Thread Mills, Leisure, Dancing and Theatre

Dancing and Theatre

Planning for the weekend visits to the dancing and the theatre was especially popular, and workers would attend both Coats-approved dances, and the various dance halls in Paisley and Glasgow, with their colleagues. Leisure did not have to be underwritten by the company, and workers would often plan their social life on the flats in the mills, but make sure they were nowhere near the mills when they had their fun. Elisabeth Gardiner started working in the mills after the Second World War, and performed a variety of roles in different processes. She spoke about how, “we had our nights out, likes, of, up to the Pavilion, and we had a nice dinner, we saved a pound a week.” People socialised with those who they worked beside during the week, saving money to fund their enjoyment at the weekends. The work in the mills could be arduous, and the weekends provided a chance to unwind. Christine Hastie started in the Ferguslie site, as a ‘Slavehorse Winder’ and reminisced about all of the times that:

“we’d have nights out, we’d go to theatre, and em, they were a nice crowd of women, they were lovely. We had good times, good laughs.”

Another respondent, Willie Riddell, also remembered how workers would organise their own social activities. Willie worked in the mechanics yard in the Ferguslie site, starting in 1963. He said:

“the maintenance team, we had a social team, and we used to go to the theatre, up to the pantomime up in Glasgow, we used to go to the cinema, and the dances. It was predominately certainly dancing, at the Erskine Hotel.”

While it is clear that Coats contributed significantly to leisure activities for the mill workers, it is important to remember that the workers were also independent, with their own identity and their own interests. Just as many took advantage of company facilities, it was equally important to them that they were able to plan and organise their own fun. And sometimes the company assisted with the preparations, in an indirect way. Before going to the dancing, it would be important to look one’s best. Betty Le Vallois clearly enjoyed company sports, and made full use of the opportunities at hand. But the facilities also helped her to prepare for a good night out. She remembered that:

“we used to go to recreation grounds, which had a lot of clubs on for us. We used to go to netball, on a Saturday morning, two or three girls, and we went there. The reason we went there is because we could get a shower after, because none of the houses had showers where we lived you see, so we could go and get a shower after it, so it meant we went there on a Saturday morning, so we were all nice and fresh for the Saturday to go dancing!”

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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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