Memories of Bill Hilliard

Recorded in Bowater World of April 1961

Bill began work at Sittingbourne in 1889 as a reeler boy.  “When I started,” he said, “I earned five shillings.  In those days, the men on the night shifts would be paid at the end of the shift by the foreman of the beater-men; and to save the cashier getting up in the small hours of the morning, the money would be handed out in a pub near the mill. Inevitably, some of it would find its way over the counter!

“When I joined, the raw material used was esparto grass.  There would be lots of weeds in the grass and boys were employed to sift them out.

“Before they finished, the boys had to show a pile of weeds to prove they had done a hard day’s work.  They soon found a way round this one.  On good days, they would carefully hoard a bunch of weeds for the time when they wanted to take it easy.”

In those days motor cars and lorries had not been invented.  All the coal was carried by horse from the wharf.  Said Bill, “I can remember times when there would be a long line of carts stretching for about a mile down the road, like a gypsy funeral procession.”

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