Oral History collection: Henry Baker (born 16 Jan. 1912) interviewed by B.C. Fagg about Memories of Bonymaen/Lower Swansea Valley; work at Copper Pit Colliery; work at Imperial Smelting Zinc works, Llansamlet.

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 216 TH 37A-B
  • Dates of Creation
      29 June 1976
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      1 audio recording

Scope and Content

Track 1. [00:00:00] Community: Mr Harry Baker describes his early life in Seaview Terrace, Bonymaen (born in 1912). [00:05:41] Education: Recalling Cwm School and former teachers such as Mr. E. T. Davies, Joe Morgan, Mr Bob Francis, Jack Harrison. [00:07:32] Education: Recalling ending education at 13 due to lack of money in the family home and that a job in coal-mining was his future. [00:12:29] Community: Mr Baker recalls the academic successes of some of his family. [00:13:05] Education: Describing how his father was keen on education and self-improvement. Also how the Welsh language was passed on at the 'hearth and chapel' and not school. [00:15:31] Community: Describing how his Grandfather was a seafarer, born in Canterbury and 'run away to sea' at 13, and how he settled in Swansea. [00:17:43] Community: Recalling his Grandmother, and the strength of Christianity in their household. [00:18:39] Community: Describing how Sunday was marked as a special day for Chapel. [00:19:49] Community: Describing how Crymlyn Burroughs was, until 1925, a game preserve, with Hares, Rabbits, Partridge, Ducks, etc. [00:22:26] Industry: Describing the various industries in the Swansea Valley. [00:26:35] Environment: Describing the ecological or environmental damage that industries had on the Swansea area. [00:28:06] Farming: Recalling a conversation with a local inn-keeper whose family had farmed the area years before. [00:30:34] Industry: Describing the Arts and Crafts Union. [00:31:01] Industry: Recalling the collieries in the Llansamlet, Birchgrove and Kilvey districts, and the problems with flooding which ended coal mining in this area. [00:36:00] Industry: Describing local mining accidents and explosions of the late 19th century. [00:37:11] Community: Mr Baker discusses how Bonymaen was predominantly a mining village. [00:38:30] Industry: Discussion of how the mine owners fomed associations. [00:40:04] Industry: Mr Baker retells his father and grand-father's life as collier's, starting as boys. [00:41:55] Industry: Mr Baker recalls starting work with his father, the work they had to do and the experience of going underground for the first time. [00:45:06] Community: Mr Baker reflects how poor the rewards were for the hardness of the work and life, and comments on then to the situation in the mid-1970s. [00:47:11] Industry: Describing the wages and the increments up to the age of 21 years old. [00:47:49] Industry: Recalling the working conditions in Copper Pit and the lack of labour-saving devices in the home. [00:49:27] Community: Memories of notables from the area, including ministers, operatic tenors and rugby, football and cricketing stars. [00:53:18] Industry: Describing starting work in Imperial Smelting in 1932, working with Zinc and Lead. [00:53:45] Industry: Detailed discussion of the distillation smelting process, including improvements made in the factory and new furnaces (discussion trails off). [01:02:55] Industry: Further discussion of distillation smelting process, including the 'ingredients' of the mixture put into the furnace. [01:07:06] Industry: Discussion of the 'ranking' of tasks within the foundry. [01:08:30] Industry: Harry Baker recalls how he worked at Imperial Smelting from 1932 until 1948, whereupon he returned to mining. [01:09:11] Industry: Harry Baker describes how Imperial Smelting switched after 1948 to making 'blue powder' used in paint manufacturing and syntheic rubber, and how this process was injurious to health from lead poisoning and respiratory problems.

Track 2. [00:01:14] Industry: The wage for working third hand in Swansea Vale Works, furnacemans wage. [00:02:55] Industry: The doctor and medical examiniations at Swansea Vale Works. [00:03:59] Industry: The management from 1932 at Swansea Vale Works. [00:00:07] Industry: Describing working conditions in the Swansea Vale Works 1932 to 1940. [00:10:03] Industry: Women working at Swansea Vale Works from 1940. [00:11:02] Industry: What Harry Baker remembers of the 1926 coal mine strike and how him and his family lived during the strike. [00:15:57] Industry: Poverty amoung families during the 1926 coal mine strike. [00:18:04] Industry: What Harry Baker remembers of going back to work in the mines after the 1926 coal mine strike. [00:21:27] Industry: How the pumpsmen kept the colleries running during the 1926 coal mine strike. [00:23:05] Industry: Harry Baker's feelings about the 1926 coal mine strike. [00:24:57] Industry: The South Wales Miners Federation and how it provided good solidarity between the miners. [00:25:35] Industry: The types of local disputes in collieries. Harry Baker explains how there was no competition between the workers in the mines.