New Lanark Linen Mills

Written  and Published by Jim Hawthorne, 1969 in the Mourne Observer.

To the many exiles from the Dromara and Dromore areas, who are requesting look-ups and information on their ancestors, a valuable piece of information was written and published by Jim Hawthorne, founder and editor of The Mourne Observer in 1969, giving details of the families who left Dromore and Dromara areas in the early part of the last century to seek work in the Linen Mills off New Lanark in Scotland. Among them was the parents of Jim Hawthorne, who hailed from Ballykeel. Jim Hawthorne's son David, of The Mourne Observer whom I have met while doing research on this article a few years ago, has given me permission to use it on my Website, that it may benefit others researching their ancestors.

Chief credit for so many families from the Dromore and Dromara areas going to New Lanark, must be given to a Mr Willie Kerr, a native of Dromara District, who was employed by the Gourock  Ropework  Company's Mills in Port Glasgow, when the New Lanark Mills changed over from cotton to canvas in 1905. Mr Kerr was sent back to Ireland by the firm to tell the hand loom weavers of the good jobs that awaited them. The success of his efforts will be gathered from the number of families who emigrated, In the hope that it will be of interest to many readers -and i am sure of especial interest to the families concerned, their descendants and relatives- I have compiled, with the help of some good friends, a list of those families who made the voyage across the North Channel. In those days quite an adventure in itself, to a new life in the model village in the valley of the Clyde. Possibly my list is not complete, and i should be glad to learn of any who may have been overlooked.

First I will start with the Willie Kerr, referred to, Mr. Kerr, had two sons and two daughters. Johnny and Jimmy (Jimmy was killed in the 1914-1918 war), Aggie, (Mrs Dale) and Minnie, (Mrs. McPherson)

Next i take, Richard Jess of Rock Road, Ballykeel, who  was the head of one of the first families from Dromore District to settle in New Lanark, in the early 1900's, he was a lace weaver in Glasgow, when he heard of the demand for canvas weavers in New Lanark. Mr. Jess's  family were also already in Glasgow and accommodation was soon found for them  The family comprised of three sons and four daughters: Willie, (deceased), Joe in U.S.A., Tommy (deceased), Agnes (Mrs. Sam Jess, Greenock), Mrs. Margaret Jess, Ballykeel,  Jane (Mrs. Day, Greenock deceased) and Martha deceased.

 Two brothers, who lived in what is known as "Kings Big House" in Ballykeel, crossed  to Scotland with their families. They were: Samuel Jess and Joseph Jess (Wee Joe). Samuel had two sons and seven daughters :  Johnny, (deceased) Fred, New Lanark, Aggie,  (d.), Jeannie, (d), Sarah, (Mrs. Hamilton, Lanark) Annie, (d), Hanna, (d), Nellie, U.S.A., Ena, Tarbrax, Scotland.

Joe's family consisted of  five sons and eight daughters : Sam, (deceased), Harry, (d), Robbie, New Lanark, John (d),  Tommy, (d), Aggie Jane (Mrs. Connor d.), Annie (Mrs. Hay d.) Martha (Mrs Dawson, New Lanark), May (Mrs. Dewson, d.) Lucy (Mrs. Rogers, New Mains) Evelyn (Mrs. Hally, d.) Lizzie (d), and Christina (d)

Tommy Jess of Magheraconluce, Hillsborough a brother of Richard Jess, crossed to New Lanark in 1912 with his family. His wife had died four years previously, although Mr Jess only survived another five years. His young family of nine remained in the village, and between them gave a total of three hundred years to the Mill, probably a record.  The family comprised of three boys and six girls: all of whom still survive. they are, Willie, Tommy and Jimmy, all in New Lanark; Sarah and Lizzie, New Lanark, Mary, (Mrs. Black, Carluke), Maggie, (Mrs. Sullivan, Carluke),Annabella (Mrs MacAlonan, Lanark), And Jane (Mrs. Fraser, Montreal, Canada)

Other families of the Jess name who pulled up their roots and headed for Scotland were :

Willie (Billy) Jess of Ballykeel, who lived in the next house to one occupied by Joe Clark. There were two sons and three daughters, Sam, now living at Ballyvicknakelly; Joe, Drumanocken, (d), Sarah (Mrs. McCutcheon, Croft Rd.,d)
Minnie (Mrs. Norman Jess, d).

Alex Jess of Ballykeel : son and daughter: Willie and Annie. (Mrs Cooper) both in  Carstairs, Lanarkshire, also a sister Agnes Jess.

Joe Jess of Ballykeel : Un-married and was known as American Joe, now deceased.

As may be gathered from the foregoing list, the name Jess was nearly as common in New Lanark as in Ballykeel!.

There were another two families from Ballykeel, Alex Ruddock and his wife,
 William Robert Hawthorne, who had a family of two sons and two daughters, Willie (killed in the 1914-1918 war) and Jim, Newcastle, Co. Down, also Agnes (Mrs Cameron, Clydebank),  and Annie (Mrs. Campbell,  Rothesay).

Two families went from Derry in Dromara to New Lanark: 

 First, and one of the very earliest of the Irish settlers in the village was John Morrison, who went out with his family in 1904, some of the family returned to Dromara with Mr. Morrison ,but others remained in Scotland.

 They were William, Lanarkshire, (d), John, (New Lanark) Mary-Ellen, (Mrs Stevenson, Ballygowan, d) Elizabeth, (Mrs Stevenson, Dromara) Lena (Mrs. Brown, Carluke), Sarah (Mrs Neill, Dromore) and Charlotte. (Mrs.Prentice, Carluke).
The second family from Derry, Dromara was Samuel Stevenson with his wife and five sons and two daughters, They returned later and settled at Ballygowan. The family were William, Samuel, Robert, all deceased, James, Dromara, (d), and Thomas, Belfast,  Sarah (Mrs. Burke, Belfast, d) and Anna-Mary. (Mrs Cargin, Belfast), Elizabeth (Mrs Walker, Belfast, d).

 From nearby Mulloughdrinn, went Tom Hunter and family, most of who returned when Mr Hunter retired. They were Jimmy who settled in Dromara; Willie, Belfast (d), Agnes (Mrs Morrison, d), Rebecca (Mrs. Joe Jess, d), Annie (Mrs. Montgomery, d), and Martha.

James Jess from Dromara, who  returned when he retired. There were four sons and two daughters. Thomas James (d), Felix (d), Albert, (Newry), Alexander, Hillsborough, Sarah (Mrs Dunlop), Ellen (Scotland), and Mary Agnes who retired to Ireland with her father.

Another Dromara emigrant was Jimmy Anderson of Croft Road.  He had two sons and three daughters, Willie killed in the 1914-1918 war, James Cecil, Martha (Mrs Rowan, Widow), Nellie (Mrs Hamilton) and Cissy. (Mrs Frame, d.)

From Kinallen.

There were two families from Kinallen;  Sammy Bickerstaff had four sons and four daughters: Tom, Lanark; Willie, London; Sammy, New Lanark;  Jimmy, Glasgow;  Annie, Belfast;  Jessy,  Sadie and Jean all Lanarkshire.
The other was Harry Bell who had three sons and four daughters:  Willie, Coventry England;  Harry and  Fred, Lanarkshire; Mary,(d),  Gertie and  Annie London; and Evelyn.
Drumiller and Ballyviknakelly also had representatives:-
There was William  Gourley of Black Bog, who had five daughters: Annie,( Mrs Dickson), Mary, (Mrs. Watson), Ella, (Mrs.White) and Winnie, (Mrs Brown) all of Lanarkshire, and Maggi (Mrs Garland, widow, London).

David Lunn of Ballyvicknacally  had three sons and five daughters: Willie, George, Johnny, (all deceased),; Lizzie, (Mrs Main, Cleghorn), Minnie, (Mrs Lindsay, d), Lucy, (Mrs Sanderson, Glasgow), Sarah,( Mrs Auld, widow, Carluke) and Ena, (Mrs Weir, Carluke,d)

From Leapoughs, there were James Adams, who lived with his sister Annie, (Mrs Rea), and Jeannie, (Mrs Patton).

From Dromore

One of the best known families from Dromore was that of  Joe Bingham. He had three sons and three daughters:  Joe, Jimmy, Johnny, Georgina, Lizzie and Mary-Ellen
Joe Bingham Jr., who was married to a Miss McCracken from Dromore, had five sons and a daughter:  Joe, Sandy, Willie, George, Jack and Maggie.

Another family of the same surname is still in New Lanark, Sammy Bingham. There are three sons and a daughter:  Bob,  (Lanark), Tom, (Carluke), Sam, (Fife), and Minnie, (Mrs Cartner, New lanark)  So far as I know, Mr Bingham is the only head of the original Irish families still alive.

Other Dromore families were :
Jim Gregg, brother of the late Hunter Gregg of Ballykeel.  Jim had two sons and a daughter: Willie, (Lanark), Joe who has a grocery shop in Lanark; and Lily (Mrs Thompson, Lanark)

Geordie Gregg, brother of Jim Gregg and family, who returned to Dromore.

Hugh McCaw, who came back to Ireland, lived some years in Benraw, and returned to New Lanark. There were two sons:  David Hugh, (New Lanark) and Willie (d).

Davey Gilliland, who had two sons and four daughters:  David,(d),  Johnny;  Annie, (Mrs Moore, Dromore), Bella, (Mrs Mark, widow, Lanark), Ellen, (Mrs Wilson, Lanark) and Lizzie, (Mrs George Gibson, Lanark)

John Mackin,  Three sons and a daughter:  Tom, John and Michael, all (deceased) and Lizzie who is a Nun.

John Maginnis, Four sons and three daughters:  Gerald and  Daniel, Lanark, Joe, Glasgow,  Arthur, Lanark, Aggie, (Mrs Folly, Lanark), Lizzie, and Maureen (Mrs Wilson, New Lanark).

Willie Hugh Kerr of Dromore and Mrs Kerr, (formerly) Miss Mary Clark of Ballykeel, still living at Ballymacormick.

Henry Moreland and family of two sons.

John Boyle of Mossvale, (d).

From Ballynahinch :
Mr John Nicholl, Office Manager, was married to a Miss Gamble from Ballynahinch. They had two sons and a daughter.The came to Belfast on retirement.

Other Irish families who come to mind are :
Joseph Hall from Portadown who had one son and four daughters:  Joe, (d), Sarah, (Mrs Birrell, Lanark), Annie, (Mrs Rettie, widow), Charlotte, (Mrs Gibson, d), and Jeannie, (Mrs Jamison, d),

James Gibson from Portadown who had five sons: Willie, New  Lanark, George,Lanark, Uzaih, (d), Jimmy, Paisley, and Wilson, Renfrew.

Willie Paul from Belfast, a son and daughter, (Mrs Turnbull), both living in Stranraer.

Harry Savage, Charles Lennox and the McClean and Ash families from County Antrim.

Dawson family, Belfast, two daughters,

Here is a description of some of  the photographs published with the above material, i am sorry i could not add the photographs, as the newspaper this information was taken from has faded over the years.

Mr Victor Kernoghan  pictured beside the War Memorial in Dromore. While living in New Lanark Victor worked in the coal pits, home on holiday at the start of the 1914-1918 War he joined the Royal Irish Rifles and after the War returned for a time to New Lanark. He and Mrs. Kernoghan live at Drumaghadone on the outskirts of Dromore.

Jim Hawthorne beside the village War Memorial, which bears the name of his elder brother, William Robert.

A holiday re-union at New Lanark, Mr Geordie Gregg, Dromore, who worked for some years in the mill before it closed (his wife was also employed in the canteen), Mr Alfred Gregg, Dromore, the late Mr Geo. Johnston, Holm factory; Margaret (Geordies daughter); Mr Sammy Bingham, who lives in New Lanark and pays regular visits to his friends in Dromore- these include brothers, Willie, John, Albert, Ernie, and Fred and sisters Mrs Martha Johnston and Mrs Mary Ellen Gregg.

Mr Sam Jess reads our story about New Lanark outside his cottage at Ballyvicknakelly. Mr Jess, now 83, went to New Lanark in 1904 when the canvas weaving looms were being installed. He worked for several years in the mill and also for a time in the market gardens, before returning home after World War 1.

Mrs Mary Kerr reading her bible in her home at Ballymacormick, she and her late husband worked for a time in New Lanark.

Written and Published by Jim Hawthorn, 1969 in the Mourne Observer.


The last families  who arrived in New Lanark from County Down to work in the Mill were,

From Banbridge, William James Kelly (Billy) and his wife Florence, their children, Raymond, Billy, Phyllis and Irene.

From Banbridge, William (Billy) Toman and his wife Agnes, William Toman's mother and their children, Jimmy, Billy, Mary, Joseph, Bernadett Frank, Janet, Isabel, Josephine, (sorry about missing out some of the names before, Bryan)

From Drumness, Jim McConville,

Raymond Kelly

A Visit to New Lanark

Scottish Village where Co. Down  Families  settled sixty years ago

 With the run down of Drumaness  Mill and the proposed sale of the village, of topical interest should be a visit which a life long colleague and i paid  to another village which has been passing through a similar phase. It is the village of New Lanark, in Scotland, situated about a mile from the town of Lanark, capital of the county of Lanarkshire,  the village nestles at the foot of a steep wooded slope on the banks of the Clyde, and a short distance from its once celebrated falls. Why our visit  there ?. Well, it is our birthplace, for it was to New Lanark that many Irish families, from County Down in particular, migrated in the early years of this century to find employment in its mills, good conditions and a happy community life. Apart from the local interest of this aspect of New Lanark, there is its wider historical significance in that it was the cradle of the co-operative movement in the early years of the 18th century: it was here child labour in factories was first abolished in Britain, and unheard of conditions introduced for the betterment of workers. All this, which earned it the title of “the model village” was due to the efforts of that  great  social  welfare  pioneer, Robert Owen (1771-1858). From the time the mills were founded in 1784 they had been engaged in producing cotton goods. But in 1905 the firm changed over to cotton canvas, for which there was a great demand. It was for this work that the Irish handloom weavers were eagerly sought after and welcomed with open arms. Compared with an average wage of 8 to 10 shillings per week at home, they began with pay packets of 25 shillings a week at New Lanark and this was increased as they became skilled at working the power looms. The women folk who were employed in the spinning, winding, doubling and warping departments earned more than the men folk could do in the home country. It was a boom village then, its three mills giving constant employment to more than 500 men and women. It was little wonder therefore that some thirty families from the Dromore and Dromara areas pulled up their roots, and with what little personal belongings they had set out for a new life in New Lanark. Even in the depressed years of the late”20’s” and the “30’s” the mills of New Lanark never ceased production. During both World Wars it produced large quantities of material for the armed forces.  On reaching retirement age many of those “early settlers” with their families to the homeland. These families and their children, who must have heard much about New Lanark, will I hope, find of interest some of the observations we have to make from our visit.

Mill Closed

Unfortunately these observations are not the happiest, for as I said at the outset, New Lanark has been passing through a phase similar to that now facing Drumaness. To put it bluntly, the mills have been closed for almost a year, and the village is virtually dead. It was when I read in the “Hamilton advertiser” of the village’s plight that nostalgia caught me. I contacted Richard Jess of Ballykeel, a senior schoolboy of New Lanark days, and soon we were aboard a plane for a visit to our native heath. From the Braxfield   road, New Lanark presented a familiar sight but when we reached New Buildings and Nursery Close everywhere seemed strangely quiet. It was a lovely Saturday afternoon in August and we expected to see the streets full of playing children, but there were none. Where had they gone ?. And where were the men who used   to  foregather by the Lang Dyke to discuss the events of the week?. Where the bustling women folk getting their messages from the store, or setting   off  on  a visit to “the toon” (Lanark).


After a brief chat with one or two who remembered our families, we looked up some of  Dick’s relatives, who welcomed us most hospitably, they included Mr. and Mrs Jimmy Jess, the Misses Sarah and Lizzie Jess, Mr .Tommy  Jess, Rabbie  Jess and Willie Jess. From them we learned about the rundown of the mill, an embargo by some countries on the importation of canvas, and too keen competition from others had the inevitable effect. The owners, the Gourock Rope-work Co. had transferred the remaining orders into its main mill at Port Glasgow. An attempt, we were told was made to revive the net making section, some of the firms nets are used by Kilkeel trawlers, but without success, due to the fact that some of the families who were expert at this work had already left the village. Although many of the families whom we knew, had gone to other parts there is still a fair sprinkling of Jesses,  Binghams,  Mackins,  Gourleys, Savages, Kerrs, Lunns, etc. Those families of the old country still maintain friendly associations, and in the words of Mr. William Gibson (a Portadown  man who settled in New Lanark) “it’s a joy on a shopping day in Lanark to see little clusters of these folk enjoying what is near and dear to the heart of the exile, a chat with lifelong friends, Mr Gibson by the way, is one of the leading citizens in the village and has always taken an active part in organisations, and is keenly interested in its history, on which he has written an interesting pamphlet, indeed it is to Mr Gibson I am indebted for historical facts concerning New Lanark.

Boyhood Haunts

 During our short stay we walked round the almost silent village, the still more silent mill, climbed the braes, and visited the Falls of Clyde and other boyhood haunts. On our round of the pot-holed streets we chatted to Mrs Paul from Belfast, Mr Pearson, who had a veritable bird sanctuary, Jock McKnight and a few others. We were greatly impressed by the layout of the mill, and how everything had been so carefully planned. We stopped at the three storey building where indoor bowls were played on long tables, where the dramatic society, under Harry Gorey, rehearsed and presented wonderful productions, and where men’s and women’s organisations and the B.B. met. Here too the school concerts were held. A missing landmark was the tall “mill lum” (chimney stack) demolished when electrical power was installed some years ago. Up the brae we halted first at the Kirk, and then at the War Memorial which stands in a railed-in enclosure, I recalled parading with the B. B. at the unveiling of the Memorial in the winter of 1922. Further up the brae we stopped at the football pitch, it is still in fair shape, but there is no football team now. The team then was called   Clydevale, in which Dicks uncle Tommy was a star player, Dick too was a promising member of the school team, which was coached by Joe Bingham. The market garden beside the pitch was managed by Bob Brown and son, and provided vegetables for the village, is now overgrown with bramble and weeds. On reaching the main road we viewed the school, but as the holidays weren’t over all  was quiet here too. One of my earliest school memories was that on the day Armistice was declared, an army officer brought a German shell into the school and presented it to one of the lady teachers

 The  Falls

 Our visit to the Falls of Clyde was full of happy memories, we recalled how tourists from Glasgow arrived in horse drawn brakes, and along the route we would  perform all sorts of antics, stand on our heads or hands and “bite our big tae for a ha’ penny” and we would scramble for the pennies thrown to us by our “visiting benefactors”.
A hydro electric station uses most of the water   that  would otherwise be cascading over the falls, but despite having only a trickle they were very picturesque indeed. We crossed by the bridge at the upper falls and walked along the west side of the river to Kirkfieldbank, getting a good view on the way of the village from the opposite side.
I must not forget to mention the town of Lanark itself. In our travels it was by far the nicest town we had passed through. The buildings are well kept, and it is clean and prosperous looking and the flower tubs in the middle of the main street give it a happy appearance. In front of the Parish Church still stands the statue of Sir Wm. Wallace, and across the street a plaque on a building commemorates the fact that it was here he first drew his sword for Scotland’s freedom. Before our return flight we called to see schoolmate Alan Graham at Gourock, near Port Glasgow, Alan, whose parents had charge of the post office in New Lanark , was a sales manager for the Gourock  Ropework Co., and is well known in Kilkeel and other ports where he sold nets to the fishing fleets. Alan is now retired. He possesses one of the rare biographies of Robert Owen.

Jim Hawthorne.


Extracts from a ledger in New Lanark Mill of some of the names of people from Northern Ireland who came to work in the Mills in the early 1900s.

Mr.& Mrs. Berry,
63 Tower St. Belfast

Robert Vint
By Dromara

William Gourley
Lagan Steam Mills
2 Girls and a son working.

Alex.Boyle, Power loom weaver
Gallows St. Dromore
2 Girls in factory, married daughters husband is power steam weaver.

J. Hunter, Levallyreagh, Dromara.

A. Ward,
12 Hazlenut St. off Old Park Rd, Belfast?
4 girls and 3 boys working, one boy a mechanic.14 of a family, 6 girls and 6 boys, father can make heckles

William Cody, Quilly, Dromore

Pte. W. Lunn, 5081 A. Coy. 2nd Batt.R.I.R.
British Expeditionary Force, France.
(William Lunn came from Dromore)

Alex Ruddock, Blaris,
Lower Mange?, Via Lisburn.

Samuel Hutchinson,
42 Willow Bank St.
Cavehill Road

William James Nixon
Scotch St, Downpatrick
8 of a family, 2 boys and 6 girls, 3 girls and 2 boys working, 2 boys 16 and 20 years
3 girls ,17, 19 and 22 years

James Kennedy, Ballylough by Ansboro, Castlewellan.
6 of a family, 2 girls working and 2 boys.

James Crangle, Priest Hill
8 of a family, 4 working.

Samuel Spence, Culavey, Hillsborough.
7 of a family, 3 girls working.

William Crighton, 10 City St. Sandy Row

Jas. Anderson, Maydalgan, by Kinallen
6 of a family, 1 boy and girl working, boy 18 girl 16

John Vance, John St. Downpatrick.
10 of a family, 3 girls working, 1 boy 15 years.

D. McLean, Seymours Bridge
Randlestown, Co. Antrim.

Private W.J.Kerr, B.Coy.8th Batt. H.L.I.
Ardshallow Battery,via Dromara

Samuel Rodgers, Artana by Dromara
8 of a family 2 girls working and 1 boy in service

Edward Harkness, Artana.
6 of a family, 1 boy and 1 girl working

Wm. Johnston, John St, Downpatrick
12 of a family, 2 boys 13 and 17, 3girls 18, 20,22

Statement of wages, for mill workers, 1885

Taken from the family tree, of  the McPherson family



Statement of Wages 1885

Glasgow University Archives UGD42/7/27

Joseph McPherson working in the Water Twist Spinning 1st Mill as a Master was earning 26/- per week according to an 1885 statement of wages paid at New Lanark Mills.



Statement of Wages 1885

Glasgow University Archives UGD42/7/27

Dan. McPherson working in the Water Twist Spinning 1st Mill as a Yarn carrier was earning 7/- per week according to an 1885 statement of wages paid at New Lanark Mills.



Statement of Wages 1885

Glasgow University Archives UGD42/7/27

David McPherson working in the Water Twist Spinning 2nd Mill as a Master was earning 27/- per week according to an 1885 statement of wages paid at New Lanark Mills.



Statement of Wages 1885

Glasgow University Archives UGD42/7/27

Joe McPherson working in the Water Twist Spinning 2nd Mill as a Yarn carrier was earning 8 / 6 per week according to an 1885 statement of wages paid at New Lanark Mills.



Statement of Wages 1885

Glasgow University Archives UGD42/7/27

D. McPherson working in the Mule Spinning 3rd Mill as a Cleaner was earning 17/- per week according to an 1885 statement of wages paid at New Lanark Mills.

 McPhersons  records is from a description. So if in the 1881 or 1891 census you can identify a job then the table below will give an indication of wages. So a tenter was at 7/- to 8/6 or 35p to 42.5p in our coins. Half timers were at school half the day.
Department Wages
Back Flyers   1st Mill Preparation 1 at 7/6 and 1 at 8/- per week
Back Flyers   3rd Mill Preparation 1 at 5/- 1 at 6/- 1 at 8/- 1 at 9/- and 2 at 9/6
Bankers (2) Warping 8/- per week
Card Tenter 3rd Mill Preparation 1 at 7/- and 3 at 8/- and 1 at 8/6
Card Tenter   1st Mill Preparation 1 at 8/-  per week
Doffers & Learners (Girls) Water Twist Spinning 1st Mill 3 at 4/6 and 2 at 5/- per week
Doffers & Learners (Girls) Water Twist Spinning 2nd Mill 3 at 4/- 1 at 4/6 and 4 at 5/- per week
Drawing Framers  1st Mill Preparation 3 at 8/-  per week
Drawing Framers  3rd Mill Preparation 5 at 9/- per week
Duplex Framers  1st Mill Preparation 1 at 9/6  per week
Fly Framers   1st Mill Preparation 2 at 10/-  per week
Half -timers Water Twist Spinning 1st Mill 3/6 or 4/- per week
Half -timers Water Twist Spinning 2nd Mill 3/6 or 4/- per week
Intermediate Framers  1st Mill Preparation 2 at 10/-  per week
Pickers (village) Blowing Room 7d per bag of 8 lbs (till June '82, 5½d.)
Piece work Back Framers 3rd Mill Preparation Average wage 9/- to 9/6
Piece work back intermediate 3rd Mill Preparation Average wage 9/6 
Piece work Fly Framers 3rd Mill Preparation Average wage 10/- to 12/- per week
Piece Work intermediate 3rd Mill Preparation Average wage 12/- per week
Piece Work slubbing 3rd Mill Preparation average wage 9/- to 11/6 per week
Reelers ( Large Reels) Water Twist Spinning 2nd Mill 2 at 9/- per week
Slubbing framers 3rd Mill Preparation 2 at 9/6 per week
Spinners Water Twist Spinning 2nd Mill 460 sp[in]dles and up 10/- per week
Spinners Water Twist Spinning 2nd Mill 450 sp[in]dles and up 9/9 per week
Spinners Water Twist Spinning 2nd Mill 400 sp[in]dles and up 9/- per week
Spinners Water Twist Spinning 2nd Mill 372 sp[in]dles and up 8/9 per week
Spinners Water Twist Spinning 2nd Mill 350 sp[in]dles and up 8/- per week
Spinners Water Twist Spinning 2nd Mill 300 sp[in]dles and up 7/- per week
Spinners Water Twist Spinning 2nd Mill 250 sp[in]dles and up 6/- per week
Spinners Water Twist Spinning 2nd Mill 220 sp[in]dles ( new frame) and up 9/- per week
Spinners Water Twist Spinning 2nd Mill 110 sp[in]dles ( new frame) and up 5/- per week
Twist Reeling Water Twist Spinning 2nd Mill Average wage 10/6 per week
Warpers and beamers (17) Warping 9/6 per week
Winders Water Twist Spinning 1st Mill 1 at 7/- 16 at 8/- and 2 at 9/- per week
Winders Water Twist Spinning 2nd Mill 1 at 7/- 21 at 8/- 2 at 9/- per week
Women Blowing Room 1 at 7/6  3 at 8/-  2 at 8/6  2 at 9/- per week


The Banbridge Leader, News paper, Banbridge

A new life in New Lanark

Leaving their home in Banbridge in 1949 with nothing more than a couple of suitcases, Raymond Kelly and his parents were one of the last families to leave the area seeking employment in the New Lanark Mill, Scotland.

Raymond had spent his childhood at Abercorn Primary School, before going on to work in Hayes Mills and also Charlie Watson’s pub at weekends. He was 15 years old when his family uprooted and now recalls the experience of moving to the south Lanarkshire valley, situated less than an hour from Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Raymond’s father William James Kelly was born and brought up at Quilly Burn in Dromore, where he had worked as a weaver. He married Florence Hawthorne from Banbridge before settling down at 3 Fryars Place. Raymond said: “In 1945 when my father left the army, he got a job in Charlie Watsons public house in Dromore. While working there in 1949 he met a Dromore man who was back on holiday from New Lanark. He told my father that the wages at the mill were good, you got a house at a rent of about one shilling a week, and they were looking for men who had experience at weaving. “After careful consideration my father and mother decided to make the move to New Lanark.”

The 18th century cotton mill has since been restored to become a World Heritage Site, but during its operational era it attracted many workers from Northern Ireland due to the social welfare programmes it implemented. Under Robert Owen, social reformer and mill manager from 1800, attempts were made to improve conditions for the workers and the mill had the reputation of a clean, healthy industrial environment, and a content workforce with excellent housing and amenities.

Raymond has gathered details of many families who left the Banbridge and Dromore areas in the early part of the last century to seek work at the Mills and this information can be found on his website and

Moving to New Lanark`


My father William James Kelly was born and brought up at the Quilly Burn, in Dromore, where he worked as a weaver, he married Florence Hawthorne from Banbridge, and they settled down in Banbridge, at number three Fryars Place. In 1945 when my father left the army he got a job in Charlie Watsons public house in Dromore, it was while working there in 1949 he met one of the Dromore men who was back on holiday from New Lanark. The man told my father that the wages were good and you got a free house at a rent of about one shilling a week, deducted from your wages and they were looking for men who had experience at weaving. At this time i was working in Hayes Mill in Banbridge, and collecting tumblers and washing up in Charlie Watsons pub at the week ends. After careful consideration my father and mother decided to make the move to New Lanark, my father applied for a job and was accepted on the understanding that he and myself would be employed  there. There was my father, mother ,two sisters and a brother now ready for the move to New Lanark,

We left Banbridge in 1949 with a couple of suitcases and the clothes we were wearing,  The boat sailed for Glasgow about 9 o clock at night and this was no luxury liner, this was a cattle boat, so called because whilst carrying passengers it also transported cattle between Belfast and Scotland, We embarked and were directed into a small room, with a hatch and counter on one wall, around the sides were seats and a few tables, there were already a few people sitting around the place, in a short time the room was full, and as i was to learn most of them were going over to Scotland for the potato picking. The boat began to draw away from the quay and the hatch on the wall was opened up to display a man ready to serve tea and drink, and it was mostly drink that was ordered, as the drink began to flow and take effect, some one would start singing others were playing cards, others arguing ready to fight, all the passengers were in this small room, with the noise of the people and the cattle down below it was pandemonium.

Sleep was impossible, as the boat began to pitch and toss, porter and beer was getting spilt, the strains of "The County of Armagh", and "Galway Bay" rang out, others were dancing, my father said you would think they were emigrating to America instead of going to the potato picking in Scotland. Early next morning the boat docked at Ardrossan  i think it was, to let the cattle be unloaded, then it was on to Glasgow, we arrived at about six in the morning and were we glad to get off that boat. We made our way to the train station and managed to find the train going to Lanark.
We had a comfortable seat and the time soon passed, on arriving in Lanark, my father asked some people the way to New Lanark, we were told the directions and proceeded to head for the village, at that time we did not know there was a bus that went there, but we walked it anyway. On arriving in New Lanark we went straight to the Mill office, after a short talk with the manager, we were taken to the canteen by the personnel officer and given a meal, the first decent bite we had since leaving Banbridge. We were then taken to a large building across from the factory gate and walked up to the top flat, this was our new home, The firm supplied everything, table, chairs, bedding, cutlery and dishes, everything was stamped, G.R.C. "Gourock  Ropework Company", and that included the knives, forks and spoons. We were shown the outside toilet and told it was shared between three or four families, then we began to settle in and explore our new home. We had never seen tenement flats before now, so it was a bit of a novelty. Word soon got round the village newcomers had arrived and when the mill workers finished work and had their meals, we received a string of visitors to welcome us. Tommy Jess (digger), David McCaw and a host of others, mostly people who had come from the Dromore area as children, my father being a Dromore man knew a lot of their relatives back home, We were very tired after our journey, and we were told the lights in the houses went out at 11 o clock at night, plus my father and i had to start work in the mill the next morning, so bidding our new friend an early good night we retired for our first night in New Lanark.

Up bright and early the next morning we looked forward to starting our new job, we were told that about 15 minutes before the mill gates opened, the workers gathered outside, a bell was rung from a building, across from the main gate this was to signal the gates being opened , we went down to joined the crowd of workers waiting for the gate to open, then buses began to arrive, full mostly of young women, there seemed to be hundreds of them. When the gate opened, there was a surge forward of the workers and in a few minutes the street outside the gate was bare, my father and i had to report to the main office, to be allocated our place of work, then we were taken to the weaving sheds, where most of the people we had met the night before, worked. I had no experience of weaving as i was on the hackling machines in Hays mill so i was given the job of sewing the bales of cloth up in hessian and preparing them for dispatch to various parts of the world. whilst my father was being shown round the weaving looms, and the noise was deafening. By the end of the day we had settled in.

Living and working in New Lanark

We quickly got adapted to life in New Lanark and working in the mill, i was moved to the dye works, and i enjoyed it there, during my lunch hour, i used to sit with the old chap who  made the wicker baskets, Tim O'Connell, he used to let the bundles of reeds he used for the basket making soak in the mill race for a while to soften them, and make them pliable, he learned this trade while being a prisoner of war, in the first world war.


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