Tekau workers help with exhibition

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Catching up at the Tekau morning tea are Diane Carter, Brian Kirk and Bevis Begg.

By Mick Jensen

Memories were re-ignited at a morning tea held for former Ashburton Tekau workers on Monday.

Hosted by Ashburton Museum, which plans on displaying an exhibition on the former Allens Road factory in July, the social gathering drew more than 25 former employees, contractors and suppliers.

Ashburton Museum director Tanya Robinson said she had been impressed with the turnout and “overwhelmed” with some of the loaned Tekau items brought along, which included old brochures, fabric colour samples, photos and garments.

She said they would be used to help document an important part of Ashburton’s history and to tell the story of a factory that had employed 240 people in its heyday.

Tekau had put Ashburton on the map nationally and also internationally with its fine woollen knitwear and other garments.

Ms Robinson said a number of posts on the museum’s Facebook page had offered garments and stories that could be used in the exhibition as well.

“We’re very excited about this exhibition and we’re now going to need to borrow more mannequins to display loaned items.”

The exhibition will be curated by senior curator Maryann Cowan and will be displayed in the Murney Family Room.

Monday’s morning tea brought back memories for a number of people including Diane Carter, who was a Tekau machinist from 1970-72 and then from 1983 until the factory closed in 1990.

She said around 100 former staff had enjoyed a reunion four years ago and she was now busy updating a staff list from that time, which had over 300 names on it.

Another pair catching up were former power board electrician Bevis Begg, who made regular maintenance forays to the factory, and night shift knitwear machinist Brian Kirk.

Mr Begg said he first went to the factory as an apprentice and over the next 40 years spent a fair chunk of his time there.

“It was a busy place and the line-up of machinery was pretty impressive, as was the noise. There were machines from the UK, Germany and Switzerland.”

Mr Kirk said he spent all of his 30 years at Tekau on night shift.

The machines he used knitted fronts, backs and sleeves and made 12 items at a time.