In the late 1980s Central Regional Council undertook a series of interviews with several of the area's senior citizens who had worked in
the various local industries.   By the late 80s some of these industries no longer existed and pottery production was one that had
already been confined to history.

An insight into the pottery industry is given in the following interview with Margaret Finlay.  Margaret worked in Bridgeness Pottery from
1916 to 1927, mostly in the sponging department.

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Q. What age were you when you started at Bridgeness?
A. I just left school, I'd be 14 I should think.

Q. How long were you at Bridgeness?
A. Fae I left the school until I got married. I was 25 on May and I got married on April.

Q. How did you get the job?
A. Well I went for a job to be a servant with a missionary, but they had got somebody before I went and I just came down to the pottery
and I got a job there.


Q. Can you remember what your first pay was?
A. No, I gave ma mother the money.  We got paid in a wee place down in the pottery.  It wis from the office I got paid.  Your name
called out and given you in your hand, just money.  Don't remember working extra overtime.

Q. Did you get an allowance?
A. No, I was on piece work.

Q. What perks, if any, went with the job?
A. Perhaps if you got cups and saucers, half tea set, anything like that, got it a wee bit cheaper see'n you were working there.

Q. What deductions were there, if any, from your pay?
A. None that I remember.

Q. Did you have to supply any equipment?
A. No.

Q. How good a wage was it for the time?
A. Not too bad but not very good, it depended on what job you got to do.  Sometimes on piece work we made a wee bit better and other
weeks you were down.

Q. You said you were paid a piece rate.
A. Aye, for doing the bowls and things.  You were paid so much for every size of bowls you done.  There were different sizes and you
had 42 to do, a 40, 36, you had so much of that size to do for a certain price.


Q. What hours did you work?
A. From 6 o'clock in the morning till 6 o'clock at night and then they changed till half past 5 at night.  You worked a half day on a
Saturday, you worked fae morning till one o'clock.  You got your breaks for you dinner, your breakfast, I think it was an hour we had.

Q. How did you know when it was time for your break?
A. The horn would go.

Q. How was your time recorded?
A. We went up the stair and the boss in there paid attention to you.

Q. What happened if you were late?
A. If you were on piece work they wouldn’t take it from you.


Q. What holidays, if any, did you receive?
A. Holidays, we just got the usual holiday, the usual day now and again.

Q. Did you ever get paid holidays?
A. Not that I know of.


Q. How did you get to work?
A. I stayed in Grangepans and we walked along to Bridgeness.  That's where the pottery was.

Q. Could you describe fully what work you did?
A. I was in the Sponging and you had a wheel.  The base was on the floor and there was a stack up from it and there was a round
wooden thing on the top and when you worked that you worked it with this hand and you did your sponging with this one, and you had
an arm rest and you could do your colourings with the plates for the different coloured stuff you had.  You had a bit sponge in every one
of these things and you put it on your pattern on this hand and then changed it over to this one and you could put that on with the
sponge.  Every time you worked it you turned the wheel round with your fingers underneath and you turned it round and got the pattern
on.  If you were going to put lines round plates or anything you had a wee brush, long to a point and you put your arm on there (the rest)
and you turned this round (the wheel) and when you were turning this round this was going all the time and your hand was making the
line round it.  We used to have bowls lying beside us and when this sponge was about finished with you used to wash it then re-do it for
the next plates that came on or the dishes that came on.

Q. Did you have water with you?
A. Yes, you could have the water at the side of you, in a bowl.

Q. What did you do after you were finished with your plate or cup?
A. You lifted them and put them onto this long board you had at the side of you.  You just lifted your stuff off, put them on there but you
didn’t put them right across fae each other, you put there, there, back to there (diagonally).

Q. Where would they go from there?
A. You would lift them on a board and put them across on the rack that they had for them and they dried there and then the men carried
them to the Dipping House down the stair.  I used to carry the cups and bowls from the Bisquet Warehouse up to the Sponging shop
where I worked, to work them.  You had them to carry up yourself.  Carried them in big baskets, the cups and that in big baskets and
sometimes the bowls too.  It depended on the size of them.

Q. You said that you had little dishes next to you with the paint in, what kind of dishes were they?
A. Glazed dishes with the paint in them.  Just round like a plate, but not a flat plate more like a sort of a round plate with a wee outer
edge on them, just like a pudding plate.

Q. Where did you get the paint from?
A. Would get it from down the stair in the office that was in the yard or from our boss, he was James Gardner.

Q. Would you get it at the start of each day?
A. Oh it just depended on when your paint run out.

Q. What different colours were used?
A. Pink, green, yellow, blue, every colour you could think on.

Q. Did you mix it yourself?
A. It was usually ready for us, they were kept in coarse high jars, they were brown and they were kept in that.

Q. How big was the board?
A. Oh about that length and about that breadth.

Q. 3ft by one?
A. You got them shorter too.

Q. Why did they have them in different sizes?
A. They would be maybe the same size but I just canny tell you the size of them.  We had one end of the board on the bench where we
worked and the other end was on a stile sort of thing made out of wood, like what builders use.

Q. What did you do once you put your plates and cups on your board?
A. Carried them across to the racks and you just left them there.  We never touched them after that.  That was our job and that was to
be paid for and then perhaps it would be the next day, whenever they needed the things in the Dipping House, the two men sent up to
carry.  They carried these boards on their head some of them.

Q. What was the rack made of?
A. Wood.  You didn't need it up to the ceiling for we were too wee, you had to get somebody to help you up with it, push it in, they'd be
heavy. That was away from us altogether.  You took a note o' that what you had done and put it down on a book.  You kept a note o'
that, and at night the boss would come and take a note of what you had done and he would see it was all done and when it was he put
down, he cleared it up and seen to everything.

Q. Where would your ware be taken?
A. It would be taken down to the Dipping House, to the Gloss Dipping House.  The Bisquet stuff came down from us to the Dipping
House then got dipped and then it would be taken back into the Gloss Warehouse.  That's where everything was tidied up and then
through the back at the Gloss Warehouse they had a big shed where they done the packing out for other places.  Packed the stuff in big
crates with straw.

Q. What happened to it in the Dipping House?
A. It would he put through a big tub, narrower at the bottom and out high at the top.  There'd be a bit along this big tub for your stuff to go
on out the Dipping and the rest of the glazing would drop down to the dip.  I would lift things off the sieve bit and put them onto a board.

Q. So it was like a drip tray?
A. Yes.

Q. Did you have to put them on anything?
A. You took them off the Dipping board, the sieve.  You put them off there onto a board and then the next girl would lift them onto
another board as they dried.  Then that was put into the racks again and put out to the kiln to be glossed.  After they came out the kiln
they were all glossed.  In the Dipping House was two men and two women.

Q. What was the glaze like?
A. White.

Q. After the ware had been dipped where would it go?
A. Out into a kiln to be fired for to come out glost.

Q. Who worked in the kilns?
A. There were sometimes women at the kilns carrying the stuff from the kilns but it was men that filled the saggars to go into the kilns.

Q. What's a saggar?
A. That's the thing that they put the dishes in, to put into this big kiln.

Q. Where would they get them from?
A. The pottery would be full of them, there was a saggar house.

Q. Was that for making saggars?
A. Yes.

Q. How long would they be in the kiln?
A. The dishes would be in for quite a while.  They’d to be red hot sometimes.

Q. What happened when they'd been in the kiln?
A. When the kiln was finished, when it was ready to come out, they used to put a long stick or iron thing through and bring out a thing
that's on it to see what height it was.  Then they knew whenever it was ready to put the fires out or not.

Q. So it was like a tester?
A. Yes, uh-hu, and when the fires were out then they had to allow a certain time, maybe a day or two days for these to cool down, afore
they touched anything in there, that was all the fires pulled out.

Q. Did you work as part of a team in the kiln shed?
A. Yes, just one after the other, in the row, lifted your bowls and came back and stood in the row again, you just took your turn.

Q. Were you paid differently?
A. Yes, we were paid so much for the kiln.  If you were working for say 3 or 4 hours you would be paid differently for the kiln, on piece I
wouldnae have been on the kiln work.

Q. Were you paid an hourly rate then?
A. Aye, bit more than what the piece work would be.  I think we were all glad to get on it.

Q. You mentioned that you used 'crows feet' to stack them up?
A. I didn‘t use 'crows feet' the kiln men would use those.

Q. What were they like?
A. Just 3 prongs.

Q. What were they made of?
A. They broke quite easy.  They were a sort of browny shade, a creamy browny sheen.  I think they would have to buy them in.

Q. What would happen to ware after it was taken out the kiln?
A. It would go to the Glost Warehouse if it was the Glost kiln.

Q. Who worked in the Glost Warehouse?
A. Oh women.

Q. What differing jobs did men do compared to women?
A. The men usually attended to the kilns and there would be so many men in the kiln.  See, the kiln was a great big place.  These men
used to go up the kiln, get the saggars down and brought them to the door and somebody took them from the door to another bit.  Then
they took them from there to the benches along the wall and that's where they emptied them.  Then they carried them from there into the
Glost Warehouse and that was it all done.

Q. Where else did you work?
A. I helped out at Bisquet kiln, or the Glost kiln.  I carried the stuff from the bench into the Glost Warehouse and they all went to their
different sizes and you took them to the size that you were carrying and they took them from you and put them down.  The cups were all
put on the floor and there were lengths and lengths and the cups all down at the one bit, and saucers at the side, one on the top of each
other.  After they were glost, they were taken in there to be looked over and cleaned up.

Q. Did any factors effect when you could work?
A. No.

Q. Did any changes occur in your work?
A. No.

Q. What was the chain of command?
A. C. W. McNay belonged the pottery.  There was Mr. Joe and Mr. Charles.  My boss when I went first was Jimmy Gardner, the other
boss we got after that was Elizabeth.

Q. Would each section have a separate boss?
A. Yes.

Q. How good was the quality?
A. Oh quite nice.

Q. Do you know where the produce went?
A. I was at John O' Groats and they have a wee shop,  I looked in there I said to ma husband "oh my that’s C.W.McNay’s ware there".

Q. Did any of it go abroad?
A. I wouldn't be surprised, they made some nice things.

Q. Did they ever do any special things?
A. Well they used to do awfy nice dishes and things like that, but I‘ve no idea if they did wedding jugs.


Q. What training did you receive, if any?
A. When I went first I had to serve about a year, before I got onto piece work.

Q. Where did you receive it?
A. Down in the pottery where I worked.

Q. Who would train you?
A. Jimmy Gardner was our head man, he would watch you.  Then this other woman, she would come through and watch how you were
getting on.

Q. How would you be trained?
A. We'd maybe get a job to do and if we couldnae they’d come and tell you that wasnae right and try and do it again.  You could take a
sponge wi’ water on it and wash it off then you could try it over the top.  You used paint, it could wash off if you let it come off at once,
washed them off and done them over again, till we get sorted into it.

Q. Could you get advancement?
A. If you changed your job.

Q. Did you get any certificates?
A. Nut. 


Q. What equipment did you use?
A. You had your brushes, different sizes, and you had your sponge.

Q. Did you have a stencil?
A. Just had the pattern on your sponge, you could get a transfer put on things, that was what was done in the Gilding.

Q. Did you have any powered tools?
A. No.


Q. What machinery was there, if any?
A. The only machinery was in the shop next door to us.  It was done different colours and it was a spray nozzle thing and it went by
electricity.  You put so much paint and stuff in this, you could turn it off and on.

Q. Was there any other machinery?
A. There would be plenty in the Jolly Shop but l was never in the Jolly Shop.


Q. What were your working conditions like?
A. Oh no bad.

Q. What was the temperature like?
A. Well we had radiators and that kept the place kind of warm.

Q. What was the lighting like?
A. Oh it was all right, it was electric.

Q. Were there toilet or cleaning facilities?
A. You had to go downstairs to the toilet.

Q. Did you have basins in your department?
A. Not that I remember.

Q. How did you get your dinner or refreshments?
A. I went home for it.

Q. Were there safety measures or inspections?
A. You had to wear the white overall.  That was just in case the dipping came about you because it would spoil your clothes.

Q. Did you wear anything else apart from the coat?
A. A cap, that's all.  They used to have a wee place outside the Dipping House and you went there in the morning.  And if you were
going into the Dipping at any time you had to go in there and get a white coat on and then in the morning the foreman gave you a drink
of milk.  It was for the lead that was supposed to be in the dipping stuff.

Q. Did you have to pay for it?
A. No, they gave you it.  Them that was in the Dipping got it, there was a chap in the Dipping all the time.  There were wash hand basins
in that, in case the glaze came across, you had to wash your hands.

Q. What was the general atmosphere like?
A. Oh quite good.