not good.

220 Went on short time quite a few times. 3 days on, 3 days off. Towards the end of the war were bad times. Was a warden during the war and would go out when the siren went.

242 Was called up, but was looking after Mum. Women didn't work on machines during war as men were always working.

257 No holiday apart from New Years Day. Could take a holiday but did not get paid. Latterly got trades holiday. Could take an unpaid holiday.

278 In overhauling worked 7.30am till 5pm at night. Got 10 minutes breakfast and an hour for lunch. Could make tea at work, would go home for lunch. Had to run home and back. Most people were local, but latterly found it difficult to get people so would come from the town.

308 Railway ran right through the line. Goods came in by train. Esparto and woodpulp went in by lorries. Full time lorry drivers; no part time workers.

324 Man drawn into machine and killed. Machines were guarded, but men would lift them off. It was dangerous. Working in pits, hair could get caught. Would get filthy.

344 People would socialise. Still meet up with 4 people that worked with. Annual trip laid on by firm. Taken by train, went to Rothesay on the boat. Married workers allowed to take wives. Football team called Kinleith FC.

385 Some had first aid training. Mr Bruce stayed locally. Mr Bruce would come round the mill every day, a nice person. He would walk down the railway to the mill.

408 Salle had own office which worked in conjunction with the main office. Mr Tweedie was foreman of the salle and Mrs Tweedie worked in the office.

422 Was in the union, you would go into the union automatically. Union money kept off wages. Went on holiday with the union to Brighton. Supposed to go if sick and would apply to see if you were eligible to go. Had to have a doctors line. Got fare and pocket money. House in Brighton and one in Ayr. Would not go if you needed medical attention.

452 All meals given. Could go to union meetings, but didn't go. Meetings in union office in Leith.

464 Went on strike, women for one day. She didn't strike, couldn't afford to. One they were out had to stand still. Men never went on strike.

476 Mill houses at Blinkbonny. Rent was hefty, but nice houses. 2 houses at Blinkbonny where head engineer and head joiner lived. Nobody left the mill and moved on.

498 No movement to other mills. Woodhall Mill had only 4 mill houses. Mill would take lorries up.

511 Mill closing came as a big shock. Stayed until the end so would keep redundancy money. Got £180 redundancy. Not long between given notice and being laid off.

525 John Tweedie tried hard to get people jobs elsewhere. People worked on, nobody retired you. Man she knew told her that there were jobs at Waddies. Visited firm and they said they would take on 5 people.

550 Job at Waddies was not good, examining clock faces. Was at Waddies for nine years, couldn't get into pension scheme as had not been there for 10 years. Pension scheme at Kinleith.

561 Clocking in and clocking out. Window in time office. Pay slips in tin box paid out on a Thursday.

571 Had to be off a fortnight before you were paid sick pay. Departments didn't mix. Young girls and older ones socialised separately. Annual dance. Dance hall in Currie and Colinton. Village hall in Currie.

591 Lots of families in Currie worked in the mill. Shock when mill closed. Time off to look after mother, but no wages.

621 No savings club in the mill. Mr Tweedie was in the fire service during the war. Man killed in the mill.

646 Mill worked non stop, even a Sunday. Later would close Saturday lunch and open Sunday night. Breaks in the paper, would stop machine to fix for the restart. Broke would go into bags. Smell of bleaching agents.

675 Cutter house was loud and the salle was not too noisy. 4 cutters and a winder. Could talk to one another in salle.

690 Move to finishing an easier job. No extra money in this. Windows all around the salle. Friendly atmosphere within the salle. Not much contact with the management.

715 Latter days of the mill had spells of short time. Would count for 5 people so depended on the work of the overhaulers. 2 sisters would check the work of the people in the salle. Walk up and down inspecting work.

739 End.

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