Monday 23 October 2017

"The Gut Factory"

William (Wilhelm) Klages and his family arrived in Ingleburn as immigrants from Switzerland in 1928. Ingleburn was a small village at the time with a few shops, poultry farms and dirt roads. William established a factory with a compatriot, Adolph Bolliger, which used sheep intestines for the manufacture of medical sutures. This was known as the Olympic Gut Manufacturing Company and was situated on the corner of Kings and Fields Roads, Ingleburn.

William (Wilhelm) Klages (Truth, 27.11.1932)
Two years on, the partnership between Bolliger and Klages was dissolved and a new one formed between William and Paul Witzig. The business must have proved successful as permission was obtained to build a new factory and offices in Kings Road. In 1939 the company was renamed the Australian Suture Company - trading as ASCO. Johnson and Johnson later took over the company.

ASCO - the "gut factory" (Campbelltown Library Local Studies collection)

Margaret Firth of Ingleburn remembers her time working at the factory -
"Oh well, he used to make the surgical gut it was, he used to get the special intestine things from the abbatoirs, and they used to prepare them, sterilise them and all that sort of business, cut them up, and then we girls used to have to roll them, when it was dry, roll them and smooth them down, and they'd get it fine enough to sew eyes with, you know, and then the coarser stuff".
William's son Eric learned the trade after attending the local school, Granville Technical College, and then studying chemistry at Sydney Tech. He worked for the family business before building his own factory, designing machines for treating, stretching, polishing and manufacturing what was commonly known then as "catgut" - nothing to do with cats! He also branched out into the manufacture of tennis racquet strings and violin strings.

A 1946 advertisement for Spiroflex tennis gut strings.
Eric's business was known as "Spiroflex, and was on the corner of Carlisle and Cambridge Streets, Ingleburn. At one stage the factory was turning out 3 million feet of gut a year for surgical sutures alone, with more than 90% of the product for export.
Eric died in 1982, and the factory ultimately closed in 1986.
Eric Klages checking the quality of the material under manufacture.
(Macarthur Leader, 5.12.1972)
Written by Claire Lynch
Local Studies Pamphlet files
Grist Mills Vol.21 No.1
Margaret Firth oral history - Local Studies collection
"From many lands we come" by Hugo Bonomini et al.


  1. I can remember going to Mr. Klage's and picking up tennis raquets with new stringing for my Father Alf Strike, and all the Army tennis players

  2. Hi there! We love hearing these memories! Thank you for sharing this one.