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Scottish spinners get the ball rolling in new Launceston mill

A fine winter’s day greeted the party of 31 immigrants from Patons and Baldwin’s British spinning mills who arrived at Launceston’s Kings Wharf on Saturday, 16 June 1923.

They were here to fine tune machinery that had been arriving from the UK for many months and train local workers for the company’s huge new Australian factory at Glen Dhu.

Builders Hinman Wright and Manser, who had started work on the new £90,000 mill in March 1922, were nearing completion of the project – said to be the largest building tender ever let in Tasmania.

“There was bright sunshine and with a good high tide the river looked at its best, so that the new arrivals had an excellent opportunity of seeing and admiring the attractions of the Tamar,” stated the Daily Telegraph of Monday, 18 June.

Mr W. Ferguson, who had been appointed manager of the dye department of the new mill met the British workers and their families when they arrived in Melbourne on the 11,000-ton P&O liner Borda from England and had accompanied them to Launceston on the Bass Strait steamer Oonah.

They were greeted on the wharf by the Launceston Mayor (Alderman George Shields), Mr William Stewart, Patons and Baldwin’s Australian manager, and Mr J. McVann, the Launceston mill manager, and along with other dignitaries.

After disembarking the immigrants were ushered to the northern end of the wharf shed where Mr Ferguson formally introduced the Mayor who gave the new arrivals a very hearty welcome on behalf of the citizens of Launceston.

He said they had come a long way to follow their avocations in a new country, and under different conditions than those to which they had previously been accustomed, but he could assure them that their presence here would be appreciated.

“There was no better place in the world than Tasmania, and particularly Launceston. Messrs Paton and Baldwin's factories were known world-wide, and he could assure them that the people of this city were very proud to have their industry established here.”

There were 31 in the party and most were from Patons and Baldwins mill at Alloa in the Scottish lowlands on the River Forth.

They were: Mr and Mrs Comrie, 3 children, Alloa, warehouseman; Mr and Mrs Snaddon, 3 children, spinning; Mr and Mrs Izatt, spinning; Mr and Mrs Mitchell, reeling and twisting; Mr and Mrs Shield, drawing; Miss Isabel Gleeson, drawing; Miss F. E. Walker, drawing; Miss A. Y. Adamson, spinning; Miss J. M. Snaddon, spinning; Miss J. W. White, spinning; Miss H. A. Macfarlane, reeling; Miss E. G. Chalmers, twisting; Miss M. McLaren, twisting: Miss M. Boyd, warehouse; Miss M. A. Brotherton, combing; Miss Doris Cowling, Mrs Clara Dickinson and boy, drawing; Mr A. Anderson and Mr R. Bremmer, dyehouse.

The mill started producing knitting wool in August 1923, just 17 months after building commenced.

IMAGES-- Top: The new Patons and Baldwins mill under construction at Glen Dhu. Picture: Weekly Courier, 5 April 1923. Middle: Patons and Baldwins arrivals greeted by Mr McVann, left, Mr W. Ferguson and Mr W. M. Stewart, right. Picture: Burrows Photo, Weekly Courier, 21 June 1923. Bottom: British staff of Patons and Baldwins arrive in Launceston in June 1923. Picture: Burrows Photo, Weekly Courier, 21 June 1923.

Written for the Launceston Historical Society and published in The Sunday Examiner, 19 March 2023


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