My name is John McAtasney. I was born in 55, Sloan Street, Lurgan, Co Armagh on Wednesday 11 April 1934, the second eldest of a family of eight children, six boys and two girls.
My father John was a weaver and my mother, when they met was a cook with a local doctor. The room where I was born was right above the weaving shop which had two handlooms. These had been removed about four years before my birth because of the decline of handweaving. My father had to take a job in the factory at power loom weaving, where the weavers and the employers contributed a little each week so that a weaver could receive a little sick benefit for six weeks. The handloom weavers who could not afford this received nothing.
None of my brothers or sisters entered the weaving trade for it was the poorest paid job in Lurgan. In May 1945 shortly after leaving school with my Primary School Certificate, my mother asked Robert Crozier who had six handlooms if he would offer me a trial. He agreed. On Monday 3 May 1948, I presented myself at his weaving shop on the Gilford Road corner, adjacent to the Banbridge Road. There I found myself working with five weavers. I was told to walk about and watch them weaving but not to talk to them.
Now you must bear in mind that I had not fancied the idea of becoming a weaver, but in those days you did what you were told. The first week passed with one weaver saying to me that there was no point in learning the job as it was on the way out. On the second week, I asked an old weaver whilst he was having his tea, about how long would it take to learn the weaving. He replied to me “All your life, son, all your life.” I will never forget those words.
In the third week I was given a try on a loom by Robert Crozier. This was on a Friday. We worked to 1 p.m. on Saturday and, at five to one, Bob reached into his pocket and pulled out a half‑crown, one shilling, and a threepenny bit. It was my first wage after three weeks work. In total, three shillings and nine pennies ‑ about 18 pence in today’s money. I ran home and gave it all to my mother.
The fourth week I was put on a loom of my own and Bob Crozier gave me a