List all records by:

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

Browse the interviews

Sorted by factory location

Bala: Ackroyd & Sons

VN004 Greta Davies, Ackroyd & Sons, Bala

Greta worked in a milk factory before going to Ackroyds in 1982, where she stayed for 12 years, firstly checking the clothes for needle damage and later ironing them, for which she had to stand for 8 hours a day on a special foam mat. She enjoyed working there: “We had little breaks, five minutes every hour to go out and have a smoke and get a cup of tea or coffee from the vending machine. There was a good canteen there, they did toast in the morning, dinner time they did hot dinners. They had Christmas dinner and pudding there for every one, and decorated the canteen very smartly, there was a very nice atmosphere there Christmas time.” There was a good social life too, with trips out to places like Tywyn and to the races. She was made redundant in 1993, when the company decided to import pyjamas from China, but has gone back intermittently since then to help out in busy periods.

VN001 Cath Parry, Ackroyd & Sons, Bala

Cath worked in Ackroyd's & Sons, where she made the hems for the pyjamas, first in the original factory on the High Street then in the modern building on the industrial estate. She started in the factory in 1974 and was made redundant at the age of 62, when the factory changed to its present form - ie importing the clothes from China for distribution in the UK. She described how everything went by the clock: “From the minutes eight o'clock came, you were sewing the whole time until break time. Everything went by the clock. You had to do seventy pairs of pyjamas in half an hour, and whatever was your job on that, you had to do it in the half hour. There were about six of us working in a row. One started off and if her machine broke down, we were all waiting. But you had to do your seventy every half hour by the end of the day, or he wanted to know why,”

Bangor: Ferranti

VN055 Beryl Buchanan, Ferranti, Bangor;Hotpoint, Llandudno;Mona Products, Menai Bridge

Beryl went to Mona Products, which made clothes for Marks and Spencers, straight from school in 1958. She was sewing collars and sleeves onto T shirts and putting elastic in knickers and sewing gussets. There wasn't a basic wage and she said you had to work your socks off to make your wage up, the wages were very bad. There were no health and safety regulations and a small canteen. There was only a few men there - two packing, two mechanics and the manager. There was music on the factory floor, and the boys would choose what station they'd listen to - like Workers' Playtime and the news. After two years, she moved to Ferranti, which made electronic meters. This was much bigger than Mona Products and she was working on the laminations and making tops for sports cars and leather covers. She was much happier in Ferranti's, lot more fun, and a better wage plus bonuses. Beryl was there until 1968, when she went to Hotpoint for a few months. She didn't like Hotpoint and returned to Ferranti, getting married around this time and stopping work when she had children.

VN052 Enid Jones, Cwper Web, Bethesda;Ferranti, Bangor

Enid’s first job was making injaroc Number 8, which she got by way of her mother’s friend Mrs Morris. Mrs Morris had initially made the candy rock at home before selling the recipe to a local factory where she then went to work. After six months or so, she moved to Ferranti, an electronics factory, and was there for 14 years. She was on the meter testing for years, her main job, testing meters ready to go out to Manweb. The factory produced meters and also 'ear defenders' for the ears of pilots flying aeroplanes and other small things like that, there was a lot of engineering going on there. She said it was a lot of fun working there and she remembers a number of strikes too, over pay disputes or if a worker was sacked unfairly. She had to leave because she was expecting her first child in 1970, and she felt sad to leave. She would have liked to have returned to work but in those days, she said, there was no way to go back because you had no one to look after the baby.

VN006 Dilys Wyn Jones, Corset factory, Caernarfon;Cockle factory, Caernarfon;Ferranti, Bangor

Dilys worked in the Corset Factory from the age of 15, straight from school. She worked on various lines, on different parts of the corsets. She enjoyed it there but on the whole found factory work repetative and boring. The factory was very basic: “It was a concrete floor and there was dust there, lime from the corsets. We had an X-ray every year. A man brought water in, in a watering can, he went around the place like that, watering the floor. There were windows like those on a greenhouse upstairs, and in the summer, it was boiling, you were being cooked alive.” She also worked later in other factories, such as the cockle factory in Caernarfon and Ferranti in Bangor.

VN053 Dilys Pritchard, Austin Taylor, Bethesda;Ferranti, Bangor

Dilys worked in Woolworths after leaving school for four years. She moved to Ferranti's, around 1961-1962, where she stayed for six months, before leaving to work at Austin Taylor. Almost straight away, she became one of their 'keyworkers' learning how to treat people and train them on the product. She remembers that one girl got her hair caught in one of the machines once and she had the wit to turn it off.They had to get scissors and cut some of her hair to get it free. After eight years, she became ill with appenicitis and had to leave. The factory told her that if she wanted her job back she'd have to go to a tribunal and, with no union to back her up, she lost her job in 1970.

Barmouth: Elephant Chemicals

VN034 Merfyn Tomos, Elephant Chemicals, Barmouth

Merfyn left school at 18 yn 1969 with the intention of doing a degree and following a career in libarianship. He was in his element reading and had an uncle who was a librarian and was a big influence on him. After leaving school, he needed a summer job to earn a bit of pocket money, and a friend had got a job in Elephant Chemicals, Barmouth, and Merfyn contacted them and got a casual job there. He doesn't remember a formal interview but does remember his first impression of the place - machines and shiny brick walls, like a warehouse, with women in aprons and coats, some with scarves on their heads. There were mostly women but some men too who did things like repairing the machines and loading the lorries. There was a lot of leg pulling, since a lot of the workers were young, although it was a small place, about 25 people. It was an old building that had been adapted for use, he thinks, and the factory made things like toilet blocks and disinfectants. Mefyn remembers a lot of cameraderie among the young temporary workers and is still in touch with a couple. He went on to university to study librianship.

Barry: Distillers

VSE041 Janet Taylor, Distillers, Barry;Guest, Keen and Nettlefold (GKN)

Janet left grammar school at 16-7 (1958) and went to work in the Laboratory in Nettlefolds. She had passed 8 O Levels. She was measuring the different elements in the steel. She did a day release course in Chemistry. Boys on apprenticeships but girls had to do the donkey work. Routine analysis. Different canteens for different levels of staff. Working on samples of steel shavings- c. 60 at a time. She names elements. White coats often full of holes. Sandals because of the heat and no underwear. Describes process. Rubber gloves – she got dermatitis from them. Dangerous because of sulphuric acid burns. One man very badly burned. Boys paid more. No union. Cleaning everything in factory during annual holiday. In very hot weather they sunbathed on the factory roof – in the muck from the steel works! Women in the offices too – but not on factory floor where the furnaces were and the roll mill. Social and sports club. Playing skittles. Staff dances and dinners. Party at Xmas in lab. Separate dos for staff and works. She worked there for 5 years, then a break and to Distillers - in lab. for a couple of years. . Making PVC – testing it and finding a use for it. Paid monthly – posh. She was working there in 1963. Returned to the steel works for a couple of years then to the Ministry of Agric. for 21 years. Then the Welsh Office in finance for 10 years.

Barry: Sidroy Mills

VSE035 Anonymous, Sidroy Mills, Barry

The Feltz, (Jewish) family owned the factory. It produced underwear, blouses and night wear. Both the contributors won scholarships to the grammar school but because working class had to leave at 16. No talking but singing. Piecework and how it was worked out. The difficulties regarding establishing a trade union - the National Taylor and Garment Workers’ Union in the factory. A union branch was formed with one of them as Chair and the other as Secretary. Attending T.U.C. meetings – spoke out in 1953. They left when they married and organised playgroups in the local community. They recall the comradeship and value the sewing skills they learned at Sidroy’s.

Barry: Sidroy's Lingerie

VSE081 Anonymous, Slumberwear, Barry;Sidroy's Lingerie, Barry

Contract work in Sidroy’s Lingerie and Slumberwear, Barry. The speaker worked for his father’s building firm maintaining (c.1964-8) the buildings etc at the factory. Locally Sidroy’s was called the knicker factory but they made all kinds of underwear there. He was very scared of the women, their language was very forthright and they would de-bag the boys and men if they were too sure of themselves – stripping them and covering them with grease. It happened to him once – his father had warned him. He felt the girls’ work was very monotonous. The women wanted to keep the men in their place.