Woman Joined Military Uniform Manufacturer Northern Factory Clothing In Shildon As 15-Year-old School Leaver
A niece is appealing for help to establish whether her aunt was exposed to asbestos at a County Durham clothing manufacturer before her death from cancer.
Mavis Clarke, from Bishop Auckland, died after being diagnosed with mesothelioma. A terminal cancer of the lining of the lung, mesothelioma is associated with exposure to asbestos, often decades previously.
Following her diagnosis, Mavis instructed asbestos-related disease specialists at Irwin Mitchell to investigate her illness and where her exposure to asbestos may have occurred, but died before she could see the process concluded.
Today, Mavis’ niece, Rachel Irwin, 34, has joined with the legal team in appealing for her Aunt’s former colleagues at the Northern Clothing Factory to come forward with information on the working conditions at the site.
Mavis spent 10 years as a machinist at the factory on Dabble Duck Industrial Estate in Shildon, after leaving school aged 15 in 1951. Part of her work was to make uniforms for the RAF. Mavis also worked at the factory in the late 1970s.
Rachel has chosen to make the appeal as part of Global Asbestos Awareness Week, in remembrance of Mavis and as a warning to others about the dangers of asbestos exposure.
Expert Opinion“Mavis was a very special woman and when given such a terrible diagnosis, her first thought was to discover the truth about how this had happened to her.
“Sadly Mavis is no longer here to see the results of the investigation, leaving her niece to help carry out her final wishes.
“People often associate asbestos exposure with heavy industry but its use was widespread in many factories, offices and public buildings.
“Mavis was no longer in contact with former colleagues when she died, but if anyone who remembers Mavis, or the working conditions at the factory could come forward, their information could prove vital as the family seek to carry out Mavis’ final wishes." Helen Jones - Solicitor
Born in 1936, Mavis left school aged 15 to work at the Northern Clothing Factory The factory made dress uniforms for the RAF and the sewing done by machinists like Mavis was expected to be of a very high standard.
Mavis recalled the large lagged pipes running across the ceiling and the men who would come to work on them while sat below, Working from 1951 to 1961, she left aged 25 to marry Raymond and had her daughter, Deborah.
Mavis returned to work at the factory in 1978, with her daughter, Deborah joining her. The factory was as she remembered it, with big steam pipes running to the machinery and when the insulation was removed, it released a lot of dust.
Mavis was diagnosed with mesothelioma in late June 2020, she had been suffering with symptoms of chest pain, breathlessness, cough and a weight loss for a number of months. The cancer had spread to her spine and she sadly passed away 2 months later.
At the time of her death aged 84, Mavis was a widower. She lost her husband, ex-RAF pilot, Raymond in 1992 and her daughter Deborah died in April 2013. Mavis has two grandchildren.
Mavis’ niece, Rachel Irwin said: “Mavis worked hard her whole life and until her mesothelioma diagnosis, she was still in good health. News of her diagnosis came as a shock to all of us.
“It’s typical of my aunt that she didn’t take the news lying down, but sought help to find out how she could have been exposed to asbestos in the first place.
“While many of Mavis’ friends have passed away, it would mean a lot if anyone who remembers the factory, even if they don’t remember Mavis herself, could come forward.
“We know it meant a lot to her to find the answers she felt she deserved and the explanation she was entitled to.”
Anyone with information that could assist with the case is asked to contact, Sonia Akram on Sonia.Akram@IrwinMitchell.com / 0191 434 0719.
Held every year, Global Asbestos Awareness Week runs from 1-7 April and aims to increase awareness of asbestos and prevent exposure by bringing experts and victims together from around the world to share their stories and take action.