Volume 10 - Autumn 2000


We'll Go No More a' Wandering

by Chris Gibbs

On the 28th of June, Griffen Mill set sail across the sea to Southern Ireland. Moving house is ranked as one of life's more stressful experiences. Moving house and a papermill at the same time certainly had us reaching for the Prozac.

Most of the mill equipment is irreplaceable so we decided to move everything ourselves. If anything was going to break then we had nobody else to blame.

Anybody who has had to move a heavy press from A to B knows that moving a solid lump of cast iron can be quite a strenuous activity; hoisting it onto a lorry requires nerves of steel. To make things easier for ourselves we had booked a lorry with a tail lift, only to discover that the tail ramp tended to sag like a wilted flower as soon as it was about two foot in the air. We had decided to book the lorry out in the evening before we sailed so we just had to cope.

By midnight, the lorry was sitting on its springs and we still had not loaded the paper in the store. Reluctantly we decided that we needed to make two journeys to Ireland.

The following day we were sailing from Pembroke in South Wales on the afternoon sailing. So it was up early to dismantle and load the beds, put the dog into kennels and then trundle up the motorway to Bristol and then onto South Wales. The lorry rolled and creaked and we didn't dare go faster than 45mph with the driver muttering that the vehicle was overloaded and there would be hell to pay if we were pulled over. When we arrived at the port we were told to park on the weighbridge. We had hired a 7.5 ton lorry and had been told that the lorry itself weighed about 3.5 tons and could carry 4 tons. The reading on the weighbridge meter was 11.5 tons. Nothing was said and we trundled very carefully over the ramps and onto the ferry in silence. The driver disappeared to have a stiff Guinness!

The ferry filled with holidaymakers most of which seemed to be chattering like magpies with excitement. All WE wanted was a meal and sleep but it proved impossible as Irish Ferries had laid on cabaret acts in all the lounges. Doubtless, the other passengers appreciated the sound of Danny Boy and the theme from "the Titanic" being sung at an ear blasting volume but we did not! I just sat there thinking what have we done?

Some three and half-hours later at 6.30pm, the ferry docked at Rosslare and we started the 175 mile journey up across Ireland to reach our new home in County Mayo. The condition of the Irish roads made our progress painfully slow. Slowly we crept through the darkening Irish countryside with cries of "Watch Out for that Pothole" and "Heavens that was close" or words to that effect! Finally at 10 minutes to 1 in the morning we arrived at our new home.

The next morning we were up and unloading by 6.30 am. The beater and the rest of the machinery had been loaded first so they would be the last to come off. This was crunch time, as now we did not have a forklift to keep the tail lift horizontal during its descent. Out came the wet end press, the platen and the pot and one by one they reached the ground safely. Next came the big screw press and it too reached the ground in one piece.

The future of Griffen Mill now hung in the balance. Could we remove the beater undamaged? It was only about 2 inches narrower than the tail lift so it had to be positioned exactly and the tail lift sagged. Neither of us would be able to stop a ton and a half of machinery if it started to move of its own accord. Very slowly the beater was pushed forward onto the ramp & lowered onto two wooden blocks. The tail lift began to sag but the beater was clear of the lorry bed. As the down button was hit, the beater began to slide slowly forward on the wooden blocks. Then the blocks held for two seconds .In the meantime with the weight removed from the lorry and now concentrated on the tail lift the front end of the lorry began to rise & this lowered the tail lift even more. The beater started to slide again but just as the legs of the stand slipped off the edge the tail lift hit the ground and the lorry regained its equilibrium. We had done it! Everything off and undamaged.

Now we just had to lock up and catch the ferry back to England. At the port we were asked what was the weight of the empty lorry. For the first time we actually looked at the HGV plate which said fully laden the weight should not exceed 11.25 tons. So, after all we had not been seriously overloaded but had just hired a lorry that rolled from side to side in an alarming fashion.

All that was left was to pick up the paper, the dog and the car and return to Ireland. How to persuade an eight stone guard dog to board a crowded noisy ferry is a story for another time!

Christine Gibbs - Chris founded Griffen Mill in 1987, helped by practical and technical advice from Whatmans and St. Cuthberts Mill in Somerset.

Initially, hand made stationery was made at the mill, which supplied customers such as Harrods and the National Trust. However, the closure of Barcham Green in the late eighties, production was switched to supplying repair papers for bookbinders and paper conservators. Since 1994, when Michael Gibbs joined the Mill, production has risen and Griffen Mill Papers can now be found in collections as far away as Japan, New Zealand, South Africa and the Americas.


Skin Deep - Volume 10 - Autumn 2000

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