A small part of our machine demonstration showroom contains a selection of the worlds top dozen overlockers. They are superb machines, some with auto looper threaders, and all chosen by us as the markets best buys.
Seeing them each day takes me back a few years to when there were factories in Britain that made such machines, only industrial types of course.
When I first got demobbed I got a contract to make and to service Butt Seam machines for a Manchester company that sold them to cotton mills and dye works all over Lancashire and Yorkshire. Butt Seamers were a special type of overlocker. I travelled by motor bike (allowance a princely sum of 1 penny farthing per mile by the not over generous company). One day, coming into the factory from some Yorkshire calls, the manager came down as usual to peer at the mileage on my bikes speedo. He would then deduct 6 miles from my claim because I lived 6 miles away from Collyhurst, in Irlams of the Height. As mentioned they were not the most generous company, Scrooge would have been proud of them.
As I was about to leave the manager said, “Oh you need to do another repair in a mill at Kirkcaldy, in Scotland”.
“Not likely” I said, knowing my 15 year old BSA Blue Star probably wouldn’t make it to Scotland. He then said I was to go by train and produced a ticket. I didn’t notice until I got home that the ticket was timed for midnight from Exchange station.
So off I went, and arrived next morning about 9am having changed at Edinburgh to a train stopping at every small station until we reached the middle of nowhere – Kirkcaldy.
A man met me there and drove us to the factory, even deeper into nothingness. The machine took about 15 minutes to put right, and looking up I noticed a vision in a white overall walking past. She was beautiful, but as I gazed, several other girls passed, all absolutely gorgeous. Remember, I was just demobbed, single, 20 years old and only used to seeing the occasional ATS girl swathed in khaki. Some of these were bigger than the average squaddie, and much tougher….
I thought that Kirkcaldy must be Brigadoon, and decided I would stretch the job out overnight, reasoning these visions must live somewhere nearby and the village must have a pub or even a dance hall. These dreams were interrupted by the manager coming along and saying I see you’ve fixed it fine so we’ll drop you back at the station now.
Ignoring my frantic suggestions that I stay overnight to give the machine a really good test, he ushered me into the van and drove me away from Brigadoon. Ah well.
I had a three hour wait at the station, a slow train that stopped every couple of miles and finally arrived in Edinburgh to wait another three hours for another train that stopped every few miles. I was told to change at Preston, for Salford. By the time we reached Preston I was fast asleep, and didn’t wake until Warrington at about 4am. Finally, after an hours sleep at home, I went back to the factory to carry on building a 32 foot long special machine we were making for a conveyor belt manufaturer in the Rossendale valley.
That weekend I presented my bill for the weeks labours including the overnight travelling etc. This was indignantly refused by the manager, stating he wasn’t going to pay me whilst I was ‘lounging in luxury on a train’. So I refused to finish off the special machine, which forced him to pay me the overtime.
I then finished off the special, went to Rossendale the next day and commisioned it, gave the satisfaction note to manager back in Collyhurst, told him to get someone else in future, and like Roy Rodgers, rode home on my motorbike.
Occasionally, a potential customer looking around our showroom will ask me if I know anything about overlockers. I respond by relating the above to them. Their eyes begin to glaze over until one of my sons, Alan or Steven, takes pity on them and prises me away from them.
Roy Bamber, aged 78 and 11/16ths. I use imperial measurements as you see and bugger Brussels, and they can keep their sprouts as well.