These men and ladies and their foreman dressed in a white coat worked at the Braid Water Spinning Co. Ltd. at Ballymena in 1939 when Linen was a booming industry.
They were from the Preparing room and the reason they were having their photograph was that they had hit their target and usually got a bonus.
Now Tow Linen - unbleached was because the Tow were shorter flax fibres as separated from the long fibres before the spinning process. These shorter fibres make a lovely
linen yarn that was a bit more rustic in nature than the line linen made from the longer fibers. You will often find mention of tow being used to clean gun barrels and for fire
lighting. Tow does make a reasonable kindling and when you had finished using some for cleaning a gun several times, You would put it in a fire-bag for fire lighting use.
Tow is the short fibres left over after combing or "Hackling" the longer flax fibres called ""Line"". It can be used as above, or it can be used to make tow cloth. Tow cloth was a "
cheaper material which was used for making work clothes, work frocks were often made from tow. A tow rag one would assume is the material from worn out old tow cloth
clothing and is no longer any use for anything but to be used as a cleaning rag or perhaps for making tinder for flint and steel fire lighting.

Hence I guess the term “tow rag”being used for a person who is not up to much!"

This aerial photograph gives you an idea the size of the spinning industry in Ballymena with Braid Water Spinning Co Ltd mill and all it's various buildings employing hundreds of people back then. Cutting the buildings in two is the Braid river, the Braid rises near The Sheddings. It flows by way of Broughshane and Ballymena joining the Maine near Galgorm. The Maine continues south, entering Lough Neagh at Mainwater Foot in Randalstown Forest. Now sadly it is all gone, a life were everyone knew each other and communities in which grandfathers and their wives, their sons and wives and their children grew up, they worked hard and the days were long but they all had each other and could rely on each other in times of sadness and happiness, a time when respect was shown to all.

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This is a photo of people using automated scutching machines at the braidwater mill. Scutching is a step in the processing of cotton or the dressing of flax in preparation for
spinning. The scutching process separates the impurities from the raw material, such as the seeds from raw cotton or the straw and woody stem from flax fibers.

It's the 15th November 1945 and these three ladies are spreading out the tow These workers are spreading ‘tow’, some of the finer fibres separated from the straw in the heckling process, where straw is removed from the fibres so it can go into the machines to be turned into a hard wearing Liinen and they are doing this at Braid Water Spinning Co. Ltd. Factory which sadly is now a large shopping area. Did you know that Linen is one of the strongest materials in the world and was used to cover planes in the First and Second World Wars. If you have leak stick a piece of linen in it,the linen will swell and stop the leak.
You can buy the
Irish Linen at Merchant-and-Makers-Irish-Linen-31-Chapel-Lane-Ballymena.

If you know any of the people in the photograph please let me know and I will send you a copy without the watermark.
LOOM 3785
This lady here is working on a loom at home around 1850 making various things that have been ordered and usually made of flannel cloth. Originally weavers worked in their
own cottages and sold their cloth to dealers, but increasingly flannel manufacturers were setting up weaving shops and employing weavers to work together in one workshop.
Sadly this was not to the advantage of the workers but to the manufactures who persuaded the loomers to let them build better looms for them to work but this put them in debt to the manufactures and were never ever able to get out of debt even with the whole family working long hours and so they could never leave.