The sudden death of Colonel Theodore Bernirski in 1978 came as a shock to the Luneside Family and brought about a period of uncertainty for the survival of the business. A solution came through the Colonel’s daughter, Eva Hermacinski, who took over as managing director of Luneside Engineering.
As a young girl, Eva was smuggled out of Poland and brought to Britain by her father. She was educated in Edinburgh and Trinity College, Dublin, where she had studied Business Administration, but had since emigrated to America.
Managing from afar
Whilst living three thousand miles away in Chicago, Illinois, Eva still maintained ties with England. She had two sons at Stonyhurst College in Clitheroe and each summer she and her children came to England to be with her father. They stayed at Luneside for many summers starting in 1969.
Eva knew what Luneside meant to her father, both the business and the place itself. Upon his death, she decided to move to England and keep Luneside going. She was greatly encouraged by the positive (and brave) response of her family as well as the workforce and the customers who were most helpful to her. Luneside was going to continue!
For the next sixteen years, Eva Hermacinski, with the support of her husband, was the managing director of the company. As a female head of business, Eva’s position was uncommon for the times, but she was accepted as an equal amongst Luneside’s connections. She was known as ‘mother’ by the employees and the dedicated workforce supported Eva in expanding the business.
“Mrs Eva held Christmas dinners for the staff in the manager’s house. My husband was not quite staff, but he was invited too. I gave birth to my second daughter on the Wednesday, and the dinner was on the Friday. I still went! Mrs Eva said, ‘What are you doing here so soon after the birth?’ Everyone looked after me and fetched me my food.” – Memories of Eunice Smith, collected from Heritage Open Day 2018
Whilst the switch from inexperienced American Housewife to Engineering Boss would be an obvious challenge; the world’s economy was also hurtling towards a recession and industry methods were rapidly changing.
It became hard for smaller businesses such as Luneside Engineering to compete in the market, so Eva began to digitise the company. Investment in computers proved to be at odds for many workers. The machines were costly and halved the workload, and in 1981 the workforce shrank from 100 to 85.
“To me, the present electronic revolution is much the same as the industrial revolution 100 years ago” – Eva in Newspaper Clipping ‘Mother’s success story – on a tape!’ (1982). LUNE/6/1/28
In 1991 under Eva’s leadership, Luneside Engineering achieved an internationally recognised Quality Assurance certificate. This helped to improve the company’s status in domestic and foreign markets, especially in time for the establishment of the European Single Market.
After 16 years of leading Luneside, Eva sold the business in 1994 and moved back to America. She last visited Halton Mill in 2018 for a Heritage Open Day.
The Luneside Engineering Archive holds newspaper reports, photographs, oral testimonies, and much more on the organisation of the business.