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

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VSE062 Edith Williams, OP Chocolates, Merthyr;Kayser Bondor, Merthyr

Edith left school at 14+ (1946) and started at Kayser Bondor Factory, heeling the stockings. Piecework. She went to ?Buckingham Palace (Westminster) to try to keep the factory open in 1977. She was a union girl (Hosiery Workers’ Union) – lots of disputes about money and she would have to negotiate between parties. Take over by Courtaulds – writing on the wall. She went to OP Chocolates then making cheese balls and putting them in tins. Tells story of her trouser elastic failing and calling for someone to take over from her on the line. She worked there for 6½ years. In Kayser Bondor the men did shift work but nor the women. Sporting facilities – table tennis, tennis etc. Xmas dances at City Hall, Cardiff. Factory choir. Specialised skill to sew seams in stockings.

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).

VSE051 Jill Williams, Lewis & Tylor Ltd, Gripoly Mills

Jill left school at 16 (1968) and started in Lewis and Tylor. She found the noise unbelievable (electrical and manual looms) and cried at the thought of working there. She stayed there 10+ years. She also did home work repairing belts. She describes and explains the skilled work in great detail. Calluses on her hands – no gloves. It was like rowing. Caring – wedding gifts etc. One group made rubberised belts on smaller looms. The men made pipes and hoses for aeroplanes. After having the children she worked part-time there. The story about the foreman and his dog. Piecework and doing quota of belts. Some rushing and poor quality of belts. Describes bouncing up and down when weaving. Some dangers – tripping, weights falling, Helping one another. They all liked one particular loom – made better quality belts. She wanted to keep her own wires – during the holidays the foreman would wrap them up for her. Different patterns – plain, purl, herringbone etc. She took a record player into work. Her clocking-in number was 60. Trips and great fun. Later there were many Indian (Kenya) workers – TB a problem and the factory was closed for a time. Story of one arranged marriage. She worked as a dinner lady too – story of the bag of money. Her mother and father’s work. She shows the measure and the needles she had. Effect on hearing. Further details of technique.
Part of this interview is available as an audio file
Jill Williams, on the right, training a young worker at the Lewis and Tylor Factory

VSW068 Mair Williams, Anglo-Celtic Watch Co. ('Tick Tock' Factory), Ystradgynlais

Photographs of Anglo Celtic Watch Co. ('Ticf Tock' Factory), 1950s
Mair Jones (Williams), Netta Thomas & Ann Gosling, 'Tick Tock' Factory,  1955Sally Evans, Eileen Evans, Netta Thomas & Pat (?) 'Tick Tock' Factory,  1955Workers at  Anglo-Celtic Watch Co. (' Tick  Tock'), Christmas 1954

VN018 Mair Williams, Dolgarrog Aluminium, Dolgarrog

Mair's family moved to Dolgarrog from the valleys around 1925. She began at the plant in 1936, in the light sheet mill, at the age of 17. She didn't have a formal interview but an uncle went down to ask a Mr Oswin who looked after the workers' houses if there was a job for her, and the next thing she knew she had a job. She was there when she married, but because she didn't have any children, she carried on working. She says if she had stayed in shop work, which she'd been doing before, she would have been called up when WW2 broke out but, because the factory did war production, they were under special provision. During the war, the women had to work in the large mill with men who didn't go to fight. This work was very heavy. Mair later became a forewoman and said it wasn't easy, as she'd been working with the girls she was now supervising. Her husband also worked there and she continued to work after marriage, until she took the offer of 'redundancy' in 1968.

VSE030 Maureen Williams, Kayser Bondor, Merthyr

Maureen left the grammar school at 15 (1950) to go to the technical school, then she worked in a coal merchant’s and gained wide experience. She moved to Kayser Bondor wages department. She trained as a comptometer operator. Paying girls on piecework. Details kept on cards. C.1,000 employees and she was responsible for 200 records per week. Using the Kalamazoo System. She worked there for 9 years and transferred to the accounts dept, then became a supervisor. Production was moved to Dowlais – worked for 1 year there, then pregnant. Staff wages kept a secret. Employees bought Not Quite Perfect and spoilage items from factory shop. Fantastic lingerie made here. She also kept the shop accounts. Tickets collected from girls on factory floor – personal record card. Sewing black garments priced at a premium. Clerk got bonus from union for deducting union fees. Canteen and toilets separate for supervisors. Payday Friday – working late Thursdays. Inter-factory dances. She worked for a month at Hoover’s – much stricter in the wages section. Nine years later she went to TBS c.1969 no calculators there! She spent 25 years there. She did costings, wages and accounts.

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.

VN056 Sali (Sarah) Williams, E. Morgan & Co Tobacco factory, Amlwch

Straight after leaving school, Sali worked in E Morgan & Co tobacco factory from 1938 until 1942, when she was called up into the Land Army. Her job was doing the round 'ounces', weighing the tobacco at a table with three other girls. The tobacco had to be weighed carefully for others to pack in into round tins. It was interesting work, and after it was packed the tobacco went all over Wales. HMS Customs would visit the factory sometimes, unannounced, to test the tobacco and see if it was too wet. If it was, the public paid too much for it. The tobacco went into different wrappers but it was the same tobacco! There was a good relationship between the girls. The place wasn't hygenic at all, with a bit of water to wash their hands in a bucket, no taps, and no toilets. She really enjoyed her time in the Land Army and, after the war, she returned to the same factory until she married and she left to have her first child. She never returned to work but stayed at home thereafter.

VSW044 Vanda Williams, Metal Box, Neath

Vanda left school at 14 (1942) and started work at DW Jones printers, Port Talbot – slave labour. Started work at Metal Box 1946 – shift pattern. She was put on the presses – feeding 4 machines. But first in lacquer dept. – smell made her sick. On the presses she had to pick up thick sheets of metal, put them in slot – stamped by machine. Then she worked packaging the tops of tins. The noise was horrendous – she’d shout after coming home. If on night shift she would do housework for family before going to bed. She didn’t like factory work. She stayed there 3 years + 5 months. She did a number of other jobs before going into nursing c.1968. Trouble with her back because of factory work. Bad language by men and women there. Never worked on Sundays – chapel and Sunday school class. She was praised in Metal Box because she didn’t have much scrap.

VSE022 Margaret Anne Amblin (nee Williams), Thorns, Merthyr;Kayser Bondor, Merthyr

Anne left school at 16 (1957) and went straight to Kayser Bondor – making lingerie. Training school there – operate machines and clean them. Pretty place to work. Own machine – opened bundle and took ticket off, sewed and when finished tied bundle. Piecework. Worked there until she had her first son 1966. Went back part-time later. . M&S very fussy about quality. Very clean. Manikin parades by workers – of underwear. Buying clothes on the card in Merthyr’s shops. Supervisors and managers watching them. Singing – rock and roll and jiving. One male machinist – teased. Social life – dancing. She talks of new domestic amenities. Her uncle wouldn’t allow his wife to used her new Hoover washing machine unless he was there. Interfactory events in Merthyr. First trip abroad with friends to Italy c. 1958-9. During training taken out to do keep fit exercises. Factory moved to Dowlais. Finished working there in c. 1968/9. When children older she went to Thorn’s – evening shift, making light bulbs. Loading bulbs into holes in conveyor belt. Also then worked for this factory - part-time day shift.