I was testing myself out on how good a memory I had the other day, names and faces and places, when I began to make some notes, jot down a few. When I reached over one hundred names, I discovered there was a certain pattern emerging.
These people were all former workers in the shoe factory where I once worked. Down Rosemount from Creggan Estate I’d walk, sometimes passing a burnt out UTA bus outside the Rosemount shirt factory, on down Park Avenue. Then I’d cut left before the Gander’s Neck, up the hill and down Glenbrook Terrace to Milanda Bakery turning left again and out the Northland Road. Another sharp right and there it was; Springtown Industrial Estate. The Shoe Factory (BSC Footwear Supplies Ltd) was first on the right.
The business was set up originally in huts to the left but became firmly established in an advance factory around 1968. They stayed until 1981 and closed down because of the cheap imports coming in from low paid, high productivity countries.
Mostly women and girls worked in Springtown. I worked there for around seven years in all. I was a storekeeper/handy person cutting the odd repair like a tongue or a backstrap. I was noted for leaving and then crawling back. Well, it was the 1960s/70s, 80s when work was plentiful. Core blocking, skiving, injection moulding, cutting, packing and spraying were some of the jobs on offer.
Skivers weren’t what you’d imagine them to be; people hanging around doing nothing. No, a skiver took a piece of leather and shaved off the edges in a machine to enable sewing to take place.
The cutting room was the skilled place to be and girls were adept at sewing although men could sew too, ask Gino DelPinto. However, there were very few people in the shoe factory who could make you a pair of shoes from start to finish. Everyone had their own little piece to contribute.
There was a great many clubs in the shoe factory. A deep sea-angling club, which resulted in few fish being caught, just young men being sea-sick on half deckers and boasting about the one that got away the following Monday.
There was a darts team which played out the back of the Grandstand Bar in William Street. The Woodleigh Hotel beside where the bru is now was where quiz teams battled on Wednesday nights.
Then there was the football team which played in an immaculate yellow and blue Brazil rig which hardly every got dirty; muddy that is. At holiday times like Christmas, I remember us getting to the bar as quick as we got our holiday pay and heading to the dance at Borderland that night after drinking in the Squealin’ Pig or Matador in Muff. Next day we counted the cost in sore heads and empty pockets.
We had a subsidised canteen, a tea/coffee or hot chocolate machine. Sometimes you put your money in and got a mixture of all three. There was a cigarette machine too. Smoking was allowed in cages, not on the factory floor because of all the glue used.
I remember the Christmas bonus. The manager, a straight-talking canny Scotsman sent round a tin of Roses and a tin of Quality Street and a couple of cartons of cigarettes. You could help yourself to one of each. I declined! There were bus runs and savings clubs and dances.
Forty year later I give you the results of my reminiscences, in no particular order:
Jim Feeney, Billy Quigley, Vonnie McCool, Betty Doherty, Brendan Wade, Jim Boyd (manager), Maureen Boyd, Willie Downey, Liam MacGabhann, Mary Thatcher, Johnny McCloskey, Dickie Bell, Lesley Jarvis, Carson Jarvis, Davy Jones, Monica Orr, Derek Sweeney, Davy Cregan, Frankie Campbell, Ann McGuinness, Phil McGuinness, Cyril Cusack, Don Brown, Robin Hamilton, Eugene McNutt, Jim McNutt, Martin McNutt, Martin Melaugh, Billy Melaugh, Raymond Rice, Tom Daly, Tommy Morrison, John Morrison, Marie Morrison, Jeannie Morrison, John Brady, Ruth Daniels, Charlie Daniels, Norman Shipley, Kath Shipley, Mickey Coyle, Willie Mitchel, Paul Rodgers, Noel Ward, Denis Ward, Tony Quigley, Tony Griffiths, Gino DelPinto, Gloria DelPinto, Gino Yannarelli, Briege Mellon, Don Mellon, Eugene Mellon, Eileen Gallagher, Lily Deeney, Lily McCallion, Noel Lindsay, Tony McDaid, Patsy Durnin, Pam Kelly, Kay Harkin, Rocky Hale, Redmond Walker, James O’Carroll, Rosie Carlin, Rose Gallagher, Jeremy Thatcher, Mary Kelly, Ann McCallion, Mickey McCallion, Martin Daniels, Bridie Gallagher, Joan Rooney, Karen McGuinness, Dessie McCool, May Chapman, Pat Meehan, Peter Davidson, Joe Meenan, Ted Jennings, Hester Jennings, Richard Devenney, Joe Millar, Maura Millar, Tony McFadden, Joe McLaughlin, Jim McCafferty, Jim McGeehan, George McGrellis, Anne McGeehan, Paul Bryant, Anne McAuley, Christine Helferty, Maeve McCallion, Joan Murray, Majella Hutchinson, Evelyn Donnelly, Donna Kelly, Francess Doherty, Mary Creswell, Philomena Barr, Una Murray, Rosaleen McCarron, Frankie McCarron, Brian Doherty, John Cooley, Leo McCloskey, Anne Millar, Paul Kerr, Jim McMonagle, Seamus Hone, Ray McConnell, Kevin McCloskey and Sam Moore.
My apologies for leaving out anyone.
Photographs for this article supplied courtesy of Derek Sweeney.