PLANS have been unveiled to publish a people's history book based on the textile industry in Peeblesshire.

But the Scottish Working People's History Trust want to track down the workers - or their families - who provided the original interviews back in the mid 1990s.

Trust research worker Dr Ian MacDougall, who has previously published Voices of Lilliesleaf based on similar recordings, conducted 29 interviews with textiles workers from Peebles, Innerleithen and Walkerburn.

As well as discussing their work, the mainly retired mill employees also spoke of their schooling, housing and recreational activities.

Janet McBain from the Scottish Working People's History Trust told us: "Dr MacDougall interviewed veteran retired workers from Walkerburn, Innerleithen and Peebles who had all worked in the local mills at one time, in a range of different roles within the industry.

"What comes across is a rich seam of local history covering living conditions, schooling, community life and working life in the locality across the 20th century.

"Many of the interviewees shared their experiences of wartime either in the forces or on the home front when Peebles textile production was harnessed to the war effort.

"Four couples were interviewed individually and three siblings – the Lavins - who had worked alongside each other."

The Peeblesshire book will be produced in partnership with the Edinburgh-based European Ethnological Research Centre and published through National Museums of Scotland.

But to comply with new data protection regulations, the Trust must now obtain written permission to use the transcripts.

Ms McBain added: "The Trust is keen to make contact with the interviewees or their families to advise them of the intended publication of the material.

"When the interviews were conducted the contributors agreed verbally to publication of the content in book form.

"However to comply with new legislation on copyright and data protection the Trust would prefer if the interviewees would be able to sign a written permission form.

"It is likely that few of the actual interviewees will still be alive as they were a good age when they were interviewed some 20 years ago, but if there is family in the area we would be keen to get in touch with them."

The textile workers interviewed by Dr MacDougall were:

Peebles - Mr and Mrs Anthony and Wilma French, Betty Muir, Duncan Adam, Duncan Murray, Effie Anderson, Margaret Lavin, Minnie Lavin, Peter Lavin, Peggy Fergusson, Robert R Sanderson and Walter Scott.

Innerleithen - Andrew Brunton, Bob Anderson, James Howitt, John Brown, John Lunn, Margaret Turnbull, Margaret Melrose, Nellie Nisbet, Phil McGlassan, Mr and Mrs Robert Margaret Gray and W Lockie Robson.

Walkerburn - Mr and Mrs Archie and Myre Little, Eric Pearce and Mr and Mrs Hume and Olive Davidson.

Extract from interview conducted in November 1996 with Betty Muir, born 1922 in Peebles and brought up with her four siblings in a room and kitchen and scullery in Old Town. She left school just before her 14th birthday and started the following Monday at March Street Mill

On the Old Town house:

Was it a terraced house?

A: Well, it’s, actually it’s up for sale at the moment. And it’s been made into a threestorey apartment. Whereas when we were all small up there it was four different houses. All jist one, what ye called the kitchen and a bedroom and a scullery.

Q: Right. Now when you say four houses, was it four in a block?

A: Aye, in a block. You went in a close.

Q: It wasn’t a terraced house?

A: No, you went in a close. The close is still there. You can still go in the same way. And there was one house to the left and one to the right. Ah think the one on the right was only a single-end, if I can remember rightly, and a wee back kitchen. Then you

went right through the close and there were stairs up to two houses up the stair.

Q: Outside? At the back?

A: At the back. Because we moved from the one down the stair in the close to one up the stair, which was still jist the two-apartment house but the livin’ quarter was bigger. It could take two double beds forbye the rest o’ the room. It was bigger than

the one down the stairs. There were the two beds in the room and there was two of us slept in one bed and two in the other. And then there was a cot in the livin’ room, with the bed in the livin’ room as well.

Q: And what about your brother then? Was he..?

A: Well he would be in wi’ one o’ us. Aye, head to feet, you know.

Now what about toilets and bath?

A: Outside. Outside toilet, round the back, yes. For the four, the whole four. It wis just underneath the stairs. Jist the one toilet,

that’s all.

Q: For four households? You shared?

A: Yes.

Q: Aye. And you wouldn’t have any kind of bath or shower?

A: Well, wi’ us livin’ next door - we lived next door to ma Grandfather Stewart, you see, where he had the joiner’s business next door. And after washin’ day on a Monday, we were all taken in there at night time. The boiler was filled up wi’ water again and boiled up and we all were put in the washin’ tubs and had baths in there.

[Age 14 leaving Kingsland School Christmastime and starting at March St Mill ]

Well, when ah started in it they also had the spinning. Spinning - that’s where they spun the yarn on the long machines that went back and forwards like that. That wis there then and it came frae the spinnin’ on to what they ca’ the throstle, where Peter Lavin worked. And they put it on to there. And then that went to the looms, where it was set up for to weave. And that was where you started in the mill, on the in-givin’, where you put these threads through the cams for it all to be drawn through. And then they put it through what they ca’ed a slayer.

And then it went intae the loom then.

And of course ye had your bobbin machines and your pirn machines for tae get the pirns to weave with. They were different machines entirely. And then it came intae where we were, intae the darnin’, where it went tae what ye ca’ed - where ah started

makin’ ma wages – on the birling where ye pulled it across a table and ye rubbed and ye felt for a’ the knots in the material and ye lifted a’ the knots up.

Some ye had to open, so as they could be crossed and didnae leave a mark on the material. Then ye had tae put them up over

rollers and look through them to see if you’d left any. And then they went on to the next bit, on to the darnin’, which ah took up in later years. And ye darned in any broken ends or faults. Sometimes ye had a thread out from end to end, sixty yards o’ material. Took quite a bit o’ doin’, the darnin’. So ah learnt the darnin’ later on.

Q: That was quite a skilled job?

A: Oh, yes, aye, three years. Ye had to serve a three years apprenticeship. When ma sister went intae the mill from comin’ out the cleanin’ job, the domestic bit o’ her life, she had to serve three years. And ye served two years learnin’ and the woman that wis

learnin’ ye, ye got part o’ her wage. Whatever she made that week, ye got two-thirds o’ her wage for your wage, which was good. And then after that third year wis up, ye went on for yourself and made your own wage. And it wis the same that job that ah

did first, the birling. When ah went on there this woman learnt me. And ah remember when she told me ah wis goin’ on ah got aboot three weeks and then she said, ‘Now ye’ll go on it and make your own wage.’ She says, ‘Now see that book.’ She says, ‘If

ye fill that page with numbers,’ she says, ‘ye’ll make £2.’ And that’s a good wage. So that wis ma first wage. It wis £2.5.6.

Q: And what age would you be then?

A: Oh, ah’d only be sixteen, aye, jist sixteen, when ah did that.

Q: That was a good wage for a girl of that age at that time?

A: Oh, aye, aye. But ah worked, ah always remember workin’ like a navvy that first week. And that wis what ah had, £2.5.6.. Ah thought this wis great. But the next week ah got a come-down because ah had some harder pieces tae work with and ah

couldnae take them off as quick. So ma pay came doon below the £2. But it wis quite a hard job really.

Q: You were on piece-rates?

A: Aye, ye were paid piece work, yes, that’s right.

Q: And then from there?

A: From there, well, by the time ye got an idea o’ what wis going’ on in the mill. And if ye took a fancy to something, ye asked tae get a shift when somebody else came in frae the school. You were moved on, ye see. Six months, something like that. Three months, six months, aye, depending who wis comin’ in. And ah wanted to learn to be a penciller, what they ca’ed a penciller.

That wis further on intae the clean department, after the pieces had a’ been scoured, washed and dried. And it wis some bits that would come up light and they should’ve been darker. And ye went over them wi’ these wax crayons and different coloured pencils and that. Ye covered up a’ the flaws mair or less that you could see, before it wis properly finished.

…ah liked the girls that worked on there and ah had a lot to do wi’ them at break times. And ah used tae come in and stand and watch them. And ah used to think, ‘Oh, ah would like to do that.’ So when ah got a move ah got moved intae that shed, but ah wis put on to what they called the picking. And that wis the most borin’ job in the mill.

It wis jist like a’ the dark pieces, the likes o’ that, if there were maybe wee white bits, wee white threads or wee white specks on them, ye had to sit wi’ a pair o’ tweezers and pick them oot.

Oh, it wis a monotonous job.

Q: So you had to work quickly, too, to make a wage?

A: Oh, aye, and, oh, it wis borin’ that. And when ah wis on that job, the boss frae next door came and he wanted two people tae help him out on the birling. And that wis when ah got put onto the birling. And ah never got back. We were promised tae get

back in there because they knew ah wanted to go on the shadin’ and they were waitin’ until ah could go on. But ah never got on. Ah got put on the birlin’ and that wis where ah stuck. Because ah went fae the birlin’ tae bein’ a darner. They became short o’

darners, so ma boss came and asked me if I would like to learn.

He says, ‘Ah know you do a bit o’ darnin’.’ Well, ma sister had learned me at home different bits, you know, and the different lifts that’s in the darnin’, ye know, with the different designs and they had a’ different lifts. And he said, ‘Ah know that ye can darn a plain thing.’ He says, ‘But if ye get a wee bit training would ye go on?’ So ah said yes, because it wis better money. So ah learnt to be a darner, so ah got on to the darnin’ and that wis better wages. And I enjoyed that better than the birlin’. The birlin’ wis a bit monotonous as well.

Q: Now of the workers in the mill roughly how many would be women and how many men? Was it half and half or… you know, in the early years when you started? You started in 1936 so up to the war?

A: No, ah think there’d be maybe slightly mair weemen than men.

Q: Three-fifths women, two-fifths men, something like that, very roughly ? It would fluctuate a wee bit no doubt?

A: Aye, something like that, yeah, yeah, aye. Ye jist….`cause it wis nearly a’ women that wis on the weavin’, on the machines, aye. It wis a’ women in oor shed and the clean side it wis a’ women. It would jist be, what, aboot half-a-dozen men that wis in

the scourin’ hoose where they washed the things. And there wis only the dryin’ machine, two knottin’ machines…

That’s where the knots that we had raised in the birlin’, they went through this machine and it cut them off. And then there wis other two at this side. Aboot half-a-dozen men in there as well. And the men on the throstle, the warp mills, and the yarn store. That wis aboot a’ - and the tuners for the looms. Aye, the biggest percentage wis women in the mill.

If you can help the Scottish Working People's History Trust get in touch with any of the interviewees or their families, contact Janet McBain on either or 0141 339 0907.