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VN055 Beryl Buchanan, Ferranti, Bangor;Hotpoint, Llandudno;Mona Products, Menai BridgeBeryl 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.
VSW020 Rita Davies & Meirion Campden, Croydon Asbestos, Milford Haven;Myfanwy Products, Gorseinon;Glanarad Shirt Factory, Newcastle EmlynRita and Meirion left school at 14 (1945 and 1949 respectively). Rita started immediately in the shirt factory and left to get married (1954) but returned after three years and Meirion joined her (c.1949-1995). The boss was Johnny Morgan, brother of the owner of J T Morgan’s warehouse, Swansea. The first job was hemming woollen shirts. They had pocket money from their pay packet. The boss would tap them on their heads or pinch them if they talked. Rita worked on the button machine and Meirion made shirts. They had a book to record their work. The factory was taken over by Myfanwy Products, Gorseinon – they made dolls’ clothes and shawls for 2-3 years. Then by Croydon Asbestos making leather gloves (Heavy work) with industrial machines. The older women were kind to them. They had a piece of clothing from the J T Morgan warehouse as a gift every Xmas and a trip to Llandrindod in June. The workers’ numbers were put on each shirt. Meirion had to go to hospital after sewing her finger. Rita went to work in rollers and a turban. Croydon Asbestos closed c.1996.
VSE060 Rosalind Catton, Revlon, Maesteg;New Stylo, Bridgend;Anglomac, BridgendRosalind 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.
VSE067 Christine Chapman, Roller Blind Factory, Llwynypia;Gainsborough Flowers, PorthChristine’s mother worked in factories e.g. Flex Fasteners and found her part-time holiday jobs. She worked in Gainsborough Flowers when in the sixth form – making artificial flowers on old-fashioned machines. She even worked with a candle! During university she worked in the roller blind factory. She felt some of the women were bitchy – they played tricks on them. She became very efficient in the roller blind factory and the Trade Union person asked her to slow down. Some form of bullying. Bosses talked down to the women. She worked on the presses. Had to have permission to go to the toilet. She worked in the flower factory c.1973-4. Radio on and banter going on all the time. She used to daydream and plan ahead. Risqué stories – repeats one. Talks of some harassment. She was just passing through. She learned a lot about intimidation too – held her in good stead as a politician. How the management treated the women was an early feminist lesson. She’s been in the real world. She talks about her career as a Labour politician.
VSE012 Margaret Chislett, The Bag factory, Llwynypia;Polikoff's, TreorchyMargaret left school at 15 (1937) and worked for a year as a nanny in London before joining Polikoff’s in 1938. There she completed an order for Lady Churchill – overcoats for her Russian fund. Very heavy – wore them to their ankles. Also made uniform for Montgomery’s army in N Africa. She contributed 2d to the Red Cross and 2d to Lady Churchill’s fund out of her wages. Could fill in any job on the line. Hemming the Russian order. 2,500 workers when at its peak. ENSA entertained them. Stayed 9½ years. Her mother bought silk parachute from Tonpentre Co-op to make petticoats and knickers. Union meetings – against Sunday work. Wore bib and braces and slacks for first time. Needle in finger. Radio playing Vera Lynn songs. Friday afternoon cleaned own machines, took pride in them. Factory built for Eastenders because of war. Left when pregnant. Frowned upon for women to work Sundays. Different lines organised social dos. Paid holidays from 1948 onwards. Had to contribute towards Bank Holiday pay. After the war they made de-mob suits. Left 1949. Enjoyed there because she met different kinds of women – chapel going – Bethany Gelli with its drama group, hockey club, very pub going – dancing etc. Later she went to the bag factory in Llwynypia – making bags etc for M&S- again sewing with machine. Then shut down after c. 2 years.
Part of this interview is available as an audio file