It was Limavady’s biggest employer at one time with more than 600 workers from the Roe Valley and the further North West streaming through the gates each day to clock in.
Having supplied Marks & Spencer with ladies underwear, when the Daintifyt factory closed in 2004, after half a decade, former staff say it was “devastating”, and not just for those left jobless, but for the town as a whole.
“The slogan was ‘Daintifyt supported Limavady’, and it did because it helped a lot of businesses through the years,” said Chris Lynch, a former storeman of 14 years at the factory. “My brother Billy worked there, my sister Elizabeth, my mother Babs, and my aunt Jean too. It was a big employer for my family.”
Closed almost 11 years, the factory site is now home to a school, just off Church Street. A committee has been formed of former staff, including Eugene Kelly, Rosemary Morgan, Michelle Holmes and Marian McLaughlin - and they’re holding a reunion in May. They’re hoping it will be as successful as the first reunion in 2009, when more than 300 people attended, with all proceeds being donated locally.
“It was at a funeral of a former colleague that I met Lynn Gillespie, a former Daintifyt worker, and we talked about getting everyone together,” said Chris. “It was great seeing everyone again at the reunion because the Daintifyt was like one big family.”
Among those looking forward to reunion number two is Suzanne McDaid, also a reunion committee member. She walked into the Daintifyt in 1978, aged 17, and left when the factory closed down.
“I was a nervous wreck when I started, I was that shy. I was feared to do anything,” explained Suzanne, who worked as a machinist and went on to become a line manager.
“We worked hard - you earned your money - but we had some craic at work. They were good years. It’s where I met my husband Eamon - he was a union man. I made lifelong friends there and, if you ever needed anything, you had the support. I lost a brother when I was there, and the Daintifyt was brilliant. They were a good employer.”
For Margaret Donaldson, the Daintifyt years were the best. She started when she was 16 and was there until the factory shut its gates. She remembers “the tears tripping me” as she left the factory on that final day.
“It was devastating, like a death,” said Margaret. “The last day was awful.”
The former factory workers agree there were lucky to work in one place for so long, and in a job they enjoyed.
“The parties were great, and I remember the Christmas records would always start at the end of the November. We had great parties up at the Gorteen,” said Suzanne.
All three agree that some of the innocent antics that went on in the factory - on one occasion an employee riding a bike on the factory floor - and events as ‘Miss Lovely Legs’ would be unlikely to happen now. Alongside the hard work and fun, however, the factory employees produced top quality work and they also did their fair share of fund raising for local charities.
“Those 14 years were the best times of my life,” said Chris.
The first reunion raised funds for Foyle Hospice. This time around the proceeds from the night on May 22nd in The Drummond Hotel, Ballykelly, will go towards Mullagh House, a Western Trust residential care facility in Limavady.
“We’d love to see as many old faces as possible,” said Chris.
For information on tickets call Chris on 07511059562. See the committee’s Facebook page at ‘Daintifyt Limavady’