A Factory In Miniature:
Jim Gordon

Jim Gordon, Last Head of the Textiles Department

Jim Gordon (EJ Gordon) was the last Head of the Textiles Department at the Dundee College of Technology.

He was himself a graduate of the Jute Manufacture course, which he started as an evening student in 1937, before serving in the Royal Navy during the Second World War. He returned to his studies when he was de-mobbed in 1946 and went to work at Shields of Perth in September 1948 when he qualified.

Shields was a commercial textiles firm that at that time was not involved in making jute products. It specialised in other commercial fabrics, such as cotton and linen which were used for furnishing cloth and hospital fabrics. It was here that he said he learnt about the technical side of textile manufacture, and this was reinforced after a work placement with the Cotton Board in Lancashire where he learnt about working with that material. These experiences taught him principally the importance of knowing the nature of the fibre that is being used to make the textile product.

After a spell working as a jute factory manager at Pattersons of Dundee, he became a lecturer in the Textiles Department at the then Dundee Technical College in September 1956, later becoming Head of Department in December 1967. He quickly set about making the course “more scientific” – less about learning facts by rote, and putting much of what he had learnt in his own work into the course, including taking the use of new fibres, such as man-made ones, into account. He also appointed new members of staff to the department from the Jute Textiles Research Association – Jack Anderson, and Eric Malcolm.

As well as revitalising the course at the College, he was involved in work to test the use of other fibres that might be used as a jute substitute. He also carried out some work for the UN to help with problems encountered by the Bangladeshi jute industry.

When the Textiles Department closed in 1984 he was appointed as Staff Development Officer, a role he held until his retirement on 5th January 1987.

In August 2020 he kindly agreed to speak to us about his life and career, and extracts from his interview are provided below. The full interview can be requested from Abertay University Archives.

[Images from Jim Gordon's collection] 

Jim Gordon speaking at a Jute Manufacturing Workshop in Bangladesh in 1983