arrowbookcheckclosecommentfacebookfavourite-origfavouritegooglehomeibapdfsearchsharespotlighttwitterNoddir gan Lywodraeth Cymru | Sponsored by Welsh Government

Nanette Lloyd. Voices from the Factory Floor

Fairweather Works, Ponthenri (also known as John Patterson's and John Pattinson's) (c1954 – 1957)

Interviewee: VSW004 Nanette Lloyd

Date: 15.11.13

Interviewee: Susan Roberts on behalf of Women's Archive of Wales

After leaving school at 15 she became a waitress and worked in a shoe shop before starting in the factory c.1953, printing tablecloths. If you spoiled the work it came out of your pay. She mentions the unhealthy smell of the paint (dye); earning £20 a week; carrying heavy rolls affecting her periods. She had a nasty accident because she wasn't wearing rubber wellingtons. No union. The Pont-henri factory was built for coalminers with silicosis but the paint fumes were too strong. She believes that the company's workers in Birmingham earned more than them. The cloths were sent all over the world and the girls put messages in with the orders to get pen-friends. The workers smelled of thinners. They stole bleach to clean their nails She learned to dance in the cloakroom. She left when her mother died to keep house for her father and brothers. Some verbal harassment of young boys in the factory. Singing on a Friday. Taking a float to Pont-henri carnival. Drinks at Xmas.

Items in this story

Favourites Icons A vector image of a heart to represent a Favourite Item

Interview, Nanette Lloyd. Voices from the...

Favourites Icons A vector image of a heart to represent a Favourite Item

Photo: Nanette Lloyd and the gang of...

Favourites Icons A vector image of a heart to represent a Favourite Item

Photo: Fairweather Works float in Ponthenri...

Favourites Icons A vector image of a heart to represent a Favourite Item

Photo: Nanette Lloyd and friend dressed as Red...

Favourites Icons A vector image of a heart to represent a Favourite Item

Photo: Nanette Lloyd and the girls with their...

Nanette (maiden name Evans) was born on 17th August, 1937 in New Road, Pontyberem. Her father worked in Pentremawr Colliery as a fireman (official). He had a responsible job but didn’t earn as much as the miners. Her mother had worked in Meredith’s newspaper shop next door to the surgery in Pontyberem until she got married.

Nanette had three brothers. (Nanette was the second child.) She went to school in Pontyberem Infants School (which is now the Jehovah’s Witness building) and then on the the ‘annexe’ school which was at the bottom of the village. Nanette didn’t mind going to school. She didn’t know what she wanted to do after leaving but didn’t want to get married. She was good with her hands and could sew. She had learnt at school and from her mother. She would be mending clothes (darning her brothers’ socks) with her mother every Sunday afternoon. This is why she didn’t stay at home often on this day. She’d go to Sunday school or go up to her grandmother’s house.

She left school when she was fifteen. Her friend had gone to work in a large restaurant in Llanelli called Alegri’s, and Nanette followed her. They only had girls from Pontyberem working there because they were good workers. Nanette worked as a waitress but wanted to work behind th counter. They wouldn’t let her work behind the counter, even after her mother had bought her the white overall, so she finished there and went to work in a shoe shop in Market Street.(RM Lewis shoe shop, opposite the Vince cinema.) She’d found out about the job from the “Unemployment” in Llanelli. Her parents had encouraged her to give up the job at the cafe because she wasn’t being treated properly. She was only earning one pound and ten shillings. She was at home for six weeks after finishing the waitressing.

She had a half day from the shoe shop on a Tuesday and cycled to Ponthenri. Her sister in law worked there in the factory so Nanette went to take a look at what they did there. She knew that they earned good money and wanted a job printing at one of the tables rather than in the finishing room. This factory was called Fairweather Works and they made table cloths. She began there circa 1954 or 1955 when she was sixteen or seventeen.

Nanette had been aware that they needed girls at the factory before going down. Her and another girl were put to work on the towelling. The wage was a basic two pound ten shillings a day. The boss, Mr Buttle, told her ‘do as much as you can, but I want it perfect’. If she made a mistake the table cloth became a “second” and the cost came out of her wages. This meant that she had to be careful. She used dye to colour the cloths. (She called it ‘paint’.)

She sewed material together that would be hanging out of the trolleys. They did not stop the machinery in order to do this. She was trained by the foreman called Vivian Hughes. She was expected to get the hang of the work straight away which Nanette did easily.

There were girls there who were ‘scholars’, unlike Nanette they had been to the grammar school (Gwendraeth) attracted by the good wages.

00.09.56:

On a good week, Nanette could bring home twenty pounds a week. (She’d been earning about two pounds in the shoe shop.) She travelled to work on the James’s bus but if she missed it she would cycle down (approximately two miles.) She remembers she would get off the bus in Myrtle Hill and walk down to the factory. The tip would be burning and there was a terrible smell. It looked as if there was a veil over the village.

Nanette doesn’t think that the factory was a healthy place to work. There was an awful smell coming off the paint and the thinners.

‘I hadn’t seen anything before I went to work there, and I loved it. And I worked hard... It wasn’t boring. It wasn’t like an ordinary factory.’

To make the table cloth there was a different screen for every colour. She would use a large squidgy pushing the ‘paint’ back and forth. It was skilled, but heavy work because the screen was heavy. She would fetch rolls of material to lay on the long table. The trolley wouldn’t be available as it was usually being used elsewhere. She was having periods every week at that time because the work was so heavy, and her mother kept on telling her that she should give up working there. The men had made trolleys for the girls to fetch the material.

In the top room the women weren’t on piece work. This is where the finishing, packaging, cutting, and sewing took place (although the cutters were on piece work.)

Nanette was very happy to be on piece work.

00.13.17: I’d gone there to get money for me and Mammy, but I didn’t get more money. She used to give about ten bob.’

She would have to take her pay packet home for her mother who would open it. Nanette felt very proud that she was earning so much money. Her mother didn’t want to give her too much pocket money because she smoked.

There were twenty girls working on the printing at the factory (two for each table) and another five worked in the area where they softened, bleached and washed the material. It was like sacking and they put it through this process until it became thin and ‘beautiful’ linen. Mr Thomas from Victoria Road (Ponthenri) worked on the big machines that washed and pressed and putt the material onto rolls. This was after the boys had washed, softened and bleached it.

Nanette describes a bad accident she had one day using the machine she operated to stitch the material together.

‘I had a bad one... I went to pull it when I started one morning, and I was thrown from here to across the road’ Luckily I didn’t land in the machines... I wasn’t wearing rubber on my fee. The manager gave me money the day after, ‘go and get yourself a pair of wellies’. Well, I should have had them when I was put on the job.’

00.16.04: She was back in work two days later. They didn’t have a union. If anybody had a complaint they went to the office and it was seen to. The bosses at the factory had said, ‘anybody starts talking about an Union, and you’re out’. There were two factories – the one in Ponthenri and another in Birmingham. According to Nanette the workers in Ponthenri did more work and better work than the workers in the Birmingham factory. They shut the factory in Birmingham but kept the one in Ponthenri open because they had cheap labour there. The men who brought the material down to them and took the stuff away after it had been made told them this.

00.17.01:

‘It was a known thing. We had no Union.’

The factory had been built for the men who had worked in the mines and were now suffering from silicosis, but they would not have been able to work there anyway because of the fumes from the paint. There weren’t many men working there. Tony Lewis, Godfrey Tucker – Tony was on the machines and Mr Thomas on the big machine. Berisford was on the other machines which glazed and rolled. In the colour hourse there were about three men. (The manager’s son was one of them.)

The printers were the ones who earned the big money. At home, Nanette’s family were glad of her wage, especially as she had two younger brothers. (The eldest brother went to the Navy.) Nanette’s mother had wanted her to go to technical college because she was good at sewing. Nanette knew what the circumstances at home were like and wanted to earn money. Looking back, Nanette thinks she made the right decision in not going to technical college. ‘I wanted money for my mother and father. Well, for my mother ....’

Nanette would catch the ten past seven bus from Pontyberem to Ponthenri to go to work. The other girls from the village went to factories like Morris Motors.

00.21.37:

‘Very, very good company. Very, very good company, and nobody took advantage of anybody else. Everybody did their work. And respect.’

00.22.09: ‘There was no nastiness or animosity. I remember my mother saying, because I had a wild temper, ‘Remember now, you’re going to work with a lot of women. You’ve got to behave Nanette and control that temper.’

Nanette once swung a piece of wood with a hook attached to it at one of the girls in the factory. The girl told her mother. (She is married to Nanette’s brother now.) Everybody knew everybody else in the factory. Nanette met her future husband in the factory, although the marriage didn’t last.

The women who worked there were a mixture of single women and married women, and were roughly the same age as Nanette. The women there carried on working after having children if their mother was able to look after the baby.

Nanette went to dances in Ponthenri, in the YM (which is now the hall.) The factory arranged dinners for them . They arranged one Christmas dinner in the Stepaside in Llanelli. They had the most magnificient Christmas tree Nanette had ever seen which was decorated with decorations they’d never seen before. The girls stripped the tree and stole the decorations. Nanette was ashamed and said in the canteen afterwards,’you should be fucking ashamed that you’ve done such a thing.’ They brought some of them back for her to take back to the place.

‘And it was all local girls, if you went to work in Morris Motors, they came from everywhere... They were rougher than us.’

Welsh was the language of the factory, except when they were talking to the manager who was English.

00.31.05: Nanette talks of her accident again.

‘I went down one morning and I went down to touch the machine and the earth had come out of the plug and I was thrown yards, and landed in the water. There were five of them there trying to stop me from shaking. One on that leg, and one on that leg. One on this arm, and somebody else on that arm and Edna, Sally’s mother trying to stop me shaking from the shock.’

Nanette’s mother had a fright when she was brought home. She went straight to bed. Nanette doesn’t blame the factory for what happened because it was an ‘accident’.

Nobody took a day off for anything because it meant losing money. She would have a fortnight’s holiday, plus Christmas and Easter. (She also mentions stop week.) She says they weren’t paid for bank holidays.

Nanette didn’t care for the girls in the top room. She wasn’t familiar with them. The supervisors were women from Ponthenri. Nanette knew them well and liked them. They were ‘lovely ladies’ and they knew how to do their jobs.

The workers could buy tablecloths at cost price. (The seconds) They printed 36”, 45”, 52” and 72” table cloths. They were very beautiful and good quality, and Nanette felt very proud. Nanette remembers the fish man on the street teasing her, ‘Here’s the girls with the big money coming’. He could smell them coming because they smelt of the thinners that they used to clean off the dye. It made a mess of the girls’ nails.

One woman called Marina Jones used to speak to the bosses on behalf of the girls.

‘We were a good gang. A good gang of girls. No arguments, no quarrelling. You put three women to work together and there’s quarrelling.’

They didn’t tolerate anybody being awkward. ‘We didn’t put up with it. We’d tell them straight. ‘Pull yourself together and bloody behave. I wasn’t afraid of anybody anyway. ..I haven’t got a shy bone in my body.’

They got used to the chemicals they used to clean their nails. It was like raw bleach. Nanette’s nails would curl back instead of growing straight. They weren’t supposed to use it but would steal some from the boys doing the bleaching in order to get their nails clean. Another way that Nanette got her nails clean was by washing towels at home in the bath for her mother.

00.40.08: Nanette claims to be the first in the (Gwendraeth) valley to wear jeans. They were Number Sevens from the Navy. A Jewish man called with her mother and offered to bring trousers for her to wear to work. Everybody wanted them then. They didn’t issue workers with overalls or a uniform. The girls used material ends and odd pieces tied round them to protect their clothes (as in picture VSW004.3).

The toilets in the factory were spotless. There was a canteen in the front and an office on the side. The canteen didn’t provide food it was just a place to eat and drink. Nanette would sit with the boys. When she’d started work she’d started with them.

One of the girls in packing would put little notes in with the tablecloths which were sent out. As a result the girls had pen pals all over the world. Nanette wasn’t interested. She had a pen pal once but sold her.

00.43.28: It was very noisy in the factory due to the machines. They didn’t wear anything to protect their ears.

‘We never had anything for anything, we didn’t have any clothing or nothing, nor gloves, nothing. Nothing.’

It was cold in the factory and Nanette may have developed rheumatism as a result. There were heaters in the ceiling, drying the table cloths.

Nanette learnt how to dance in the factory cloak room, but never learnt how to turn a corner.

‘I loved it. I loved it. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. I broke my heart when I had to finish.’

00.44.48: Nanette finished when her mother became ill and died. She goes on to talk of the cause of her mother’s death, and of her father. Her mother’s death meant that she had to face the fact that she would have to give up work to look after the family.

‘I nearly broke my heart. And I had all the house work to do. And they [her father and brothers] were all working... And I knew I had to do lunch boxes for them ... That was in front of me every night before I came home from work, before I went to bed.’

Her friends from work would come to visit her after she’d finished work but her father didn’t like this. Nanette felt embarrassed by this. Nanette says her father was strict and was a selfish man, and was unwilling that Nanette spent time with her friends. He never forgave her for getting pregnant.

Nanette talks of helping her mother with the household chores.

She talks about going to have a smoke in the toilets in work. If one of the girls went to the toilet, another would join her and they’d have a smoke together and a pee. They couldn’t spend too much time there though.

The girls in the top room knew that Nan and her colleagues were earning money. Nanette would tell them to shut up, and say that they weren’t capable of doing her work. They would shut up like that.

Nanette says there was a lot of leg pulling but she would not tolerate things going too far such as women threatening to strip the boys and tie them up.

It was a five day week in the factory. They were expected to work a Saturday as well but Nanette’s father was unwilling for her to do it as he thought five days was enough. Nanette tried to argue that she should go in. ‘Listen now Dadi, if I go in on Saturday, I’ll get a good pattern and an easier one for the week’. But he was adamant that she couldn’t go.

She started work at eight and finished at a quarter to five. They had a morning break and an hour for lunch and many girls walked home for their lunch, and walked back. They had to clock in and clock out. (They had to clock out at lunch times if they were going home.) Nobody ever cheated on this.

There was a woman called Mrs Beresford from Pontiets who made tea for them, and somebody who was called Bowen Bach who cleaned there.

Years later Nanette worked behind a bar in order to earn money for her son’s school trip to Switzerland.

Nanette had a lot of fun in the factory. If somebody told a joke you could ‘see’ it going round the tables.

They used to sing quite often on a Friday afternoon. Somebody would start and the ten tables would join in.

‘Good times mind, friendly times. Good gang. Nobody being unfair to anybody else. Because if you put three women together one of them will be a bitch.’

They all respected each other. There was no social club or recreation club at the factory.

01.01.16: Nanette mentions Glenda and Annie Lewis (VSW003) who worked at the factory. Annie worked upstairs and Glenda worked on the printing.

Nanette refers to her father being strict again, and going out to dances in Ammanford.

Nanette got married when she was twenty, about a year after her mother died. She feels she couldn’t be as good as her mother. They were a close family and became even closer following the death of her mother.

Nanette did bar work years later. She was a single parent. Nanette describes her photographs. (VSW004.3 – VSW004.6)

01.06.13:

The girls wrapped cut offs of material around their clothes to protect them from the dye. Glenda Lewis (VSW003 is in the photograph) and somebody called Ken the Rubbish. He wheeled away the waste dye.

The photographs of Nanette and the Fairweather workers in Ponthenri carnival show them wearing outfits they made with material from the factory. This was sanctioned by the boss. Nanette made a Red Indian’s costume. They dressed up for this carnival every year.

Nanette talks about how things have changed – women didn’t go to pubs and drink in those days. She remembers going to the kitchen in the Bridge pub while the men drank in the bar. All the clubs in the area were for men only such as the Workingmen’s Club in Pontyberem, and Ponthenri Workingmen’s Club.

Nanette talks about her family

http://www.lleisiaumenywodffatri.cymru/uploads/VSW004.2.pdf

Comments (0)

You must be logged in to leave a comment