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Women’s role in industry celebrated

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Welsh Women on the Factory Floor: The inside of the Compact Factory, with women at work, 1950s

Welsh Women on the Factory Floor: The inside of the Compact Factory,
with women at work, 1950s

A NEW project has set out to tell the tale of the vital role that women played in manufacturing industries across Wales.

Voices from the Factory Floor will see the stories of women like Gwen Eira Evans, who worked in a factory in Felinfoel, take centre stage, and guarantee that their voices are not forgotten.

The Voices from the Factory Floor project includes oral interviews, full transcripts of the recordings, and photographs documenting the history of women who worked in factories across Wales during a thirty year period between 1945 and 1975. The project is led by Women’s Archives Wales, with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund

From Gwen Eira Evans’ tales of producing radiators for cars and aeroplanes in Felinfoel to Moira Morris’s stories of making men’s watches at Tick Tock in Ystradgynlais and Yvonne Stevens’ toy-making memories at Bacon Toy Factory, Llanrwst, where she later met her husband – over 200 such stories have now been documented in the project, reflecting an important period in Welsh manufacturing which underlines the vital role women played.

Catrin Stevens, the project’s co-ordinator, explains why she feels projects such as Voices from the Factory Floor play a fundamental role in capturing bygone women’s history: “Women’s history has, on the whole, been ignored and neglected through the centuries and the Women’s Archive of Wales’s aim is to raise awareness of women’s history and to rescue and safeguard the sources of this history. This specific project is extremely important as it recognises the important role Welsh women played in the resurgence of manufacturing, following the war. Their stories reflect a challenging work environment, while at the same time, show there was a strong sense of camaraderie and plenty of fun to be had at the work seaside trips to places like Tywyn and Blackpool. While the archive is fascinating for us now, in years to come it will be an invaluable source for those wishing to learn about Welsh life in this period.”

The stories have been captured because of a grant awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and Head of HLF Wales Richard Bellamy believes that using Lottery money for projects like this is vitally important in keeping the country’s unwritten history alive: “Our heritage takes many different forms, and it is important we recognise this when considering how Heritage Lottery Fund money is distributed. Voices from the Factory Floor tells an important story and reflects on a key period in Welsh life, a period of change in our culture and in our ways of working. I would encourage everyone to log on and get lost in these factory tales – I guarantee you will discover an enchanting – and perhaps unexpected – women’s working world, helping us to discover who they and indeed we are, and where we’ve all come from, given the majority of these factories have now closed.”

One of the project’s contributors, Gwen Eira Evans, talks about her job she began in the 1940s when the Morris Motors factory opened in Felinfoel after the war broke out. She was 18 and knew nothing of Morris Motors but stayed there for 37 years doing the same job.

“My first job was on a farm when I was 14. You had to work for nothing. I got up at 6am and finished work at 7pm and sometimes later in the summer. I applied in person at the factory when I was old enough and my pay was double. I earned £9 per week, depending on how much work I did. I made radiators for cars and aeroplanes; the work was hard as I had a weak arm. When I started I thought the factory was enormous as there were more than 2000 workers, including many girls from Ponthenri. I caught the private bus at 6am as work began at 7.30am with a 10 minute tea break at 9.30am. There was a half- hour lunch break and work finished at 4.30-5pm. Workers weren’t permitted to be more than 2 minutes late for work. Any worker clocking in 3 minutes late was docked a quarter of an hour’s pay. Many girls stayed for years. Many had stuck it out during the war years because had they left, they knew, they would be compelled to work somewhere else possibly far away from home.”

A new film to promote the project has been launched this week at the Senedd and all materials will soon be transferred to the National Screen and Sound Archive at the National Library in Aberystwyth.

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Conservatives in disarray over alleged Christmas party lockdown breach

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THE CONSERVATIVE Party is investigating the attendance of senior Senedd members and staff at a Christmas party held during December’s lockdown.

Lockdown restrictions prohibit mixing with people outside your own household.

The Welsh restrictions barring such gatherings follow the basic outline of those imposed by the Conservative UK Government in December.

Those attending the drinks party included Paul Smith, the Conservative Chief of Staff at the Senedd, Darren Millar, the Party’s Chief Whip and campaign coordinator, and Preseli Pembrokeshire MS and Conservative Senedd Group Leader Paul Davies.

The Herald understands that a Labour Senedd Member who attended the Party has been suspended by the Labour Senedd Group pending its own investigation.

The Conservatives’ embarrassment at talking the talk but not walking the walk is intensified by Darren Millar’s presence at the shindig.

In May, Mr Millar led calls for Wales’ Health Minister Vaughan Gething to be sacked for eating a bag of chips in a park with one of his own children.

If the Conservative Party follows the logic of their previously stated positions, Mr Millar’s and Mr Davies’ futures look bleak indeed.

With a Senedd election only months away, the revelations have thrown the Conservatives into disarray.

If they do nothing, the Conservatives will – at the very least – face claims they are hypocrites.

If the Conservative Party acts decisively, it faces massive internal problems.

The Conservatives responded to our request for a response to our story.

Those involved stressed they did not host a Christmas Party.

The incident happened on December 8, when the above met in the members’ tea room to discuss legislation for possible inclusion in the Welsh Conservative manifesto with a Labour backbencher.

During the evening they did drink a glass or two of wine.

They stress that at no point were there more than four people in the room at any one time and that they maintained social distancing.

A joint statement from Paul Davies, Darren Millar, and Paul Smith said: “We are profoundly sorry for our actions.

“While we did not break the rules, we recognise that what was part of a day’s work would not be seen to be following the spirit of them, especially given the tough time the country has been going through.”

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Family tribute to Carole Patricia Fowler

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Carole was a teacher for 30 years at St Mary’s Catholic Primary School, Llanelli. She loved children and they loved her. 

As one of her past colleagues said: “I know she made such a difference to every child she taught.” She was very popular with staff and well respected and loved by parents. She was dedicated and conscientious, always 100% for the children. She led the music there and was always popular with her guitar accompaniments for services and concerts. 

Likewise, she was a valued member of the choir at Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church, Gendros, Swansea, where she would often accompany hymns with her guitar and gave guitar lessons to the children in the church’s Saturday Music Club. She was also a keen member of Côr Persain, Ammanford. 

She was talented, loved and in demand. A convicted and devout Catholic all her life, through good and bad.

Carole was an avid and very gifted crocheter and was always crocheting or knitting something for someone. She had been spending her time recently, during the Covid crisis, crocheting NHS teddies in scrubs and rainbows, with many given to practising nurses. Carole had recently started learning to make bobbin lace. She was also capable of some very decent sewing, too. 

She was also learning Welsh, doing ‘pilates’ and was considering taking up yoga lessons as well.

She was a busy lady! As one of her work colleagues said of her: “She was wise, strong, beautiful, generous, devout and feisty. And I loved her for all those qualities.”

Above all, she was an immeasurably loved Mam, daughter, sister and a doting Mamgu and so much loved by her fiancé. Having been together for 14 years, they would have been married last July 20th had covid allowed! 

Her premature passing at 61 is tragic and she is already sorely, painfully missed. She leaves behind a huge chasm in so many hearts that cannot be filled.

“Eternal rest grant unto her, o Lord, may perpetual light shine about her, may she rest in peace.”

If anyone witnessed the collision or may have been travelling on the M4 at the relevant time, please contact the Serious Collision Unit quoting police reference DPP-20210113-317

Police can be contacted either online at: bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, by emailing 101@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk, or by calling 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.

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Tip off leads to pensioner’s drug stash

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A BRIEFCASE full of drugs has been recovered during a raid in Swansea suburb.
Police acting on information provided by a member of the public executed a warrant in Gorseinon and recovered a large quantity of cannabis.
A man was arrested on suspicion of possession of the class B drug, with intent to supply.
A South Wales Police spokesman said: “At around 5.40pm on Wednesday, January 6, following an intelligence led operation, a 68 year-old man from Gorseinon was arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to supply cannabis.
“He was taken to Swansea central police station for questioning. He has been released under investigation”.

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