Lectures tended to be recorded in full in the journals. Around ¼ of them concerned spinning and related topics. The next most popular topic was dyeing and finishing: Charles Whewell (Professor of Textile Technology at Leeds University) gave 5 lectures in this area. Raw materials weaving and management each accounted for around 10% of the topics; there were 5 lectures on research and even 5 on design and fashion. 2 lectures covered the old favourite: oils, fats and waxes. Noticeably absent from the list is any reference to testing or quality control. Wool was covered very widely and there were some lectures concerned with man-made fibres. Whewell’s lecture in 1957-8 on finishing of new blended fabrics referred to: Fibro; Fibrolane; Tricel; Terylene; Perlon; Ardil; Vinyon; Rilsan; Orlon; Acrilan; Courtelle; Dynel; Rhovyl; Taslan; Banlon (these were the days of branded fibres) but there was little reference to cotton.
Other notable speakers have been J B Speakman, British Nylon Spinners, P P Townend; Joe Hyman, Marks and Spencer, Isidor Glasman, David Brunnschweiler, David Finlay-Maxwell, Brian Haggas, Lord Hanson, James Sugden, Subhash Anand, Dominic Dormeuil, Elizabeth Peacock, James Haigh, Clive Jeanes and Zandra Rhodes.
Two brains trusts were held as part of the lecture series. Questions asked at the 1945-6 event included:
• Whether synthetic and wool mixes are an advantage, particularly as regards export
• Could average marketing methods be improved?
• Is a policy of controlled prices for raw material and cloth to the benefit of the industry?
• It is increasingly difficult to find workers to do the dirty jobs – should such jobs be better paid?
• Is there any future selling to an export market which is steadily increasing and developing its own manufacturing?
• Does the future of the export trade lie in increasing the sale of high quality specialities?
Plus ça change!
A 1948-9 lecture on the Peralta machine was preceded by the comment: “It is claimed that the ‘Peralta’ widens considerably the choice of raw materials and that there is no longer any necessity to carbonise wool whatever the amount of impurity”.
The same season saw a design-based lecture, the introduction from the Chair stating: “I don’t quite know what Mr Kenningham (the speaker) will cover in this lecture tonight, but from the title (‘Wool knowledge – technique and handicrafts’) I think it is going to be the type of talk we have been wanting for a long time”.
By contrast, as ‘an experiment’ in 1950-1, the Committee tried to arrange a lecture to be of interest to ‘members’ ladies’ (‘The clothes doctor’ – a review of cleaning clothes). Poor weather severely restricted the attendance and the ‘experiment’ was repeated, the same lecture being given in 1954-5 under the heading ‘Ladies’ Night’. Reports on these events were highly patronising. In 1950-1, the ladies ‘appeared to find the lecture interesting’; even more patronising was the introduction from the Chair prior to the 1954-5 lecture: “The ladies will perhaps forgive me if I do occasionally lapse into technical language”.
Ladies’ evenings then became a fairly regular feature of the Society’s programme: at least 10 took place from 1958-9 onwards, the last one being in 1989-90. The evenings consisted mainly of fashion shows, at the Town Hall, George Hotel, Rushworth’s and the Regent Ballroom. The 1961-2 evening included ‘a non-technical’ talk. The 1986-7 evening centred on a design competition, awards and display, sponsored by Lurex.
Some lecturers were a little less knowledgeable than others. One, in 1950-1, answered a question following his talk on modern developments in woollen yarn manufacturing by confessing that had never heard of the Pacific Converter.
In the same session, in discussions following H S Bell’s lecture on knitting, opinion was that it might not be in the industry’s interest to introduce ladderproof stockings, as they would last too long so would not need replacing very often.
A fascinating lecture in 1955-6 was given by F C Tryhorn (Forensic Science Laboratory, Harrogate). He referred to several cases where the identification of textiles had clinched the case. These included a strand of worsted thread, one inch long, found a on a victim, which was deduced to come from a tear. A man with an appropriate rip in his suit was found guilty. Fibres from a suspect’s fingernails matched those on a garment worn by a victim. Dogs accused of worrying sheep were given an emetic and wool fibres looked for in their vomit as well as their excrement!
A question to S Morse-Brown (IWS) in 1956-7, related to his talk on fashion in wool referred to the effect of having a television set as a formal part of a room on its furnishing and decoration. He was asked which colours were restful ones (blue and grey) and, somewhat oddly, for an explanation of Picasso’s work and whether he thought that French styles had gone too far. He gave non-committal answers to both. He said that women have a more highly developed colour sense than men.
In the 1950s, work study was seen as the answer to industry’s woes and there were 2 lectures on this topic. After one of them, in 1956-7, the Trade Union speaker was asked about equal pay for men and women and said that it ought to apply. This is still being argued about some 55 years later.