Social And Cultural Life
At the height of the slate industry in Caernarfonshire, Llanberis and the surrounding district were a hive of activity of all kinds. For many, life outside working hours, especially in the years up to the Second World War, revolved to a great extent around the chapel, indeed the chapels closest to the quarry held special lunchtime chapel services so that the quarrymen could attend them in their lunch-hour. The chapel had its own rich cultural life, with prayer meetings and all kinds of societies. For those of a less devout disposition, there were plenty of chances to show off dramatic skills in myriad small clubs and societies, and the sounds of silver and brass bands practising for concerts and eisteddfodau rang around Llanberis and many of its surrounding villages. Sports were also popular, and there were plenty of football teams.
The engineers of Gilfach Ddu prided themselves on the fact that they could build or mend almost any piece of equipment needed by the quarry or the port — everything from a chisel to a steam engine. To do this they needed raw materials — wood and coal for example — and energy, supplied by the great water wheel.
There was much leg-pulling between the quarrymen and the workers of Gilfach Ddu. As Gwilym Davies remembers: ‘They called us in the yard caterpillars because we ate but didn’t produce anything’. And in Hugh Richard Jones’ words: ‘They thought we didn’t really do anything. That they kept us. That it wasn’t the work that kept us, but the profit from their work. That’s why the manager said that we were like caterpilars, eating all the profit.’
But the daily labour at Gilfach Ddu was essential to the success of the quarry.