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A collection of interviews and photographs recorded by Women's Archive of Wales in 2013-14

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VSW066 Enid Thomas, Fisher & Ludlow, Llanelli

Enid left grammar school at 17 (1954) and trained as a nurse. She went to work as one of the nurses in Fisher and Ludlow in 1980. The main injuries were minor ones – cuts and things in the eyes. A doctor called once a week to check whether workers were fit to return to work. She had a large room with smaller rooms emanating from it. She wore a sister’s uniform. She worked from 6-10 p.m. every evening. A male nurse worked the night shift. Other injuries: burns, twisting ankles, injuring wrists through lifting heavy objects. If they needed stitches – to hospital. She stayed there c.12 years. There was a file for every worker. She knew the shirkers but some foremen expected too much, especially from the women.

VSE067 Christine Chapman, Roller Blind Factory, Llwynypia;Gainsborough Flowers, Porth

Christine’s mother worked in factories e.g. Flex Fasteners and found her part-time holiday jobs. She worked in Gainsborough Flowers when in the sixth form – making artificial flowers on old-fashioned machines. She even worked with a candle! During university she worked in the roller blind factory. She felt some of the women were bitchy – they played tricks on them. She became very efficient in the roller blind factory and the Trade Union person asked her to slow down. Some form of bullying. Bosses talked down to the women. She worked on the presses. Had to have permission to go to the toilet. She worked in the flower factory c.1973-4. Radio on and banter going on all the time. She used to daydream and plan ahead. Risqué stories – repeats one. Talks of some harassment. She was just passing through. She learned a lot about intimidation too – held her in good stead as a politician. How the management treated the women was an early feminist lesson. She’s been in the real world. She talks about her career as a Labour politician.

VSW067 Mirandy (Mandy) Jones, Davies Steel, Pembroke Dock;Pembroke Woollen Company, Pembroke Dock

Mandy left school at 15 (1969) and soon started in the woollen factory. Very noisy room with looms, but moved to the mending room. About 100 working there – like a family. She had to take bobbles out of the fabric. She stayed there 6 months – the noise was too constant. The rough fabric gave her sore fingers. Moved to Davies Steel because of better wages - £15, which was a man’s wage. She washed the blades of roller skates with oil and punched the name of the company on them. Could buy roller skates cut price. Very smart ‘ladies’ there. Chemicals in the factory. Occasional sing songs. New boys told to fetch a sky hook. Older workers addressed as Mr and Mrs. After a year the factory closed. You had to be tough to work there. She learned social and practical skills there.

VSE068 Anonymous, Louis Edwards, Maesteg;George Webb Shoes, Bridgend

The speaker left school at 15 (1964) and started in the Louis Edwards Factory, making women’s clothes. She is dyslexic but she could pass every test on the sewing machine. She made collars and cuffs. She was earning double her husband’s wage in the colliery. She left when she had her first baby. She returned to Louis Edwards but then moved to the shoe factory. She hated this job – completely different sewing. She then pursued a nursing career for 10 years. She talks of walk outs and sitting in the road. They collected for birthday presents and also for new babies. Buying reject dresses for £1. Piecework. Making similar dresses for the annual outings. Helping others to finish their work and earning double their pay for it. If you made a mistake you would come in early to correct it. Buying sweets on Friday afternoons – no work done. She was in George Webb’s for only six weeks. In between having children she worked for Revlon and Channel. Needles in fingers – no work no pay.

VSW068 Mair Williams, Anglo-Celtic Watch Co. ('Tick Tock' Factory), Ystradgynlais

Photographs of Anglo Celtic Watch Co. ('Ticf Tock' Factory), 1950s
Mair Jones (Williams), Netta Thomas & Ann Gosling, 'Tick Tock' Factory,  1955Sally Evans, Eileen Evans, Netta Thomas & Pat (?) 'Tick Tock' Factory,  1955Workers at  Anglo-Celtic Watch Co. (' Tick  Tock'), Christmas 1954

VSE069 Kath Mathias, AB Metals, Abercynon;Kayser Bondor, Merthyr;Pentrebach polish factory, Merthyr

Kathleen left school at 15 (1955) and started in the office in the polish factory for nine months. It was dark and gloomy so she moved to Kayser Bondor. She worked in the ticketograph office – wages paid according to tickets collected. She then went on a comptometer course and moved to the wages dept. She explains the comptometer. The factory paid for her course. The factory moved up to Dowlais afterwards. Free buses home. She became a supervisor (1960). Until she was 18 her mother took all her money (pocket money only) but then she was on board and lodging. Going to dances. She left for London (six months) returned to AB Metals, and then again to Kayser Bondor (in accounts) and then she had her baby. If you were fast and accurate you could earn well in KB. Story about her aunt and her blindness and buying a pub with the money she earned. The factory floor girls earned more money than the office girls. The men had more wages than the women. As supervisor she ordered the money for the wages – so many £1 notes etc. They worked the Kalamazoo system. Contention over overalls for the office staff. Working a year before entitled to holiday pay. She notes where she went on holiday – from Blackpool to Italy. Xmas dance in City Hall, Cardiff – by special train. She went to other KB factories to work e.g. Brighton – kind of work experience. She also worked in a knitwear factory in Leicester for 5 years and she’s also run a pub.

VSW069 Carol Price, Calsonic Kansei, Felin-foel, Llanelli;Llanelli Radiators, Felin-foel, Llanelli;Morris Motors, Felin-foel, Llanelli

Carol was 16 years old when she began working at Morris Motors, Felin-foel, Llanelli in 1966. She earned 6 a week and thought she was a millionaire! She worked there for 37 years until she was 53 years old (2003). She worked initially on the shop floor assembling copper brass car radiators for Minis, Maxis and Marinas. When she left in 2003 she was working testing Audi cars oil coolers, for Calsonic Kansei. Carol worked successively in the same factory for Morris Motors; Llanelli Radiators (1987) and Calsonic Kansei (1989-)
Factory floor at Morris Motors, showing the assembling of copper brass radiators; c. 1970. Carol Price is in the second row, wearing spectacles. 
Workers on the factory floor at Morris Motors, assembling radiators.Workers on the factory floor at Morris Motors, assembling radiators.A leaving do for a factory worker at Morris Motors c. 1980s. In front of the group we see a jig - the copper brass was placed within the jig to assemble the radiator.Workers working under the new Calsonic Kansei system of production in 1995; see the Union Jack hats to remember the fiftieth anniversary of D-Day.Carol Price testing the Audi oil cooler in a different part of the Calsonic Kansei factory in 2003. If the tester turned blue it denoted that the cooler had passed the test.

VSE070 Michele Ryan, Glass factory, Cardiff

Michele worked in the factory during her first year at university (c.1969-70). It was winter and it was a brick shed with lots of broken glass windows. She wore gloves to move the huge plates of glass around the factory. A desire to be part of working class life. The women (30-40% of workforce) had ways of managing the place and the men there. She notes that Cardiff in the 1960s was an industrial and manufacturing town. The women were Bolshie – she describes one young man being initiated into work (pinching and grabbing etc.). Ensured that they wouldn’t be messed about. Different jobs for men and women. She felt the women weren’t allowed on the machines – more money for this. While in University, as a left wing feminist, she sold Women’s Voice and the Socialist Worker outside the Baird’s TV Factory in Bradford. After the war the women invested a lot in keeping men’s pride going – women accepted their lot. Crude facilities. She stayed there a few weeks. Some sense of belonging there. She notes the women’s bitchiness but also their generosity and collective support. Not very politicised in the Cardiff factory.

VSE071 Veronica (Vera) Diane Lena Battle, JR Freeman's Cigar Factory, Cardiff;Ralph Mathers garment factory, Cardiff;Garment factory, Cardiff

Vera’s father was a renowned jazz musician – she outlines her background and his career. Vera left school at 14 (1948) and started in the sewing factory, sewing buttons and canvas in the lapels of men’s jackets. She moved to the cigar factory in Clive Street, annual trip to London. She took the cigars down the cellar and stacked them to dry out. Because the factory moved to Penarth Road she went to work in a tailoring factory making women’s clothes. She was on the overlocker and the buttonholes. They sang. There were a lot of Greek girls there. They were the best tailors She names some of the workers. She had clothes made for her daughters there. She moved to Toulouse with her prospective husband but returned and he went back to America. She was also a dancer who performed in the chorus of an American Negro show and on tour (London and Scotland etc.). She has worked in a primary school too.

VSE072 Marguerite Barber, Polythene Factory, Cardiff;Stamina, Cardiff

Marguerite left school at 15 (1958) and started in the Stamina Factory, putting buttons and hooks on overalls and the buttonholes. These were industrial work-wear. Permission to go to the toilet. She stayed there less than a year. Machinists on piecework but she wasn’t. She bought a wind-up gramophone with her money. She moved to the Polythene Factory and stayed there 9 years. She sealed bags there – cutting them out, sealing them and putting them in bundles. It was like a family. She talks of condemning the houses in Loudon Square in Butetown. Canteen and one toilet. Complaints about cold (but too hot in summer) but no strikes. Outings by boat once a year. Day before Xmas – everyone went to the pub together at 12 o’clock. She left when 7 months pregnant. . Later she was a hotel chambermaid.