I was only trying
to help ...but it didn't work out
Inside the mill it was all whitewashed walls. I found a spare
nail to hang my cap next to my mother's shawl. It was my mother's
job to show me what to do. She taught me how to start a loom
and to kiss a shuttle by sucking the thread through it. But working
in a weaving mill was not as exciting as I had expected. The
noise was unbelievable. The looms were bigger than I had anticipated,
and not being very tall, I was unable to reach the broken end
of the cotton threads.
I had not been many weeks at the mill, when during a breakfast
break, I sat looking at the loom, took a bite out of my jam sandwich,
and pondered why my loom moved so slowly. "If I could
only make it go faster, there would be more cloth and more money
to be made", I thought. My studies in mechanics convinced
me that all I needed to do, was to alter the gearing on the looms.
So, with a desire to be helpful and not one mischievous thought
in my head, I selected a suitable spanner from the Tackler's
bench and made the necessary change.
As soon as the mill engine resumed, my loom began to work
at a much faster speed. I stood back, my hands deep down in my
pockets, and continued to watch - "click-a-clack, click-aclack,
click-a-clack, click-clack, click-clack, click-clack";
I was delighted.
The Tackler was not impressed ! The cotton was coming off
as thin as bandage. He stopped the loom and called my mother
over. They were both perplexed by what had happened to the cloth.
The manager had to be sent for and he too could not understand
such a 'float' (thin weaving). At this point I stepped proudly
in amongst them and explained hat I had done. My mother was advised
that I was not suitable to be trained as a weaver.
Mother and dad discussed what was best for me to do and decided
that I should leave the weaving shed and attend handicraft classes
at school on the half days that I would normally have spent in
the mill. My progress was so rapid and for me such an enjoyable
experience that I was delighted when, at thirteen years of age,
I became indentured as a furniture designer and cabinetmaker.
My first age, of five shillings for a fifty-three hour week,
enabled me to make a contribution to the family's income.