History - 1950s


Care needed to be taken in the 1950s when setting a date for the AGM so that it did not clash with evening classes at the Technical College nor with City and Guilds examinations.

The President’s badge of office was unveiled for the first time on 5 March 1951
It had been paid for by the president, Mr Crosland and the insurance premium was paid by Mr Crabtree. The attendance at that year’s AGM was 145. A special medal was presented to K Gjesdal, who would ‘otherwise have qualified for all 4 Society medals. Mr Gjesdal travelled over from Norway specially for the presentation.

The Technical College held an exhibition to celebrate the Festival of Britain in 1951 and the Society was invited to exhibit posters, cloths, journals and historical items from member firms. The invitation was rejected due to the’ shortness of time available’.

The Society’s finances were, of course, a standard agenda item at Committee meetings. In 1950, it was reported that the Society’s financial position was satisfactory, expenses rising, but not exceeding receipts. It was decided that no charge would be made for the annual dinner ‘until a loss occurs’.

The debate about whether the future of weaving lay in automatic looms was a common theme in the 1950s. AR Baines (WIRA) in his address to the 1950-1 AGM referred to the success of American production methods when using automatic looms. He also referred to how helpful American Unions were in not opposing the introduction of new machinery and methods. He discussed the need to increase UK textile exports and the need to specialise: “we must not produce elementary fabrics in mass”. He referred to the need for the UK industry always to be ahead in design and colour and not rely simply on cheapening the costs of production. He said that the UK industry needed to take more risks, as the American industry did – they ‘try something new and give it a go’. It is amazing how relevant comments made 60 years ago still are.

 Journals tended to include many pages of advertising.
The 1951-2 edition, for instance, contained 62 pages of advertisements, including those from companies in Lancashire, Cheshire, the South West, Wales and the Home Counties. Such advertisements covered most aspects of the industry, but were mainly concerned with machinery manufacturers, including a bobbin maker in Liverpool and a loom maker in Barnsley.

After the War, the cost of publishing the Journal rose steadily and its financial viability regularly came under scrutiny: it had increased in size from 68 pages (+ 40 pages of advertisements) in 1946 to 152 pages (with 61 pages of advertisements) in 1951. For instance, in 1951-2, ideas were suggested to reduce the cost, including the use of cheaper paper.

In that same year, subscriptions were increased from 3s 6d to 5s, with admission to lectures for non-members increasing from 6d to 1s. It was agreed to charge non-members 7s 6d for the Journal. Also in that year, the Society received a letter from a gentleman asking for help in obtaining employment. The Hon Secretary replied that this was not really a function of the Society.

It was reported that several overseas students at the Technical College wished to continue receiving the journal on their return home. It was agreed to allow such students to deposit a sum of money to the Society; they would continue to receive the Journal until the fund was exhausted.

Many of the current problems affecting the industry were around 60 years ago. The Chairman’s address to the AGM (1951-2) referred to the fact that we cannot compete with foreign countries on the basis of cheap labour and low costs. He averred that we depend on the skill and intelligence of all in the industry and that this Society is here to foster that. Also at this AGM, G H Spencer (President of the Textile Institute) referred to the ‘suicidal tax’ that was the Excess Profits Levy. It seems that successive Governments have seldom looked favourably upon the textile industry. He did refer to the future of the industry depending on our being able to manufacture the best quality goods and said that Textile Societies are often too technical in the subjects they discuss.

In 1953, the retiring President offered to purchase and present to the Society ‘2 golden tablets’ to be inscribed with the names of Presidents and their years in office, to fit onto the ribbon of the President’s badge. He also offered to buy a chairman’s gavel and base.

Further difficulties beset the Journal, this time in terms of a failure to produce scripts of lectures and discussions: these continued for some years. On this occasion, it was suggested that a competent shorthand typist be hired and a Mrs Blatch was appointed at a fee of £1-1s-0d per lecture. Such typists never seemed to last for very long, the same issue being raised several times over the years. In 1957, there were still difficulties in getting lectures reported for the Journal and it was suggested that the Society borrow a tape recorder and then to transcribe from the tapes. It was not recorded whether this trial proceeded or not.

Minutes of Committee meetings reported attendances at the AGM. Since this was held on the same night as the Annual Dinner, attendances were high: 140-160 during the 1950s. At the 1953 AGM, the Norwegian Cultural Attache accepted the woollen and worsted yarn manufacture medals on behalf of Norwegian students Mr T Sydness. The Mayor of Huddersfield usually attended the AGM and presented the medals. In 1955, a silver ‘bon-bon dish’ was presented to the Mayor at the AGM in response to a request from the Town Council.

There was a relatively large number of textile-related organisations post-war. In 1953-4, for instance, it was agreed to hold joint lectures with the Halifax Section of the Institution of Production Engineers and with Dewsbury Textile Society. It was also agreed to invite members of the Society of Tuners to become members of The Huddersfield Textile Society. In 1957, it was agreed to invite the Chairman of the ‘newly formed’ Huddersfield Section of the Textile Institute to the AGM.

Contacts were being made with European textile organisations. In 1954, an exchange of journals was agreed with the Swedish Institute for Textile Research, and a similar agreement was reached with a Czechoslovakian Textile Institution in 1956.

Awarding medals to the best students at the Technical College was a feature of the Society’s activities. In 1955, discussions took place with regard to establishing a prize for testing and quality control. However, this was rejected, since there was no complete course in these subjects at the Technical College. The possibility of setting an competition for testing and quality control was discussed as an alternative approach.

As in 1951, one student qualified for all four medals and the same solution was reached: this student received a special medal, while medals were awarded to the ‘runners-up’, if merited.

National Service was still in existence and sub-committee was set up in 1955 to investigate whether members on national service should be made honorary members.

Also in 1955, Mr Frank Mear was made an Honorary Life Member.

Committee meetings were held regularly, but often there were quite large time gaps between them. In the 1950s, it was rare to have meetings in the autumn: in 1953-4, there were no meetings between May and the following January and there was no meeting between March 1956 and January 1957. However, it was occasionally noted that informal discussions had taken place between Committee members after lectures.

The Society was always wool-centred. In his address to the 1955-6 AGM (which was attended by the Mayor), J H Shaw said that there was a need for wool to be publicised and promoted in the home market for carpets so that it could compete with man-made fibres. He referred to the 120,000 wool growers in the British Isles and to the need for quality: “stick to quality at the right price for a bright future”.

The Society’s rules were reviewed during this session, including no reduction in subscription for students or members of Her Majesty’s Forces; the management of the Society to consist of the Officers and 12 Committee members, five to constitute a quorum; Committee members to be elected for a four-year period, the three retiring each year in rotation not being eligible for re-election for 12 months.

A ‘Fashion Parade’ took place that session. This caused a problem in that one local company, which ‘had given displays all over the world’, complained in writing that it was not invited to present the Show; instead, a non-member company was invited to do so. Apologies were given to the former company. The question of the size of the potential audience for the fashion event was discussed. It was stated that the Society had 200 members, each of whom was to be invited to bring along ‘his lady’. There was no suggestion that women could be members in their own right. In the event, the Town Hall had to be booked as the expected attendance was so large. No charge was made to those attending, but a collection was made for the Huddersfield and District Spastics Society, the Committee meeting minutes stating that this was what the Society was all about.

In the same session, the Hon Secretary received a letter requesting help in publishing a magazine article condemning the use of man-made fibres ‘from a medical point of view’. Needless to say, the request was rejected.

Potential competition from abroad was also recognised in the 1950s. Mr Birkinshaw, addressing the 1953-4 AGM, said that the industry would meet more fierce competition at many more points in the world than ever before. However, he said that we should not be pessimistic, due to the local industry’s expertise in wool, the ‘king of fibres’. He was another speaker to refer to the importance of quality and design, particularly in Huddersfield, which is ‘paramount in the world’. He referred to the ‘superb training’ provided by Huddersfield and Bradford Technical Colleges.

The issue of quality was raised again that session. In answer to a question on whether quality should be sacrificed for quantity, the lecturer (J Day) said “yes, certainly if the quality is too high for what you need”: an interesting response. Another lecturer in that session discussed the potential for automatic looms, but was somewhat scathing about air jet looms, saying that the use of compressed air was interesting and effective on 1 loom, but he should hate to see a weave room full of them.

The EU was also a bone of contention. The 1957-8 journal includes an address from T T Sobey (member of the Wool Textile Delegation) referring to what was then the EEC. He said that the whole scheme was being wrecked by the French, particularly with regard to Britain’s possible membership. He commented on the need for management within the industry to be fit and competent at all levels with properly trained, reliable and dependable operatives.

1958-9 marked the 50th active year of the Society. It was decided to organise a special event to commemorate the anniversary, featuring Cyril Lord giving a lecture at the Town Hall. Unfortunately, this had to be cancelled and there was no time to organise any alternative event.

At that year’s AGM, the retiring President presented a President’s bell to the Society. It was to be placed in the Large Hall of the Technical College (the regular venue for lectures at a fee which had increased from £2 to £5 per session) for use by the Society and by anyone else using the Hall.

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