Jean started work for Thomson Cod Liver Oil factory in 1942 at the age of 15. She went on to work for the Thomson family for the next thirty years. At the time she joined George Thomson worked for the firm. Her normal working day began at 9 a.m. and ended at 5.30 p.m. She was given an hour off for lunch from 1 – 2 p.m. Her starting wage was £1 a week.
The cod liver oil was stored in metal barrels and decanted into glass bottles and latterly plastic ones during the time she worked for the firm. There was a plain and an iodised version of the oil for chesty people. They also made and sold capsules flavoured with blackcurrant.
Her journey to and from her home in Bishopmill could be very difficult. During the period of WW2 her walks home at night were very dark. This was due the lack of street lighting i.e. the blackouts. There also very bad winters with heavy snowfalls throughout the 1940s. Jean had to wade through the snow in her Wellington boots.
One summer as Jean turned 18 in April 1960, the employees were taken a work’s holiday. Jean had to obtain her first passport. In two separate groups of eight (so the factory could remain open) they travelled down to London by train and stayed at the Ambassador Hotel. During the first week of their holiday they went to see a variety of the city’s tourist attractions including Madame Tussauds and the Lyons Tea Rooms. The following week Jean’s group travelled on to Paris, managing to catch the last train from Calais before the rail workers went on strike. They were not allowed to take anymore than £15 out of the country. They were issued with ration books which were handed to the hotel. Jean remembers having a lovely room in Paris where she could smell the bakery.
They visited a number of famous Parisian landmarks including the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, Eiffel Tower and the Palace of Versailles. At the Louvre they saw the painting of the Mona Lisa by Leonardo de Vinci.
Memory contributed by Jean McPherson at the Messages and Memories Event at Elgin Library
Lyons Coffee Shop information on a history of shops website
Book about Wireless Station wavelenghts written by R. Thomson (Horace’s Father?) in the 1920s.
An example of one of the porcelain cod liver oil spoons produced and sold by Thompsons.