My mother worked in the mill, so did my father. My Auntie Annie, Aunty Miriam, and Auntie Amy all worked in the mill, as did my grandfather and great-grandfather. The mill – its noises, smells, heat, dirt and grease – forms the warp and weft of my family tree. Our Sepia Saturday theme image this week therefore has a very personal resonance for me. I am sure that I have shared this particular photograph before on at least one of the last 490 Sepia Saturdays, but I make no apologies, it is one of my favourite family photographs.
As far as I can work out, the photograph must have been taken in the early 1930s, and it features both my mother and my Auntie Amy – my mother is standing at the front on the left in the photo and a slightly out of focus Aunty Amy is on the right. I am not sure which will it was that they worked in: by the time I came into the world fifteen or more years later, most of the mills were in the process of closing down and their names were like whispered memories.
Within a few years of this photograph being taken, my mother had left the mill to start trying for a family. My father had only spent a short time in the mill as a young lad before becoming a mechanic. My aunties and uncles also left the mill behind: although in some cases it left them with lasting illnesses and diseases as a legacy. The looms of Bradford fell silent and the world changed.
The mill is still central to my family history, however. I cannot pass one of those silent, brooding stone edifices without visualising generation after generation of my forebears, tramping through the dark, damp streets to start their daily shifts in the dark, satanic mills of Yorkshire.