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

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VSE040 Isabel Thomas, Mansel Tinplate Works, Aberafan;Wern Aluminium works, Aberafan;Metal Box, Neath

Isabel left school at 14 (1942) and went to work in Mansel Tinplate (she was an orphan). Her sister was working there and told the manager Isabel was 16. She learned various tasks: on sheers, guillotine. She cheated her age again to go to the Wern. She describes cutting the tin plate and women also worked the roller there. It went into water and had to be straightened again. Dungarees with patches. Cut fingers. One women killed in the aluminium works. Isabel was overworked. Shift work in the Wern. One boy was killed in the Mansel too – the sheets fell on him. In the Wern the aluminium was coming out of the salt bath hot. They wore thick gloves. Union member. Learning to swear. Story about giving the foreman a laxative. Describes her work in the Wern. Scraping aluminium – half hour on half off - in restroom. Her sister made a rag mat – from someone’s coat! Singing with the piano in the canteen in Wern. Men home from war to the women’s jobs and having much better pay. Dances and music. Not allowed to go to Margam during the war because there were Americans there. Notes racism. She stayed in the Wern 5 years but they cut her wage and she moved to the canteen. She was in the Mansel for 2 years. She worked then in Metal Box for three months c. 1952. She made lids for tomato tins – cushy job.
Part of this interview is available as an audio file
Isabel Thomas's sister Marian Bagshaw (on the right) and her friend Sylvia in Wern Aluminium works, Aberafan.Isabel Thomas's niece Betty (on the left) with her friend at Mansel Tin Plate Works, Aberafan