Author: South Wales Miners Library, Swansea University
Provider: South Wales Miners' Library
Interview of Morris, Fred and Morris, Mrs by Francis, Hywel and Smith, David on 18th May 1973.
The interview forms part of Swansea University�s South Wales Miners� Library collection.
1 audio file (9 min.)
Francis, Hywel: You said there wasn’t much opportunity to get work other than in the pit? Did you think of going anywhere else as a boy?
Morris, Fred: Myself
Morris, Mrs: He went in army.
Morris, Fred: I joined up.
Francis, Hywel: No, as a boy now, on leaving school?
Morris, Fred: Well I don’t know, I didn’t have much option really, I wasn’t too good at school anyway. Well I wasn’t bad I used to come out third on the list if I remember, well in fact I’ve some uh, you’ve got a book there haven’t you, all the old books.
Francis, Hywel: You said that you disliked working underground, what did you dislike about it?
Morris, Fred: Well to me it was terrifically dangerous, see. They used to have them little oil lamps in them days, and when they went out you had to go back for fire, to get them lit up again, See and you had to walk past the journeys, see, what you call an air hole, see. In this air hole there would be a little old fellow there, that was his job, see, easy job like. He would light the lamp for you and you would have to walk all the way back. But the old miners would say, we’ve got an extra , it wasn’t so much work that you could do, because you couldn’t do a lot at thirteen could you? So to me it was a terrible life.
Francis, Hywel: And how long were you working underground?
Morris, Fred: Well actually in, uh, thirteen come out on top then, about two years I expect. I come out on top when I was fifteen.
Francis, Hywel: What sort of work were you doing on the surface?
Morris, Fred: Well all kinds like helping to shove the trams into the tipper, it was a different system to what they’ve got now, see. You’d shove these along, and I noticed particularly all the fellows that were on, they was old fellows and they must have had dust, because they could hardly breathe.
Morris, Mrs: And it was Bronchitis, see.
Morris, Fred: Bronchitis it was
Morris, Mrs: Pneumoconiosis hadn’t come in then.
Francis, Hywel: Bronchitis you called it?
Morris, Fred: But I can always remember them old fellows, see, they would be spluttering, there was three along these trams, see, shoving them in. Well sometimes I used to help when the others, when somebody hadn’t come in like.
Francis, Hywel: These would be very old men as well would they?
Morris, Fred: Well I should imagine they must have been getting on the sixty mark, I said you had a job to tell but, ah, they have been getting on.
Francis, Hywel: And how long did you work on the surface?
Morris, Fred: I was fifteen, about two years. Then I joined up, see.
Francis, Hywel: Why did you join up?
Morris, Fred: Well to get out of it mostly, to, escapism mostly. Not to fight for capitalism or anything like that. I wanted to do like the others, my brother was out there, see.
Francis, Hywel: Did many do the same as you?
Morris, Fred: Well at the beginning I expect in 1915 they must have gone in their hundreds, didn’t they.
Francis, Hywel: When did you go?
Morris, Fred: Well 1917, I hummed and haa'd in 1916.
Francis, Hywel: Even when you knew that so many thousands of people had been killed?
Morris, Fred: Well you see, the papers then didn’t give much about it to begin with, did they? They would say that we lost a few hundred at Ypres or you know. It was just like the Spanish War, how much news did you get in this country about it, none just a little paragraph wasn’t it.
Francis, Hywel: How did you go about joining up?
Morris, Fred: Oh, see, well, when I enlisted? I enlisted let’s see now, at Ponty I think or Porth. Then I went Cardiff Barracks see, and from there to Rhyl, Kinmel Park, and then a couple of months training then, and then to Ireland, the Curragh Camp.
Francis, Hywel: Did you see much trouble at all in Ireland?
Morris, Fred: Well actually, no. I know that we used to have to lock our rifles up, and there was a lot of talk about Sinn Feiners like, but actually they never attacked the barracks or anything like that, you see when I joined up they were training. Now you take a division in Spain isn’t it, after they’d been in action, they would lose thousands of men, but they had to be made up all the time. I wasn’t in an actual regiment going out but transferred when you were there, you could go in anything, see.
Francis, Hywel: Did you see much action then in France?
Morris, Fred: Well I was at, I spent most of my time at Villemiche, have you heard of that?
Francis, Hywel: It is where the Canadians were?
Morris, Fred: That’s right, they were there then. I can’t remember any more at the moment.
Francis, Hywel: What kind of effect did it have on you?
Morris, Fred: Well now, I didn’t mind it to tell you the truth. You see now, I mean it’s a job to explain. I didn’t mind it myself, I don’t remember rightly. In fact I can always remember one thing, the officers came round, ask anybody you liked to stay on and go and fight the Bolsheviks in Russia, and a few did too. In fact I was going to go over there with them, well they went to Archangel, Siberia way didn’t they, but I was a bit of a Bolshevik when I joined up, see, well inclined to the left.
Francis, Hywel: In what way?
Morris, Fred: Well socialistic minded I suppose.
Francis, Hywel: How did you arrive at those sort of opinions?
Morris, Fred: Well you take the check weighman, he was Noah Ablett. Have you ever heard of him? See he would be on the top of the pit of course, weighing the drams, or looking after the weighing of them, then there was Horner come there, wasn’t there, see.
Francis, Hywel: He came afterwards though, didn’t he? He wasn’t there before you went?
Morris, Fred: No, no, he came after that’s right, I’m talking about after.
Morris, Mrs: Well you went out to Australia didn’t you.
Morris, Fred: Ah, that’s after I came back from the Army, wasn’t it.
Francis, Hywel: Was Ablett discouraging miners from Maerdy from going to fight?
Morris, Fred: No, I don’t think so, no.
Francis, Hywel: Nor Ted Williams?
Morris, Fred: Aye I remember him he was checkweighing up there too. No they didn’t discourage anyone.
Francis, Hywel: Was there any opposition at all to the war?
Morris, Fred: Only at the later end I expect. Can you remember any opposition?
Morris, Mrs: A lot of young fellows enlisted up to the war
Francis, Hywel: Opposition to the war, I mean?
Morris, Mrs: Opposition to the war, no I never heard anything, never heard.
Francis, Hywel: But when the war ended you stayed on in the army for quite a while?
Morris, Fred: No, I wasn’t long coming home, really no, I didn’t stay there. I came back and then I went back on top of the pit again, see, but of course I couldn’t adapt myself and I was fed up you know, all that.
Francis, Hywel: In what way were you fed up, With life in Maerdy or with….?
Morris, Fred: Oh well, the life wasn’t so bad really, cos life here was totally different to what it is now, see there was, well you see the state of Maerdy there, when you go up, all them houses knocked down there, there are more shops, see. Then, uh, people I think were more friendly in them days.
Morris, Mrs: Well it was, everybody was in the same boat, as you could say, no-one was better off than the other, see.
Francis, Hywel: What were your wages when you were working on top? Were they very different between the period of the war and afterwards?
Morris, Fred: I think the wages on top when I started was ten shillings a week.
Francis, Hywel: So there was a lot of difference between that and working underground?
Morris, Fred: No, they didn’t get much more underground really. Well, unless you was a miner, see
Morris, Mrs: Now on the underground they was having about £2.12, £2.15, a week.
Morris, Fred: After the war.
Morris, Mrs: After the war.
Morris, Fred: After the war, but during the war when I started it was ten bob. I remember having a half sovereign.
Francis, Hywel: On top you mean, on top?
Morris, Fred: Aye
Francis, Hywel: On top?