The Tinworks at Lydney and an account by Hylton Miles.
The following account of his early working days at Lydney Tinplate Works is reproduced below with the kind permission of the author Mr Hylton Miles
SOME WELL KNOWN CHARACTERS IN THE 1930's AT RICHARD THOMAS & CO. LYDNEY
by Hylton Miles
In my early months in the mills, I used to watch with awe the skill
of some of the millmen and how some made it look so easy. My mind goes
back to well,over 50 years ago watching the late Tom (Colonel) Bayliss
a massive man who handled his tongs with the white hot tinplate as if
it was paper. To walk through the mills at 8.30 am (Breakfast Time) the
smell of Bacon and Eggs being cooked, there were so many ways they cooked
their bacon and egg in that era, on a shovel, on the foreplate on the
furnace or made a small dish and with a red hot bar end then put the
dish on it, plenty of home cured bacon in those days. Other millmen at
that time, who I remember were Bill Brice, Jack Thomas, Jack Kear, Jimmy
Wintour, Dan Davies to name just a few. On the maintenance side I remember
the sterling work carried out by the late Henry Matthews, called out
at all hours of the night should a rollerman have the misfortune to break
a roll, on evening shift or night shift. Then there were the three Merrett
brothers Will, Albert and Dick, cousins of my grandfather, Will in charge
of his gang that emptied the coal trucks into the coal pens, Albert on
the Iron Cutter and Dick in control of the stores. Arriving in the Cold
Roll Department, I have already mentioned the foreman, the late Frank
Hussey, his staff consisted of the late Bill Miles (Herrin), Fred Davies
(Dink), Arch Ford, Bob Gardiner and Cyril Price. Others that come to
mind are the late Charlie White (Bread of Heaven) the local preacher,
how he tried to keep us boys on the straight and narrow. Then there was
the men in charge of the Cold Rolls engines Dick Morgan, Harry (Crucky)
James and Bert (Daddler) Davies. I also recall some of the millmen from
Aylburton, who in their leisure time would go down to the river shrimping
and salmon fishing and also on the garden where they would bring in the
odd onion or carrot, the onion weighing up to lIb plus, and then the
dry remark' 'I've been thinning urn. out." No doubt the older inhabitants
of Aylburton will remember when they used to come to the Bream Flower
Show with their produce and I must refer to one old gentleman, the late
Granny Jones (yes that was his nickname) who more often than not carried
off the cup for the best collection of vegetables.
Going back to the Cold Roll department, I well remember hearing that engine droning away in my native village of Bream and when cycling down to Lydney in the mornings you could hear the millmen rolling iron. As a boy I rarely bought any cigarettes, I used to fetch them from Mrs Davies' s shop in Church Road for the various millmen and always take one fag out of every packet for fetching them.
Then we had the millmen traveling by bus (or covered wagon) from Lydbrook there was sufficient to run the bus on the three shifts, some of those gentlemen were the Price brothers, Jim Wadley, Harold Lear, Harold Taylor and Russell Creed to name but a few. In those days a Bank Holiday was a Holiday without pay, any holidays. When I worked in the Cold Roll Dept., I worked if I was asked, holidays without pay were of no use to me. No doubt some of my older colleagues will recall when some of the older men liked to have their flutter on the "Gee Gee's" and how we boys would cycle out to Aylburton to the bookies with the slip in our dinner break a couple of times a week, this was always worth ten Woodbines, 4 pence old money. I think the most humiliating time for us all in the thirties was during the time that the works were closed due to lack of orders, it was forming a queue 3 abreast stretching from the old Labour Exchange opposite Gateways the Unemployment Office being upstairs, the queue would be down opposite the Bridge Public House, and in those days it was attend the Unemployment Office 3 times per week for the sum of: under 21 years of age-12/6d (62 1/2p today) or 14 shillings if over 21 years (70p today). Oh yes these were the "Good Old Days," well I for one have no desire to partake of a "Second Helping" of that particular time in my young life.
I left the Tinplate works in June 1939, I remember one afternoon on the 2.00 pm to 10.00 pm shift and seeing some men at forty looking older than their years it was then I decided that I must get away. Although we worked a week in hand if you wished to terminate your employment with Richard Thomas & Company they expected a month's notice, in writing, this was the company rule.
If the Health and Safety at Work Act had been with us in those days
we would in all probability have been unemployed as an H.M. Inspector
of Factories would have placed a 'closure order' on that plant.
I well remember the late Mr Fred Richards losing the four fingers of his one hand whilst changing the blade on the shears, this happened around the time that I left the company.
It was surprising how many families in the Lydney district who had fathers, brothers and sons employed in the works, families such as the Haddock family, the Nelmes family and not forgetting the George brothers from Alvington.
The works in those days employed a number of players who played rugger for Lydney R.F.C. quite a few of the works employees played for their county. In the local press in those days Lydney R.F.C. was often referred to as the '.'Tin Platers" and their fixture list included most of the Welsh Premier teams including Aberavon, Neath, Bridgend and Llanelli.
I wonder how many of my former colleagues can remember when it poured with rain and you were wet through, we would stand by the furnaces in the Annealing Department, suddenly you saw a "Scotch Mist" it was a wonder we did not catch more than the common cold.
I feel I must pay tribute to the late Mr Albert Neale of Aylburton. His patience and guidance in what was a very dangerous occupation was that of a Father to Son relationship. I worked for this gentleman for approximately 2 years and on reflection I feel that the encouragement and advice he gave me played a major role in my life. He was a "Super Guy."
Thanks also to Steve Haddock who added (December 2013): "... So nice to find a picture of where my late father 'Bob' Haddock worked. I remember seeing his marriage certificate and it stated Tin Plate Worker".
Peter Stinton added (August 2017): "... My Granddad. - Edwin Pritchard of Channel View, Primrose Hill Lydney was Engine Driver of the Tin Plate RTB works stationary steam engine providing power to the whole of the works until --- I think 1934 when he died in his Early 60s,
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