Dafydd Llewelyn, Voices from the Factory Floor

Kaylor Compacts, Caernarfon (1957-58) (Also Bernard Wardells, for 18 months)

Interviewee: VN007 Dafydd Llewelyn

Date: 13: 01: 2014

Interviewer: Kate Sullivan on behalf of Women's Archive Wales

Dafydd started as an apprentice tool setter in Kaylor Compacts on leaving school at the age of fifteen. He wanted to be a driver and only worked there a year before getting a job on the Co-op van. His main job was going round and changing the tools on the presses, and pushing the compacts into a tunnel where they were heated, and maintenance work, although he was supposed to be a tool-setter. He didn't like the job because of the way the foremen, two in particular, treated people, but he said his co-workers were great. When he walked down between the machines, the girls would pull his leg and call out things like “Do you want a thrill?” and he was only 15! The women looked after him. When he went to the canteen, there was a nice woman there who'd let him pay the next day if he didn't have enough on him. They didn't serve hot food, just snacks. He did work in another factory, Bernard Wardell, after leaving the compact factory but mainly did driving work thereafter.

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Interview. Dafydd Llewelyn, Voices from the...

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Inside Kaylor Compacts Factory , Caernarfon 1950s

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Kaylor Compacts Factory , Caernarfon 1950s

Dafydd was born on 13 August, 1942. He comes from Llanberis/Caernarfon and has two brothers and two sisters. His father was custodian of the Segontium Museum in Caernarfon. His mother helped his father with his work. Dafydd developed a great interest in the history of aeroplanes as a result of his fathers work. He was educated in Twthill School and Segontium School. He left school when he was fifteen years old and went to work as an apprentice at Kays Compacts factory in Caernarfon as a tool setter. He wanted to get a driving job, but couldn’t because at fifteen years old, he was too young. He went to work in the factory so that he had a job and could earn some money, but he wasn’t very happy there. Eventually he got a job on the Co-op’s vans.

Speaking of his days at the factory, he says that there was a lot to take in there, a lot to learn. He remembers the foreman asking him a few days after he’d started there to fix a machine.

‘One thing I remember is this man, the foreman, telling me to change a tool, the press, on one of the machines, that’s what made the pattern on the compacts. There were different ones, and I did it, and then he came to me about half an hour later and said that I hadn’t done it. “I have,” I said. “No you haven’t,” he said. “Don’t tell me you have because I have the spanner here”, he said. "Well, I have done it, I used my own spanner.” He said, “It’ll never work.!” But it had worked. He was out to get me after that but I left not long after.’

Dafydd’s main job in the factory was to go around changing the tools on the presses, although he did other jobs like pushing the compacts into a tunnel where they were heated, and maintenance jobs, even though he was supposed to be a tool setter. He didn’t like the job because of the way they treated people, especially the two foremen, but he said the girls were great. When he walked down past the machines the women would pull his leg and shout, ‘Do you want a thrill?’, even though he was only fifteen! There was a good crowd of people there. He knew some of them before he started working there, and he got to know everybody there, although he didn’t have any relations or specific friends working there.

He would go to the canteen, and the woman there would let him pay the following day if he didn’t have enough money. They didn’t serve hot meals there, only snacks. Some of the girls looked after him, even though they said silly things when he walked past. They had fun and would wink at him.

There were other young boys there as well, working and doing courses in order to get a trade in jobs such as tool makers. His starting wage was six and five and he didn’t earn as much as the other men because he was an apprentice. He doesn’t remember if the men earned more than the women (although Mary Evans who was in the room with him during the interview believes this was the case.) He wore an overall to work, and he was covered in oil and grease. He was learning things on a daily basis and stayed there for a period of six months, and then decided that he didn’t want to work there anymore. The majority of the men there would help him learn new skills, and explain technical terms.

He was a member of the union and paid two shillings every week (or month, he can’t remember which) although he didn’t think much of the union. He can’t recall that there were any strikes when he worked there.

Everybody spoke Welsh, apart from the managers, one of whom was called Mr Welsh!

Outside work, he would socialise with a lad from the factory called Victor and he played football for the town team. His parents were happy that he was working in the factory because he had work. The work wasn’t dangerous, even though some of the girls got hurt occasionally. The tools were heavy but he was never hurt. The older men would warn him to be careful.

He lived a mile away and went to work by bike. His working day was from eight until five, with half an hour for lunch, and he didn’t have to work weekends. As a family they never went away on holiday. He spent his money on model aeroplanes.

Dafydd remembers the noisy machines, and the women singing. The men worked in the workshop, but had to take items to the presses where the girls worked. Something needed fixing or adjusting, or a tool needed changing all the time if a compact pattern needed changing.

Dafydd would go home for lunch occasionally, but most of the time he went to the canteen. Men and women would socialise in the canteen. The food was basic and consisted of sandwiches rather than hot meals. They had to pay for their food.

The fact that he was a fifteen year old boy working on women’s compacts didn’t bother him as he was working with tools, and knew he wouldn’t be there very long.

When he was interviewed for the job, it only lasted ten minutes. He felt it wasn’t difficult, even though he’d never had an interview before, and he’d been given advice by his father beforehand. He feels he should have asked more questions because he wasn’t sure what the work there was. When interviewed by Mr Welsh he was told 'it involves working with machinery.'

Finding work as a school leaver was easy in those days. He was in the factory for a year, and heard of a job going on the Co-op vans from his father. This job was better paid, and he was in his element driving around in a van.

The attitude of the men in the factory towards the supervisor was negative because of the way they treated the workers.

He didn’t gain any qualifications in the factory, although this would have been possible if he’d stayed on.

Even though Dafydd remembers that there was plenty of fun to be had in the factory, talking to people, Dafydd was happier working outdoors in a driving job. He did return to factory work some years later when he went to work at Bernard Wardell, a factory making fake leather for furniture.

There were two shifts there – a night shift and a day shift. There were women working in the warehouse, but it was only men who worked in the factory itself. Large machines rolled out the plastic, and this material went to the warehouse where the women worked, and it was despatched the material to different parts of the country. He returned to factory work because his driving job had come to an end, and it was easy to chop and changes jobs at the time. The money at Bernard Wardell was good and the work very different from the work at the compact factory so he had to learn new skills. After a year and a half he returned to driving. He joined the union in the new factory, and remained in a union afterwards.

Length of interview: 30 minutes

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