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Noel McMaster’s new song ‘Barbour Mill’

Noel McMaster’s new song ‘Barbour Mill’ set to follow on from the success of ‘My Lagan softly flowing’

In a follow on to his highly successful ‘My Lagan softly flowing’ which topped the local charts in 1978, Lisburn songwriter and musician Noel McMaster of Bakerloo Junction has written some great new songs. One of them, entitled ‘Barbour Mill’, recalls that 2000 employees walked, cycled and came by bus and train answering the call of the ‘Barbour Mill’ horn at the Wm. Barbour & Sons Ltd., Linen Thread Works at Hilden. It goes on to tell that with “no hackling no spinning, the old mill now stands neglected, the bare footed doffers and spinners all gone” and concludes “no more do they answer the ‘Barbour Mill’ horn”.

Noel is still busy refining his new songs. They will be featured on Bakerloo Junction’s new CD entitled ‘Last Stop’ which will be released later this year. But, for former employees and our readers here is a sneak preview of ‘Barbour Mill’.

Barbour Mill
They came off the buses they came off the train
They walked and they cycled in the wind and the rain
2000 in all through the gates they would go
Answering the call of the Barbour Mill horn
It’s five minutes to eight we’d better move on
Got to get there by the eight o’clock horn

The old mill she stands neglected and sad
The grand chimney gone leaving ghosts of the past
No faces at windows no sounds from within
No hackling no spinning just the sound of the wind
It’s five minutes to eight we’d better move on
Got to get there by the eight o’clock horn

The seasons of nature they come and they go
Just like the friends that I once used to know
The bare footed doffers and spinners all gone
No more do they answer the Barbour Mill horn
It’s five minutes to eight we’d better move on
Got to get there by the eight o’clock horn

Down past the mill the Lagan she flows
Where bogey men black they once wheeled the coal
To the mill where the lovely blonde ladies wait groomed
Combed from the flax in the hackling room
It’s five minutes to eight we’d better move on
Got to get there by the eight o’clock horn

Barbour Mill threads the best ever spun
Thread to be used throughout the whole world
A rainbow of colours strong yet so fine
Used for to sow all manner of gown
It’s five minutes to eight we’d better move on
Got to get there by the eight o’clock horn

It’s five minutes to eight no need to move on
Gone is the sound of the Barbour Mill horn

Harry McKittrick’s 40 year memories of answering the call of ‘Barbour Mill’ horn

While researching for Noel McMaster’s new song entitled ‘Barbour Mill’ and taking pictures of the now closed mill, we met Process Operator Harry McKittrick who worked at the factory for over 40 years. He was, as the words of Noel’s new song recalls, one of the “2000 in all” who “through the gates would go, answering the call of the Barbour Mill horn” and who as the chorus describes at “five minutes to eight had better move on” as he “had got to get there by the eight o’clock horn”. Now employed as a security officer, Harry looks after the whole Hilden Mill site providing a daily memory of the good old days of great craic with fellow process workers, hacklers, doffers, bogey men and the millies that swamped the popular Lisburn workplace for many years.

Born on 10th July 1946 to parents Tommy and the late Margaret McKittrick of Bridge Street, Lisburn, Harry attended Hilden Primary School, a short distance from what was to be his future workplace. In 1962, at just 15 years of age, he commenced employment as a Message Boy at Stewart’s Cash Store, Lisburn and in 1964 moved to Stewarts Mill, Lisburn, which was located on the site of where the Bow Street Mall is today. He commenced his 40 year employment at Hilden Mill on 11th October 1965 (age 19) where he trained as a Machine Operator (later to become known as a Process Operator) in the 3/3 Twisting Department, which was located in the newer part of the factory.

After marrying Briege in October 1969, the couple moved to their present home at Delacherois Avenue on the Low Road; they are parents to daughter Karen (36) and son Graeme (34) and have three grandchildren, the latest addition being born just a few weeks ago.

The Twisting Department closed in 2005 and Harry was transferred to the Dyehouse where he remained until accepting redundancy at Easter 2006. Sadly, for Harry and many other employees, Hilden Mill, which made Lisburn renowned around the world, closed on Friday 26th May 2006, bringing 222 years of production to an end. To mark the momentous occasion, the ‘Barbour Mill’ horn, which had been used for many years during the heyday of the company, sounded at 12 noon as the last shift left the factory.

Bakerloo Junction website please click

Ulster Star
13/03/2008