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Beryl Evans. Voices from the Factory Floor

INA Needle and Bearings, Bynea, Llanelli (1966-1982)

Interviewee: VSW025 Mrs Beryl Evans

Date: 6/02/2014

Interviewee: Catrin Stevens on behalf of Women's Archive of Wales

Beryl left school at 14, and worked in the Felin-foel brewery, 1941-8, before getting married. Her husband didn't like women working in factories. Then she lost her husband and she had to go to work in INA Bearings to maintain the family. She was on inspection there. She talks about the factory nurse, the noise of the machines, clocking in, the children's Christmas parties, getting a clock for long service and trips. She left the factory in 1982.

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Interview, Beryl Evans. Voices from the Factory...

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Photo: Beryl's clock presented for 15...

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Photo: The INA Bearings factory opening in 1966...

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Photo: Beryl Evan's certificate for 10...

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Photo: INA Bearings dinner dance, 1975.

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Photo: INA Bearings workers outside factory, 1975.

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Photo: INA Bearings workers on night out 1975.

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Photo: INA Bearings workers outside factory 1975.

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Beryl Evans’s maiden name was Beryl Thomas and she was born on 21 March, 1927 in Llanelli. When she was two years old the family moved to the house where she now lives in Felinfoel. Her youngest brother was born in her grandmother’s house two doors away. Before her mother got married, she worked in the brewery in Felinfoel where her father was a saddler. ‘Years ago there were no lorries, it was just horses and carts.’ Beryl’s father was a collier in Tumble Colliery. She had two brothers – Malcolm who went to work in the steel works in Dafen, and Harry (the youngest) who trained to be a carpenter with Bonville Thomas.

She attended school down at the end of the garden – a school that has since been demolished. After primary school she went on to attend a mixed secondary school in Stradey. She left when she was fourteen and went to work in the brewery. She began work in the bottling stores, using machines to fill bottles and put labels onto them. After working in this section she went on to work in the section where the pop was made. She enjoyed it there.

She left school feeling that she had no other option but doesn’t have any regrets about leaving when she did. Her first pay packet contained seven and six, and by the time she left this had increased to fifteen shillings.

The brewery was just a few doors from where Beryl lived. She started work there circa 1941 and left circa 1948 (when she was twenty one) so she was working there during the Second World War. She didn’t have to work in a munitions factory as she thinks she was too young. She got married in 1948 (or 1949) and moved to Llwynhendy. Her husband, Donald, was working in Bynea steel works but left to work in Fisher and Ludlow, making cars and was there for three years before he lost his life in a fishing accident.

5.00

She didn’t carry on working after getting married. She said, ‘I thought, as soon as a woman gets married, her husband keeps her. And that’s how it was years ago – women didn’t go to work – they stayed at home.’ She had one son and she stayed at home to look after him.

Her husband, Donald, drowned in a fishing accident in the river Loughor in June 1965. She started in the factory in Bynea in April 1966. Her son was fourteen years old at the time. She didn’t want to go out to work but felt she had to. ‘I preferred to stay at home, because that’s what I was used to.’

INA Needle and Bearings produced all types of bearings and her work was inspecting them before they left the factory. There were about two hundred people working there when she started. ‘Some girls worked down on the press but I was on the assembly. There were quite a lot of us working on the assembly.’ Beryl and three others worked on the inspection. Beryl didn’t work shifts, although different shifts with more inspectors were introduced later on.

She remembers her first day in work. She didn’t know anybody there and felt very awkward. “I felt like going home to be honest. There were some nice girls there and they made me feel at home, and I got to know them, and we became friends. I started enjoying there then but at first I didn’t like it.”

8.16

The women in the factory came from Llwynhendy, Felinfoel, Dafen, Loughor. They travelled by service bus to work, and later on some started getting a lift to work.

When she first started at INA Bearings everybody wore their own overall but by the time she had finished there the company had started supplying them to the workers. They didn’t wear anything on their heads, gloves or special shoes.

The working day was from eight oclock to half past four. When she started there an older woman called Mrs Lewis showed her the ropes. Beryl got the job in INA Bearings through her friend, Marian, who worked in the office but still had to have an interview before starting the job. The company was German and one of the managers was called Schaeffler.

Beryl describes her work as an inspector - the other girls filled the boxes in the assembly, and they would be sent material from the press as well. There were four of them and after learning the job it was easy. After Mrs Lewis left, they had a male foreman called George. Women worked in the assembly but both men and women worked in the press.

She doesn’t think that people thought of factory work as a negative thing because everybody was on the same level (although she does say later on that her late husband disapproved of women working in factories).

14.45

Beryl enjoyed the work. ‘I enjoyed it ... you had company ... and you were doing something.’ It was boring when work was slack. If bearings were faulty she would tell the foreman and he would put them to one side, and they would be thrown out. If a large number of them were found to be faulty they would have to investigate whether there was a problem with the machine. Beryl did the same job for the duration of the sixteen years that she was there. She doesn’t remember how much she was paid.

Beryl felt she had to go out to work. She would have received a full ‘pension’ when her husband died if she had been over forty years old, but she was only thirty eight. When her son, David, was fifteen, he came home from school and told her he had an interview in Bachelors’, Llanelli as an electrician. She was hoping he wouldn’t get the job. Beryl describes how the union in Trostre, where her husband had worked, enabled her to receive half a ‘pension’ until she was sixty.

David got married when he was twenty one years old.

As soon as she’d started in work she found a large lump in her breast and went to see the nurse in the factory. The nurse sent her to see the doctor who drained the fluid and she hasn’t had any problems since.

21.05

The nurse at work could treat workers for cuts or they would go to her if they were feeling unwell. There were no serious accidents at the factory. Sometimes one of the bearings would be sharp and cut your finger, and care had to be taken that fingers didn’t go into the machine.

The managers would walk around but didn’t speak with the workers. Smoking wasn’t permitted on the factory floor, but people could smoke in the toilets or in the lobby where clothes were kept. Eating on the factory floor wasn’t allowed either because food might get onto the bearings. They would have a break at half past nine for breakfast – tea or coffee and a snack from the canteen – although the press workers wouldn’t have breakfast the same time as them. Everybody would have lunch at the same time. Beryl would usually take her own food to work.

The majority of the women were married. David would have arrived home before her, and would have washed and changed before she got home.

The work she did wasn’t dirty. There were separate toilets for the men and women, and these were clean. Some of the women would tease the men but they didn’t tease new girls. Instead, they looked after them. If somebody came down from the offices they would get teased. People who worked in the offices were considered to be higher up than workers on the factory floor.

26. 37

Lorries would come to collect the bearings and take them to other factories. There were two women working in the packing department.

The wages were good and went up every year. They were paid on a Friday in cash. She was a member of a union but can’t remember which one. “Having a union in work was very important. If there is a disagreement – the union can fight on your behalf.” She remembers a strike at the factory circa 1972 but can’t remember the reason for it (probably about pay). Everybody came out on strike including those workers not in the union because they wouldn’t have been able to work anyway. The conditions in the factory were good and the machines where she worked weren’t too noisy.

33.30

Music wasn’t played in the factory, and the workers didn’t sing as they worked either. It was too noisy to hear the radio anyway because of the machines. Chatting to each other was frowned upon, although they did do this when they had the opportunity.

Beryl hasn’t suffered any health problems as a result of working at the factory. Her working week was from a Monday to Friday, with weekends off. She would be asked to work overtime when there was a rush on to get an order completed, although she couldn’t work on after her mother had become ill. Payments for over-time were at a higher rate. A shift system was introduced a short while after she started working there which meant that the women worked day and afternoon shifts (from six in the morning until two o’clock, and from two o’clock in the afternoon until ten.) Beryl finished work in 1982.

Workers had to clock in and out and would have their wages docked if they were late. Nobody would clock in on anybody else’s behalf to avoid them being docked, as they were too scared of being caught.

She had to keep a note of how much inspection work she completed in a day. She was given targets but doesn’t think she succeeded once in achieving them.

38.10

During holiday time Beryl would usually look after her mother who suffered from ill health. Her mother said, “You’ll have plenty of opportunity to go on holiday after I’ve gone.”

Girls from the factory would go on trips together but didn’t go away on holiday together. The workers would arrange a dinner dance just before Christmas in places like the Goodwick in Pwll (Llanelli).

A party was organized for the children and usually held in Loughor Hall. The first time she went, she took her seven year old niece but later on would take her two grandaughters. Food was laid on and the children were given a lovely present.

Beryl received a watch after ten years service and a clock for fifteen years service (see photograph). Parties would be held to present these awards, when the managers would present them.

The factory in Bynea began in Januay 1966, and Beryl started there in April 1966. Her husband didn’t want her to go and work in a factory. He worked in Fishers. There were women working there and he didn’t like this. In INA Bearing the men didn’t work with the women. The men were in the tool room and down in the press, although there were a few women working down there with them.

During lunch times the lads would go outside and play rugby. She remembers Derek Quinnell working there as a seventeen year old youngster.

47.00

Beryl’s cousin got a job there after she had started there but she worked in the needle factory.

The foreman showed Beryl how to do her job at the beginning. She wasn’t involved in teaching anybody else how to do their work.

She tells a story about a woman called Susan from Gorseinon or Loughor who’s husband drove a hearse to fetch her from work.

If she needed time off for personal reasons, such as attending a funeral, she would lose pay. She was paid for holidays and bank holidays (Christmas, Easter and Whitsun.) She thinks she worked on a Good Friday but had Easter Monday off.

Beryl caught the bus from Penygraig to Bynea to work but the started getting a lift from a man from Ammanford who worked in the tool room, and later on a man from Felinfoel. She moved back to live in Felinfoel in order to help her brother. He worked in Fishers and was suffering ill health so she would help him in the mornings and when he returned from work. Her mother slept in the parlour and Beryl had to help her get up and light a fire for her before going to work by eight.

56.20

Beryl enjoyed working at the factory but left because her mother was ill and she needed to look after her.

She hasnt kept in touch much with women from the factory apart from the odd Christmas card.

Beryl’s photographs:

1. Jim Griffiths MP, the Manager and Beryl on the official opening day of the factory in June 1966.

2. A work’s party in Stradey Park in the 1970s. Office workers, managers, the nurse and canteen workers in the middle row. The workers from the factory floor in the front row including young boys and the foreman.

3. Certificate for ten years service and good attendance.

4. Children’s Christmas, Loughor Hall c. 1977. (Beryl on the right.)

5. Trip to Blackpool – Beryl fourth on the right.

6. The girls on a night out.

7. Workers outside the factory in their overalls, holding a Union Jack in the 1970s.

8. Outside the factory in the 1970s – the girls in their mini skirts: Minwel, Iris, Beryl, Annette, Madge and a girl from Glasfryn

http://www.lleisiaumenywodffatri.cymru/uploads/VSW025.2.pdf

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