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Eckersley Mill Relations

Eckersley Mill Relations
William

Like the many thousands of Wiganers who have had relatives working in the textile industry, I am no different. I do however have one distinct advantage, time.
 
Two generations worked here from WW1 all the way through to closure in 1971, in which my Grandfather continued in a capacity which needed such expertise when Dorma Sheets put the mill to good use in the 1980’s. When this had finished, so did the family link.
 
Dating from at least 1779, the Lomax family have always resided in Pemberton and always managed work in the mills, whether weaving or fitting. Two generations were also iron turner's although it is unknown exactly where in Pemberton. The name Lomax happens to be one of the most ancient surnames of Lancashire and is very much associated to places like Bolton and Bury. A true Lancastrian name rarely found outside the county.
 
My Great-Grandfather was William Henry Lomax, born 1896 in to a family of eleven children (and counting) by Robert Lomax and Alice Malsom (n). At these times, poverty was rife and a death in the family was a common happening and something widely accepted in society. Of these eleven, four boys and seven girls in all, only three survived the conditions of the time. William Henry the only boy, and his two sisters Alice and Annie. I do pinch myself sometimes and thank my lucky stars that William hung around, the reason I am here today.
 
William married in 1923 to an Irish lady named Nora Taylor which provided four children, two boys and two girls. All four were to find work at Eckersley’s with the girls of course stuck in the weaving sheds and the boys doing something much more mechanically minded, fitting. William already was a skilled practical engineer and a highly regarded individual with an incredible knowledge of steam and went on to devote his life to keeping the engines running at the mill.
 
Their first child, my Grandfather, Robert Lomax was born in 1924 and took his education in fitting from his father. Robert, like his father, became once again highly regarded for his expertise and knowhow and could take to repairing anything put in front of him. This continued in other employment at the Westwood Power Station before returning to Eckersley’s for Dorma.
 
Robert met his wife to be at Eckersley’s and they married in 1950. Eunice Falconer hailed from Chesterfield and her parents ran the Dog & Partridge by the Parish Church whilst Eunice found work at the local mill. During her short time here before mothering her first of five children, she was promoted to the title of ‘cotton fibre length and strength tester’ based in one of the labs.
 
As time went on, so did the modernisation of the cotton industry and the introduction of electric motors to replace the steam engines was unbearable for William, which coincided with his death not long afterwards. Having spent many hours, days, week, months and years around flywheel’s, the dust chute particularly was his undoing at a time where the danger’s of cotton dust and other elements were unknown. He was granted early retirement from the mill because of his illness, something unheard of back then. Things were so bad that he was penned in at home and seriously ill, the need for an oxygen tank there to support his excessive vomiting must have been an horrendous site.
 
William passed away in 1964 and received a terrific send off from colleagues. The sheer amount of floral tributes and cards became so overpowering that an article of thanks in the local newspaper written by his wife was one of sheer gratefulness to those who cared for William and felt so much for him.
 
One of a kind, he was a gruff man with an accent we don’t get to hear much of anymore. A true Wiganer and Lancastrian man, you only need to read local books on dialect to get an understanding of the way he used to speak. He had no days off, he only knew the mill and how to support his family. A fantastic story for moving to Poolstock Lane was so William could get to work in a flash but also get to the pub across the road even quicker, such insight! During Wakes Week, he would travel to other mills in the vicinity and find work there, such was his need to be around engines.
 
The textile industry had been in decline since WW2, Eckersley’s having received massive orders during the War for the making of soldier uniform and other assorted military needs. After finishing in 1971, Dorma Sheets came calling in which my Grandfather Robert found work with them as explained in the earlier part of this piece.
 
So, having had such close relations with the mill, it is a huge part of my ancestry and I care very much for the site and thoroughly enjoy its views. I am a regular visitor here and try to picture the original six mill’s letting off that incredible amount of power. I am hopeful that when development comes along soon, it is kind to the complex and it remembers all those thousands who had worked there and made Britain so great. Notwithstanding the sentiment, the complex boasts some wonderful architectural features, no expenses spared with beautiful brick terracotta at the former canteen and also remaining tiling in the engine houses.
 
“A Life Devoted To Eckersley Mill” is the most fitting tribute to William and also speaks for the family in general. This inscription is found upon his memorial.
 
Andrew Lomax
 

Posted by Jack Lomax on 20th October 2010 at 08:56
I was most happy and touched to seen the mention of the inscription on my father William Lomax's memorial. Having been living in Australia since 1960 I had almost forgotten the wonder of the architecture of Eckersley's mills But still have a clear memory of the wonder at my father's supreme skill in the area of repair and maintenance of the amazingly large steam engines with their wooden fly wheels often 30 and more feet in diameter and around 15 feet wide with their groves fitting 2inch diameter driving ropes some rising 50 or 60 feet up the rope gallery driving the machines on the top floors of the mills. The memory of the majestic power of the polished steel driving rods some 2 feet in diameter and 20 feet long being pushed by their connected pistons themselves driven by high pressure steam describing their graceful arc as they rotated this massive driving drum still fills me with awe.
I worked as a fitter also in Eckersley's until conscripted into the RAF.

Well done Andy for bringing back these pleasant memories


Posted by Jack Lomax on 24th October 2010 at 12:01
Talking about our Bill has reminded me of some of the many times I was impressed by his abilities. One of these I shared with Tom Davey, who, wanting to talk to me, had talked his way past the Gatekeeper uttering the magic name Lomax. In this case it was my name he was uttering which was only magic because it was connected to Bill Lomax.

Tom found me and I took him over to Number Three Western Mill Engine House where we both watched from a safe distance my father organizing the lifting of the massive wood and steel fly wheel from its bearings. When we got there the 2ft dia 15ft long highly polished steel connecting rod was disconnected from the similar sized but flat crank arm on the side of the wheel and was lying at that end on the floor while still connected to the piston protruding out of the cylinder. Bill was just organizing the other connecting rod on the other side of the rope grooved massive wheel being disconnected .

When that was done he split the gang of fitters (I think my brother Bob, your grandfather, was one of these) into two and had them prepare lifting tackle on both sides. Then some couple of hours later he began signalling one gang to begin cranking the lifting gear until the massive wheel shuddered and lifted some little way out of its enormous steel bearing housing the top of which had been removed. At his signal that gang stopped and the gang on the other side cranked up their side of this giant construct of steel framed with wooden sides until Bill signaled them to stop and turned his attention to the group on the other side waiting with rapt attention for his signal. This continued until this giant was towering above us all. Tom said to me that it was like watching a conductor conduct a big orchestra in a powerful symphony. Bill got them to construct safety stays under the bottom of the wheel and then dismissed most of them.

At that stage he began to supervise the measuring of the shaft and the bearings with calipers and micrometers and to order soft white metal moulds to be made which would take up the wear in the bearings.

The evening 'knock off ' whistle sounded and I took off my overalls and left with Tom. But the Horizontally Opposed Twin Cylinder Stationary Steam Engine symphony continue on a lower note long into the night as their four in a row Lancashire boilers below them gave off wisps of steam and waited in stand by mode for the time when Bill would signal to the stokers to begin bring the steam pressure back up ......


Posted by Andrew Lomax on 24th October 2010 at 16:03
Such poetry! You really do know how to bring things to life thanks for the comments.


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