Edward Meechan

(beater assistant)

2002/103 Edward Meechan interviewed in his own home by Sarah Bromage in Edinburgh on 30/10/2002

Worked at James Inglis and Son as a beater assistant from age 13 between the years 1940 and 1951. His wife worked at the mill as well.

000 Forced into working, left school at 13 and asked Mr Williamson for a job. Got greencard from the 'brew' and took trades week off in holiday. Pay increased every year. No union, boss very fair.
044 Mr Williamson ran the mill and son came into the mill later. Small brown mill which made lapin, browns and craft paper.
063 1941 pulp from abroad hard to get. Shortages and had to make paper out of lots of things eg. straw. Needed woodpulp and white sulphate for books for the educational sector.
088 Description of educational books, painting and colouring books.
099 Some of the paper cut in the mill. Anne was on the cutters. Finishing department sent the reams of paper to the educational department to be cut into books.

117 Made lapin cheap paper and craft which was good brown paper. Rag dust off merchants in big bags. Still using it in 1950.

147 Never short of orders during war. There between ages 14 – 18 till called up to the RAF. 2 days off celebration at the end of the war, called up. His job was kept open and went back into mill, met his wife Anne.

175 Most people were local, jobs were easier to get especially because so many men were away. Brother worked in the mill. No formal interview.

203 Started as a labourer; unload lorries of scrap paper for pulp. Finishing house would load paper onto lorries. Went onto beaters to learn consistencies. 2 hours for beaters to work then stuff went onto the vat and then the machine shop.

223 When returned from abroad were short of machineman so went to machine house. Machine processes and cutting machine.

236 Girls in the cutting house, paper cuts in the finishing house. Checking paper. Anne's sister and friend were in the finishing house. Damp surroundings to work in. Smell of pulp. Handling finished paper. Men worked machines.

267 Women worked on the pulper, pulper on all the time, noisy. Wore overalls but no protective clothing. Perk got clothing coupon for work. Coupons during the war. Conditions and shortages generally during the war.

302 12 hour shift 6am – 6pm, switch shift. Machines only stopped for maintenance mainly on a Sunday. Changed the wire. Foreman Robert Barclay and Mr Currie the engineer both had mill houses. No mill houses for workers.

327 Anne worked 8am – 5pm with an hour for lunch and a tea break. Toilet and cloakroom where everyone would sit. Mr Meechan would get unofficial breaks while on the job.

346 Very interesting, made bingo cards after he left. Brown paper for customers. Only mill in central Edinburgh. Mills on the Esk.

364 No training given, shown how to do it by person on the job. Work of the beaters. Mix pulp with size, alum and dye. Beater would hold about 50 gallons. 2 men on the beaters each shift. 1 man on the cutting machine and 2 women on day shift.

397 Women would work through night shift and day shift paper. Paper cuts especially from brown paper. Not a trade, didn't need training. No time limits. Small firm, no union.

419 Mill quite well run. Mr Williamson a good boss, was only there during the day. Place ran well, left to get on with job.

441 1 papermaking machine. Beaters fed into 2 tanks onto beds and wire. All in one building. 3 levels.

456 Would be called in on a Sunday to clean up and maintenance. Would be paid overtime. Trades week, 1 week. Christmas Day and New Years Day off. Christmas Day and New Years Day off. May and September bank holiday.

477 21 paid adult wage. If you served an apprenticeship usually it would be finished when you were 21. Paid weekly in a brown envelope in cash. Name, clock number and hours worked. Bonus 'tonnage' if mill made so much above the quota you got a bonus. Got wages from office on a Friday night. Annie Dawson was office secretary handed out money; allowed to go just before you finished.

512 2 people in the office. If there was an accident went to the office and she would help or phone the hospital. Brother had accident when he put his fingers in to shift straw; took top off finger. Taxi to the hospital. No serious accidents; but quite a few got fingers crushed.

537 Had to lead paper in; could burst fingers. Brother got small compensation while he was off. Type of machine you could not guard too much.

551 Breaks in paper. Carrying rubbish up to the start of the process, girls would help. Asked boss if you could collect newspapers, store them up and sell them to get a social fund to have a day out.

562 Went to Loch Lomond, got 2 buses. Newspaper was the highest paid paper as it gave god print. Whole factory went, the boss as well. Mill closed as it was an actual holiday. Took friends with him. Meal and toured loch. Got rowing boat.

585 Trip was the first time they socialised as a group. No social life; no union. Talking about video of social trip.

613 Met wife while working in the mill. Had met Anne before years before at Hogmanay. Love at first sight. Other couples that worked in the mill. Wife left mill before got married. Marriage not marked in any way.

680 Anne left mill as did not enjoy working in the mill. 14 was the common age to start work. People stayed in the mill all their life. Retirement not enforced, no age you had to retire. The war changed everything.

721 Most in the cutting house were young, oldest were 30ish. Mill romances.

738 No sporting facilities, people just went to the pub mainly the local pub at the bridge. Building still exists, large gates. Cobbled entrance.

758 Didn't have a lorry. Ernie Watson was the scrap paper merchant and he had a lorry. Would hire horse and cart to ship goods out. Large stables you would get horses from.

785 Most goods went locally. Callie station at Leith, goods could have gone out.

798 Electricty shortages would hit houses first. Didn't firewatch as was in the civil defense at Junction road. Foreman and engineer would firewatch.

819 House went with job. 3 engineers in the time he was there. People stayed in the mill a long time.

846 Happy working place apart from one or two. If person on next shift did not come on would call in foreman but had to stay on. Engineer would make a lot of replacement parts.

880 Anne worked 14 – 17 and then went to Simpson label and Bruce Peebles. One day off to get married. No paid holiday, had to take a week. Unpaid leave.

895 End

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