VSE026 Marjorie Collins, Hitachi, Hirwaun;Lines (Triang), Merthyr;General Electric Company, Merthyr
Her family background. Marjorie went to Technical college and left at 15 (1943) and worked in the Rediffusion office before going to Lines for three months before getting pregnant (1949). Dirty work but enjoyed company. Xmas fun. Returned there (1951). Welding and riveting toy push-chairs. Doing up their home. Told to take it easy in work – spoiling the rate for the men. Men teasing her. Factory (Triang) also made full size prams etc. Singing. Worked in a garage for years then. Then to GEC in Merthyr (?when she was 49 -1977) and then to spotlessly clean Hitachi factory, Hirwaun – full-time. In Merthyr making circuit boards – and likewise in Hitachi but also other jobs there. Japanese boys not allowed to fraternise with local workers. In the beginning Japanese said there were too many ‘white-heads’ there – then realised they were good workers. Younger workers spent time in toilets. Describes the solder bath at GEC. In those days if you didn’t work you were existing not living. She finished when she was 60 (1988).
VSE015 Luana Dee, Sobells, Aberdare;TBS South Wales Ltd, Merthyr;NATO clothing factory, Rhymney;Guest Keen and Nettlefold (GKN), Merthyr;Thorns, Merthyr;Berlei Bras, Dowlais;Lines (Triang), Merthyr
Luana talks about her colourful family background and returning from abroad to MT. She left school at 15 (1967) and shortly afterwards began working in Berlei Bras as a machinist (2 years). Mixture of shy and assertive girls there. Brilliant German Pfaff machines. Fashion parades with employees modelling – lingerie. Piecework – paid per bra. Seconds thrown in bins and had to repair – not earning then. Eyesight good and she was fast so put on black bras. More difficult and so loosing money. But she was moved to stop her making trouble. Threatened because she stirred things up. Had to ask to go to toilet and supervisor knocking door. Watching them all the time. Sacked – quality of work? Or too forthright? Straight into another job. In BB’s - fashion parade on factory floor itself - Miss Berlei Bra competition? Describes factory. Sexual innuendo common. Xmas dance and trips. Next – Triang Toys sewing heavy duty upholstery (stayed 1 year). Some toy-making. Having fun with the factory boys in Cyfarthfa Park on Fridays afternoons. Some men brought in pornographic photographs – eye opener. Went to Thorn’s making filaments for light bulbs. Describes process. Japanese took over, it became stressful so she stayed less than a year. Moved to make industrial clothing for NATO – heavy duty sewing, more humanity here. In the TSB they made filing cabinets and she connected with the other workers. She was in the office now. In Sobell’s for a few weeks only - very large, industrial and alienating.
Madeline left school at 14 (1943). She talks of sheltering under Cardiff castle during air raids and the dangers. She worked as a hairdresser and then she started in Curran’s in 1948. They had a reputation for being racist. She talks of her experience with Littlewood’s. She worked in enamelling, making chamber pots (their handles) and mugs. She talks of different areas of Cardiff. She bought clothes and fish scrumps and went to dances with her own money. She only stayed there three months and she went to Spillers, on the flour and dog biscuits. They got a big machines and changed to working shifts. Rats. Small factory. Unloading grain from the ships downstairs. They wore turbans. She liked the sewing machine. Singing and talking. She left because of the shift work and moved to Slumberland – it was dusty there. She describes a visit to London. She describes her work and says that the company’s Paisley (Birmingham) workers were paid more than their Welsh ones. In winter her fingers would bleed from the fibres and the cold. She hit her leg and left. Then on to Fletcher’s but in the office – dressed smartly, answered the telephone and invoiced. She tells the story of challenging the boss of Slumberland about working until 6 on Fridays.
Cynthia describes the war in Swansea. She left school at 14 (1952) – Jewish people were desperate for youngsters (cheap) to work in their factories. She began in Llamas factory making knickers, football jerseys etc. but was sacked after two weeks. She couldn’t sew and hid a garment she had spoiled. Notice outside Windsmoor’s (women’s clothing) seeking workers. She was sent to fetch striped cotton and a bucket of steam! At Windsmoor the Union rep. called them out on strike for wages – 17 of them sacked. Then she moved to Mettoys and ‘that’s when my life began.’ Hilarious and working on a team. She worked on the assembly line – different jobs – to packing. One friend was dismissed for trying to steal a toy rocket. Cynthia left and worked in cafes and shops. One woman lost her hand in Mettoys- given a light job and compensation. Very little bad language there. In Llamas they were dogsbodies – Mettoys the best. She had her ears pierced in the toilets there. Her brother was lifted and put on a peg when he worked in Windsmoor’s. Novices asked to get a screwdriver without a blade. Togetherness.
Gwen left school at 15 (1958) (Her father had been killed in a mining accident) and started in London Pride as a machinist. Very strict – hand up for toilet and no swearing or talking. Singing to radio. Making expensive blouses. Factory bought silver candelabra for owner! Could buy material. Left after 2 years. Piecework at glove factory. Specialised machines. Hands stained with leather. Friend sent home for swearing. Smell of smoking in toilets. Iris Williams the singer worked there – sang hymns. Gwen - top earner. Silly pranks. Xmas dinner dance. Again left after 2 years and went to shoe factory –for M&S. After having her children she worked evenings for Wella’s – unsociable hours but good money and a wonderful social life. Excellent employers – Xmas gift. Certain danger with glass bottles exploding and chemicals. Goggles. Strike and picketing – competition day and evening workers. She was line-leader there. Time and motion especially in the shoe trade. Then on to become a seamstress >then manager in Univ. of Glamorgan. Regrets not having an good education.
VSW064 Keith Battrick, London Transformers Factory, Bridgend
Keith describes his traumatic experience as a 16 year old aspiring tool-maker in London Transformers in 1966. He experienced an initiation rite which involved stripping and covering him with oil and saw-dust. Both the male and female workers in the factory participated in this. The worst part was being unable to clean himself thoroughly afterwards. He left the factory because he couldn’t get an apprenticeship there. Today he is a self-employed electrician.
Patricia left school at 15 (c.1951) and hoped to go to university, but her brother needed an apprenticeship instead. Describes how her mother was treated unfairly by Redifusion. Factory work had a stigma, but wages good. Lotery’s made uniform tailoring. She did an evening class in dress making and design at the same time. She wrote operas and did crossword puzzles to occupy her mind. Working on the overlocker was ‘mindless’. People there from different backgrounds and abilities. Expert lip reading and no secrets. Rivalry between smokers and non-smokers about productivity. Intricacies of piece-work – a lot to learn. Time and motion strategies. Concise movements made work more efficient. Challenging the manager by singing. Union relationship with management poor. After a time driving a minibus, she was offered a job at RSW. Career details: Lotery’s c.7-8 years (c.1951-8), c. six months in Western Biscuits; returned to Lotery’s (c.1960-4/5) as machinist then trainer. She worked for RSW 1974-78.
No transcript of the interview is available
Louis Edwards, Maesteg
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.
VSE055 Caroline Isina Aylward, Louis Edwards, Maesteg;Christie and Tyler's, Glyncorrwg
Caroline left school at 15 (1952) and started in Louis Edwards. She worked there until she had her son - 1959. Before she started they made army uniforms but she was making evening gowns and lots for M&S. She sewed the collars mostly. Description of factory layout. Men/women balance. No talking, Dancing. Perks from factory – buy dresses with flaws. Garment Workers’ Union and paying on a Friday. Very hard work – Chinese labour. Time and motion on new styles – pricing jobs. Needles in fingers. She caught her skirt in a machine – so they had overalls after. Played netball after work a few times. She returned for a couple of years later (c. 1967-9) and a happier place. First time the workforce was disgruntled. She also worked in furniture factories - Colonial / Christie Tyler. She worked part-time when her son was small. Thicker material but earning good money. Easier sewing – not fussy. Describes processes. Moved to Trefforest (1980s?) when shortage of work in Glyncorrwg. Same company but different names to factories. Then she was aked to work with a designer as a machinist developing furniture She did private sewing for one of the male workers. Later factory in Glyncorrwg closed and they went to Pendragon in Bridgend. But made redundant and she went into Social Services.
Esther left school at 15 (1965) and started in the Edwards Factory, ticketing and inspecting. Machinists didn’t like to have their work returned. They made dresses for M&S. The workers – pressers, cutting etc were divided into cages. She was not on piecework but had some bonuses. She used her wages to buy a sewing machine. She stayed there about 3 years. Everything in the factory would be covered in paper overnight and doubly so on stop fortnight. She left when pregnant (uncertain from which factory); she worked temporarily for Cymer Bookbinding on shift work with machinist sewing catalogues. She went to Revlon’s in 1988 – evening shift, part-time and after 3 years full-time. Changed shifts. She did all kinds of tasks there – labelling, filling, etc. In the beginning in aerosol dept. dangerous - if a can was faulty it would explode. Other workers were afraid of this job. Also using boiling water with the perfumes – dangerous. Many of the workers there didn’t like the factory. Talks of some workers who took advantage and didn’t do their work. Bad management. Revlon taken over – Cozy? She stayed 15 years + 5 others, off and on. She had bonus of £200 every year for not being off sick. She only worked in the rubber factory for a few weeks because of the smell – trimming the rubbers that go round the windows of cars. She discusses unfair incidents. However she earned good money.