(Music by C.J. Boyd)
Joe McBride of Burnley, UK, left school at sixteen with very few skills. He wanted to become an apprentice blacksmith, but the cotton factory jobs in town paid twice as much. It was an easy choice to make — Joe was soon learning everything from carding cotton, to spinning and weaving, to repairing equipment.
Cotton production was introduced to the UK after the advent of the cotton gin in 1793. Burnley was just one of the towns in Lancashire to embrace the cotton industry in the 1800s and early 1900s. The area was soon a hub of textile production, supplying 40% of the world’s cotton fabric around the time of the first World War.
Ten years ago, at a time when Lancashire’s textile industry had been hit hard and was struggling to compete with the cheap costs of labor and materials overseas, Joe McBride decided to open his own textile manufacturing company. Because shipping costs on bulky items are high, McBride doesn’t have to worry as much about imported goods taking away his business, but there are still periods of time when the mill is forced to “go quiet.”
McBride laments the lack of support from the government. There seems to be little interest in reviving this once vital revenue source in the UK. Mills in Burnley are being torn down on a weekly basis and the ones that are left standing are converted into housing or storage units. Joe McBride was offered enough money for his mill to retire on, but his passion for manufacturing and textiles has kept him going. McBride has found his cause, but as consumers we must consider: in our current infrastructure of global manufacturing, are traditional economies like Lancashire worth preserving? What are you fighting for when you’re championing the local factory?