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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

Bethesda: Austin Taylor

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.

Bethesda: AustinTaylor

VN054 Sandra Owen, AustinTaylor, Bethesda;High Speed Plastics, Llandygái

Sandra went into the plastics factory straight from school, in 1970, making watering cans and sun visors. They were doing time and motion, everyone had their targets, and wages depended on how many sunvisors a worker had made, so people were going full pelt in order to earn a high wage at the end of the week. After two years, she moved to Austin Taylor in Bethesda, where she was able to walk to work. The factory made electronic parts and she was on the machines, in the machine shop, and she said the machines were so big, you wanted to run straight back out again. But the men trained her and in a day or two she became 'a real boy' on the machine and very happy. The workers had targets to reach in this factory too and sometimes did a 56 hour week to reach them. Later Sandra became a supervisor. She stayed in this factory until it was about to close in 1998, when she left and started her own business, supplying chickens to butchers shops around Wales.

Bethesda: Cwper Web

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.

Blackmill: Alupac

VSW042 Alison Rees, Alupac, Blackmill

Alison did her A Levels and went into the library service. She worked in Alupac during the holidays c 1977. She earned c. £100 a week – good money. Unskilled work – machine presses stamping out aluminium dishes – into baskets. She gathered them up and packed them in boxes. Tiny pieces of aluminium went in her hair and clothes – but scratching skin. Had to ask supervisor to go to the toilet. Hierarchy there. She felt she was different – education was important in her family. The other workers wanted a job that fitted round their families. Machines noisy and fast – pressure. If not on machine, tidying etc. The noise of the machine stayed in her head in the night. The experience made her determined not to follow this career path.

Blaenau Ffestiniog: Metcalfes

VN015 Pegi Lloyd Williams, Metcalfes, Blaenau Ffestiniog

Pegi was in the 'navvy' during the war and afterwards she returned to Blaenau to work for David Tudor in Trawsfynydd, where she worked for ten years as a secretary, which was an honour she said. She was there for ten years until she married and her husband wasn't happy that she was out working long hours and then coming home and keeping house. She was offered a job as secretary to Mr Metcalfe in a factory making small machinery, built by the council to provide work for local boys. She had developed a interest in machinery work by doing a 'buyer's course. The factory made machines to cut chips and cut meat and mix food. She started there in 1955 and remained as secretary to Mr. Metcalf until her retirement at age 69.

Blaenavon: Dressing Gown factory

VSE010 Brenda Mary Farr, Thorn Electronics, Hereford;Dressing Gown factory, Blaenavon;HG Stone Toy Factory, Pontypool

Mary left school at 15 (1956) – didn’t want to work in factory – wanted work in an office. But she found herself in HG Stone factory making soft toys - teddies and pandas etc– she worked on the line as a machinist. Piecework. Very big, noisy and dusty. Stuffed with straw or flock. Time and motion pricing time on each toy. Worker’s Playtime on the radio. Finished there in 1964. The women producing teddy bears got more than the others – specialist job. Wasn’t promoted because she talked too much. Also made dolls – plastic bodies and stitching on hair. Also dogs on wheels. Needles through fingers. Men’s work – on plastic and machines. Xmas dances with band. After 8 years in HG Stone spent 6 weeks in dressing gown factory in Blaenafon – couldn’t bear the smell of candlewick. When married she moved to Herefordshire – worked in Thorn Electrics making street lights. Lots of families in HG Stone (later Chad Valley) factory.
Part of this interview is available as an audio file

Bridgend: Anglomac

VSE060 Rosalind Catton, Revlon, Maesteg;New Stylo, Bridgend;Anglomac, Bridgend

Rosalind left school at 15 (1958) and soon went to the Anglomac Factory, which made raincoats. She was in the cutting room – until 18 she could only lay out the fabrics. All the cutters were women. The factory closed (after c.1 year) and she went to the shoe factory. Believes there was a stigma with being a factory girl. The cutting knife could be dangerous. Perks – buying raincoats and got cottons. In New Stylo she decorated the shoes, using a stapling machine attaching trims. Stayed a year again. Bigger factory wirh more facilities. Later when she had children she worked in Revlon (c. 1969) on 10-2 shift – mothers’ shift. Very fast and boring jobs there. One job putting a top on a bottle and hitting it with a mallet. Nonstop so had to be replaced if she wanted to go to the toilet. Some of older women talked a lot about sexual things. She worked intermittently there for a period.

Bridgend: Christie-Tyler

VSE043 Anita Rebecca Jeffery, Christie-Tyler, Bridgend;Polikoffs, Treorchy

Anita describes living in a pre-fab, leaving school at 15 (1954) and starting as a machinist in Polikoff’s. Army and other clothes and bedding. First job – making men’s trouser flies. Stigma with factory work. Piecework and reaching targets. Promotion to larger Pfaff machine. Music, singing and waving. Custom when getting married – backcombing hair, sugar soap and chalk and in a truck to men’s dept. Smell of rats – All out. Plague of cockroaches. Acceptance of gay worker. Perks – cheaper suits and bedding. Pilfering – stealing suits! In Christie-Tyler she was a member of National Union of Furniture Trade Operatives. Polikoff’s – dispute re. time and motion. She became union rep. standing up for women. Them and us. Promoting women who were assertive to be on management’s side. Cotton spool rollers and a scarf. Serious accident with a presser and needle through fingers. Effect long term on her legs and eyesight. She left when pregnant – 1961. Started having paid holidays in late 1950s. Dances in Polikoff’s canteen with live bands and no alcohol. Miss Polikoff – she won c.1957. She returned to factory work in 1969/70 as a machinist making upholstery. Factory moved from Bridgend to Talbot Green. Stayed there 12 years. Piecework and some greedy workers. Story about engagement ring – honesty. Pride: ‘I was a manufacturer’. Prank and all machines blowing. Putting addresses in RAF uniform jacket pockets.
Part of this interview is available as an audio file
Anita Jeffery (second from left) coming second in the 'Miss Polikoff' competition

Bridgend: Fiona Footwear

VSE018 Gwen Richardson, Wella, Pontyclun;Fiona Footwear, Bridgend;Planet Gloves, Llantrisant;London Pride, Bridgend

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.

Bridgend: George Webb Shoes

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.