Former Enkalon employees spinning yarns at golden reunion
Reminiscing over afternoon tea, three friends realised that the 50th anniversary of the day Princess Beatrix of Holland officially opened the British Enkalon factory in Antrim was just round the corner.
So on the spot, Rhonda Davis, Margaret Bent and Mary Jackson, who had all been office workers at the plant, decided to put on a reunion of former employees, hoping a dozen or so might turn up.
In the event, 160 souls who once worked in the nylon yarn-spinning establishment arrived at the bash at Massereene Golf Club and they had a grand time recalling events in Enkalon, which closed down in 1985, 22 years after starting production in 1963.
And now the Enkalon Foundation, which was set up by managing director Dr Roelof Schierbeek after the shutters went up on this branch of Holland's Enkalon, has attracted 180 former workers to a celebration in the Courthouse Theatre in Antrim of that golden anniversary proper.
Dr Schierbeck, who never returned home to Holland after the closure, died three years ago, leaving the foundation as a legacy of his company's goodwill.
To date, it has raised £4m for good causes and supports projects in Antrim and elsewhere, says its administrator, Claire Cawley.
Rhonda Davis, who looked after the pension fund along with Anne Diamond and John Wallace, were the last three of the couple of thousand workers employed by Enkalon to leave.
All three of them were at the Courthouse party, along with John Anderson, who travelled back from his home in Canada to be there, and Jean McMaster, who remembers seeing the plant rising from a greenfield site and sometimes in the early days getting her shoes muddy walking to work.
Renus Smits, who was in management, travelled from his native Holland to meet former stalwarts like Alfie Glass, Mark Patterson, Stephen Montgomery, Denis Gilpin and Peter Dalton.
"Enkalon has been gone from the Antrim scene for 28 years, but the name is still revered in the town," says Rhonda.
"This second commemoration was an opportunity for nostalgia and of remembering old employees who are no longer with us, like my late father, Cecil Davis snr."