Lab Assistant at Thomson Cod Liver Oil Factory by Jean MacPherson

Thomson's cod liver oil cream advert from the Northern Scot Christmas Post 1905Jean 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

Additional Information
Grace's guide link

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.


Boots the Chemists in Nottingham by Pamela Shelton

Pamela’s first job was with Boots the Chemists in Nottingham. She started work there at the age of 14 in 1935. In the factory there was a machine at one end and long benches with electric belts. Screw tops had to be added to the bottles, then packed in boxes and sent out. Ointments were made along side face creams and hand creams. They were taken to other warehouses to be distributed. Pamela stayed there for two years.

Her main interest outside work was dressmaking. She learnt how to sew and designed her own clothes. She made wedding dresses and ball gowns for local friends. She went to night school to learn how to drive. She met a friend at night school who was a major in the army. It was through this friend she met Ginger Rogers. She wrote to Ginger for many years until one day Ginger came to do a show and London and Pamela had a chance to meet her. They became friends and Pamela made Ginger two ball gowns and several pairs of trousers.

Memory contributed by Pamela Shelton, Aberlour

Additional Information

Science Museum Boots Objects

Science Museum “Boots the Chemists” Objects

Science Museum has a large range of “Boots the Chemists”  Objects.There are pictures of some of them on their website. (click on the image on the left).

History of Boots the Chemists
Jesse Boot and the rise of Boots the Chemists- article on a document library

Working at Reid and Welsh Tartan Mill by Constance Milne

Constance left school at the age of 14 and tried to get several jobs. She had looked in the paper and went for several interviews.  Unfortunately she wasn’t very tall even by the average height of people in 1945 . She was 4ft 10ins. The Fruit shop said “You’ll never lift a bag!” and Johnstons said “You’ll never reach the looms!”.  Eventually Reid and Welsh said they would take her on. The spinning section, using Hattersley looms was situated where Decora is now. The Darning and Finishing section was where the Motor Museum is now across the road. Constance was involved in the spinning room. She had responsibility for two looms and she stood in the middle between the two. Hattersley loom club source thread was put onto the pirn (bobbin). It came off a larger bobbin. The pirn had to be prepared so that it would be ready to go onto the shuttle. The shuttles stayed on the machines and went back and forward. The machine stopped itself when the pirn was empty.

The patterns were determined by a timing chain which was different for each pattern. The men set this up.

Constance went back to work after the children had grown and stayed at the mill until it closed when it flooded and lost money. The flood happened at the weekend and people didn’t realise it had flooded. Constance lasted three weks at home and then got a job working for the forestry on the research side at Newton. The research was about cross-pollination. She knew John Keeleyside (read his memory) who worked there also.

Constance had to take all the male buds off a tree and then pollinate the female buds with pollen from another tree i.e. cross-pollinate. She worked there until she was 63.

Memory contributed by Constance Milne from Elgin

Making tartan rugs at Reid and Welsh by Ruth Intosh

Ruth’s first job was for Reid and Welsh Ltd, Lossiebank Mills based in Elgin. She chose the job because it was well-paid compared to Woolworths. Ruth had to take a colour blindness test. The working week was Monday to Friday from 8 a.m.- 5 p.m. with two weeks holiday. The work was piece work based on what you made but as mentioned earlier it was well paid if you worked hard. She gave her mother most of her earnings but had enough for herself to buy a new pair of shoes every Friday.

Each day they clocked in at 8 a.m. Their pay was docked if they were a few minutes late so they sometimes clocked each other in to avoid this. At about 10 they had a “fly cup” from their own flask. Lunch often came from Smiths the Bakers which were just up the road (where Decora framing Shop is now) which sold hot pies and sausage rolls.

Hattersley loom club source started by working on two Hattersley looms. She had to clean and oil the loom. The tuners did the maintenance. She loved the job even though it was vry rough, dirty and noisy. She also learnt to swear there. There was very little protection there. Sometimes the shuttles flew out and there was some heavy lifting to do. On Fridays they got the looms going and then took turns watching each other’s machines while they washed their hair putting in rollers. All the weavers were women and all the men were warpers. The men were paid more for their job. Sometimes a nylon thread was put into the tweed to give a shiny thread through the tweed. if it broke then time was lost while the thread was repaired. As Ruth left in 1969 the mill was moving to Vicuna and Cashmere as well. Johnstons of Elgin took in German Looms in the late1960s/early 70s and they were state of the art and very efficient.

Formerly known as The Two Red Shoes Ballroom. The Beatles appeared there. © Copyright Ann Harrison and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Formerly known as The Red Shoes BallRoom

For recreation she went to the dances at the The Two Red Shoes on a Saturday night. On Tuesday nights teenagers went there. There was a cafe which sold coca cola. No alcohol was on sale as the nightclub had no liquor license.

Memory contributed by Ruth McIntosh from Moray 

Additional information

“We’ll hae oor fly cup in the sitooter” – source of the phrase-Scottish Vernacular Dictionary
Hattersley Loom Club- Click here to read more information about the development of this loom

The Two Red Shoes ballroom and its place in History (1963) when the Beatles performed there.

Working for Thorn Lighting Works as a Cap Paste Filler by Helen

Helen’s worked for the Thorn Lighting at their Specialist Incandescent Lamp factory in Buckie from 31 May 1965 until its closure on 27 March 1987. Her job was to fill the bulb caps and then another machine put the cap on the bulb. The working day began as 9 a.m. and there was a tea/coffee break and then an hour for lunch. The shift ended at 4 p.m. There were no gloves and the smashed bulbs could be dangerous. She handed over her wage to her mother but she did get to keep a little back for herself.

The Cap Paste department

The cap paste was pink and was made of a mixture of meths and a powder which was bought in. Once mixed it was like a putty or plasticene. It could be moulded around the cap rim. A capping machine heated the paste and then was kept warm. Four lines were working on the caps (4.5.6 and 7). Their job was to put the bulb on the cap. Helen took the filled caps down to them.The metal caps had to be put on a slowly revolving disc.  Lines 1.2.3 and 4 had a machine which blew the glass into bulbs, The lines had to put the bulbs into trays, which were then taken to lines 4.5.6 and 7 for completion.

After the factory closed Helen worked for the Northern Bluebird /Stage Coach Bus Company.

Memory contributed by Helen from Buckie

Additional information

Bulb factory bookThere is a book about Thom Lighting Works, Buckie from 1956-1987 called “The Bulb Factory, the light of our lives” by John Crawford & Ron Stewart. Helen has contributed to this publication along with many other Buckie residents who worked at the factory.

Information about the factory on the Domesday Reloaded site.

Working for Taylor’s underwear by Barbara Webster

Barbara was born in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire. Her first ever job was in Taylor’s Underwear to sew buttons on combinations and vests. After leaving school in 1927, aged 14 her auntie was given the task of finding her a job. Luckily she succeeded and started work immediately. She worked all week from 8am to 6pm with a 1 hour lunch break in between. Her days off were on a Saturday afternoon and Sunday. Each week her wage was 7d.and because she was only 14 years of age she gave her weekly wage to her mother. Her tasks in her job were to button up combinations and vests.

During her time at Taylor’s, Mr Taylor built another room for making woollen dresses. Barbara thoroughly enjoyed working at Taylor’s Underwear. She reckons the equipment that is used nowadays is much more improved. Barbara told us that when she did in fact work on machines; she noticed an improvement in the 8 years she worked there. Taylor’s Underwear was a very safe environment to work in, but if anything did happen it was entirely your fault. She learned a lot from her first job.

In Barbara’s time off she enjoyed dancing on Mondays and Fridays, shopping on a Saturday afternoon and watching movies on the big screen at the cinema. Sadly she had to leave her job at Taylor’s Underwear after getting married. She has had many other jobs in her lifetime including working as a machinist and making blouses in Nottinghamshire.

Barbara Webster, Elgin was interviewed by Honor and Daisy, students at Elgin High School as part of an eleven week elective the S2 students studied on the theme of Local Heritage

Additional Information

Hucknall Taylors underwearTaylor’s Underwear was built by the Taylor brothers on King Edward Street in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire. To find some more information on the businesses in and around Hucknall, please click the link below:

Working for Reid and Welsh by Marion

Marion went to work at Reid and Welsh Ltd., Lossiebank Mills, Elgin at the age of 15 in the 1940s. Her work involved making blankets and uniforms for the forces. She worked as a winder. One of the main events while she was there was when the factory was flooded. The factory also experienced blackouts. Her working week was Monday to Saturday with half a day on Saturday and Sunday off earning 8 /- a week.

Memory contributed by Marion, Lossiemouth

Egg packing by Elizabeth Forsyth

Elizabeth started her first job at an Egg Packing Station in Elgin (where Lidl is now) at the age of 15 in 1963.

“My first job was working at the Egg packing Station. It was next to the railway station. My job was sitting in a little dark cabinet where a light was on and the egg had to pass it. My job was find the bad ones.”

She lost her very first wage because she was waving it around her head and it fell out of her hand. No-one ever returned it. Her wages were £1.65 a week. She worked six days a week with a half day on Saturday.

Memory contributed by Elizabeth Forsyth, Lossiemouth

Additional links
Candling eggs- a technique used to detect fertile and unfertilized eggs in incubators. Method also used as Elizabeth did in the Egg Packing Industry. Search Google for candled eggs to see lots of examples of eggs.

Anne’s work in a tartan factory

Anne’s first job was at Lark Hall Tartan Mill at the age of 15 in 1948.

Her earnings were £1 10/- and she says ” it all went to my Mother”. She had one week’s holiday in the summer.

Work-related Accident
One day while working her machine she leaned over to reach a bobbin and got her long hair caught in a moving belt.  In those days there was no safety training, no regulations about tying hair back and the moving parts of the machinery were often a lot more exposed than they are now. These days there are safety shields to protect workers. The moving belt caught hold of her hair and pulled her towards the machine.

The machine was stopped and a nurse attended. Eventually her hair grew back. From then on she wrapped a piece of fabric around her head like a turban to hold her hair back. Other young women in the factory then chose to copy her to avoid the potential hazard happening to them.

Memory contributed in Lossiemouth

Other links
A You Tube film about the last artisan tartan factory making tartan in the traditional way.

Fred Begg’s work in a lemonade bottling plant in Elgin

Fred’s first job was at the age of 16 in 1940 working at Hayes Lemonade in Lossie Wynd in Elgin, Moray. He worked on the bottle washing machine lifting hot bottles out of a washing tub (no gloves) and putting them into a crate. They dried off and then the bottles were put into a bottle-filling machine. As it came around you took the bottle out of the bottle machine and then put it into another crate. The bottle then went off to the labelling machine. The previous label had come off in the washing process. The neck label was done by hand. It identified the manufacturer. © Copyright Christopher Gillan and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence. 087365_196f9ba6

Dallachy Strike Wing Memorial

The factory filled the bottles with lemonade, limeade, cola, ginger beer and orangeade. Most of the production went to the Airforce canteens in the area at Lossiemouth, Kinloss, Pinefield Engineers and Dallachy Bay.  Later in the war glass became more expensive.

Fred was called up in 1942 to serve in the Royal Navy. He was posted to the remote location of Butlins Holiday Camp, Skegness (known during the war as HMS Royal Arthur) 567px-Royal_Arthur_Memorialwhere he trained to be a signalman.

Memory contributed by Fred Begg, Elgin

Additional Information
HMS Royal Arthur wartime memories project
Information and pictures of HMS Royal Arthur
Dallachy Airfield pictures showing the control towers
War memory of Strike Wing at Dallachy Bay by William Mullen.