IT was June 4, 1959, and a strike involving 1,500 of the 6,000 workers at the Ferguslie and Anchor thread mills of J. and P. Coats, in Paisley, had been running for two weeks.

Feelings were running high in some quarters. When workers left Ferguslie Mills at 5.30pm, pickets were waiting for them. Carrying placards (above), they followed some workers to special buses and followed others along the streets to bus-stops, but there were, said the Glasgow Herald, no untoward incidents.

Several other incidents between strikers and non-union mill girls had, however, been reported to police by the mill’s general manager. Two women had been “held captive against a fence” at a local cricket ground, said the Evening Times. The pickets, who were mostly women, booed and jeered the pair, who were only able to leave after a taxi came on the scene.

The strike concerned a time and motion study dispute, as a result of which two men at the Ferguslie mill had been suspended on May 21 for not fulfilling their quota of cleaning carding machines. On May 25 the strike became official, and workers at the Anchor mill joined the following day.

The National Union of Dyers, Bleachers and Textile Workers said that despite its officers’ strenuous efforts, management had rejected proposals for a return to work followed by an investigation into the reasons for the stoppage.

The course of the strike was followed closely by the newspapers. Some teenage girls had to go back to work because, it was said, they had HP payments on clothes to meet and risked being taken to court if they did not pay up. On June 25, one of the two suspended men, who had a widowed mother to support, had left Coats and found work as a labourer.

The strike lasted five-and-a-half weeks and was ended on June 28, at a meeting of 1,000 of the strikers.

A union statement on the agreement with management said that, amongst other provisions, the suspension of the two men would end. Management retorted that the deal had existed for a fortnight, and that nothing had been gained by the stoppage.

Read more: Herald Diary