‘That morning I dragged my heels all the way to the mill. “I can’t do it,” I sulked. Mother sighed and shook her head. My heart sank. I’d seen it hundreds of times, but it was different - now, I was going in. I’d never seen a place so depressing. I wanted to cry.’
The memories of former mill worker Maureen Wilson, of Lytham, are recalled in author Tracy Johnson’s newly-published book, The Mill Girls.
And her picture is on the cover.
Maureen, 77, was approached after she responded to a Radio Lancashire appeal for former Lancashire mill workers to get in touch with Tracy, who was conducting research for her book.
Maureen’s friend and neighbour, Anne McGettigan, of Lytham, had heard the radio call-out and phoned Maureen immediately.
Maureen explained: “I decided to share my story about the mills because it was one of the happiest times of my life, but, most importantly it shaped my future.
“I first met my husband during this time, and now I want to share my story with my family, as a reminder of their history.”
One of six children, Maureen, nee Brennan, was brought up in Blackburn, in a tiny house with no bathroom, and an outside toilet.
When her parents separated for a while, she and her siblings spent some time in a children’s home.
Maureen, who has three sons, Steven, 55, of Lytham; Stewart, 52, of St Annes, and Andrew, 47, of Blackpool, and nine grandchildren, dreaded the idea of going to the
mill but ended up with good friends and great memories.
Known for her fun-loving spirit, at 15, she was sacked from her first job at a slipper factory.
“One of the blokes put me in a big box on the conveyor belt and when I got to the end, I was ordered to go and collect my cards,” she laughed.
“My mother told me I was going to the mill the following Monday, and I was dreading it.
“I was given the job of a “doffer”, and as the bobbins, known as cones, on the spinning frame filled with thread, I had to replace them with empty ones.
“There were six doffers and they were all about my age. I knew them from school and around the area, but before I could even have a chat with any of them, the machines started up and I’d never heard a racket like it.
“By lunchtime the pinny that I was wearing over my skirt and blouse was full of oil and it had to last me all week.
“As it turned out, even though the conditions were hard - the long hours, we started at 7.30am, the noise and heat of the machines, the smell of the oil - there was a great camaraderie and we all laughed and chatted along as we weaved and packed.
“Some time later, a group of us used to get the train to the Tower Ballroom at Blackpool on Saturday nights, and we got the ‘passion wagon’ home at 11pm.
“I met my husband Walter at the Tower Ballroom. He was from Lytham and was doing his National Service.
“When I was 19, we got married and moved to Cleveland Road, in Lytham, and then Warton Street. Walt became an engineer at a factory in Dock Road.
“But we were divorced in 1975 and he died 11 years ago.
“It’s been great fun to be involved with Tracy’s book, and to see my photo on the front cover.
“My sister has bought eight copies!” says Maureen.
The book, the first by freelance journalist, Tracy Johnson, of Clitheroe, is a collection of true stories of love, laughter and loss from inside Lancashire’s cotton
mills, told through the eyes of four northern mill girls.
Tracy, 39, adds: “It was a delight to talk to Maureen, one of four former northern mill girls who told their true stories of love, laughter and hardship from inside
Lancashire’s cotton mills.
“While their personalities differ, one thing shines through. They are all strong, proud, norhtern women who have inspired me.”
Tracy, along with Maureen and Anne, will be at her event at Plackitt and Booth, Lytham, on Thursday, September 11.
The Mill Girls, published by Ebury Press, RRP £6.99