A GLASGOW student is hoping to weave together women's stories of the past to shed new light on the city’s textile heritage.

Rory Stride, who is studying for a PhD at Strathclyde University, wants to hear from women who worked at D&H Cohens (later Claremont Garments) in Pollokshaws; William Hollins in Bridgeton; Bairdwear in Inchinnan, Polmadie and Springburn; Coats Viyella in Paisley; and Stoddard Carpets in Elderslie.

Rory explains: “Historically, the textile industry in Scotland was dominated by women working in the clothing factories, thread mills and weaving sheds.

“But their stories have been marginalised within the wider discussion of Scotland’s industrial past, which has predominantly focused on the men working in coalmining, shipbuilding and the steelworks.”

He adds: “The textile industry provided employment to generations of women, with grandmothers, mothers and daughters all working alongside one another on the factory floor.

“Women’s working lives deserve greater attention and appreciation as their work was skilled, important and valuable.

“There are still thousands of stories which remain untold. I want to give the women who worked in the factories a platform to share their experiences and memories.”

Nan McKernan, nee Hanlon, worked in D&H Cohens in Pollokshaws from 1963 to 1970.

She lived in Pollok, and left school at 16, just after the death of her father Paddy, to find work.

“I finished school on the Friday and went to look for work on the Monday, and my mum, Agnes, told me I’d better not come home without a job,” recalls Nan, with a smile.

“I got a job at Cohens, and started the next day. It was great, very modern, and the factory was absolutely spotless.

“I knew how to sew because my mother taught me, so I became a machinist, working on school uniforms for girls. In those days, Cohens made clothes for Marks and Spencer. It was hard work, eight o’clock to a quarter past five every day, with 45 minutes for lunch and the bosses were very strict.”

She laughs: “You weren’t supposed to talk, but of course you did, when the boss wasn’t looking.”

Nan was promoted to supervisor during her time at the factory, but she turned it down.

“I lasted for three weeks,” she says. “It wasn’t for me – I just wanted to be on the machines. I made lots of good friends. Last year, I caught up with my pal Monica King, who had worked alongside me at Cohens, to celebrate her 70th birthday.”

Nan, who is now 71 and living in Priesthill, left her job to start a family – she has four children and four grandchildren – but she has many happy memories of her time at the factory.

“I loved it – it was a fantastic place to work,” she adds.

D&H Cohens was still employing more than 700 workers in Pollokshaws when its closure was announced in October 1996. Bairdwear’s clothing factories in Polmadie and Springburn were still in operation until early 2000, employing almost 400 people.

“It is widely considered that manufacturing in Scotland collapsed in the late 1970s but even into the 1990s, the textile industry in the west of Scotland was still going strong,” says Rory.

“Some of these textile companies are synonymous with their local community. For example, Coats Viyella’s Abbey Mill and Anchor Mill contain to remain important symbols of the area’s proud industrial past for the people of Paisley.”

If you worked for one of these five textile companies between 1970 and 2000 and would like to share your memories with Rory, email him at rory.stride@strath.ac.uk

And get in touch with us too, to share your memories of old Glasgow, by emailing ann.fotheringham@heraldandtimes.co.uk