A GRANDFATHER has recalled his time at one of Dunfermline’s last industrial giants – and the £3,000 loan that might have kept it going.

Damask linen and then silk, the material for Queen Elizabeth II’s wedding dress came from here, made the town wealthy in the 19th century and famous around the world in the 20th.

Silk from here also helped in the fight against the Nazis but changing times and fortunes meant the mills and the factories have all but disappeared.

Henry Bosshardt, from Crossford, remembers Dunfermline’s manufacturing might and the pivotal role his Swiss father, Walter Bosshardt, played in its fortunes.

The 73-year-old, of Knowehead Road, said: “I’ve got lots of pictures from that time because my father loved photography.

“He came here in 1925 and set up the Dunfermline Silk Mills, at Castleblair Works on Mill Street, and that was the first of the silk coming to Dunfermline.

“He chose Dunfermline over Manchester as there were already linen mills here lying idle and a catchment of weavers, it was just a matter of training them.

“Silk needs high humidity as that’s when it’s at its strongest, so Dunfermline was well suited. Manchester would have been fine – it’s a damp place too! – but we still needed these massive humidifiers in the factory to help boost the humidity.”

Walter later became managing director of Winterthur Silk Mills, at Canmore Works, which is where the Tesco Fire Station store now sits.

When Dunfermline was a manufacturing powerhouse there were also major employers at the Victoria Works, Pilmuir Works and St Margaret’s Works, all on Pilmuir Street, the Albany Works near Gardener Street and St Leonard’s Works at Bothwell Street. Henry said: “Before coming to Dunfermline, he’d started a factory in Italy in 1922 and in France in 1924.

“It was his life and some nights he even used to sleep in the factory. There’s a great pic of him eating spaghetti with his workmates in the joiners shop in Italy. That’s the type of guy he was, he just loved what he did.”

The industry employed more than 750 people, as well as many highly-skilled Swiss technicians who came here to teach the techniques of silk-weaving.

During the Second World War, 80 per cent of the factory’s output was the production of synthetic silk for parachutes.

As the Allies dropped into France to start the fightback against Germany, they were aided by parachutes put together by Dunfermline workers.

Winterthur’s then became famous when silk thread was sent to Dunfermline to be woven into the satin from which the Queen’s wedding dress was made in 1947. Two workers, Barbara Unwin and Isa Erskine, were even chosen to go to the royal wedding.

Perhaps less well known is the fact that material for her coronation dress in 1953 also came from the Dunfermline factory.

Henry, who also worked in the business and was being groomed to take it over, said: “It started to go in the wrong direction after my father retired in 1965.

“He was kept on in a part-advisory role but they didn’t listen to him and did quite a few things the wrong way which got them into financial trouble.

“My father always used to buy silk, maybe six months to a year, in advance but would only get so much delivered at a time throughout the year.

“So it came in regularly and he paid each invoice when it came in.

“Despite his advice, they ordered a whole year’s worth and paid for all of it at once. Sales were dropping, which was one of the problems, and they bought far too much silk for their needs.”

He continued: “He loaned them £3,000, the price of a house back then, and I’ve still got the letter from the company secretary thanking him for helping them out and that they’d try to pay him back.

“They probably did when it was sold to Brocklehurst, from Macclesfield, but all they did was take out all the new machinery.

“My father had some very old equipment but he also had some brand new ones to the point that the Japanese sent people over to see how he had managed to cut a whole process from winding to warping.

“He had a high-speed warping machine which meant they could do one a day instead of five days.

“The Japanese were very interested in that, it was quite a coup for my father.”

Henry concluded: “I’ve given a fair bit of information to the new museum (the Dunfermline Carnegie Library & Galleries) as it’s part of Dunfermline’s history.

“I worked my way through the factory and knew a lot about every department.

“Looking back at my time, I was very fortunate to learn so much in a short space of time at Canmore Works and then at their factory in Winterthur in Switzerland too.

“I left in 1967 as I could see it wasn’t going well. It was too late for me to take over and I didn’t have the same grasp of the industry that my father had.

“It closed in 1970. It was sad as it was his baby.”