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The Day Before Yesterday: 28 - He Caught My Eye

...I now realised his eyes were resting on me. He had a steely gaze and yet I could see sadness in his eyes. I found I was colouring as I embarrassed easily and quickly lowered my eyes pretending to be busy with my work. Being small, it was easy to hide behind the tall winding frame.

He had given an amused smile as I disappeared from view. My friend Betty, who had witnessed all this, said, "I think he fancies you Gladys....

Mill girl Gladys Schofield catches the eye of the young man who was to become her husband.

It was Sunday morning. The warm late summer sunshine danced in ever-changing patterns through the window as it caught the swaying trees in the wood in front of our house.

I had been married just ten weeks to a young man I had met two years earlier as I stood working at a winding frame in one of the many mills scattered around the Colne Valley of Huddersfield. Although he had worked at the mill almost as long as I had, we had never met before as he was in another department.

It was said he was moved because of a dispute with one of the weavers. I didn't know the real story, but I gathered young Cliff had given her some cheek and, indignantly, she took off her shoe and brought the heel down firmly on his head. Any more cheek was out of the question because he was out for the count and sent to hospital for observation.

This luckily just happened to be for one night as he was back at work the next day with nothing worse than a headache and a plaster covering the place that still seemed a sore spot to Cliff.
His overseer, weighing up the situation, thought it safer to separate the pair by sending this young man well out of the way in another department, not wanting to lose him as he could see he had the makings of a good worker.

We hadn't many young men of our age in this weaving department. Up to now Roy, our twister-in, was the youngest. He was a tall, dark man, so easy going. He got on with everybody, and we wondered this morning who the fair young fellow could be who was deep in conversation with Roy.

It soon became apparent it was work they were discussing, as the new young man would be sharing this with Roy from now on. This would be good for the weavers, as wages were low and wasting time cost money for a weaver.

When the weavers had downed (finished weaving) their roll of cloth and needed another new full one fitted in their loom, these young men had the job of tying each single strand of yarn to the new beam. A matter of up to two thousand ends were knotted in this way, with a special twisting movement of the fingers. It was a skilled job. You needed to complete it in the least possible time, which was frustrating for a weaver who got a slow twister-in.

We did not get much to distract us as we filled the empty bobbins with yarn ready for the weavers to collect them. Our three winding frames stood end to end, not far from the two men, and the six of us worked one each side of each frame. Three of us girls had become best friends in the two years we had worked together, and we watched and wondered at the little drama in front of our eyes.

For a moment the lads stopped talking and the new one turned our way and glanced at each of us in turn. I could see how straight he held himself, a little too thin for his height I thought, but then he was only a youth.

I now realised his eyes were resting on me. He had a steely gaze and yet I could see sadness in his eyes. I found I was colouring as I embarrassed easily and quickly lowered my eyes pretending to be busy with my work. Being small, it was easy to hide behind the tall winding frame.

He had given an amused smile as I disappeared from view. My friend Betty, who had witnessed all this, said, "I think he fancies you Gladys.

My friends lived quite a good walk from me. We had moved to a larger house at Ryefields Road, Golcar, while I was still fourteen, as we needed more room for our large family. This house didn't feel like home to me, and it had taken me further from my place of work. I couldn't now keep in touch with my childhood friends. Most of them would be working now, and the puppy love of our school days had long since run its course.

My friends and I at sixteen had no serious boyfriends and I couldn't bring myself to trust young men at the moment, so I thought no more of the incident and life went on as before.

That was the first glimpse I had of this young man who was now my husband.

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