Oral History Recordings

The White Rock volunteers and students are exploring the oral history archives in West Glamorgan Archives, Swansea University Miners Library, and Swansea University Richard Burton Archives.

The oral histories are sketchily catalogued. The researchers are updating the catalogues and making snippets of the histories available to the Digital Trails app. Many thanks to all the archives for their permission.

New oral histories area also being taken. Here are some examples, followed by histories held at West Glamorgan Archives Service.

Summary of Oral History Mr. Ken Frederickson, b 1927, recorded 31/10/2013

  • Grandparents were first residents at newly built Windmill Terrace, Grenfell Park Estate.
  • Grandfather Dai Clarke ferryman at White Rock having followed his half brother John Llewellyn.  All lived originally in Samlet Row, White Rock
  • Ferry started each day at 6 a.m.
  • 1d single (c1935); 11/2d return; 41/2d weekly fare.
  • Accompanied his grandfather weekly to the White Rock Estate Office to collect fares due for workers who had used the ferry that week.
  • Allowed to scull the boat only at low tide until he could swim.
  • At very low tide possible to walk across at White Rock.
  • Thrown into Weaver’s basin by his uncle as a swimming lesson!
  • Uncle worked the ferry after his Grandfather until 1942.
  • Grandfather Clarke earned money as a boy soprano singing from pub to pub in Foxhole and Pentrechwyth in late 1880s.
  • Large families in Foxhole and with infant mortality children would move between relatives to balance out numbers.
  • Recalls young boys regularly jumping from Rifleman (Row) wall into empty coal wagons, riding to a curve and slower section of the track and switching to full wagons from the collieries, dropping off lumps of coal to cottagers along the line.
  • Still has scars from boyhood air rifle fights across the river!
  • St. Thomas and new housing in 1920’s viewed as well to do, but Danygraig school children often did not have shoes.
  • Sunday School at All Saints, Kilvey and outings by train to Glais from St. Thomas Station or from East Dock Station to Jersey Marine.
  • Conscripted on 18th birthday and joined Welsh Guards until 1945.
  • Remembers lead workers from White Rock who had lost their sight through lead poisoning.
  • Memories of WW1 veteran amputee carrying hose pipe and broom over his shoulder in his round cleaning urinals in Pentreguinea Road, Bonymaen and Llansamlet.
  • Recalls foul nature of the river and debris from the glue factory derived from cattle hooves!
  • Payment made weekly to friendly society.
  • A van called each Thursday at the home-6d payment for a fresh accumulator for the radio set!
  • Aware of illness and death from tuberculosis.
  • Grandfather and Uncles worked ferry on behalf of Vivian and Sons and their successors.
  • Mrs. Frederickson’s family were of farming stock, but worked for the Vivians also at Singleton Abbey as dairy maid, coachman and gardeners.
  • Remembers women workers at Hafod Isha Works, sitting on wooden ledge dangling their legs during their break. Large female working population using ferry.
  • Boathouse above ferry stage on east bank housed equipment and oars. Bricks kept to weight down sculling oars in water to straighten bent oars.
  • Ferryman had a refuge making tea. Well acquainted with passengers and their lives-source of information.
  • Spare boat anchored below boat house.
  • High Street the shopping centre………..made ferry a convenient and cheaper means of access.

Tjp 03/11/2013


Summary of Oral History Mrs. Doris J, b 1924, recorded 15/10/2013

  • Mrs. J – mother born in a cottage on the riverside (Tawe)
  • Father worked on the railway as did his father.
  • Father gassed in WW1, suffered poor health and died aged 36.
  • Moved as a young child to the “Quarry Cottages” officially Samlet Row immediately above White Rock Works and White Rock Ferry.
  • Four houses in the row with neighbour families: Hancock/Needen/Davies.
  • Attended St. Thomas school, Kilvey Parish Church and Canaan Chapel Band of Hope.
  • Her mother when widowed sought relief from “the Panel” (parish relief) and received a loan of 10/= per week for herself; 5/= for Doris; and 3/= for each of her two sisters.
  • Rent was 8/= per week paid to Mrs. Screech , landlady, who kept a newsagent shop on Port Tennant Road.
  • Mother worked as a cleaner and did washing for 1/6d a household.
  • Two rooms up and two rooms down, with no indoor facilities.
  • Worked at a Printers in Green Dragon Lane before and after the war.
  • Recalls experience of air raids and displaced relatives having to move in with them at Samlet Row!
  • Recalls death of an Uncle in the Copper Works aged 27 years and an Aunt who worked in White Rock as a cook.
  • Describes drams carrying waste over the road on an incline to be dumped on the hillside.
  • No money for school outings but kept well as children. Others not so fortunate, no shoes for school.
  • Paid at the door for medical service and Doctor was across the river near High Street Station.
  • White Rock ferry discussed, 1d  journey.
  • Went to the “Pictorial” cinema, later called “Scala” near the Midland Railway Station, on Wednesday and Saturday, 2d a show.
  • Worked in Cwmfelin Steel Works on war service welding “Jerry  Cans” and used ferry to cross the river, becoming a supervisor, paid £3.10.0d per week.
  • People just got on with things and did not grumble about conditions.

TJP 15th October 2013


Summary of Oral History Mrs. G., b 1948, recorded 20th August 2013

  • Childhood spent in the Old Morfa Inn at Neath Road, Landore
  • Large house, 14 rooms occupied by her parents and sibling (3 back rooms on upper floor) and extended family including Grandmother, Aunts, uncles and cousins. Grandfather had 17 children.
  • Father employed at RTB Landore Steel Works
  • Used Landore Station for train to High Street
  • Remembers ritual of mother cleaning steps and passages in the house
  • Very conscious of the Hafod tip where children, although discouraged by parents, used to play and of being left behind by other older children on one occasion!  Her brother still describes the tip as being “red”.
  • Attended Hafod School and Tabernacle Welsh Presbyterian Sunday School
  • Remembers garden walls built with slag blocks and rough top stones.
  • Moved in 1957 to a new house at the newly built Blaen y Maes , Council Housing Estate
  • Three bedrooms, bathroom and indoor toilet.   Very pleased to have a home of their own with modern facilities and privacy!!
  • Husband recalled an Uncle describing his daily route to work from North Hill Swansea, via Maliphant Street under the railway, over the canal (disused) across sidings to use the White Rock Ferry, to reach Aeron Thomas Saw Mill.

TJP 20th August 2013


Summary of an oral history by Mrs. Olive Clarke born 1907 recorded on 31st January  1995


  • Member of Kilvey Church Mother’s Union for 60 years.
  • Father worked in Vivian Lead Works at White Rock.
  • Grandmother, from N. Ireland sailed from Liverpool by Coaster arriving at North Dock.
  • Brother Charlie unable to walk – other school boys ‘piggy backed’ to St. Thomas school day after day.
  • Attended an outdoor concert at Lord Grenfell’s mansion, ‘Maesteg House’, in  1914 in aid of comfort for the troops.
  • Recalls unofficial midwife Sarah Thomas who attended countless deliveries when called to assist, as long as a jug of beer was provided!
  • Remembers Grenfell Copper and Vivian Lead production at White Rock.
  • Understood that the rights of the ferry were secured by Grenfells and Vivians from Duke of Beaufort for £1000 in compensation. Rent paid also to Swansea Vale Railway.
  • Ferry worked each day, her husband George worked the afternoon and night, and his father David the morning stint until David became ill.
  • George paid 25/= per week by his father .Wages came from White Rock Estate. Ferryman kept the fares.
  • Shoppers used the ferry to reach the Hafod and a tram into town.
  • Husband called up and spent 6 years in forces.
  • LMS operated ferry from 1942 employing dock workers, until closure in 1945.
  • Christmas Eve 1942, Arthur Rees, 14 year old apprentice at Aeron Thomas Timber yard fell from ferry on a stormy night and drowned. George on leave, asked to locate the body.

TJP      4/11/2013


TH20  Mr. Lambert Noel  b 14/11/1902, recorded 02/11//1975 WGAS

  • Born in Belgium as were his parents, lived early life in Plasmarl, Swansea.
  • Father a foreman at Landore Spelter Works.
  • Worked 24 hours on and 24 hours off.
  • Wages £1.5.0d in 1905 per week.
  • Family considered themselves middle class.
  • Description of mixing a charge of Blend Duff, coal and Calamine.
  • Description of Spelter process.
  • Rev. and Mrs. Lamb, minister at Salem Chapel Landore well respected for handing out food coupons of 5/= value to those in need of food supplies.
  • Moved to a row of cottages at The Graig, accessed by horse and cart up a rough road, rented at 2/6d per week.
  • Second of ten children, able at The Graig to keep pigs, chickens, ducks and geese for the table.
  • A well 600 yards from cottages for water.
  • Use tram from Trwyddfa Common to Swansea market on Saturday evening; meat auctioned off after 10pm.
  • Recalls tram way across Cwm level from Pentre Pit to the Canal. (There is a good photo)
  • Recalls cages for miners to descend Copper Pit by the Duke pub.
  • Recalls brick making from slag at Copper Pit up to 50 employed in 1930’s.
  • Remembers Tawe full of acid; coal waste and sewerage, with no fish and a foul smell, and being scolded if the river water stained clothes.
  • Whit Sunday outings from chapel by barge to Ynystawe Park, with benches provided on sawdust.

[Mr. Noel died in 1989]


TH23  Mr. John Nathaniel  b 14/7/1894, recorded 30/10/1975 WGAS

  • Born in Landore and lived in Landeg Street, Landore and Dinas Street, Plasmarl.
  • Worked as a Bargeman on Swansea Canal  1907-1912.
  • His father David was a Canal Bargeman for a time also.
  • When 13 years of age while in school at Plasmarl required one day to leave class by a Vivian employee to fill in for an absent bargeman for a period of two weeks.
  • Working full time on the Swansea Canal from age 14 years.
  • William Davies a deacon at Moriah Chapel was in charge of the boatmen and canal.
  • Russian Coal carried by barge to the Spelter Works.
  • Barges horse drawn, one horse for two barges from Canal basin in the Strand.
  • Four locks to negotiate, 5 minutes each, only rest point for the horse.
  • Transporting coal for the Pottery in Morriston; the Spelter Works; Hafod Copper Works and Atlantic Fuel Works.


TH38  Mr. Thomas Thomas   b 11/9/1897, recorded 16/10/1975 WGAS

  • Living in Treboeth in 1975.
  • Father a miner at the Vivian and Sons colliery at Mynydd Newydd.
  • Attended Moriah Chapel  Treboeth.
  • Left school at age 14 and called at the Manager’s house on the way home on the Friday, and started work at the colliery on the Monday morning.
  • Wages 7/6d to 10/= every two weeks.
  • 1911 worked in the 5 foot seam at Mynydd Newydd Colliery with an older man.
  • Started on morning shift 7 til 3.30 six days per week.
  • Cage to coal surface and Seam sides made of brick.
  • Seams measured by their height, not depth below the surface.
  • No pumps in 5 foot seam.
  • Responsible for keeping roadway clear to allow water to run away to the 6 foot seam where there was a Beam Engine to pump water to surface.
  • 16 horses kept underground for 5 foot seam.
  • Services held on Monday morning off main track in 5 foot seam. Chapel created in 6 foot seam with seats, run by the colliers. [Photograph exists]
  • Admitted to a few accidents, usually burns when naked lights ignited gas.
  • Locomotive at the surface to take coal to the Incline …
    (Penlan Fach to Brynhyfryd-drawing exists)

[Interview muffled and unclear thereafter …]


TH01  Mr. Alfred George Clarke,  b 24/11/1906, recorded 4/2/1975

  • Early and working life while living at 4, Samlet Row, White Rock lists the works.
  • Followed his father c1931 onto ferry.
  • Discusses characters using the ferry and when drunk.
  • Describes boat, sculling, flood river conditions.
  • Mrs. Clarke describes living conditions; infant mortality; schooling; and collecting cinders for fuel.
  • Describes working the ferry  and fare.
  • Mrs. Clarke recalls a recent conversation with elderly Mrs. Rice relative of first White Rock ferry operators and origin of ferry.
  • Mr. Clarke describes the Vivian Phosphate works opposite ferry.
  • Description of ‘Becca Pee’ collecting urine.
  • Mr. Clarke describes various jobs in his life.
  • Ferry rents, running times, and pattern of use.


TH63 DIXON Mathias

    • Early life and school in Plasmarl.
    • Recreation and church.
    • Work in Morfa copperworks – rolling and associated processes. pay. clothing worn. union.
    • Coal pits
    • Work in Hafod copperworks – comparisons
    • Lay offs in the 1930s


TH12 ALBAN, Edmund John

  • Upbringing in Hafod in 1920s -discussion of father’s work with horses.
  • Work in copperworks 1930s onwards – explanation of processes such as quenching.

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