Thread Mills, The History of Paisley's Thread Mills, Synthetics and Experiments

Synthetics and Experiments

By the 1950s synthetic fibres were becoming an increasingly important part of the Coats brand and they would eventually come to dominate the company’s research and output. Synthetic threads were far more durable, easier to test, and cheaper to manufacture. They could also be used for a variety of purposes, ranging from light clothing, tents and parachutes, right through to vehicle upholstery and even conveyor belts in factories. The laboratory for testing these fibres in Paisley was on the Anchor site close to the Mile End building, and this research and development facility would be a hive of activity. Very often, staff were working with hazardous substances, such as acids and solvents, and at times it could be a dangerous environment. People who worked here had to wear special ‘clogs’ on their feet to avoid any substances that may have collected on the floor. One respondent, Janette Moodie, remembered that sometimes there would be hasty evacuations of the ‘experimental lab’ because some of the substances that they were working on could be volatile and unpredictable:

“Sometimes the whole thing would surge and we had to evacuate the building, you know, if some of the water or the one acid got into the other it would just all erupt, and we’d be running outside until it all calmed down again!”

The laboratory was full of machines that were used to test samples that, if successful, would be applied in a large-scale manner to processes in the mills. People who worked here would be looking at testing fibres for things like tensile strength and dye content. Another respondent, David Goldie, remembered how accuracy was of utmost most importance:

“It was interesting working in the laboratory because you’re dealing in small-scale with what you’d be doing in large-scale, so you’ve got to be very, very accurate with measurements, eh, both with powders and liquids and that kind of thing.”

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Strathclyde Oral History Centre

Working with heritage professionals from the Scottish Oral History Centre, University of Strathclyde, the Paisley People’s Archive is creating an accessible and user-friendly oral history archive of Paisley's rich industrial past.
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