The White Rock volunteers and students are exploring the oral history archives in West Glamorgan Archives Service, 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.
These summaries of West Glamorgan Archives Service recordings were made by Tudor and Janet Price (TJP), and Bleddyn Penny (BP).
TH01 Mr. Alfred George Clarke, b 24/11/1906, recorded 4/2/1975 (TJP)
- 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.
- Dylan Thomas on the ferry and Canaan Chapel Foxhole.
- Grenfells and their school.
- Names the tugs working the river.
TH20 Mr. Lambert Noel b 14/11/1902, recorded 02/11//1975 WGAS (TJP)
- 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 (TJP)
- 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.
- 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 (TJP)
- 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 …]
TH63 DIXON Mathias (TJP)
- 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 (TJP and BP)
- Upbringing in Hafod in 1920s -discussion of father’s work with horses.
- Work in copperworks 1930s onwards – explanation of processes such as quenching.
- Discussion of what Copper worker used to wear:
No protective clothing, just sacks soaked with water and flannel shirts to absorb the sweat.
- Discussion of what Copper worker used to wear:
- Remembers accidents as being fairly common at the copper works and remembers several colleagues being killed.
TH13 – Grenfell, W.H. (BP)
- Born in 1904.
- Went to work as a clerk at the Morfa Copper Works in July 1918 (aged 14)
- Description of his daily duties as a junior clerk: mainly filing etc.
- Description of the area at the time:
Lots of smoke and sulfur fumes. When asked whether he used to cough a lot, he replied: “fumes catch you in the throat, didn’t usually take much notice of it.”
- Discussion of the strikes from 1918-1924: Affected the supply of coal to the copper works.
- However, industrial relations at the Copper Works were described as good:
Recalls the manager being frequently on site and knowing all the workers by name.
TH25 – David John Dixon and Iorwerth Thomas (BP)
- Born 1892 and 1904.
- Description of his father who worked at the Morfa Copper Works:
Remembers his father coming home covered in sweat.
He worked constantly over the heat so that he would frequently come home with and his “face was burnt red.”
His father worked at the Morfa Works for 52 years and when he left in 1934 he was given £5
- Discussion of camaraderie/working culture at the Morfa Works:
Everyone was known by nicknames, such as Jack ‘Lava bread’ and Johnny ‘Big Orange’.
You “never knew some people’s real names.”
- Interesting story about younger workers getting up to mischief at the plant:
Younger boys were sent by the older workers to the pub at lunch time to bring beer back for the copper workers.
They would take tea cans with them and fill them up with beer at the local pub.
However, boys were known to swig from the workers’ beers on their way back to the Works and top them up with tap water so that the workers’ would not notice their beer had gone.
This practice was eventually found out and workers took to getting their own beer.