8. Cleanliness is Next to Godliness (Welsh audio)

Mrs George, Pontypool
Mrs George, Pontypool, washing with a dolly tub, about 1900. Photographs of domestic work during this period are rare.

And then, what about - the men’s working clothes. How much - ?

Oh, it was hard work washing those. Because the strings, they had to be as white as snow. They had to be ironed and all.

What strings, now?

The strings of the long johns.

Oh, yes.

They had to wear long johns, you see. But today, I don’t know what they wear. But that’s what they had then.

What did men wear to go down the coal pit? What were their work clothes?

Well, now then - their work clothes were: a singlet - a cotton singlet, because we used to boil them every night.

And that was a vest?

Yes. They used to bring them home in their food boxes. They’d be soaking with sweat. And then they’d bring them home, and we’d wash them every night. They had clean ones to go back in the morning. Because they often said “They’ll be the same tomorrow again - you might as well just wipe the dirt off.” No - the smell of sweat was the same, wasn’t it? Well, I always did them every night.

Now, the singlet went on first?

We worked hard. They’ve begrudged paying the colliers - the wives should have two pounds for washing their clothes, I’m telling you!

Mrs Gwen Davies, Dowlais, born in 1896.

MWL Archive no: 3414. Recorded 1972.