Sam Cox, Beaterman, recorded in about 1975.
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Well um, the rags used to come ... David Blight used to bring 'em from Totnes station with a 'orse and wagon, see, well then they was unloaded, put into the rag house, then the bales was opened, and then, I don't know there might have been ten, twelve ladies there they had a bench each with like a, it was like a part of a scythe stuck in the wood frame, and then they used to, they used to go through the thrasher, the bloke used to put them in the thrasher, and they was thrashed for twenty minutes, and then one lady ... that's to get out the dust and that. Well then one lady would go ... that was her job, she'd take them out of the thrasher, put them into these baskets, and then go round and fill up all the ladies benches. Well while they were sorting that lot, well the next lot was put into the thrasher, and so it went on. Well then the ladies used to cut off ... cut 'em shorter, cut off all the buttons, 'ooks and eyes, and all that sort of thing and that was threw away. And then they was carried a little bit further on and then they used to go down like a trap door in the floor. Well there was bloke down in under there and these rags used to go down into a box then. And he used to go down, he used to be there and he would put 'em through the cutting machine. Well they'd go through the cutting machine and then come back in the rag house again. Well then the women, a couple of women would have to, when they come back, they have to put them over the magnet to make sure they'd got it all out. Well then they was taken from the magnet, put into the dusters, then they was in the dusters for twenty minutes. Well after that they was took out and basketed up in about, I reckon you used to get about seventy, eighty pound in a basket.
Well then they was took out into the boiler house, then they was put in the boiler. You might get about fifteen hundredweight to a ton in a boiler. Well you'd put so much alkali in, and then they was boiled perhaps for two hours. Well then you'd blow the bottom of the boiler and let the steam out, and the water, and then you'd go, then the blokes down under would go up and take the big ring off the boiler, let the boiler come around so far, and then he'd have a tub down under, and he used to pull these rags out into the tub, take 'em into the beater room, and then you had another man there, he would throw the rags in a bin here, and this bloke used to be sat facing you as you done it, well then he had a bench there. He'd put the rags up on his bench and he used to sort 'em again, in case you got any bits of silk or that that had gone through, or elastic. Well then he used to throw them back over into the next bin. Well then we used to take 'em from that bin when they was ready, we used to put 'em in the breakers, we used to wash 'em for a half hour, then you'd bleach 'em for ... all depends what sort it was ... twenty minutes to a half hour, and then you'd wash 'em out again, say for a half hour to three parts of an hour, and then you bleach 'em again with a pinch of blue in. Then you used to let them through in big tanks that was right underneath. Well then they used to stand in bleach for twenty four hours. See the following day the bloke that was in charge of the beater room he'd go down and pull up a wire - that's where the drains was see, and he'd pull these wires up and then the rags would drain. Well when they was drained enough, you used to go down there with a tub. And you might have to bring up perhaps twenty outshot, sixty new white cuttings, that's eighty ... you used to have to make it up either way to a hundred and twenty pound to a ton. 'Cos you had a big copper thing down under. That one used to allow to hold ten pound of rag. See you'd go by the weight of the rag, not when its down there. And that used to be a hundred and twenty pound.
You brought it back, washed it out for about an hour and a half to two hours to get out the bleach, and then you'd drop that into the pulperlizers - what we used to call beaters - and then you'd gradually beat that off. It all depends what you was making. And if you was making drawings or writing paper, or anything like that, you'd beat it quick. But if you was doing anything like on the long side, perhaps you'd do that four, five, six hours. It all depends what you wanted. And you kept it different lengths. Most mills they've got testing tubes, you know, how they try theirs, if its ready, but we always used to test ours in two hand bowls. You'd take a bit out, and go to your water tap, and go like that, until you got it thin enough, and then you'd go up to the light in the window and you'd just look through it like that and you could tell the length of the fibres like what you had to get. Well when that was ready that was emptied down into some big chests in the vat house, and that's where it was made.