"Landore was a good place to serve your apprenticeship because ICI was a forward thinking employer in many ways. Apprentices used to have free breakfasts and lunches which was quite an advanced thing. I remember going in one morning and the canteen supervisor said, "It's cornflakes this morning, boys, but you'll have to look out for the weevils. There'll be another bowl for anyone who finds one". We were none too keen on the idea of weevils but it was after the war and you'd take whatever you got. So the cornflakes got eaten anyway, weevils and all.
"The Morfa canteen was a solid Victorian building with high iron rafters, big windows to let in the light and a clock tower perched on the top. It had been built at the end of the Nineteenth Century but the ICI had made it into a proper works canteen. You could buy freshly brewed tea and you'd get a dollop of milk for free. Taking in your own tea was much cheaper and we'd top up our water from the steaming urn which always sat on the counter. On pay day we'd have enough for one of Mrs Maddocks' pasties: you could have one for 2d or a huge one the size of a steering wheel for 4d. By the time you were a qualified fitter you'd have your tea made by a sweeper but that was a long way off me at the age of 16.
"Round the back of the canteen was the kitchen store. Some of the furnace-men had found out that they could 'borrow' a few potatoes from there to cook on the furnaces. A lot of them were big drinkers and their pay would be all gone by Tuesday; they'd have no money left for food so they'd fetch a few potatoes and cook them somehow on the furnaces. When I was there one of the young boys was sent to pick up a few potatoes from the back of the canteen. He came back with a couple in each pocket. "That's no good," said one of the furnace-men. "I'll eat all those myself. I'll show you what a few potatoes looks like." He went off to get enough to feed his gang and came back with a sack of potatoes hitched over his shoulders. When Mrs Maddocks found out, she was knocked for six. The works policemen was sent for but when he arrived there was no evidence to be found: the men had eaten the lot!"
Looking down the Morfa Passage towards the Canteen. 
Artist's impression.
Tom Jones, 2008.
If you visit the Liberty Stadium in Swansea, you may catch sight of the skeletal building that looms above the nearby Landore Park and Ride car park. Built in the 1880's as a power house for a nearby rolling mill, it later became the ICI works canteen. The landmark clock tower sits perilously on rotting rafters but this Grade II Listed building is largely ignored by passers-by.

The following extracts from Down the Memory Lanes of My Hafod recall a different time.
"Keeping a house full of men must have been a full time job then. There was no bathroom and not even what you’d call a proper kitchen. Most things were cooked on the range which Ma black-leaded regular as clockwork every week, though more always ended up on her than it did on the range. The tap was out in the yard and that’s where you got all your water from – from ‘out the back’. There’d be a bowl on a table in what we called the back kitchen and everything was done there: preparing the vegetables; washing the dishes, the clothes and ourselves. Ma had bought a boiler from the gypsies, who’d shaped it from waste tin from the tin works. The boiler would go on the fire and it gave us hot water for what we wanted.
"When it came to washing the clothes, she’d boil the cotton in a pan on the range; that’s where the handkerchief, collars and cuffs would get clean. To wash the rest of the clothes she’d put hot water and some washing soda into the tin bath, the same tin bath you’d use for your weekly bath in front of the fire. You’d come home on a wash day and look down the lane and see lines and lines of Welsh flannel undershirts and long johns and dravers all flapping in the wind. The copperworks wasn’t dirty like the collieries were but it was sweaty work and you needed the Welsh flannel to absorb the perspiration. It was also the best thing to wear because it meant you didn’t get chilled when you finished working and you were away from the heat of the copper."
Gerald Street, Hafod.
Artist's impression.
Tom Jones, 2008.
Gerald Street was built in the 1880s by the Vivian family, and was very much the last phase of what was then known as Trevivian. Though the terraces themselves are relatively unchanged, a recent regeneration project has changed the face of the houses. The interiors of Gerald Street have also changed radically over the years. Knocked through front and middle rooms, and extensions over the back kitchens have all modernised the houses in a way that would be unrecognisable to earlier generations.

Down the Memory Lanes of My Hafod  describes domestic detail from the 1930s.
Welsh flannel is said to have remarkable properties. Apparently it can ‘wick’ the sweat away from the skin and thus prevent the body getting chilled, in the same way that modern microfibres do in extreme sportswear. This peculiar quality was essential in garments worn by the furnacemen, whose fronts were several tens of degrees hotter than their backs. It was also necessary for all the men who worked with the copper – from the quenchers who plucked the ingots from the cooling channels to the highest paid rollerman who controlled the production of thin sheets and heavy plates of copper. The fronts of the men's bodies would be warmed by the heat of the copper while their backs were exposed to the cold air of the ventilated casting houses or rolling sheds. I have recently discovered that another property of this extraordinary fabric is that it is also fire retardant. 

Dad recalled ‘dravers’ as the short flannel trousers worn with cropped shirts by the furnacemen. At the time of writing Down the Memory Lanes of My Hafod I could find no trace of any other reference to the word ‘dravers’ or to the garments themselves, though short shirts are commonly referred to in copperworkers' recollections. In the last few months, though, I have been able to find out a great deal more about these garments. The trail began with a letter from a very kind reader from Newton who wrote to let me know more about ‘dravers’. Her father had worked at the ICI for the war effort and her uncle had worked there from leaving school to his retirement. She writes:

“My grandmother and family called then ‘travers’. I understood that they were ‘long johns’ or a three-quarter version with tapes to tie at the knee... There was a standing joke about travers. My cousin, quite a wit, would say that he knew when my father was home when he saw my father’s travers blowing on the washing line. He meant that they retained the shape of my father’s, slightly bandy, legs!”

It is easy to imagine that the word may have been pronounced differently from generation to generation, or even from street to street. Like me, this reader had originally assumed a Welsh origin for the word but was unable to find the word in a Welsh dictionary; we had both also questioned Welsh connection as there is no ‘v’ in the Welsh alphabet. Initiallly I had thought that 'travers’ made more sense as a word for the garment because it is similar to ‘trousers'. I have since discovered other versions of the word - 'drafurs' and, most commonly used, 'drawers'. All of these versions - dravers, travers, drafurs - seem to have their origins in the word 'drawers' so the etymology is now less of a mystery.
A reader stopped by at the Local History Book Fair in November 2009 and told me that his elderly neighbour often talked about ‘dravers’. It was her recollection that not only were the undergarments made of Welsh flannel but also the sweat cloths used by the men to wipe the perspiration from their brows and their hands. Despite the grime and sweat absorbed by the cloth, it was a matter of pride to the women that their men would go on each shift with a sparkling white piece of flannel - no mean feat at a time when gaining access to hot water meant rather more than turning on a tap!
The garments were worn by men in all of Swansea's metallurgical industries. The short shirts (crys fach) were especially well known in the tinplate industry where, as we are reminded by the brass lettering at Aberdulais, 'it was so hot the sweat ran out of our shoes'. The 'crys fach' I have seen are made up of simple stitched squares - large squares for the front and back,and with square sleeves stitched in place leaving vents under the arms. They barely reach the waist and are very much like the 'cropped shirts' Dad described. The following extract by Haydn Harris appears in Ordinary People, a superb miscellany of recollections of 'the first fifty years of the 20th Century as told by the ordinary people who lived it' published by the Tuesday Writers' Group of Port Talbot. Haydn Harris's father worked at the Clyne Tinplate Works. Haydn's 'Lives Cast in Steel' evocatively tells of times much harsher than our own:

"My father was a furnace man. When he came from work, his flannelette sweatshirt was so stiff you could stand it on the floor, like a breastplate. If you shook it the sweaty salt would fall from it. It is reported that a tin-plate worker's job is the hardest work devised by man."
Dad was brought up by his grandmother and several aunts but in Down the Memory Lanes of My Hafod he offers very little sense of what the world was like from their point of view. I am sure that Dad’s grandmother would have recalled quite a different world from the one he remembers and there is little doubt that my mother would have written about a different Hafod altogether. Like Dad’s grandmother's, my mother's married life had begun with only a cold tap in the back yard but, instead of the boiler fashioned from scrap tin that Ma used, material progress was represented by ownership of modern electrical appliances: a baby Burco boiler and a Morphy Richards iron. In 1961 46 Gerald Street was one of 10,000 houses in Swansea still without a fixed bath. By 1964 the house was one of the first in the street to have a fully fitted bathroom with hot water and an indoor toilet. Decorated in the palest shade of blue and finished with carefully chosen tiles and lino, the upstairs bathroom was a tangible sign that the house no longer belonged to the past.

My mother’s experience of living in the house where my father had been brought up seems to reflect the changes in society that occurred during the early 1960s and a very real sense of transition permeates many of the stories she told me: the revolutionary change from the traditional Wednesday evening get-togethers with black-aproned women to glamorous dinner dances on Saturday nights; the aspiration to paint the scumbled woodwork in the house cream; the radical decision to continue working after marriage. One particular anecdote is laden with the conflict that this time of change brought.

As a working woman all through her early married life, my mother was intrigued by the gleaming brass thresholds and the half-moon shapes worn into neighbours’ steps. Then I came along and she stopped work: there was no such thing as maternity leave in those days. The front doors of Gerald Street would open each morning, children would burst forth and, to my mother's amazement, out would pop the heads of the women of the street, all on their hands and knees burnishing their front steps with a rough pumice stone. It didn’t take long to realise that this is how the street telegraph worked. Very much a social occasion, the age-old practice of step whitening was always accompanied with wise words and a laugh or two at the expense of the men. If a young boy or girl with big ideas was foolish enough to saunter past, they were soon put in their place with much hilarity.

This particular household chore didn’t really appeal to my mother. She said she could never quite get the same glowing semi-circle as her neighbours seemed to manage so the pumice stone was warily wrapped in newspaper and fastened with a rubber band before being hidden forever under the sink. Office banter was more to her taste but she could see the social importance of the routine to women whose lives, even in the 1960s, were dominated by endless mundane tasks. Describing the scene was one of my mother's favourite anecdotes, and she often re-told it to show that opportunities for sharing human experience could be encountered in the most unexpected places.  
Dravers: some additional notes by Felicity Kilpatrick
Memories of Gerald Street in the 1960's.


Eclipsed by half-moons 

by Felicity Kilpatrick


Originally built as a power station in the 1880s, the building was made into a 'proper' canteen for the ICI workers in the 1920s.The skeletal remains of the landmark clock tower reveal an age when architectural detail was an important part of an industrial building.The 'Main Lab' building in the background is decaying rapidly: one of a collection of buildings that are being, as Nigel Jenkins so precisely writes, 'willed to destruction by the elements, vandalism and time'.
An artist's impression of 46 Gerald Street as it was in the 1940's. The faces of the houses are largely unchanged. Though the windows and doors have been replaced with UPVC, the brickwork detail around the windows and chimneys reveals the care that was taken with the design of the terraces.
All the gang on an evening out. 1960. Ramsay standing (3rd from the right). Margaret is just in front.
Just over the canal bridge, through the entrance to what had been the Morfa works, was the Machine Shop, or Fitting Shop. It was located on the canal side of the canteen building, though we would probably describe it being behind the Canteen today as we tend to imagine it from a viewpoint in the Landore Park and Ride car park.
The fitting shop housed the machinery that was used by the fitters and turners to fabricate new parts and repair old ones. Skills were learned from foremen, who themselves had learned skills from their foremen. And so, the knowledge of one generation was passed imperceptibly to the next generation as they learned what the world of work was about. This is what Dad remembers of traditions being passed on:
Photograph showing the line of the canal behind what is now the Museum Stores. With an artist's impression of the same view, looking towards the Morfa entrance of the 1940s. Drawing by Tom Jones. 2008.
"Your foreman was an important part of your life. If you had a good one, like Trevor, you’d count yourself very fortunate to be learning your trade from someone who you respected and who knew their craft. Mind you, it didn’t stop us pulling a trick or two on the older fitters. There was one particular prank every generation of apprentices tried; I daresay Trevor had done the same in his day and probably his father, Uncle Arthur, before him. Some of the men would bring in their brown paper bags of cut grub instead of going to the canteen: eating in the fitting shop meant you didn’t have to bother washing the oil off your hands and it saved quite a few pennies as well. When it was time for a break the men would sit round the pot-bellied stove in the middle of the fitting shop, chomping on their bread and cheese and sipping their tea. That little stove belted out heat and the chimney went right up through the rafters of the building and out through the top. We young apprentices were agile enough to climb onto the roof quite easily and that meant we were well-placed to cause some havoc. Urged on by the other apprentices standing down in the yard below, one of us would get a slate and place it carefully on the chimney opening with a brick on top to weigh it down. As soon as it was in place we’d scramble down the roof and run round to the windows, crouching out of sight to wait for the pandemonium. There’d be a few polite coughs to start with, then all of a sudden the fitting shop would fill up with billows of thick smoke and the men would all be spluttering tea into their sandwiches. That was the signal for us to scarper pretty fast but Trevor had seen it all before and it wouldn’t take him long to find us. “You bloody apprentices,” he’d shout. “You’ll catch it one day.” But of course we never did."
Further information about dravers came from members of the Eaton Road Wives in Llangafelach whom I met in April 2010. It seems that the ‘wicking’ property of the Welsh flannel reduced over a period of time because of repeated washing with soda and then the shirts would be turned into face ‘flannels’. Sweat cloths, I was told, were most often made from new flannel to make best use of the wool’s natural properties. They were cut and hemmed into the neat squares that were needed to wipe hands, brows and necks as sweat ‘ran rivers’ in the heat. I discovered from daughters of miners that 'dravers' are well known in the mining community but also that they were worn by all men who worked with hot metal. Tied at the ankles and tucked into boots, the flannel leggings meant that skets of hot metal wouldn't reach the skin directly
In November 2010 I visited the National Woollen Musuem, Llandysul and found a wealth of information about these garments and the Welsh flannel industry. Mark Lucas, curator,  kindly allowed me to photograph some archived items and I was able to view more items in the galleries, including sample books and information boards about the industry itself. I am now the very proud owner of a pair of dravers (or drafurs or drawers) made from flannel woven recently in Teifi Mill, a working mill adjacent to the National Woollen Museum. Through the kind help of Carolyn Charles and Elen Phillips of Nantgarw Museums Collection and St Fagan's National Museum of Wales, I also have photographs of other examples of 'drafurs' and 'crys fach' held in the collections of the Museum of Wales: the stained, patched shirts are a humbling reminder of the labours of the men who wore them
Photo: Felicity Kilpatrick 2011
Photograph showing the remains of the Morfa Canteen. The landmark clock tower sits perilously on rotting rafters.
Monday 4th April 2011
Felicity with Roy Noble - with dravers - or travers - or drafurs - or drawers.

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