cotton mill manchester
Edge Lane Mill
by Annette Skade

The handrail yanks me up in a torrent of clogs,
hobnail boots, steel toe-caps
that wore down this mighty stone spiral,
sagged it like shoulders after a long shift.

Up three flights into yards of bare boards,
built for power looms and baskets of shoddy.
Engines on turntables spin and spool tubes,
wide polyester for leggings and maxi-skirts.

Behind a glass partition on the shop floor I index,
stamp and tot, try not to lower my school-girl eyes
when the women nudge and link out to the toilets,
patting overall pockets, “Fag break!” tossed to the rafters.

PHOTO: A young cotton weaver working on a Jacquard loom producing towels (Manchester, England, 1965).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My first job was in one of the old cotton mills in Manchester, England, a stone’s throw from where I lived, which was then weaving polyester in an attempt to keep up with the times. I was a filing clerk there for a few weeks in the 70s, putting index cards into small wooden drawers and was paid £20 a week, a sum my mother was disgusted by, saying she wouldn’t let me work for that for any length of time. I stood in awe of the strong women who worked on the shop floor. I little thought I was witness to the end of an era.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Annette Skade is currently pursuing a PhD on the work of Canadian poet Anne Carson at Dublin City University. Her first collection Thimblerig was published following her receipt of the Cork Review Literary Manuscript prize in 2012. She has been published in various magazines in Ireland, the U.K. , and the U.S. and has won and been placed in several international poetry competitions. Visit her at