Show and Tell in the Vale of Leven

SHOW AND TELL WORKSHOP, LOCH LOMOND GALLERIES SHOPPING CENTRE, ALEXANDRIA 1st December 2012

Although our research has been mainly focussed on the nineteenth-century history of the industry, there is still much that can be learned about Turkey red, particularly from those who worked in or remember the industry before it left the Vale of Leven in the 1960s.

With this in mind, we held a ‘show and tell’ workshop in Alexandria, hoping that people in the local community who had worked for the United Turkey Red Company (or knew someone that had) would come along and tell us about their experiences.  We set up shop in the Loch Lomond Galleries Shopping Centre and were extremely pleased to see so many people with an interest in or a connection with Turkey red.

We met Annie Hussey, nee Lacey, who started working at the Craft in the 1920s and worked with the stenting machines – which were so loud that the people working in there had to communicate by hand signals.  James Howard worked at the UTR for 10 months after the Second World War in the dyehouse and remembers there being lots of stories of people in the area having curtains made from UTR fabrics.  Both Annie and James referred to the quality control that was involved in the production of the cloth – Annie said that if the finished cloth was no good it would be put into bundles and sold to the workers and could be used for dresses and other clothes, and James said that for each batch of fabric that was dyed, a small section would be torn off and the colour checked, if it wasn’t right it was put back into the vats.

Some peoples brought along objects connected with the UTR, some of which dated from the early days of the company in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and which showed the personal stories of the people who worked there, as well as giving an insight into the industry at large.

Elizabeth Houston’s great grandfathers both worked at the Levenbank works as block printers and she brought along the mells (very heavy hammers used for block printing) which had been owned by Peter McNee and the block printer ‘teep’ (used to identify which pieces of cloth that printer had worked on) owned by John McNee, as well as a copper tobacco tin made by the roll-shop coppersmith to keep the printer’s tobacco dry and free from colour.

Engraver's mell, used by Peter McNee at Levenbank

Printer’s mell, used by Peter McNee at Levenbank

Block printer's type which identified his finished work, used by Peter McNee

Block printer’s type which identified his finished work, used by Peter McNee

UTR pension book and machine printed cloth, Hugh Toole

UTR pension book and machine printed cloth, Hugh Toole

Hugh Toole, who worked in the Craft from 1945 until it closed, brought along his pension book and a piece of machine printed cotton which was produced while he worked there (see photo on right).

Turkey red fabric, photo of order office staff in 1952, reference letter from UTR, Irene Owens

Turkey red fabric, photo of order office staff in 1952, reference letter from UTR, Irene Owens

Irene Owens (nee Crossan) who worked in the order office of the UTR brought along a letter of reference given to her father when the works closed, and a photo of the staff of the order office in 1952 (see photo below).

Thanks to everyone who showed up on the day – it was great to see so many people.  We are particularly grateful to Angela Thomas, Loch Lomond Galleries Centre manager, for letting us use the space in the galleries and for all her help on the day.  Thanks also to David Harvie – the creator of all those informative posters we had around the wall and who was on hand to answer some of the many questions which came up!

If anyone has remembered more details or would like to send us any further information, please get in touch.  More photos below!

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