Harry's Chronicle Begins

An account of life in Upperlands before the First World War.

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1880 - 1890


On February 19, the Derry Central Railway [linking Coleraine to Magherafelt, with stops including Upperlands and Maghera] was opened. My father had taken an active part in promoting it, and although the train service was very bad, it was a great boon for Upperlands.  Before it opened all our materials were carted from Castledawson.  The carter, John Tohill, left each morning with one or two cases of Linens; the output seldom exceeded two cases daily then.  I clearly remember the first morning when three boxes were despatched [by train] and we were all in at 6 am to get the goods entered.

Under the old system, the carter, John Tohill, would bring home from Castledawson a daily load of linens and dyestuffs.

Coal was hardly used at all, and a cart load was only brought in every few weeks to supplement the turf.Turf was almost the only fuel used in the very small boiler in the Green.  Enormous stocks of turf were laid in at the Green every summer.

Prior to the opening of the Derry Central Railway, the mails came to Maghera by car, and the postman walked out here. The English mails did not reach Maghera until 6.30 pm and a horse and cart was sent in every evening for it.


I entered the business at the age of 15.

After I had been a short time in the business, I found conditions were extremely backward. For example, there was no recognized carpenter’s shop, and nearly all the carpentry work was done outside on the back avenue, where beetling beams were made by "hagging" the rough wood with a hand hatchet. It was later planed, also by hand. Rollers for the two starch mangles were also turned in a crude way by hand. I strongly recommended the building of a workshop, and, greatly against my wishes, it was erected on the side of the back avenue. The carpenters at this time were: William Paxton, Foreman, Henry Arbuthnot, Francis McShane and Isaac Donaldson, a temporary hand.

John Smith, the foreman dyer, directed all carpentry work, and his methods were basic in the extreme.

In the Green, water for washing and other needs was all pumped up from a large well, until I showed them how easily it could be got by gravitation from the dam. The pumps, which broke down about once every week, were driven by the 20 horse power water wheel which was the only motive power for the whole Green.

I remember clearly when the spot where the Black Dye House is now was used as a potato garden by Barney McKinney. This was before we built the Green [beetling] engines.

There was a by-wash out of the Green race that carried surplus water under the place where the present long arch is. Hundreds of salmon used to find their way up this by-wash and I have known 19 to be killed in the Green Race on a Sunday afternoon. At this time, during a flood, scores of salmon could be seen going over the weir, near the spot where my son Tom later settled [at Upperlands House]. Later on a water-wheel was put in to drive the Green engines.

My brother A.W. Clark had great trouble in his effort to increase the business, owing to the way the Green workers tendered large quantities of black hollands. They never washed them after liming; the ends of all webs were tendered for 2-3 yards in. Also they never kept the different setts [weaves] of linen separate, and sent out to the unfortunate beetlers a mixture of fine and coarse hollands, and even buckrams, the result being very uneven finishes.  No finishing books were kept for either the Green or the engines. The only goods handled were hollands, 6x7 to 14x16 – quite a number of the latter being in demand. Buckrams from 4x4 to 8x9 were in large demand, mostly in full finish.

John Smith, evidently, had an idea of daylight saving. In spring and autumn he started at 6 am instead of 7, and stopped before light failed at 5 pm. There was, of course, no electric light in those days.

The hours of work were 7 am to 6 pm in summer, and 6 am to 5 pm in winter.


Four new beetling engines were erected in the Green and the very long tail race, arched over from the second water wheel, was made. Before these engines were erected, I remember potatoes growing where the black dye house is at present.


We commenced to do a little business in beetled elastic canvas in the USA. George Riggs was appointed agent; he sold 600 pieces to Carson Pirie Scott & Co., Chicago, and also booked smaller orders from James H. Walker & Co., Chicago, Hood Bonbright & Col, Joseph Horn & Co., of Pittsburgh, and some others, as well as a little business in Canada from Gault Brothers & Co. and Henry Morgan & Co. of Montreal. However we were unable to handle the very big business that Riggs could have got. That was owing to our having no frames and having to shut the works in dry weather because there was no steam engine. Riggs resigned after a year, and went to The Northern Linen Co., Belfast for whom he did a huge trade. We then appointed William Robinson Burgess as our agent, but he was not a success, and, unfortunately, without dismissing him we also appointed Harry Chalmers of 335 Broadway, New York, as agent.

At that time I took absolutely no part in the American or Canadian business, and was only engaged in the cloth-storage room. When I went out to America in 1888 I was surprised to find two agents on the same territory. I met Burgess on the steamer on my way from New York to Boston and had considerable difficulty with him and later on we had to pay him nearly £100 compensation before he resigned.

The Australian trade also commenced in 1887. Unfortunately, the agents appointed were Messrs Atkinson Bros., who resided in Christchurch, New Zealand - 1,500 miles away from Australia – so there was not very much progress made for the first few years until later we appointed agents named Wedeles in Melbourne. From that date on the business developed rapidly.


From this year onwards [after my return from my first American trip] I found a huge demand for beetled 25” Black, Slate, Seal Brown, Cream and White Elastic Canvas, the qualities used were:

1 ¼ d
1 3/8 d
1 5/8 d
1 7/8 d
2 ¼ d
2 ½ d
2 7/8 d

The demand for these items lasted for over two years, then the fashion changed, and heavier goods were required for ladies’ dress facing, 5 yards being used in each dress. The heavier goods were 6x6 6x7 7x8 and 8x8, each sett being made from both 25/25 and 25/22. The Ulster Weaving Co. made the first lot of this range, 17 webs of each number being ordered, and in later years this became one of the best ranges in the Home Trade. Orders from Carson Pirie Scott & Co., Goddard, and many others often ran into 2,000 webs each number, and a year later much heavier goods were wanted:


These were ordered in enormous quantities. I booked one order from O.G. Rounds of Carson Pirie Scot & Co., Chicago, just before the McKinley higher tariff cam into operation, for over 20,000 webs. We had nearly all in stock as I knew the higher duty was coming and bought largely.


In May, the McKinley tariff was introduced, which almost doubled the duty on all textiles. This had a most serious effect on the whole linen trade and also the Woollen Trade in England. [Luckily] I had been in America in January of that year and heard that this new tariff was coming. [We] finished up thousands of webs [in time to avoid the tariff] and we got huge orders for delivery before the tariff took effect. I sold Carson, Pirier, Scott & Co. nearly 20,000 webs in one order, all for immediate shipment.

On July 15, we bought Moneycarrie Works for £1,915 from Messrs Whitworths of Manchester, who held the works against a debt owed them by Messrs Thos Barklie & Sons.  It took about a year to get Moneycarrie fully going, and for a considerable time afterwards the 18 engines there were beetling black canvas, while the upper house was exclusively on 6x7 and 9x11 natural hollands for Lesher Whitman & Co of New York.

Also this year, a small addition was made, on the side next to the Green, to the Lapping Room. This included a small packing room 12 feet x 24 feet, but, unfortunately, the Packing Room was three feet higher than the Lapping Room. This resulted in all the goods having to be carried up to the Packing Room by hand. Prior to this, all goods had been packed in a very small room downstairs and the boxes rolled up onto the cart by hand. In a similar way all finished goods coming in had to be carried on the lappers’ shoulders from the cart to the holland stock room upstairs.

1891 - 1900


The first stenter frame was put in. The word comes from the very ancient practice of stretching or 'tenting' wet cloth out on nails projecting from a wooden frame so that it dries at a preselected width. The sides of the frame could be adjusted outwards to tighten the cloth. Frames were propped up vertically in a field, or laid flat in a heated loft. Stentering machines enabled this process to be carried out continuously with moving clips or pins. Stenters were still referred to as 'frames' in Upperlands.

Before we put in the stenter frame, all our elastic canvas had been finished first at Joymount, Carrickfergus. Their works broke down and we were forced to go to Lisnafillan, and finding their finish better, we never returned to Joymount again.  This, I think, should be a valuable lesson as to what the result of even a temporary stoppage of finishing machinery might be.

Our first frame was bought from John Dalglish, Glasgow, for about £1,000, and it remained in use until 1938. For the first two years it worked every night until 10pm and on Saturday evenings, all colours were done on it. It was in a small corrugated iron shed, 12 feet wide, and 100 feet long.

At this period the demand from the home trade for canvas was extremely small, but, fortunately, in later years, just as the demand for beetled canvas entirely stopped in U.S.A. a huge demand sprung up in the home trade, Canada and Australia.


In May my mother, Minnie Clark nee Newport, died and her funeral was the largest ever seen in the district to that date.

In the works this year, we put in a small Galloway boiler 5 feet in diameter, for 8lbs pressure.

Our greatest difficulty at this time was in getting canvas beetled, the goods required about 70 hours of beetling, and we had every available beetling mill in Derry, Antrim and Tyrone, as well as all the beetling engines at Castledawson working for us.


My brother married Miss Frances L. Carpendale of Faulkland, Dungannon, and for several years lived at Grillagh [near Maghera]. He was an extremely hard and energetic worker, and nearly always rode down to the lapping room, arriving there at 7 am and personally examined every web of linen shipped to the home trade. He would examine both immediately after they came in from being finished, and before being packed.


A second stenter frame was bought. Our trade had extended to more than three times the volume of 1888, and we found it necessary to put in a second Dalglish frame. The corrugated iron house in which the first frame stood was simply doubled in width. Business was, however, carried on under great difficulties, as due to the lack of managers’ or workers’ houses it was impossible to bring the right type of men here. The old Ampertaine cottage in the yard was then turned in to workers' houses, and John Livingstone, the foreman of the American Lapping Room [where goods were prepared for shipment to the USA] lived there for many years.

Up to about this time all elastic canvas was rolled by hand on a separate machine after being measured by hand. Seeing the impossibility of getting through the quantities required in this crude manner, I set to work in my private workshop and built a combined measuring and rolling machine, of a type which has been used ever since. It was placed downstairs where the old packing room stood and was driven by a small steam engine.

Office accommodation was another extreme difficulty, the only office measured just 14 feet x 12 feet, and it was impossible to accommodate enough clerks for the increased business, so an office was taken off the Lapping Room. It measured 10 feet wide by 24 feet long, looking out towards Ampertaine. At this time there was no lavatory or washing accommodation.

As I found it impossible to carry on the American Trade when I was away in America twice every year, I engaged Mr Smith, who was the first shorthand writer we ever had here, and an experienced and excellent hand. But his behaviour was erratic and he had to be dismissed. I then engaged Joe Davison, who remained with us for over twenty years. George Hill was also taken on as an assistant in the Home Trade.


As well as travelling all over England and Scotland once a year, I [was in the habit of making] making two trips annually to U.S.A. and Canada. The trade to be done in Canada was then very small and hardly worth going after. I appointed H.L. Smythe & Co. as our agents in Montreal and Toronto: Charlie and Bob Smythe doing Montreal and Henry, the senior brother, doing Toronto with a Mr Winter. Soon afterwards I appointed Mr H.E. Walker as our agent in Vancouver; it was very small then, having a population of only about ten thousand.

In U.S.A. trade was increasing every year, and I picked up huge orders, even in small places like Detroit, Columbus, Louisville, etc.  I remember getting into Cleveland, Ohio, at 8am and leaving at mid-day after booking elastic-canvas orders of 2,000 webs each from Root & McBride and William Taylor Sons & Co. I cabled home: "Selling Canvas Enormously - Get Goods Finished Everywhere Possible".


My residence, Ardtara, was built – but it was partly blown down by a terrible storm on December 21.


In February, a partnership was formed between my father, my brother Alexander and myself.

David Waugh, our famous commercial traveller, came here. He had been for many years with Walter Clark & Sons of Manchester. He made two trips each year to Canada and the States for several years and booked enormous orders there. He left us a few years later and went to Ewarts of Belfast. Before leaving he also made one or two trips in the Home Trade.


On February 26, I married Alice Warren, second daughter of Thomas Moore Esq of Newsham Park, Liverpool.

In May of the same year, owing to the enormous demand for beetled canvas, it was decided to erect 24 beetling engines at [a place a little further down the Clady river which we now call] the Jubilee. I was asked by the company to take charge of this scheme. For several years we had been considering building these engines, but as Johnston, who owned the land that the "tail race" went through, wanted £18 for a strip of land 9 feet wide, and John Smith our manager would only give £10, nothing was done for several years. I took on thirty labouring men to sink the very deep tail Race, wages 10 shillings week. This work was completed in November. I put Jim O'Neill, a labouring man, in charge, and I had to visit the work four times daily. I was always down there to start the men at 7 am.

By September, the building of an engine house was completed by Evans of Bellaghy.  It was large enough to contain 24 engines.

In October and November, the masons also built the four workers’ houses at the Jubilee with the stones that were taken out of the Tail Race.


On January 10, my first son, William Moore Wallis Clark, was born.

Robert Montgomery, our foreman engineer, came to work in Upperlands. He died in 1914 and his nephew Bob McClintock was appointed.

On June 12, the first set of 12 beetling engines, made by Kane of Larne, were started up. They cost £70 each. For the next 15 years these engines, and twelve more that were added, worked exclusively on American canvas and hollands.

Our first idea was that the tail race from the Jubilee should enter the river where the trough carries the water under the river, but as I found an extra fall of 5 feet could be gained by carrying the Tail Race under the river and a further 200 yards down, we decided to buy a strip of land from George Kinney across the river.

We had great difficulty in coming to terms and did not get the transaction completed until September and only had the race sunk by the end of October, which involved our putting in the trough in wild wintry weather. It was made of oak, and was actually wet winter's night. That Saturday night I will never forget! Just as the trough was dropped in a flood came down and carried away a large part of the bank.

On August 10, work started on the Lapping Room Dam; it ended in March 1899.


On March 10, a large new building was started in the Green – later known as the old Brown Room, i.e. the cloth-storage area.

In April, a steam engine house, opposite the boilers, was built, and a 40 hp engine by Marshall put in. Previously the only engine was an old one of 40 hp in the black end.

May 20, my son Thomas Jackson Clark was born.

June 5, my nephew Alexander Maxwell Clark was born.

A large new boiler by Coates was put in at the Green

A boiler, engine and iron chimney were put in at the Jubilee, and a set of 24 beetling engines was completed.


The first turbine in the Green was put in. Two 15” Achilles by John McDonald, Glasgow. The old water wheel in the Green was taken out at the same time, and all the slow underground shafts that went at 30 rpm were removed, and replaced with high speed overhead shafts.


On April 19, my daughter Norah was born.

On October 4, the most important job ever done in Upperlands was completed, as a siding was built to the Green. A special train, engine number 9, brought 10 wagons of coal in. My son William Clark, who would later be a Northern Ireland senator, rode on it aged three and half.

In the course of this year our head book-keeper, Robert Johnston, discovered a serious case of fraud by the railway company’s agent in Upperlands.

It was conducted as follows:-

The freight on all cases and bales was charged to William Clark & Sons at a very much higher figure than the correct weights, e.g. a box or case weighing, say, 10 cwt. was  charged in the railway account to WC & S as 12 cwt. But in the railway books the figure was reduced from 10 cwt to 8 cwt and the difference of 4 cwt somehow reached the railway company’s agent.

The robbery was discovered as follows. The railway agent at Upperlands had furnished the usual monthly account to the Company. Then he went off carousing, and when a temporary agent was sent to Upperlands, he did not know that the account had already been furnished to WC & S so sent in a new account, which showed, for example, the figure charged to the company as 12 cwt as only 8 cwt.

This had been going on for years and a careful estimate showed that the Company had been robbed to an amount exceeding £3,000.

At this same period the question of a siding to our works was being considered and in compensation for our company's claim of about £3,000, the railway company agreed to give all rails and sleepers free of charge to our company. On future occasions when any new sleepers or rails were required, William Clark & Sons always paid the railway company for them, so there is no doubt about our company being the correct owners of the rails and sleepers. Our company had got their lawyers, B.H. Lane & Co. to serve a writ on the railway company for £3,000 but this was withdrawn when the above compensation was arranged.

In addition to above, the railway company also paid us £250 to help to cover the loss sustained by the robbery.

1901 - 1910


After David Waugh left us, I went to the USA on an extended tip on the SS Oceanic.


A second turbine was put in at the Jubilee – a 12" Achilles – by McDonald.

Three houses known as Bath Terrace were built, and two dwelling houses close to the Middle House.

In August, Robert Hodge made his first sales trip to America.

In September, we began building a new set of beetling engines – the road engines. They were operational by October 1903. We put in two 15” horizontal turbines by Turnbull, also a steam engine and boiler by Victor Coates, and built a chimney for driving these works. The boiler was taken out in 1918 and sold to John A. Clark & Co. for £325 and replaced by a 68 hp Suction Gas engine by Fielding & Platt.


I went to Canada on the SS Pretoria and returned from New York on the SS Lucania, with George Carpendale [one of my brother Alexander’s in-laws] as first officer.


On February 18, my son Harry Francis Clark was born.

On April 19, the worst fire in Toronto’s history occurred, with 14 acres of buildings burned out, including the premises of many famous firms.

On December 10, the death took place of my father William Clark at the age of 89 years. He had spent his entire life since the age of 15 in managing and developing the business and travelled frequently all over Great Britain and Ireland, and his death was deeply regretted by his sorrowing family, and all who knew him.


In this year, a very dry one, we began raising the Island Dam by eight feet. It had to be banked all round from the upper end to the Small Dam. Later on we made Craig’s Dam to supply the water on the higher level, and constructed an aqueduct across the alley near Lagan’s Mill.


On March 2, I purchased my first car – a 10/12 Humber, which cost £350.

On August 26, I went to New York on the SS Columbia, and made an extensive trip through the States and Canada.


On January 31, the new dam at the head sluice - Craig's Dam - was first filled.

A fifth stenter frame was put in the enlarged stone frame house.

On November 6, my son Brian was born.


On July 10, my nephew George Wallis Newport Clark was born.


On April 2, my daughter Mamie was born.


There was a great demand from Canada for linens, the trade was growing by leaps and bounds.

In January, Alfred McCarrison, who had been our Belfast manager, made his first trip to Canada, which was very successful. The firm's turnover had by now greatly enlarged, and was up to about £250,000 a year. The Australian and New Zealand demand also increased greatly. Also there was now a huge demand in the home trade for elastic canvas, which was very fortunate, as the great American demand for these goods had entirely fallen off.

On February 13, water was put into the enlarged Island Dam.

At this time, we had great difficulty in getting goods woven, and decided to build our own weaving factory.

In September, the foundation stone was laid. It was a building of 170ft by 156 ft.

1911 - 1914


In January, Barney McKinney, who had been head loftman for about fifty years, resigned and we appointed the two young Stewarts in his place. Alfred McCarrison went out to Canada and had a most successful trip. The demand from Canada was growing very rapidly.

On January 24, the mason work of the weaving factory was completed.

This year we also built a large new wing to the Lapping Room. It was a 3-storey building with the offices on the top floor: this building was destined to burn down in the fire of March 1929. We also put in a Cundal Suction Gas Engine for driving the Lapping Room.

For a time in 1911 the great American demand for dress linens all but stopped and did not spring up again until ?1912, when there was a huge demand again.

The year of 1911 was very busy year, as in addition to the stress of managing the usual business we had to arrange for all the new machinery for the weaving factory.

In April our head traveller, Robert Hodge, died very suddenly when over in Scotland. He had been in Upperlands over eight years, and previously had represented us in Glasgow for about fifteen years.

In May, the weaving factory building was finished and a new high speed engine by Howden was started.

On August 9, the factory first started for about an hour’s trial.

By November, we had 30 looms running in the factory.

On November 5, we moved the old offices to the new ones on third storey of the new Lapping Room.

A great railway and dock strike in England and Ireland seriously affected business.

Also in November, our first telephone was installed.


Six new workers' houses completed, forming Puddle Row.

In March and April, there was a great coal strike which lasted for six weeks. Fortunately, we had an immense stock and were able to carry on all the time. When the strike was over we still had 200 tons left in stock. Only two trains ran on this line.

On April 15, the Titanic disaster occurred. Some 1600 souls perished after the ship striking an iceberg at 11.40 pm and it sunk at 2.20 am. This was her maiden voyage.  The ship was 882' 9” long, 92’ 6” wide, 46,000 tons in weight. This was described as the world's greatest disaster.

There was a further great advance in prices of linen owing to huge American demand for motor linens, also coloured dresss linens made from bleached yarns. These were sold in thousand-web lots, dyed in all colours by Mr Hilton, also a 48" 6x6, shrunk to 36", called "Non-Crush".

In June, two workers' houses were built near the Middle House engines, making four in all. Also built around this time were two managers' houses beside road down to the railway station.

In August, we put in a new system for heating water for the Green which effected a considerable saving.

By October, we were now dyeing dress linens for the USA in huge numbers, made from bleached yarns. Mr Hilton, unfortunately, re-bleached them all, which was later found to be unnecessary.

A new calender house erected on the dam bank.  Some 80 looms were now running in Factory; Mr McKinty was the manager.

Two large dwelling houses near station (George Frazer's) were erected. The two only cost £600.

Towards the end of the year we started to build new Engine House for eight Mill Engines.

By December, 90 looms were running in the factory and we were bringing weavers in from Tobermore.


Eight new workers' houses commenced at Boyne Row. Harbison of Cullybackey, the contractor, built the eight houses of brick for £790, with everything supplied. This makes 22 houses now in the Boyne Row.

In January, J Sproul Smith, our famous Toronto agent, died.

At this time, David Kane was at this time managing the Green; he was known as Slithery Davy.

In July, two 18" Achilles turbines were put in at the Green. These worked there for about twenty years, and later on were moved to drive the Mill Engines, and finally sold to a scotch mill at Bovagh.

In September, the new US tariff was settled and we got enormous orders for [addings and shrunks from the USA. One order was for 2,000 webs 22" finish No. 587, 8x7 ½ 30/30.

In October, my eldest son WMW Clark started to serve his time here.

In November, we started arrangements for converting this into a Limited Company.

A new stenter frame, by Bently & Jackson, was bought from Dromona for £500. It was practically new and originally cost £1,100.

By now there were 105 looms running in the factory.

In December, a large new dye house, in front of old Wash Mill House, nearly finished.

There was a great drop in prices owing to a falloff in demand in the USA for motor linens. Unfortunately, we had very heavy stocks, over 21,000 webs, in the Brown Room.

On December 27, Mr McCarrison sailed for Halifax and had a very good trip in Canada and the States. There was a great demand for fancy coloured dress linen for New York, made from ¾ bleached yarns.


In January, the old firm of William Clark & Sons was converted into a Limited Liability Company. Directors were my brother A.W. Clark, myself and Alfred McCarrison.

In February, a great fall in the prices of linens started from February onwards, with 36" 9x10 came down in a month from 5 ½ d to 4 11/16 d.

A new dwelling-house was built in the old Hall Field for Thomas Lamont, who worked as my brother's chauffer at Ampertaine. He was known as "Young Tam".

A new set of beetling engines erected at the Middle House.

In August, a new dye house, in front of the old Brown Room, commenced according to plan.