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The Saltaire Collection of Oral Histories: Mill Workers and Managers

The Saltaire collection has a number of oral histories that give detail of individuals and their work at Salts Mill with a few detailing how people who gained employment at Salts Mill did so due to their displacement after World War Two.

The three examples provided here follow the discipline of recording faithfully the words of the individuals but place alongside those words, the historical national and/or global context for the life events recorded.

The memories of Frank Senior: his life in Saltaire and work in Salts Mill between 1918 and 1983

Frank Senior aged 19 years
Frank Senior aged 19 years

Frank started work at Salts Mill in 1933 in the mill basement, moved to work in the gatehouse, checking visitors to the mill and hoping for an apprenticeship. After various changes of department, attendance at night school 5 nights each week and service during World War Two in the RAF, Frank became head of the ‘Costing Department’ in Salts Mill – calculating the costs of each type of cloth produced for the sales work force. He lived through several changes in management of the mill and the advances of new technology – retiring from work there in 1983, just a few years prior to the end of textile production

An extraordinay journey to work: the story of Feliks Czenkusz, 1920 to 2013

Feliks Czenkusz in Junaks Uniform 1939
Feliks Czenkusz in Junaks Uniform 1939

Feliks was born in Poland in 1920 and, as a Polish Junior Cadet when Germany invaded Poland in 1939, he was based many miles from home at Wilno near the Russian Border. Although not in the Polish Army, the cadets wore military uniform and were likely to be a target for the German invaders. Feliks first fled to Lithuania where he was held with others in a camp there for a short time until Russian troops began to move these men to various camps across Eastern Europe.

Things changed dramatically when Germany declared war on their former allies, Russia. Feliks eventually came under British Army command and was among the forces who fought their way through Italy – it was the Polish force that took Monte Casino from the German Troops. As War came to an end, Polish army personnel were left stranded and arguments about their future occurred in the British Parliament.

Ultimately Feliks was accepted into England and was to find work at Salts Mill where he remained until he retired. He was to find an English wife and his children had a British education. Feliks remained ever grateful to the British Government for allowing him and his family to have a decent life and although he was able to visit Poland again after Stalin’s regime ended, he did now want to return there to live.

Donald Hanson: an extraordinary life, 1925 -2018

Donald Hanson
Donald Hanson, Chair and Joint Chief Executive of Illingworth, Morris, 1981 to 1983

Donald was born in 1925, in Slaithwaite near Huddersfield, to a family who had many connections with Salts Mill and Saltaire from the 1850’s onward. Donald’s father however, worked at Globe Mills in Slaithwaite and Donald was able to get an apprenticeship there.

During World War Two he was called up and served in the Royal Navy. He returned to Globe after the war and his ‘after work’ studies at a Technical College resulted in his qualifying as an Associate of the Chartered Institute of Secretaries and Administrators. Globe Mills were part of the Illingworth, Morris Textile Group and Donald was soon spotted as being a highly talented ‘wool man’.

He quickly rose through the ranks and came to know the majority shareholders, the Ostrer brothers, of the textile giant that was Illingworth, Morris very well. He was made a director of the company and after spells at senior management level at Salts Mill and elsewhere, was appointed as Chair of the Board and Joint Chief executive of the company, whose HQ had been Salts Mill from 1958, in 1980.

Extraordinary drama was to follow after the heir to the Ostrer brothers shares in the company, a Hollywood chat show hostess, became increasingly hostile to the ‘Yorkshire Directors’. The drama was the subject of much global news and ended in some very surprising outcomes.

To view the complete versions of these Oral Histories, please contact the Saltaire Collection. To purchase, please visit our online shop.

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