John Hamilton


2003/9, John Hamilton interviewed in his own home in Edinburgh by Sarah Bromage on 24/2/2003

John Hamilton worked as a beaterman at Mossy mill between 1957 and 1959

000 Went to Kirknewton Primary School. Left school at 14. East Calder secondary. Jobs worked; went to quarry 1944 – 1948, 1948 – 1950 RAF, 1950 – 1952 Quarry, 1952 – 1954 RAF as a civilian driver, 1954 – 1956 Quarry, 1956-1957 Railway, 1957 – 1959 Mossy Mill and 1959 – 1969 Prison service.

057 Always wanted to be a bookmaker or a publican. Was versatile; Jack of all Trades.

087 Decided to go to mill because he was just married and he needed money.

097 Knew people in mills and found out about jobs. No formal interview.

110 Manager James McDougall, was a family run mill. James McDougall stayed in big house overlooking the mill. Alec managed the mill day to day.

139 Hard work. 13 hour night shift and 11 hour day shift. Alternated each week.

150 Worked 5 days a week. Opening hours of mill. Went in as a beaterman; 4 beatermen, 2 foremen and a labourer. Became head beaterman.

178 Rough work; hand furnished. Paper came in on lorries. Came from Watsons; all waste paper. All boiled, 4 boilermen (2 on each shift).

198 Processes paper went through; job of boilermen and beaterman. Was hard work.

218 Beat fibres until it was pulp. When pulp was ready it was dropped onto a wire. Stuff full of water which was drained away on wire mesh.

243 2 men on each shift as papermakers. Mill made craft paper and lapin for Balerno. Balerno was a white paper mill whereas Mossy only made Browns. Balerno made rice paper from the mint which went down to Wales. Provided Balerno with wrapping paper. Different colours.

272 Supplied Tullis Russell at Guardbridge. Supplied Kinleith mill. Kinleith made printing paper. Newsprint made at Mossy Mill called straw paper because at one point straw was used. Then used waste paper.

307 Same raw materials for all types of paper but run at different rates. Straw paper meant machines running at highest speed, beatermen were kept busy while the papermaker slept.

326 Would sabotage work because it was such a terrible task. Lawson the papermaker was a slave driver.

347 Straw paper was run once a week. Silicate of soda gave a shine to the paper.

361 Different firms would want different colours of paper. 4 beating machines, not all working. Using two machines per shift. However, with straw paper had to use 3 or 4 machines.

382 Beater would take 15 minutes at least. ½ tonne per beater. Was all hand fed, now all processes are automated.

411 Slight break while the beater was on.. But had to be ready to refill. Messy job. Would wear overalls and no shirt. Very hot in the mill. Coolest place in the mill was the cutting house.

433 Beaters on ground floor. Cutting house on the 1st floor. 2 men to each department on each shift. People who worked in the mill. Work in the mines.

462 People who worked in the mills had been there for years. High wages. Fixed hours, no room for overtime. If people did not turn up the labourer would fill in. Most people were quite young as the work was quite hard and an older person would not manage it.

487 Head papermaker did not work as hard. Paper seldom broke, was tough paper. Could cause a break by loading in rough paper onto the wire. Caused a mess when the paper broke.

506 Assistant beaterman and head papermaker at mill. Machine repair done by the head papermaker. If the machine was not running it would be cleaned and painting would be done. Everything was painted green.

625 Never laid staff off. Staff would work odd jobs if no work.

642 One weeks holiday, July when the whole of Edinburgh closed down. The mill closed down and engineers came in to work. No bank holidays. Got Christmas and New Year off.

684 Not a member of the union. Had to accept what management said. No strikes. Thought unions were never run properly.

712 No mill houses, just two family houses. Didn't use the railways. Everything came in on lorries. Lorries were green with gold writing, you could tell the quality of the firm by their transport.

744 Lorry drivers worked a day shift, went to Glasgow and Fife. Didn't go long distance.

760 End.

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