It often seems the case that once you master a technique, you want to apply it everywhere. Harry – I started off calling him Mr. Braithwaite; even though he told me Harry was fine, I always felt more comfortable with good, old-fashioned Mr. Braithwaite – advised me to take the opportunity to build my speed on using the desktop calculator on the principle that:
i) as my daily routine involved at least 30 minutes of continuous calculator use very early on, any increase in speed would be more than just a one-off benefit. This embodied the principle of improving the efficiency of repetitious tasks. This of course left more time for other work (there was plenty of this).
ii) the skill of touch typing could be applied to a desk-top calculator – i.e. when pressing the keys, not referring to the calculator display and relying upon muscle memory.
I became a proficient user however that skill had to be relearned once we acquired a second calculator – for my use – its keys were configured differently – which of course jumps ahead.
Being keen of eye, I ended up designing most forms in the Work Study Office. These consisted of two sheets. The top copy was drawn and written upon with biro and ruler; this action – the second was coated with a layer of wax impregnated with the colour blue – would transfer coloured wax to the underside of the top copy which was then reproduced by Banda machine (a UK term for spirit duplication). The resulting forms were stored for daily, weekly or monthly issue. They were completed by hand, checked and photocopied for distribution. Occasionally the Managing Director’s Secretary, Claire Mahoney, would help in the preparation of type-written forms, should these have an external audience. To my young self, the Managing Director was a business god. Chief executives come and go, making no positive impact. John Martin Haggerty may have had his faults but they were more than made up for by charisma, charm, the ability to grasp the essential, and force of character.
My role quickly expanded to take on board calculation of the works bonus. Bonus was paid everyone in the business and, because of its financial significance, the records relating to it were maintained by my boss. The mechanism by which it was calculated was fairly straightforward as I soon discovered – my boss often made use of my mathematical acumen – I was quick, bright and accurate. The weariness brought on by the demands of an active social life, especially girlfriends, was a long way off.
Bonus was awarded at management discretion and, as its progress was declared weekly on the shop floor notice board, care was taken to ensure accuracy. My introduction to its calculation was gradual and audited by my boss. In two years I would be running it – parsimonious but fair to both firm and worker. A lot happened before then including:
• taking over the calculation of waste
• dealing with a legacy of misunderstanding the calculation of loom efficiencies.
What did a loom look like? There are many kinds of loom. In the case of Belwoven the choices were between Needle, Rapier and Multi Shuttle. The latter used to be the standard for a quality label for jackets, shirts, suits, shirt, undergarments and especially haute couture. In constant contact with the skin it didn’t irritate. The days when customers used to cut out garment labels as on purchase aren’t that long ago. Multi shuttle looms are mostly obsolete but the two images below give an indication of their shape and scale, noting that looms used in Belwoven:
a) were around twice the width of these – this was to accommodate the number of shuttles which could range between 72 and 240.
b) didn’t require heated blades to melt and seal the fabric into separate strips
c) had a dual purpose wooden baton: it held not only the individual shuttles of weft but also the reed for each strip.
d) had individual roller bars for each strip
e) used jacquard punch-hole pattern sets to control the weave – which meant that unlike the overhead box was mechanical rather than electronic