Author: South Wales Miners Library, Swansea University
Provider: South Wales Miners' Library
Interview of Thomas, Bryn by Jones, Merfyn on 23rd November 1972.
The interview forms part of Swansea University�s South Wales Miners� Library collection.
1 audio file (7 min. 30 sec.)
Jones, Merfyn: How about sport, did they play sport in Llandeilo with the same …… ?
Thomas, Bryn: Yes, Llandeilo had a higher class football than here. They were playing the likes of Swansea and Neath, say eighty years ago. But Llandybie wasn’t in that class, Llandybie was more in the junior class at the time. Llandeilo was a town.
Jones, Merfyn: Now you worked in this Saw Mill. You told me how much you earned, what did you do there? Just carried…. ?
Thomas, Bryn: Ah, behinder, behind the saw, taking on product from the sawyer. He was pushing in a log by here, a piece of wood, or square wood if you like, and you took out the, what came out from the, after being sawed. Very often it was, they were going like boards and frames for making boxes for the tin works in Pontardulais or Grovesend where they were going, and we were taking, we were sawing up frames and like lattice boards you know for munition trays for Burry Port for the First World War. Because there were about 25 girls employed in this saw mills, and the likes of us boys of about twelve or thirteen, took these boards and frames to the girls for them to repair, to make repairs.
Jones, Merfyn: I see, how many people worked altogether in the saw mills?
Thomas, Bryn: Oh about thirty five. But there was about twenty five girls, and of course there was one Belgian refugee there, she came over in 1914 when the German invasion of Belgium.
Jones, Merfyn: It was one of the few places then that women could work?
Thomas, Bryn: Yes, that’s the only place. I don’t know of any place this way that had women working in the first World War. But they were working in this saw mill.
Jones, Merfyn: Do you remember the conditions during the First World War, any…?
Thomas, Bryn: Oh yes, I remember the first day of the war, I was in Swansea Dock. The first day of the war. My father well he was educating us by taking us down to Swansea, anywhere that there was something to learn. He was taking us down to the docks that day to show us how ships were loaded and what the ice was for, because you know a trough can do with ice in the ship, it was for storage of meat, sure to be, or any... And I remember that day there was a big commotion on the quayside, all these onion men with horse and carts were debating, they had been called back to France at a minute’s notice, because they had declared national war, and because they didn’t know what to do with their onions nor their carts, nor their horses, but the instruction was that they had to leave them there. It was for the British then to see to that wasn’t it.
Jones, Merfyn: What was the reaction to the war, can you remember anybody in this area opposing the war or…?
Thomas, Bryn: No. They were enthusiastic.
Jones, Merfyn: Everybody?
Thomas, Bryn: Well you know there was no holding back then, then at the beginning of the war, they quite a lot of people went on their own, they didn’t wait to be called up you know, volunteers. Of course there was Kitchener’s Army then about 1915, he had his poster up pointing like this, “Your Country Needs You”, quite a lot of people responded there. And people that volunteered and were unable to pass, just to show people that they were not, you know, wouldn’t volunteer to go, they wore armbands, , perhaps they’d only passed B2 or C3 but just to show that you had submitted yourself for service, you were allowed to wear an arm badge here.
Jones, Merfyn: Did it change at all during the war. Did people you know after the initial sort of rush to join up and enthusiasm for the war, did people get weary because prices rising and…?
Thomas, Bryn: As the war …. It wasn’t that much, it was the conditions out in France were so horrible that even the youngsters who were coming up realised that, when they joined in 1914 everybody was going enthusiastically, about three months war it was supposed to be. But by 1915, ’16 or ‘17 like that the realities of war had dawned on the conscript, because conscription was brought in about 1916. Well he realised that he was going for something different than a picnic. Because you take when the Boer War came out, they didn’t have to have many men, about twelve volunteered to go out to the Boer War at Llandeilo, well only about twelve men went. There was no need for the call like there was in 1914, it was a bigger war, and of course things went alright say the first year or two but as the war dragged on, of course you had no choice conscription came in. The conditions at home were very, very bad. 1917 the bread was really black, with a hole right through the middle of the loaf, you’d swear a mouse had been through it. I don’t know what the flour was made out of, well, you couldn’t get tea, sugar and oh I can’t remember the lot, everything was scarce, we came nearer to starvation in 1917, than ever we came in 1945. The food was twice as bad and it was not, you couldn't have it, no meat, very limited amount of meat.
Jones, Merfyn: And your family were particularly hard hit?
Thomas, Bryn: Well my father died in1917, at the worst time of the war, and we didn't have the money and we didn’t have, I know for certain my mother didn’t rise the sugar ration nor the butter, we couldn’t afford it. It was only a small amount but and now I remember she couldn’t afford to have it so it must have been accumulated for somebody else.
Jones, Merfyn: So you went into the colliery in 1919, just after the war? Can you remember your first day at work?
Thomas, Bryn: Yes, the men now were coming back from the First World War and everybody was enthusiastic and there was peace and prosperity in the mines, there was no colliery on stop ever, they were going at full employment. Everything was quite prosperous, the money was very good because it hadn’t been reduced yet you see it was what we call a period of the war wages.