Oral History: Cooperative Voices – Margaret McKale

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CWS Voices 2015

Interview with Margaret McKale, Pelaw Leather Goods, 1943-1947

Interviewer Judith McSwaine Pleasant Place, Birtley 18.11.2013

Location of interview recording: Tyne and Wear Archives

Margaret lived and went to schools in town, in central Newcastle, leaving school at 14. Margaret’s mother heard of a vacancy at the Co-op in Thornton Street (by the Essoldo), Newcastle. Margaret went along and was successful in her application. At that time the family moved out to live in Denton, West Newcastle.

When Margaret was 17 she heard of a vacancy at the Pelaw factory and started work there, but the journey was quite involved and difficult. She travelled by trolley to Central Station , Newcastle then tram to Pelaw. To cut down on travelling expenses six months later she moved out to live at Pelaw.

Here Margaret was a machine operator in the Leather Goods Factory, making leather suitcases and special attaché cases for the Admirality. The men worked in the Preparation Department, cutting, moulding and bending the leather, the women finishing the manufacture on the sewing machines. Margaret was promoted to section leader, in charge of ensuring smooth and efficient production and payment of bonuses.

She mentions that she made some very good friends here, but did not join in the Cooperative Social scene much, as she was too busy working overtime.

Margaret was aware of a trade union movement here at the Coop, but she didn’t get involved.