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28 October 2014
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Beret
Beret

Working for Kangol

Everything was new to us, especially the machines and looms. I was taught by a French lady, Mrs Walla whose husband was the mechanic but neither of them could speak English and I couldn’t speak a word of French.


Please tell us about yourself

I was born in Frizington and came to Cleator Moor at an early age, living here ever since.  I have four sons and one daughter, plus twelve grandchildren ranging from 33

Working for Kangol

I am Kath Ford and I started my working career in 1938.  A firm called “Kangol Wear” had recently come over from France to manufacture berets in the premises of the old linen mill in Cleator. 

It was in its very early stages and there were only four people working there.

Everything was new to us, especially the machines and looms.  I was taught by a French lady, Mrs Walla whose husband was the mechanic but neither of them could speak English and I couldn’t speak a word of French. 

However, by concentration and observation, we conquered the language barrier and I learned my trade.

The Wallas' remained in the factory for eighteen months until Mr Wallas was ordered to return to France to serve in the Armed Forces as World War II had started.

Kath Ford
Kath Ford

I was proud to have been the first person to qualify as a “linker”, which involved joining two pieces of material together by looping them onto very fine needles on a machine.  I even went on to train others to do this.

The factory was owned by a Mr Sperrigan who was a French Jew and his nephew, Mr Meisner helped him run the firm. 

We always knew when Mr Meisner was around because we could smell his aftershave which was something very new and unusual in Cleator, so we were forewarned of his arrival and seldom got caught out!

I have many happy memories of working there for the princely sum of ten shillings [50p!] per week until we went on to piece work when we could earn as much as three or four pounds a week.

I stayed at Kangol for four years until I was 20 years old when, in 1942, I was conscripted to work in munitions, but I still keep in touch with the girls I worked with at Kangol and we meet now and again to exchange memories of 67 years ago.

last updated: 20/12/05
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