Derry City was, for years, built upon the textile trade with factories dominating the cityscape. A female workforce powered much of the industrial development of Derry, and produced some of the finest shirts in the world.It was the introduction of the factory system from the 1850’s which saw the real establishment of the shirt trade in the city, and contributed much to the city’s expansion and prosperity in the second half of the 19th century. The invention of the sewing machine in 1853 and the arrival of several Scottish businessmen ensured that, within ten years, the shirt industry in Derry was a factory based one.
Many Kilkie family members worked in the Derry factories, mainly for Tillie and Henderson but in earlier days for William Scott (as part of the outworker system). John McCloskey (husband of Susan Mary McCloskey nee Kilkie) was a shirt factory manager, probably in Tillie and Henderson's factory.