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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 location

Aberdare: Sobells

VSE014 Margaret Tegwen John, Cambrian, Treforest;Sobells, Aberdare;Gelli Garment Factory, Rhondda;Polikoff's, Treorchy

Margaret talks about her background, the Welsh language, and the Royal Buffaloes. She left school at 15 (1950), mother’s influence; and started in Polikoffs as a machinist. Describes the big factory. She also did Horrock’s dresses there. She learned to make a whole dress (except cutting out). Then on to making pointy bras, then bedding. She went on the sample machines – made knickerbocker trousers for a gentleman. She left three days before her daughter was born in 1962 – didn’t realise she was pregnant. She went back after three weeks – until next child, 1965. Worked at home – made wedding dresses etc. Could stay over lunch in Polikoff’s to use machines. Televised sewing. Worked in Sobell’s for 5-6 months – putting on a screw – boring. Details of craft of sewing – suggested ways of getting the line to work better. 17 double-decker buses carrying workers, free to Polikoff’s. Story of mother and stance on wages. Her father’s accident. Full social life – union dances. Wearing rollers in hair- cotton reels. She was a union official, no serious disputes. Outstanding singing there. Trip to Festival of Britain in London. For work – never showed arms or bust and no trousers. Nurse Thomas. Family in factory – nobody posh, nobody poor. Later worked in Cambrian furniture factory £200 a week- sewing etc for four years; c.1973. – piecework. Also City and Guilds in catering. No regrets about factory work.

VSE016 Phyllis Powell, Sobells, Aberdare

Phyllis left school at 16 (1942) and started in Sobell’s 1944 – mother unhappy because reputation of factory girls. She was put on the line – putting grommets into holes. Made inspector. Union helped them get an ability award on top of wages. Coil workers on the line. Describes processes. Asked to help make special top secret coils (microchips) for head office in Slough. Quite a few Polish workers there. She loved working there – great conditions, music playing and singing. Girls from Glyn Neath playing about in toilets. Gangs of workers. Dancing in local halls. Xmas parties – man chasing! Sobell’s closed and redundancies c. 1956, but then re-opened. If injured considered to be their own fault. Left when pregnant in 1956. Later she worked as a carer.

Abertawe: John Stanton

VSW051 Jean Evans, Mettoys, Fforestfach;John Stanton, Abertawe

Jean left school at 15 (1960) and worked in the Home and Colonial shop Swansea. After c.8 months she moved to Mettoys. Hard work, everything was weighed and she was paid according to what was in the pallets. Moved around – onto assembly making toys. She left when she had her boy but returned on evening shift after eight months. She was in the Fettling Dept., cleaning car parts. Then went on to inspecting, ready for packing. Reported sub-standard work. Then given more responsibility – in charge of others. Left because tired of evening work and landed up in John Stanton sewing factory. But returned in three weeks to Mettoys. Left then to work as a domestic. In Mettoys the manager did spot checks. The white coats were mostly men. She came out of her shell in the factory. They had fun.

Amlwch: E. Morgan & Co Tobacco factory

VN056 Sali (Sarah) Williams, E. Morgan & Co Tobacco factory, Amlwch

Straight after leaving school, Sali worked in E Morgan & Co tobacco factory from 1938 until 1942, when she was called up into the Land Army. Her job was doing the round 'ounces', weighing the tobacco at a table with three other girls. The tobacco had to be weighed carefully for others to pack in into round tins. It was interesting work, and after it was packed the tobacco went all over Wales. HMS Customs would visit the factory sometimes, unannounced, to test the tobacco and see if it was too wet. If it was, the public paid too much for it. The tobacco went into different wrappers but it was the same tobacco! There was a good relationship between the girls. The place wasn't hygenic at all, with a bit of water to wash their hands in a bucket, no taps, and no toilets. She really enjoyed her time in the Land Army and, after the war, she returned to the same factory until she married and she left to have her first child. She never returned to work but stayed at home thereafter.

Ammanford: Alan Paine

VSW061 Eirlys Lewis, Vandervell Productions, Cardiff;Mettoys, Fforestfach;Alan Paine, Ammanford;Pullmans Flexolators, Ammanford

Eirlys left school at 15 (1964) and started in Pullman’s Flexolators, making car seats, springs etc. Everyone got on there. Smoking while working. Paying Union fees but not the % to the Labour Party. Dirty work. One dangerous job because of acid - coating things with paint. Teasing young workers – fetching elbow grease. She learned to live there. Lots of swearing. She heard about the Aberfan disaster when in the Alan Paine factory. She made a mistake going there (stayed only 9 months); then to Mettoys for 3 years (1966-9) on the assembly making toy cars. Some of the girls were very fit. Then she worked on a farm for 2 years. In 1972 she went to Vandervell Products, Splott, Cardiff – for 10 years making car and lorry parts. They opened a new department (c.1976) and girls now did the same jobs as the men. One man asked for her help. Interviewed by the BBC about her job as a mechanic. Social club – she played ninepin bowling. Good money. One woman lost her fingers in a machine – compensation. In 1976 there was a strike about being too hot – she refused to join because she believed the company was doing its best. She was sent to ‘coventry’ for 4 months. One woman objected to her speaking Welsh – answered her back. Girls not allowed to work on night shift. Then she got married and worked for periods in Llangadog milk and Carmarthen cheese factories.
Workers of Vandervell Productions, Cardiff

VSW017 Nan Morse, Deva Dogware, Gwynfe;Alan Paine, Ammanford

Nan left school at 15 (1965) and started in Deva Dogware that summer. She cut the chains, welded etc, to make leads for dogs and dogs for the blind. It was a small factory and the owner was one of them. There was quite a bit of noise and singing there. She wore old clothes and goggles. They raced to make 50 chains. There weren’t many work opportunities in the countryside. Some workers went up to Crufts. They also made belts for themselves and gaffs for catching salmon. The building was primitive. She learned skills such as using a hammer and saw. She went on trips to Blackpool and London, where she bought white boots. She was in a Welsh pop group with other workers. She left c.1968. She moved to work in Alan Paine's but she didn’t like the factory atmosphere there, where they made jumpers. She left when she became pregnant.
Deva Dogware trip to London, 1967

VSW019 Patricia Murray, Penclawdd Bandage Factory, Penclawdd;Alan Paine, Ammanford;John White, Ammanford

Patricia left school at 15 (1959) and started in a bandage making factory in Penclawdd. She wove the bandages. The experience was horrendous. The factory moved to Garnant. It was cold and the workers walked out (1962). They were employed instantly in Corgi’s. She worked as a linker, progressing to production. Patricia became a trainer and supervisor. Highly skilled work. She notes the gauges etc.; dancing to rock and roll songs on the radio, cleanliness; building up speed; completed garments sent back to Surrey to be finished. Paine’s (1966) did the whole process. In Corgi’s there was a crèche – but closed because of regulations. She worked as an outworker when children were small (c.1968-73). Some jobs were better payers than others. As staff, not in a Union. Increased Health and Safety regulations. Xmas celebrations - decorating the floor and machines; dinner. Social clubs – and trips. Patricia has tinnitus – from factory work. Visit by Princess Anne. Factory closed in 1998 – she worked there 33 years.
Alan Paine Queen's Award, © Richard Firstbrook, Photographer, Llandeilo

Ammanford: Corgi Hosiery

VSW065 Margaret Young, Corgi Hosiery, Ammanford

Margaret left school at 15 and joined Corgi’s in 1958. She has worked there for c. 53 years. She describes their products: socks initially, (with different patterns); then jumpers, tapestry clothes etc. She earned a wage + bonuses. There were no unions and no strikes. She moved from socks to knitwear. She describes how they treated girls on their birthdays and when they got married. It was very cold there and their toilet breaks were timed. They brought in records to play over a tannoy. When her children were small she borrowed a machine and worked from home. Trips out. She works on hand repairs in the factory now.
Corgi Hosiery Factory, 1950s

Ammanford: John White

VSW019 Patricia Murray, Penclawdd Bandage Factory, Penclawdd;Alan Paine, Ammanford;John White, Ammanford

Patricia left school at 15 (1959) and started in a bandage making factory in Penclawdd. She wove the bandages. The experience was horrendous. The factory moved to Garnant. It was cold and the workers walked out (1962). They were employed instantly in Corgi’s. She worked as a linker, progressing to production. Patricia became a trainer and supervisor. Highly skilled work. She notes the gauges etc.; dancing to rock and roll songs on the radio, cleanliness; building up speed; completed garments sent back to Surrey to be finished. Paine’s (1966) did the whole process. In Corgi’s there was a crèche – but closed because of regulations. She worked as an outworker when children were small (c.1968-73). Some jobs were better payers than others. As staff, not in a Union. Increased Health and Safety regulations. Xmas celebrations - decorating the floor and machines; dinner. Social clubs – and trips. Patricia has tinnitus – from factory work. Visit by Princess Anne. Factory closed in 1998 – she worked there 33 years.
Alan Paine Queen's Award, © Richard Firstbrook, Photographer, Llandeilo

Ammanford: Pullmans Flexolators

VSW061 Eirlys Lewis, Vandervell Productions, Cardiff;Mettoys, Fforestfach;Alan Paine, Ammanford;Pullmans Flexolators, Ammanford

Eirlys left school at 15 (1964) and started in Pullman’s Flexolators, making car seats, springs etc. Everyone got on there. Smoking while working. Paying Union fees but not the % to the Labour Party. Dirty work. One dangerous job because of acid - coating things with paint. Teasing young workers – fetching elbow grease. She learned to live there. Lots of swearing. She heard about the Aberfan disaster when in the Alan Paine factory. She made a mistake going there (stayed only 9 months); then to Mettoys for 3 years (1966-9) on the assembly making toy cars. Some of the girls were very fit. Then she worked on a farm for 2 years. In 1972 she went to Vandervell Products, Splott, Cardiff – for 10 years making car and lorry parts. They opened a new department (c.1976) and girls now did the same jobs as the men. One man asked for her help. Interviewed by the BBC about her job as a mechanic. Social club – she played ninepin bowling. Good money. One woman lost her fingers in a machine – compensation. In 1976 there was a strike about being too hot – she refused to join because she believed the company was doing its best. She was sent to ‘coventry’ for 4 months. One woman objected to her speaking Welsh – answered her back. Girls not allowed to work on night shift. Then she got married and worked for periods in Llangadog milk and Carmarthen cheese factories.
Workers of Vandervell Productions, Cardiff

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