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

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Sorted by factory name

Kayser Bondor, Merthyr

VSE028 Marion Blanche Jones, Hoover, Merthyr;Teddington Aircraft, Merthyr;Birmingham Small Arms, Dowlais;AB Metals, Abercynon;Kayser Bondor, Merthyr

Marion left school at c.16 (1951) and started in Kayser Bondor – until 1958. She feels they were pushed form pillar to post and so she left. Didn’t have a permanent job there so difficult to earn well. Singing and waving to their favourite songs. Moved to AB Metals – making TV tuners. Made redundant after 2-3 years – TV unit closed. In Kayser Bondor not earning much – crying coming home. Loved working In AB Metals. Gave her mother all her wages until she died (1960). Next to BSA making parts for guns. – closed down after a year. Then to Teddington’s making parts for aeroplanes. Cleaning coils under a microscope. Then to Hoover’s 1963. £10 a week and a weekly, monthly and Xmas bonus. Then equality became an issue. Member of union and shop steward. Working on new disposal bags. Once Equal Pay Act ,1970 passed – men became bitter. They knew Ford’s women (Dagenham) had had equal pay. Women contacted Ann Clwyd for advice. They went to management but convenor said they weren’t doing the same work as men. Men went on strike but had to give in, but animosity for years. Not fighting firm but the union. Describes changes in machines. C. 7000 employees in three MT factories. Hoover’s recognised 5,10,15,20 and 25 years service- necklaces. Good staff discounts. Years of wear and tear on body. Noisy and compensation. Section dos, but things changed as other companies took over. Left in 1992 after 29 years.
Marion Jones (on the left) working in Hoover, early 1960sBarbara Vaughan at work in Hoover, early 1960s

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.

VSE025 Mair Richards, Forma, Merthyr;Kayser Bondor, Merthyr;Courtaulds, Merthyr;Chard's, London;AB Metals, Abercynon;Barton's, Merthyr

Mair left the grammar school because of her father’s ill-health, at 15½ and worked for W.H. Smiths before joining Kayser Bondor c.1952. Her mother was against her working in a factory. She describes the interview, the spotless factory – timing of toilet breaks; hand-cutting – shades and sizes of materials; producing bras and slips in huge orders; the importance of KB for Merthyr. In Dowlais (1960 onwards) they made silk stockings and other garments. She remembers raising money in the factory after the Aberfan disaster. She notes the Xmas celebrations; the rate of pay, unions, one strike for pay and how Courtaulds treated them. Accidents with the cutting knives. She didn’t like working at A.B. Metals – it was dirty and the girls were different. She returned to KB and when it closed she moved to Barton’s and then to Forma – supervising the cutting room. She finished in 1995.

VSE062 Edith Williams, OP Chocolates, Merthyr;Kayser Bondor, Merthyr

Edith left school at 14+ (1946) and started at Kayser Bondor Factory, heeling the stockings. Piecework. She went to ?Buckingham Palace (Westminster) to try to keep the factory open in 1977. She was a union girl (Hosiery Workers’ Union) – lots of disputes about money and she would have to negotiate between parties. Take over by Courtaulds – writing on the wall. She went to OP Chocolates then making cheese balls and putting them in tins. Tells story of her trouser elastic failing and calling for someone to take over from her on the line. She worked there for 6½ years. In Kayser Bondor the men did shift work but nor the women. Sporting facilities – table tennis, tennis etc. Xmas dances at City Hall, Cardiff. Factory choir. Specialised skill to sew seams in stockings.

VSE030 Maureen Williams, Kayser Bondor, Merthyr

Maureen left the grammar school at 15 (1950) to go to the technical school, then she worked in a coal merchant’s and gained wide experience. She moved to Kayser Bondor wages department. She trained as a comptometer operator. Paying girls on piecework. Details kept on cards. C.1,000 employees and she was responsible for 200 records per week. Using the Kalamazoo System. She worked there for 9 years and transferred to the accounts dept, then became a supervisor. Production was moved to Dowlais – worked for 1 year there, then pregnant. Staff wages kept a secret. Employees bought Not Quite Perfect and spoilage items from factory shop. Fantastic lingerie made here. She also kept the shop accounts. Tickets collected from girls on factory floor – personal record card. Sewing black garments priced at a premium. Clerk got bonus from union for deducting union fees. Canteen and toilets separate for supervisors. Payday Friday – working late Thursdays. Inter-factory dances. She worked for a month at Hoover’s – much stricter in the wages section. Nine years later she went to TBS c.1969 no calculators there! She spent 25 years there. She did costings, wages and accounts.

VSE022 Margaret Anne Amblin (nee Williams), Thorns, Merthyr;Kayser Bondor, Merthyr

Anne left school at 16 (1957) and went straight to Kayser Bondor – making lingerie. Training school there – operate machines and clean them. Pretty place to work. Own machine – opened bundle and took ticket off, sewed and when finished tied bundle. Piecework. Worked there until she had her first son 1966. Went back part-time later. . M&S very fussy about quality. Very clean. Manikin parades by workers – of underwear. Buying clothes on the card in Merthyr’s shops. Supervisors and managers watching them. Singing – rock and roll and jiving. One male machinist – teased. Social life – dancing. She talks of new domestic amenities. Her uncle wouldn’t allow his wife to used her new Hoover washing machine unless he was there. Interfactory events in Merthyr. First trip abroad with friends to Italy c. 1958-9. During training taken out to do keep fit exercises. Factory moved to Dowlais. Finished working there in c. 1968/9. When children older she went to Thorn’s – evening shift, making light bulbs. Loading bulbs into holes in conveyor belt. Also then worked for this factory - part-time day shift.

KLG (Kenelm Lee Guiness) Factory, Treforest

VSE047 Hilary Adams, Burlington Gloves, Treforest;KLG (Kenelm Lee Guiness) Factory, Treforest

Hiilary left school at 15 and started in Burlington’s Gloves in 1953. She worked in the fabric section; they made leather and industrial ones too. Buses carried the workers to all the estate factories. They worked piece work; listened to Housewives’ Choice and some were home-workers. She got fed up there after c. 9 years and went to KLG to work making sparking plugs. This factory was part of Smith’s Industries, a good family firm – which paid sick pay and after 10 years gave extra holidays. When Ford’s took over the factory their wages doubled - they received equal pay. She worked 10 years for KLG and altogether 44 years in factories. She notes the social activities.

Langefni Milk Factory, Llangefni

VN033 Mair Griffiths, Langefni Milk Factory, Llangefni

Mair was a farmer's daughter, one of seven children, though the farm was sold after his death. Some of her sisters worked in a sewing factory. She left school at 16 to look for work, as coming from a large family it was necessary. She had wanted to be a nurse but she would have had to wait until she reached 19. She learned to type in the British School while looking for a job, and eventually got one in the milk factory, although she tried for work in the sewing factory too. This was in 1949 and she learned how to test the milk on the job. The relationship between the workers was good. £1 12 and 6 was her first wage and she gave most of it to her mother. She lived in Bodffordd and went to work on the bus. In the beginning she worked 9-5 but it didn't seem like a long day. Later on she did nightshifts too and bought a bike to travel to work then. There wasn't a canteen there just a little cwtsh where they used to hang their coats. There wasn't even a kettle and they used to boil water for tea in the lab. Mair worked there for 17 years until she lost her job in 1966 during a milk shortage, being a married woman with a husband to support her. It was supposed to be first in last out, she said, but not in her case. She was out of work for a while and it was awful, she said, signing on the dole, until she got another job.
In the lab, Mair, centre, with supervisor Mrs Thomas sittingMair, back centre, with co-workers, note the acid burns in the overalls

VN032 Rosie Jones, Langefni Milk Factory, Llangefni

Rosie worked at the Llangefni creamery straight from school, in 1957. She got the job after hearing at school that there were jobs going in the milk factory, she thinks, in the morning assembly. She had gone for a job in a bank but preferred the factory job because she wanted to be connected to agriculture, coming from a farming background. The Milk Marketing Board owned the factory. Se felt nervous at first, being with others after being on her own. She had a period of training and three months probabation, and she enjoyed working there as it was a very pleasant place to work. Some of the older girls had been there since the beginning and new girls often got the jobs they didn't want to do. But everyone was helpful and friendly. The girls who tested the milk had to have a colour blindness eye test, because they used litmus paper that changed to different shades of blue. So the girls had to have good eyesight. At one time, Cadbury's owned it and the factory made chocolate and biscuits as well as producing milk for domestic use and schools. She met her husbsand there. She left the factory in 1967 because she wanted to earn more money and got a good job with the County Council.
Rosie and Mair Griffiths at work, 1950s

Lastex Yarn and Lactron Threads (LYLT), Rhigos, Hirwaun estate

VSE082 Mary Patricia (Pat) Howells, Dunlop, Rhigos, Hirwaun estate;Lastex Yarn and Lactron Threads (LYLT), Rhigos, Hirwaun estate

Pat recalls her working life on the Rhigos Trading Estate and how her father was an engineer at Dunlop's on the estate. She left school at fifteen to work in Dunlop's too where she trimmed mattresses and cushions etc. She handed her pay docket over to her mum. As a family, they lived in houses built for the estate workers. The workers didn't talk, it was work, work, work. Then she moved to Lastex Yarns and Lactron Threads (LYLT) - better prospects. She became a supervisor and then a forewoman. She remembers losing the top of her finger in Dunlop's. As supervisor helped with personal problems e.g. pregnancy. They used lots of French chalk which had to be blown off their overalls every evening. One hour of radio a day. Sports and Social Club - they played netball, and did archery. Also there were plays in the canteen. There was an annual Miss Dunlop's competition. She married a miner and left the factory when she was pregnant.
Dunlop workers in canteen 1950s: speaker, Pat Howells second from left  supervisor.Dunlop beauty competition 1950s  Pat Howells second from rightMiss Dunlop 1957 Contest in Dunlop Canteen. Pat Howells 4 th from rightMiss Dunlop 1957 line-up in Dunlop Canteen. Pat Howells 4 th from left.