Thread Mills, Leisure, Bowling
Bowling was one of the most popular pastimes among mill workers, male and female, and Coats provided facilities that are still present in the local area today, adjacent to the Mile End mill car park. It was not only lawn bowling that proved popular among workers, but also ten-pin bowling. The latter saw the formation of teams among workers, who would compete in local events. However, lawn bowling was much more established. Anchor Bowling Club was instituted in 1896, the same year that the Domestic Finishing mill was constructed. Ferguslie Bowling Club opened even earlier, in 1883, and boasted Peter Coats Jr. as honorary President in 1886. Both Anchor and Ferguslie bowling clubs have long histories in the local area, and have competed both locally and nationally. These clubs were being established by the company around the same time that other pastimes were being promoted by Coats. For example, a gymnasium and badminton court was established in Knox Street in the early 1900’s, while the Ferguslie Cricket Club had been formed in 1887, playing at Meikleriggs. Along with other activities, such as music, or football, it is clear that, at this time, there was a leisure and sporting revolution underway, one that employers such as Coats were keen to harness. It kept workers busy outside of the mills, promoted team spirit, and, arguably, helped to control behaviour and lessen the risk of social or political unrest. The bowling clubs were a part of this broader movement. And they remained very popular throughout the twentieth century. Ian Sadler worked in both the Anchor and Ferguslie sites, in various mills, from the late 1960’s. He took up bowling during his time at Ferguslie, and had vivid memories of its benefits, and how competitive it could be at times. Ian said:
“I took up bowling, actually at Ferguslie they had an inter-departmental bowling competition, there used to be a lot of gaffers, half of them were members of Ferguslie bowling club, because the mill subsidised Ferguslie for years, and eh, we used to have a departmental competition, and eh, I won it twice, and was runner-up once, over the years. Ye got a wee brass plaque, with your name on it, likes of your curing department or whatever department you’re in, on the trophy.”
Ian also remembered more broadly the facilities that were on offer at the Anchor Rec, especially a short-lived darts tournament that was organised, and that his team won on one occasion. But one of Ian’s most fond memories is of the trade union bowling tournaments that were held, and his participation in them. One time, being suspicious of the union credentials of some of his opponents, he remembered saying to one of the officials:
“these guys are no in the union, I says, (aye they are) I says, see him that’s playing second, I says, he’s a Scottish international, I said, the Dumfries team had ringers in last year, and they’re no even in the bloody union! But we beat them, know, and it was, oh, a great big beautiful silver bowl.”
Clearly, leisure provided competition, fulfilment, and humour. The last of these is what is most prominent among many who recounted their memories on this subject.