At the age of fifteen, George Scott worked as an office boy at the Merino Mill. As he got older, he became a clerk. George worked for a number of years at the mill where his service was interrupted between 1943 and 1945 when he was involved in war work during World War Two. He returned to the mill in July 1948 and worked there till 1949 when he left.
The following is some information given to me by George Scott.
Fleming Reid had 412 shops throughout Britain and 12 warehouses.
During the World War Two many men from Fleming Reid’s were called up. More women were employed to take the places of the men on active service.
During George’s time at the mill, the Chairman was Walter W. Hepplewaite. He lived in Harrogate and only visited the mill about once a month. He spoke with a very posh accent. Walter’s had two sons who worked at the mill. George Barnett was adirector and Douglas was in charge of the hosiery store. Walter W. Hepplewaite is buried in Greenock Cemetery and there is a massive stone monument above his grave.
Harold Bremner was in charge of communications at the mill. There were about ten typists in the typing pool and he would instruct them as to letters to be sent out to the mill’s shops. he was the contact between the mill and the shops and dealt with enquiries and problems like a personell officer or HR employee nowadays.
The head clerk was Thomas Greenlees and he had a big staff under him. Bosses at the mill were strict and there was a dress code imposed on staff. The men had to wear a siut to work and the ladies had to be smartly dressed.
John Galbraith and Douglas McLeod were directors who rose from being office boys, through the ranks, to become directors of the firm.
James Morrison was a Provost of Greenock in the 1940’s. He worked in the mill and eventually became a director.
George’s grandfather, also George Scott, worked as a joiner in the mill for around fifty years.
The wages in the mill were better than in many other places. During the forties office workers were paid 18/- to £1 a week while you were lucky to get 12/- to 15/- a week elsewhere. The office staff started work at 8:15am and had lunch between 1pm and 2pm. They finished for the day at 5:30pm.
George remembers a Leslie Gifford who worked at the mill as an office boy. He was called up during WW 2 and, tragically, he was killed three days before the war ended.
Ian McLean was the manager of the factory. The manufacturing of cardigans, socks etc. took place in the factory while the flats was where the wool was washed and spun and balled. Some of the wool came from a factory in Dalry.
Neil McCauslan was the chauffeur to the directors at the mill. George remembers getting a lift to the Post Office in the company’s Daimler, driven by Neil McCauslan. The mill franked all its own mail but , periodically, the huge bundles of mail had to be taken to the Post Office when the franking machine was not operational. Hence George’s ride in the Daimler.
The best known man in the mill was Bob Mc Naul the gatekeeper. Everybody knew Bob and he is remembered to this day by many former workers at Fleming Reid’s.
When Mary Webster left school at fifteen she got a job in Massey’s shop in Greenock. Then Mary changed jobs. Mary worked as a spinner at the Merino Mill. Later she worked as a baller, putting the hanks of wool into neat balls, ready for sale in the shops. Mary cannot remember exactly what wage she earned at the mill but it was not much. Nevertheless it was slightly better paid than shop work.
Isabel is now 66years old but sghe worked in Fleming Reid’s as a girl. Isabel remembers there being a “religious divide” in those days in that it was mainly Protestants who worked in the Merino Mill while Catholics worked in Boag’s Bag Store.
Isabel worked in the mill in 1961. She was a baller and worked on piece work, earning £7 a week. Isabel was also a spinner and did interlocking.
She was happy working in the Merino Mill.
Isabel’s sister also worked in the mill.
Vera started work in the Merino Mill when she was fifteen years old. She is now sixty four years old. Vera spent just a year working as a winder in the mill for £6 a week and she remembers having hair and oose all over her clothes. Vera moved on to work for Sangamo Weston when she was sixteen because the money was better there.
Vera remembers an incident during her time at the mill when a girl lost her finger while working on a machine.
Cathy is now eighty years old but she remembers clearly her days at Fleming Reid’s Mill where she started work around 1948 when she was fifteen years old.
Prior to working in the Mill, Cathy had worked in two different shops but as the money was better in the Mill she started there when she was fifteen.
It was Cathy’s job to wash the wool in the wash house. She thinks the wool came from Dalry at that time. The wool was washed and put into barrows. Then it went into five other machines where it was teased and separated until it was thin enough to be spun into balls of wool ready to be made into garments like jumpers and cardigans.
Each Flat had a separate function in the journey from “raw” wool to the finished woollen garment.
Cathy was paid £1.50 a week when she first started at the Mill.