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Pegi Lloyd Williams, Voices from the Factory Floor

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Pegi was born in 1923 and educated in Montgomeryshire. She had a good primary school education and passed her eleven plus exam to go to County School. She’d been preparing for the CWB exam (the Matric) when she was in the fifth form, but had a heart attack and was forced to stay home for months. This signified the end of her formal education and she left school when she was sixteen. She was glad anyway, because she already had a job lined up. She did miss school but felt that the world was opening up for her.

Her first job was working for a woman who ran a successful coal business. The woman also built houses, and sold bricks and cement. She was looking for somebody to work in the office to take the place of her daughter who was about to give birth. Pegi worked for her for four years (during the period before the war.)

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Pegi was called up after this, but even though she had received her call up papers refused to go. She had to go before a tribunal (to Penrhyndeudraeth?). “In the tribunal the women questioned her relentlessly, “Well, what did you think of the Wrens? You’d look smart in that…’ She would have been happy to go to the Land Army but she was put in the ‘naffy’. There was the naffy blues (?) where the girls served in large canteens and naffy goods which involved office work. There was a naffy goods in every military camp, buying in goods and distributing them. She was placed in a military camp in Trawsfynydd, and then went to Towyn and later on to Tonfannau. She wore a khaki skirt and she would receive the odd salute even though she wasn’t in the army. She felt fortunate that she had joined naffy goods because the girls there were similar to her and she wouldn’t have fitted in with the girls in the naffy blues. She lived in Tonfannau. She was moved there after just an hour and a half’s notice because of the actions of somebody else who had messed around with the money. She had heart trouble again and even though she has lived to a good age, she has had trouble with her heart many times.

06.46:

She returned to Blaenau and got a job with Evan Tudor & Son in Trawsfynydd. “One of the biggest privileges of my life was working as secretary for Dafydd Tudor.” He was a businessman who had left school at nine years old but eventually became High Sheriff of Montgomeryshire. He would sit down with her every Wednesday and tell her secrets, and she would digest everything he said. He cut trees and bought large estates, and his company had a large contract to work under the Conway river before the tunnel was built. She thinks he gave her a taste for engineering work. The war had ended by now and the soldiers had started coming home. She worked for him for ten years until she got married. Her husband didn’t like the idea of her, as a married woman, catching a bus at half past seven in the morning and not coming home until six o’clock in the evening, and then having to do the work at home and cook. She was offered a job as secretary to Mr Metcalf in a factory that had been built by Ffestiniog Town Council for the boys coming home from the war. Mr Metcalf was also a good business man but it was Dafydd Tudor who had given her the best education.

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She had developed an interest in engineering work by doing a buyers’ course. But she worked as a secretary in the factory. It produced machines to peel potatoes, to make chips, to cut all types of meat. It also made commercial machines to mix food which were quite large. Her father-in-law was part of the company. He was the largest shareholder, and she was second in command to him. She worked as an engineering buyer. It was a small factory and employed fifty men, and women in the offices. After she had completed her course she was the chief officer closest to the boss and understood the machines.

She talks of representing the factory at the HTV Studios in Cardiff, and on trips to London. The factory still exists but now it imports modern machines and sells them, and only employs six or seven men.

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It is located in the Glanpwll area. The factory was near the train station, which was a a consideration for the council when they were planning building it, but the train station is now closed.

Boys worked there as craftsmen and engineers, and the oldest ones had to bring their papers to show they were qualified. The girls went to work in the office. It made her angry that boys were taken on from school to be trained to do engineering work but girls were only taken on to work in the office. They wouldn’t be paid the same rate. She changed this so that a girl training in the office would be paid the same rate as a boy training to do his work, although this took time. There were no women working on the factory floor and today all the engineers are men. There are approximately ten working in the office today and there is more office work because the factory doesn’t make anything. The machines they made were built to last a lifetime. These days they last about two or three years. The company is still owned by subsequent generations of the Metcalfe family. It was an old company from Coventry that was established after the First World War and has been in Blaenau since September 1954. She started working for them in 1955 and was there for forty years. She retired when she was sixty nine.

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There were two unions there – one of which was for the electricians. There was no union for the office workers. There were minor accidents occasionally, but nothing major.

They had two weeks holiday a year and all the bank holidays. Some workers travelled to the factory on the bus from Trawsfynydd, and at one time they travelled by train from Trawsfynydd to Blaenau. By this time she had her own staff and secretary, and her secretary would come by bus and be in work shortly after eight o’clock and leave at four. Pegi would be there until half past eight. Pegi felt this woman left work at the busiest time, when the other women were trying to finish their work. She and Mr Richards would put their work on tape for them, leaving her free to do other work. It could get quite busy typing the letters and answering the phones.

Pegi enjoyed the work but didn’t go on any training courses while she was there. Computers were introduced when she was nearly due to finish there, and she sent the girls on courses. The accounts office did the wages. It was a lot of work because they weren’t paid on a flat rate basis, and what they turned out was weighed in order to calculate their pay. The wages were even more complicated in Tudors because they had quarry workers, men working in the forests, office workers and others.

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Pegi talks about Glynllifon and its background and the work Tudor did on the large estates, cutting down trees. Tudor bought Glynllifon from Lord Newborough. They’d known for a year that things were going to be sold off. When the contents of the house were auctioned the Tudors weren’t allowed to bid so she would represent them but would never pay more than five pounds for anything. Tudor was forced to sell the place due to a compulsory purchase order from Caernarfon council who wanted to turn it into an agricultural college.

Throughout her working life Pegi has managed men including on the factory floor. She would never have to ask any man to do anything for her but would rather suggest that they do something for her.

29.00

‘To me a general conversation with women … about curtains, and cooking and children and shopping and – no, I’m not interested ...’

Even though she’s ninety she uses a computer and still drives. Her engineering skills have endured. She’s not sure whether she would have followed the same path today. She had to delay her wedding because of the large project in Conway. She thinks she’s good at managing men without them realising they are being managed.

http://www.lleisiaumenywodffatri.cymru/uploads/VN015.2.pdf

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