Wages and Paying the Men
Although the Gilfach Ddu workers were skilled and able craftsmen, they had no paper qualifications, and were paid as ordinary workers. For example, the salary of a fitter, carpenter or smith in 1917 was 4/2 [21p] a day. If he happened to be a particularly able craftsman, who had been perfecting his craft for years, he might get 4/6 a day. A foreman — who was not only a craftsman of the highest calibre but also shouldered much responsibility — was paid no more than 5 shillings [25p] a day in the same period.
The quarrymen and the men of Gilfach Ddu worked all year round, apart from Saturday afternoons and Sunday. They had few holidays. According to Alwyn Owen, 'When I began, you only got Christmas Day … and the Saturday, Good Friday and Easter Monday. Then they gave you Labour Day in May and Harvest Monday. Those were the holidays.' Hugh Richard Jones adds, 'In winter we wouldn't see daylight until Saturday. It was dark — you'd work from six in the morning till six at night'
At the beginning the quarrymen were paid every four weeks, on Saturday — called Sadwrn setlo ('settling-up Saturday') or Diwrnod Cyfri Mawr (‘Day of the Great Pay Count’). In time this became fortnightly pay and then a weekly paypacket. The wages came in little round tins that were placed in neat rows on a large tray. The head clerk would then call the number of the tin and the right man would step forward to claim his money.
If it had been a particularly good month, the tin would be too small to hold all the money. This happened very seldom but when it did, the rest of the money would be put in an envelope and given to the man along with his tin — so a month like this was called mis enfilop — an 'envelope month’.
'We'd go up — there were steps going up… from Gilfach Ddu to the Main Office … by the end they were calling them the Golden Steps. We used to walk up there to get our wages …'
'In those days the wages in the yard were low, you know … all the craftsmen, carpenters and smiths and fitters. They all got the same wages.'