Wartime mill girls enjoy ‘final reunion’

Brenda Hartley,Gladys Kell and Sheila Holmes meet at Cleckheaton Town Hall as the only remaining workers left from the BBA factory in the town. (da bba ladies)
Brenda Hartley,Gladys Kell and Sheila Holmes meet at Cleckheaton Town Hall as the only remaining workers left from the BBA factory in the town. (da bba ladies)

Three ladies who worked in a local mill during the Second World War have enjoyed what they say will be their final reunion.

Gladys Kell, Brenda Hartley and Sheila Holmes met at Spenborough Town Hall on July 4 at exactly 11am - maintaining a friendly tradition that has lasted since 1945.

Every 10 years since, former workers who stitched together tapes for the cigarette industry at St Peg Mills in Cleckheaton during the conflict have met at exactly the same time and place. The appointed July 4 date was chosen as a toast to American Independence Day, after one of the ladies’ co-workers crossed the pond at the end of the war to marry a US soldier.

Time has regrettably eroded the group’s numbers, with 13 having turned up to the first gathering in 1955 along with the ladies’ former boss - British Belting and Asbestos’ (BBA) then managing director Charles Fenton. Mr Fenton himself died at the age of 82 in 2013.

However, it did not stop the gang’s remaining members from enjoying each other’s company on Saturday, as they caught up on old times over the course of a “magnificient lunch”, a slice of pie and a champagne party.

A delighted Gladys, 89, said: “What a day we had. It couldn’t have gone better - there was no slip up at all.

What can be better than spending time with friends like that? We reflected on all the lovely places we’ve been over the years, and all the lovely meals we’ve had and all the friends we’ve made. To all those who came and helped make it a special one I can’t thank everybody enough.

“It won’t happen again because in 10 years we’ll be too old to organise anything. If it did happen again then great, but if it doesn’t then no-one can take back what we’ve had.”