When Dennis Allman started his job at Hainsworth, King George VI was on the throne, Prime Minister Clement Atlee was clinging on to power after a disastrous General Election and John Osborne’s defining play Look Back in Anger was changing British drama forever.
Sixty-three years later, Dennis has just retired as the longest-serving employee in the historic textile mill’s history.
“This was my first job and I didn’t want to go anywhere else,” said Dennis, 77, after being toasted by his co-workers in the Mill. “I’ve been happy here.”
Hainsworth’s Managing Director Tom Hainsworth presented Dennis with a card and a power drill on the weaving floor of the Mill where he has spent his working life.
Tom said: “I very much doubt that Dennis’ record of 63 years of service will be beaten.”
Dennis, who lives a couple of minutes’ walk from the Pudsey mill, was not the first in his family to work there.
He said: “My uncle Albert worked at Hainsworth as a piecer, responsible for leaning over the spinning-machine to repair the broken threads. His son worked at the mill for a while too as a beamer, and his job involved loading yarns onto the reels.
“I used to chat to my uncle about his job and he invited me to come with him to the weekly Hainsworth concert party where there was singing and entertainment for the workers. It was there that I met Charles Hainsworth who asked me if I had a proper job yet.
“I started in the weaving shed as an apprentice warp twister. The looms then were shuttle looms which flew across from one end to the other carrying the weft thread. The noise was incredible. Over the years, as the technology became more advanced, I worked on all types of automatic looms.”
When Dennis first started at the mill he was living in Headingley. “I got up early every day – you had to be in work by 7.30am – and jumped on the Leeds Tramway. It was four pennies for a workman’s return ticket and took 45 minutes if there wasn’t a slower tram in front of you. My first weekly wage was ten shillings and I felt like a rich man.
“I gave my mother half of it straight away towards my upkeep and spent a shilling on a pint of bitter.”
In the summer of 1951 the Government organised the Festival of Britain to give Britons a feeling of recovery in the aftermath of war and to promote the British contribution to science, technology, industrial design, architecture and the arts. The Festival’s centrepiece was in London on the South Bank of the Thames
One of Dennis’ treasured memories is of going by train to the Festival.
“A few lads were invited by Charles Hainsworth to go down to London on a special train to the Festival. We were each given £2 in a little packet to spend. Like most of my colleagues, it was my first time in London and we had a smashing time. The funfair at Battersea was great and we all travelled home on a steam train whose nameplate was the Hainsworth Speckle.”
Dennis started at the mill on a five year apprenticeship, but in 1953 when he was 18 he received his call-up papers for National Service and went into the Army.
“I travelled the world for three years with the Army but my mum made sure that when I was demobbed I had a job still back at the mill.”
Dennis, who has two children and nine grandchildren, met his first wife, Patricia, a spinner in a different mill, at a dance hall in Pudsey. He is now looking forward to retirement with his second wife Molly, 74.
“I’ve loved working in the textile industry and I’m so proud that the fabrics I’ve helped to make have been sold all over the world. It’s quite humbling to know that something you’ve been involved in manufacturing has been worn by everyone from fire-fighters in Australia to the Queen’s Guards outside Buckingham Palace.”