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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

Bridgend: London Pride

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: London Transformers Factory

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.

Bridgend: Miles Laboratories

VSE008 Yvonne Morris, Miles Laboratories, Bridgend;Addis, Swansea

Yvonne left school at 16 (1962) and worked as a shorthand typist – bored. Eventually went to Addis (1963). The women she worked with became a substitute family – unhappy at home. Started as a packer on a line. Then moved to work on machines – then into training. Machines trimmed brushes and attached bristles. Very hot / or very cold. Dreaded visits of time and motion man. Joined TGWU union - disputes re. conditions not pay. Painful periods and having to stand all day. Talking to one another kept them sane. Smoking a massive issue – quick fag in toilets. Xmas time- went to club together. Left to work with a milliner, then into the army. Returned to Addis for c. 2 years – didn’t ‘come out’ in the factory because considered disgusting. When she moved in with her partner she went to work in Miles Laboratories (1972-74) – bottling medicine on the line. No time to talk. Excellent facities etc. Factories gave women a sense of who they were as individuals. Learned to be loyal and discreet. Perks – buy seconds but also randomly frisked.

Bridgend: New Stylo

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.

Broughton: De Haviland Aircraft Co

VN050 Sandra Brockley, Shotton Steel Works, Shotton;De Haviland Aircraft Co, Broughton;Courtaulds, Flint

Beginning at Courtaulds in 1960, Sandra worked first on the perning, doing 'dolls hair' before being moved on to the 'cakes'. They were on piece work but she was never fast enough. The factory had a glass roof which was painted green to keep the sun out but they were still 'cooking', said Sandra, but it could also be very cold in winter. She lived four miles away and went to work on the bus. She also went on day release. She left after six years, when she about 21, because she was fed up. “I gave my notice in; it was time to leave, time to move on. I was thinking, no, I’m not going in today and I drove right past and went to Rhyl.” A little later she got a job with De Havilands driving a crane on the Hawker Sidley 125 production line (small planes): " My dad always talked about slingers, I knew what a slinger was and things like this. I knew the language, so that was it, I was a crane driver." She left this job after a year to have a baby, and returned to work in John Summers (Shotton Steel works), and doing various driving and sales jobs, from 1971 until she retired in 1998.

VN051 Pat R.D., De Haviland Aircraft Co, Broughton

Pat began in De Havilands straight from school, in 1966, in the mail room, where she delivered post: “We had to go walking all round the factory with mail bags on us, and it was quite a nice little job. We knew every department in the factory.” Later she moved onto general office duties: “I went on to the Gestetner machines and I learnt a lot about printing. It was a job. To be honest, I didn’t know what I wanted. As I didn’t have any qualifications for anything.” She ended up in the Repair and Overhaul section: “That was great because all the planes came in to be serviced. The RAF was still there but quite a few came in from Switzerland, to be serviced.” She was often called upon to do other things, such as make up the weight they needed to during an aircraft flight, when she'd take her office work with her. She was there for ten years and then left to have her first child in 1976: “It wasn't like today, you couldn’t carry on after you had them, you had to leave; six months and you had to go.”

Burry Port: Parsons Pickles

VSW008 Sally Cybluski, Parsons Pickles, Burry Port;The Optical, Kidwelly

Sally left school in 1935 aged 14. When she was 18 she was called up and worked on a farm – selling milk in Carmarthen. She fell and broke her back. Then she worked in a wool shop. She talks about her husband who was a prisoner with the Gemans – came to Wales. They got married in 1946. She worked in a pickle factory – awful place. She packed mussels. She saw a piece of paper written by Parsons saying that all the factory girls were lazy. She complained and was sacked. She worked at a cleaners for 10 years, then at the Optical factory, where her husband worked. Describes process of making lenses. The cold – the lenses were kept in a large freezer. They had to do 11 trolley loads a day. It was heavy work; her shoulders and legs have been affected. It was also very noisy and she’s deaf now. They had to buy Swarfega to clean their hands from the company – she tells the story of an Italian stealing it. She tells the story of Wadic, her husband’s illness.

Bynea: Ina Bearings

VSW025 Beryl Evans, Ina Bearings, Bynea

Beryl left school at 14, and worked in the Felin-foel brewery, 1941-8, before getting married. Her husband didn’t like women working in factories. Then she lost her husband and she had to go to work in INA Bearings to maintain the family. She was on inspection there. She talks about the factory nurse, the noise of the machines, clocking in, the children’s Christmas parties, getting a clock for long service and trips. She left the factory in 1982.
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INA Bearings Factory  workers on a trip to Blackpool, 1975Children's Christmas party, Ina Bearings Factory, Llanelli, 1977Beryl Evan's certificate for 10 years service at INA BearingsThe INA Bearings factory opening in 1966, Beryl with Jim Griffiths MP and the Manager

Cae'r Bont: Car Factory

VSW001 Moira Morris, Anglo-Celtic Watch Co. (inc. Smith's Industries and Ingersoll aka 'Tick Tock'), Ystradgynlais;Car Factory, Cae'r Bont

Moira started in Tick Tock after leaving school at 15 (1963?). It was a very Welsh factory. She notes the training; singing at work; holding the eyeglass on her eye; targets; the strain on eyes when making women’s watches. She left to have the children (c. 1970) but returned to work on men’s pocket watches. Then she made clocks for cars at the Enfield factory. At Tick Tock – there was no dust and they wore rubber shoes. The men were on inspection and the apprentices were all male. She notes playing tricks on girls and boys who were getting married and on new girls; wearing rollers to go out Friday nights. It was the’ best school’. The Club organised trips, Xmas parties for the children and the Miss Tock Tock competition. They had to clean everything when the manager came around. She moved to the car clock factory at Cae’r Bont then (c. 1985) – it was dirtier work. She stayed there 28 years.
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Caernarfon: Bernard Wardell

VN007 Dafydd Llewelyn, James Kaylor Compacts, Caernarfon;Bernard Wardell, Caernarfon

Dafydd started as an apprentice tool setter in Kaylor Compacts on leaving school at the age of fifteen. He wanted to be a driver and only worked there a year before getting a job on the Co-op van. His main job was going round and changing the tools on the presses, and pushing the compacts into a tunnel where they were heated, and maintenance work, although he was suppose to be a tool-setter. He didn't like the job because of the way the foremen, two in particular, treated people, but he said his co-workers were great. When he walked down between the machines, the girls would pull his leg and call out things like “Do you want a thrill?” and he was only 15! The women looked after him. When he went to the canteen, there was a nice woman there who'd let him pay the next day if he didn't have enough on him. They didn't serve hot food, just snacks. He did work in another factory, Bernard Wardell, after leaving the compact factory but mainly did driving work thereafter.
The inside of the Compact Factory, with women at work, 1950s.The inside of the Compact Factory, 1950s