|Eckersley Mill Relations
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.