Nitshill Memories “Employment Opportunities”

The History

Nitshill Memories

“Employment Opportunities”

Janette’s mother told her, on the last day of school, to go into Glasgow and find a job, and not come home until she had one. After trying lots of different shops, Janette went into Woolworth’s store on Argyle Street, and told a girl at one of the counters that she was there for a job. She was directed upstairs to the office and was wandering around looking for the right office. A woman appeared and asked what she was doing there, and was told she was there looking for a job. When Janette was told there was not one available, she burst into tears. She explained about not being able to go home until she had work, and the woman said she would give her a job. Janette started work on the stationery counter and was paid £10 per week, which was quite a good wage. However, she was threatened into stealing from the store by her supervisor. This person had been doing this for some time. Letty’s mother told her she would need to get another job, and she went to work for an engineering company in Hillington Industrial Estate. That job did not work out and she then went to work in the National Savings Bank at Cowglen, which was a big employer in the area. It was easy to get work then, and girls mainly went into offices. The boys found it easy to get work too,  and Letty’s brother went to work for Rolls Royce in Hillington. This was also a big employer, and work was obtained through knowing someone who already worked for a company.

Janette Armour, East Renfrewshire

I had decided “I’m leaving”, and my mother was saying “No, bad idea”, but I left and me and a pal of mine got jobs as van boys, because he said “If you got the right van, the driver will teach you how to drive.” Three weeks I lasted, getting up at five o’clock was a joke… Went up to Hillington Estate to their wee employment office, told them what the situation was and they put me into a place called ‘Precision Springs’, which was the first engineering shop I’d been in… Before I was 16, I left, and went back to night school in the September – three nights a week at Govan High and one day a week at Stow College, and then I started my apprenticeship.”

Joe said that he finished his apprenticeship and went to work for McLelland’s Engineering. After a year, he went to Rolls Royce as a ‘centre lathe turner’, learning different aspects of the trade. He worked for Rolls Royce for over forty years, until he retired.

Joe Cassells, Glasgow

“You could walk out of a job on a Friday and get another job on the Monday.” Elizabeth remembers it being easy for most people to get work then and there did not seem to be any shortage of apprenticeships, such as there is now. The National Savings Bank at Cowglen employed many people in the area, as it was local and easy for commuting. A lot of people from Craigbank went to work there when they left school. Others went to work in the shops at the Pollok Centre, or went into Glasgow city centre to work. Some of the boys went to work in the Rolls Royce factory in East Kilbride, but that wasn’t easy to get to from Nitshill.

Elizabeth Cook, Erskine

Sandra knew that she wanted to be a hairdresser when she was at school. Her parents wanted her to stay on at school, and her history teacher also wanted her to remain at school.   She started work at a hairdressing salon in Shawlands and her Dad said that she should ask to be ‘indentured’; when the respondent raised this with her employer, they said it was not possible for them to do this with all the employees and they had to let her go. From there she worked in Giffnock, until this salon closed down, and she later returned to another salon in Shawlands called ‘Embassy Royale’, and then she moved to a salon in Maryhill. She worked at hairdressing in salons until she had her daughter and then carried on doing some hairdressing at home. A neighbour told her that Donnie’s hairdresser in Nitshill badly needed help and she stepped in, leading to a Friday and Saturday placement there. When she divorced her husband, she went back to live with her parents in Cleeves Road and she started working as a school cook, later school kitchen supervisor, in Sandwood Primary School, near Hillington. Kitchen staff were moved around to cover absences, etc. Working from both Lourdes Secondary School and Sandwood School involved cooking for neighbouring schools.    Everything was cooked from scratch; the vegetables were prepared and cooked; the meat was minced and cooked; and the desserts were all freshly made every day and distributed to the other schools.

Sandra Dunbar, Melbourne, Australia

When asked about local employers, Eddie remembered Muir’s Scrapyard, Murray Pipework’s, the Quarry, Nitshill Brickworks and Caterfrost.

Eddie Foy, Paisley

When Lillian left school, it was very easy to get a job, which is why she thinks a lot of people did not stay on at school. She did not know what she wanted to do on leaving school, and went to work as an accounts clerkess with a company called ‘Cameron’s Communications’. She earned £25 per week when she started work, which was quite a good wage. Everyone from school managed to get work and there were apprenticeships to be had for the boys. The main employers were Govan Shipbuilders and Lillian’s dad worked there. People either loved or hated working in the shipyards. Most of the girls went to work in offices or hospitals as there were a few in the area. It was easy to move from job to job.

Lillian Gaughan, Glasgow

I started as a hairdresser and then left when I was 17. I worked in a nursing home for a bit, and then I went to college to study social care, one of the best choices I ever made in my life! And that got me into social care, which brought me back into this area to work, because then I started working with young people in this area on the streets, which was a massive eye opener. At the start, it was a research-based post, it was about finding out what was in the area, finding out what young people could access in the area, what sort of things they would’ve liked in the area. It was just going out and talking to young people in their crowds, out in the streets, going up with a wee questionnaire and just talking away to them. It was the best job I ever had, I loved it.”

Kathleen Larkins, Glasgow
After school I worked in Henderson’s, the jeweller in the Pollok Centre. I worked there for a good few years, then I took my diabetes and I was very, very ill, so I was off for a good while. Then I went back to work and started with British Telecom, BT, went through quite a few different departments through my time in there. I think I had done sixteen or seventeen years going through departments. I became a Team Leader and then my health went back downhill again.”

Fiona McCrae, Glasgow
I got a job as a YT [Youth Trainee] in Bath Street, and then with a local dentist, Mr Whitby. And then he retired, and Mr Milton took over and, so I took a job with him, so that was kind of local and it was a wee bit of a promotion as well, because I wasn’t a trainee anymore.” 

From there, Coreen moved to a practice in Paisley and became interested in oral health, and that was how she came to work in health and hygiene.

Coreen McKechnie, Glasgow

There was a brickworks on Househillmuir Road, where my two brothers worked. I worked in Hillington Estate, Littlewoods Pools. My brother-in-law worked for Rolls Royce.”

To get work, a lot of people from Nitshill went to the industrial estates at Hillington, the coupon company ‘Littlewoods Pools’, or the raw plug factory at Thornliebank. Cohen’s factory in Shawlands. which sewed clothes for shops like Marks and Spencer, was a main one for the girls. It was regarded as a sweat shop. The National Savings Bank at Cowglen was another main employer in the area. This very large office is now gone, and new housing is being built on the site.

Theresa Mulheron, Jersey, Channel Islands

Karen got a job in a cardboard box factory in Kinning Park. She wanted to have money. Her mum had gotten her a part time job as a teenager, selling goods round doors. She found this embarrassing because of some of the things they sold. They had to knock on doors and ask if people wanted the goods. Her mum always had part-time jobs, although she was also claiming benefits as she was a single parent. A neighbour reported this to the authorities and her mum had to repay all of the benefits. This was very hard for a single parent. Her mum always made sure that Karen had a good birthday and Christmas, and she bought things from catalogues on mail order. This meant that the payments could be spread out. Lots of people did this at that time. Karen has done a lot of studying since leaving school and has been able to get good jobs. She is proud of the fact that she obtained an HNC and graduated from college. Karen did not want to be in the same situation as her mum and always scrimping, so she did not go to university as she would not have been able to work at the same time. She regrets not going to university, but she wanted to live and could not do both. She did a medical secretary HNC but found it difficult to get that kind of job with the NHS, so she took a job in the booking centre, taking calls all day. She has also gained an HNC in legal services, and done an office technology course, and she started an accounting course but hated it and left. If she could go back in time, she would have stuck with the legal secretary option. Karen’s favourite job was with the Royal Mail, dealing with claims, and she covered for the assistant manager when they were on long term sick leave. That was when she realised that she was a better manager than a worker. She loved the responsibility, extra hours of work, and the extra salary.

Karen Stewart, Glasgow

Susan worked in Govan, mainly in part time jobs, moving to better jobs when they came up. Then she worked as a care officer in ‘Crookston Home’, which was a residential geriatric home, and was there for around 24 years until she retired. She travelled by bus to all of her jobs and had to take two buses to Crookston Home. It was handy as the kids were at school and she could work night shifts. On Sunday morning there were no buses, so they had to walk home after their shift finished. They walked along to the Hurlet, along Nitshill Road, then down Peat Road, although sometimes they were lucky enough to get a lift. When she started working in Crookston Home, Susan worked part-time, day shift, and worked five days, from 8am to 1pm. Her first wage was £9 for the five days. She then managed to get on to night shift and worked Sunday and Monday nights and got an extra 10 shillings, so her wage went up to £9 10s. She thought that this was a good wage for only working two-night shifts. She was working roughly the same number of hours, but only out working two nights. The rest of the week she had at home. After a few years she moved to working three nights and had to work over weekends. This was in the late 1960s, early 1970s. 

Susan Stewart, Glasgow

I went into ‘Collins’ the bookbinders, in the High Street.  I worked a week and handed in my notice and then went into ‘Grafton’s’ in Argyle Street. I was in there from November until the following September, and then I left there and went into ‘Cohens’ because all my pals were in Cohen’, and I worked a Saturday and they were all out and about. They were good employers. I was there from just before I was 16 until I was 19 and then I left and went to Canada for three years. Three years I was there, and came back, and went to Germany for about a year and a half.  Then we came back, and I worked in Tesco at Pollok and then went back into Cohens again.”

Sylvia Williamson, Glasgow
When I left school I went into a heating and ventilation firm where I did my message boy and tea boy for the first year, and then I started my apprenticeship when I was 16, and I left there and went to the shipyards to finish my apprenticeship. I went to ‘Alexander Stephens’ and got transferred to ‘Fairfield’s’ and then, when my time was out and I finished my apprenticeship, I went down to England to work. And then I went to Holland for three months. Came back from there and went to Germany for two years. I came back to Nitshill, worked for a wee metal shop in Nitshill called ‘Southside Windows’ for about a year, then I went to Barrhead ‘J & W MacAulay’ for two years. I then went to ‘Proctor and Schwartz’ in Thornliebank to 1980, then I went offshore to the oil rigs for about two years.”

John had a few other positions and later succumbed to ill health.

John Williamson, Glasgow