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

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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.

VSW018 Enid Davies a Bronwen Williams, Deva Dogware, Gwynfe;Croydon Asbestos, Milford Haven

Enid left school at 16 (1965) and Bronwen at 16 (1964). Lack of transport meant it was difficult to find work if you lived in the country. Enid joined her brother in Milford Haven. Worked on picking potatoes and then in Croydon Asbestos (c.1966-68/9). She finished off leather gloves. Target – finishing 3200 gloves a week – a minute per glove. They were given premium bonds with their wages. Good working conditions: no side effects from asbestos. Bronwen looked after children before starting in Deva Dogware and she had left Deva Dogware before Enid started (c.1966-68). The working conditions were poor in DD but the workers facilitated the work. Enid made slip collars for dogs. She liked the mess. She remembers welding by gas; exporting the collars; listening to Wimbledon on the radio. Enid helped sell collars at Crufts – there were important people there. Poor conditions at Deva Dogware. Enid left to have a child, then returned until the factory closed (c. 1968/9-1972).

VN019 Nancy Denton, B.S.Bacon toy factory, Llanrwst

Nancy went down to the toy factory on leaving school to ask for a job, as you were expected to work. She didn't really like it “but it was a job and you had to take it. Some parts of it I liked and some I didn't.” She did like “doing my easels, yes, I used to like doing that.” But she says she got bored with the routine, the same thing all the time. She mainly did the easels and blackboards, knocking the nails in and sanding down the wood, and also using staple guns, which used to 'jump.' The toys were good quality and a well-known brand, Bacon's they knew it as, but it might have been Valley Toys. There were no perks, if there was a reject they couldn't take it “no way, could you heck, no.” There was no bonus at Christmas “we didn't even know what that was.” The factory was very basic but she enjoyed the camaraderie there. She left the factory at 17 and got married shortly after. She did return to work afterwards but never did factory work again.

VSE019 Pauline Moss, Whitakers (Giles)sewing workshop, Cardiff

Pauline left school at 15 (1956) and started at the workshop. It was in a house. Had to lay fire first then became machinist. Working with Harris Tweed- important people used to come there. She was teased. Catching the train home to Senghennydd. Sent out for roll of material – got lost. On assembly there though few workers. Left (1959) when married and had her daughter. Dyed hair very blonde, like Diana Dors. Needle in finger. Playing hula hoops in back yard. Radio and trips out. Afterwards she helped out in a school. In the workshop they made high class jackets and blazers. About 8-9 women (+ men) working there.

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

VN020 Vanda MacMillan, B.S.Bacon toy factory, Llanrwst

Vanda left school at fifteen and went to work in a grocer's shop, serving behind the counter, but she wasn't keen on it, as there was a lot of paper work, people used to put their goods down on a bill that they paid on Friday. She can't remember how long she was there. She got married at the age of seventeen. After the shop, she went to work in a woollen mill in Trefriw, which was hard work. She was on the loom just before she left, making quilts. She can't remember how long she was there and said she earned about £4. She bought clothes from a catalogue with her wages, and also went to the pictures, bought make up. She can't remember how old she was when she went to the factory. She'd got married and had three children, but the family needed extra money, so she heard they wanted people in the toy factory and she made arrangements with her mother to have her youngest child, for which she gave her mother half her wages. Vanda worked as a seasonal worker in the toy factory, Llanrwst, in the run up to Christmas. She worked on painting flowers on the wooden dolls houses and really enjoyed it. She left because the place was going down and they were laying off seasonal workers. She worked as a cleaner for a little while before getting a job in a care home.

VSE020 Jenny Kendrick, JR Freeman's Cigar Factory, Cardiff;Smith's Crisps, Swansea

Jenny worked in Smith’s Crisps Swansea during the summer holidays after finishing in University in 1970 (at 25 years old). Worked there for 3 months. Factory made Quavers and Chopitos. Putting 14 packets in a box. Her friend had to pick out bad quavers from off a conveyor of rancid fat – sick every half hour. Jenny was promoted to do weight checking with clipboard - weighing samples and adjusting machine. Brilliant relationship with other women. Re-packing Chopitos from waste – rougher work. Standing all day – feet painful. Very noisy and singing bouncy songs e.g. Lola by the Kinks. Allocated toilet times. Very hot summer, Women - no interest in unionism. Stinking of oil – using Cologne. Fire – but no health and safety standards. Really tough women – running homes and working. Teasing but no sexual harassment as she had found in London offices. Perks – stealing packets of crisps. Later when she worked in Freeman’s (between 1966 and 1970)she was given cigarettes and cigars cheap. She was in the office. Factory jobs demanded no skills but a lot of fortitude. It informed her feminism. Most of women enjoyed it and the extra buying power. She feels a lot of respect for working-class women.

VSW020 Rita Davies & Meirion Campden, Croydon Asbestos, Milford Haven;Myfanwy Products, Gorseinon;Glanarad Shirt Factory, Newcastle Emlyn

Rita 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.
Rita and girls on Glanarad trip to Llandrindod Wells, 1950. © Rousham RobertsJT Morgan Staff, Glanarad Shirt Factory, © Harold Squibbs

VN021 Carol Morris, Ferodo, Caernarfon

After leaving school, Carol worked first in the corset factory then moved to Ferodo after a year because the pay was much better. In Ferodo, she was painting the company name and numbers on the break linings and stair treads. Ferodo was very big, with different sections and paths to walk round each of them. Workers couldn't go into some places unless they wore special clothing as it was dangerous. There were huge toilets for the men and women, not like the old fashioned Edwardian ones in the corset factory, and the workers had their own lockers, which was something very modern in the period. There were showers there too and on a Friday, the girls would bring in their going out clothes and wash their hair there and go out straight from work. There was a first aid room and a big canteen, the workers used to go for lunch and breaks in two sittings. It was a very friendly atmosphere, like a family. Carol enjoyed the work but left after a quarrel with the personnel manager when this man said something derogatory about her mother. She went to Ferranti to work but left soon after to get married and, later, returned to factory work in Laura Ashley in the 1980s.
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Carol at a Ferodo Christmas party, 1960s

VSE021 Doreen Lawson, JR Freeman's Cigar Factory, Cardiff;Elkes Biscuits, Cardiff;Avana Bakery, Cardiff

Doreen left school at 15 (1955) and worked in Littlewood’s café before going to Avana’s (1958)She put nuts on Dundee cakes first – wore overalls and turbans. Changed jobs, but difficult to keep up with conveyor belt! Saturdays she wore rollers under the turban – told to take them off. Ringleader for mischief. Talks about the foreign workers in the factory. Singing to radio. Cakes for M&S. Dancing and roller-skating in Cardiff. Pranks: dared to go down belt to loading bay; tying shoe laces. The men worked the ovens. Made 21st birthday party for her. Cakes half price. Left to get married 1961. Stayed 2 months at the Lyonite Factory, Canton making music boxes, but smell of glue. Back to Avana for 2 years. Worked a few months in laundries and then in Freeman’s.c. 1965-6.Working on hopper . She put the top leaf on the cigar then. Then pregnant and left (1968)If late lost her machine. In documentary about training in cigar factory. Afterwards she worked in a restaurant for 21 years. In Elke’s Biscuits for c. 8 months between Avana and Freeman’s. She tried to lead strike in Elke’s because of heat. In Avana someone lost a finger in the machine- put it back on. Enjoyed in the factories.