LOOKING BACK - August 13 edition

Making rugby balls in 1969
Making rugby balls in 1969
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James Gilbert rugby ball makers 1969

As it’s Rugby World Cup year I thought this one from our 1969 files might be quite appropriate. The ladies pictured above were Mrs Phyllis Barratt of Boswell Road, Mrs Maria Stebnyckyj of Chester Street and Mrs Emily Souster of Epsom Road and they were making rugby balls at James Gilbert’s.

John Batchelor in 1990

John Batchelor in 1990

Here’s the report that was printed with it. I’m not sure it would have been written in quite the same way today! It appeared in the ‘For Women’ column by Elisabeth Mansfield. “Quite often we women labour love over a piece of handiwork like darning socks,patching pockets and sewing on buttons for our menfolk and little thanks we get for it as the stronger sex proceed to undo all our good work with a bit of rough handling.

“Three ladies who literally expect their hard work to go to boot work at Gilbert’s in St Matthew Street, where they make rugby footballs for a bunch of hairy-kneed men to kick round on a Saturday afternoon.”

And by the time the photograph on the right was taken in 1990, it doesn’t look as if very much had changed . Although the ladies had gone, John Batchelor was still making rugby balls in just the same way.

The company was still trading under its original name, from the premises which they had occupied since 1842.

The story with the picture said Gilbert’s had orders going to 27 countries in Europe and 43 in Africa and was 
doubling its turnover every year.