Unit 20 - The Barricks - Rats and Fleas

I have heard quite a lot about the men who stayed in the `Barics' all  the week and would not come home until  Saturday  afternoon.  they came down on the Ffestiniog Railway to Penrhyn or  Minffordd and  if there was no train on the Cambrian they would  walk  home and they had to do the same early Monday morning.  They all had a square basket with a rod through two loops to close the lid  with their  weekly  rations but very often the rats would  help  themselves and they were big rats as well coming up from  underground as there was only pieces of candles for them to eat there.

The  women used to tell the men off for bringing fleas back  with them and it was a wonder that they did not bring something  worse living in those conditions.  An old wag would say that the  fleas would take the beds out in the Rhosydd for them to be aired.  

It was  very hard for the women too as they had to be alone all  the week with the children and of course the children would only  see their father over the week-end.  Although we complain today about things being difficult it must be better than it was when we were young.  

The  Quarry was a very jolly place to work in.  We  were like a big family always helping one another and when you  wanted help to lift someting heavy as there were only cranes underground then,  we would shout `BANDO' - that was short for Band  of  Hope and  there was one man always shouting `Bando' and of  course  he was called Bando and even today all the family are called  bandos after  all these years. 

Another man started work so the  men  he worked  with  told him to be careful when he was  talking  as  he would soon have a nickname and he said that he was too much of  a scholar for them - he was called "scholar" after that!  Another one always  complained that his feet were cold and `Robin Traed  Oer' (Robin Cold Feet) he was called.

When the young boys started  in the Quarry they used to mark their nose with a pin until it  bled and  then  they would put machine oil in it.  It was not  a  nice thing  to  do but after that you were a man. 

I heard  my  father saying about Richard Williams, Ty Fron who worked in the  Oakley, he  was waiting at the mouth of the level for a partner  to  walk the  rails with him.  They walked in twos - one on each rail  and they would hold each others coat as they walked along, as it  was so  dark.  It was  almost dark and they had only a  candle  in  a cornbeef tin to give them light, the other man asked, as it was a Monday  morning,   "who was preaching with you  yesterday",   and Richard  Williams said "they called him Spurgeon and a very  poor one  he was" and when they came out in the light the  other  man, who had been walking with him WAS Spurgeon. 

`CELCIO' that is the only  place I think that it was done as most of the men  were  on some kind of a contract.  There was a chance to make a little bit more than the guaranteed wages and as the extra came every  month there  was a chance for `celcio' that meant they would  not  tell the wife of the little extra they had made and they would have  a little more pocket money.  I think most of the men gave it to the wife in the end but it was a thing that was always done and  they had to keep it up. 

One old woman in Tanygrisiau went to the shed and there was an old coat there that belonged to her husband  and she found his `celc' a ten shilling note and she hid the coat and when  her husband asked her where the old coat was she said that she  had burned it.  They had a good laugh about it. 

Its a  pity we  dont  get more laughs like that today.  I think  we  are  too serious, a laugh does you good.

Another one I knew who lived  in Harlech , he liked his drink and he had hidden a few half  crowns in  the wall and his wife had seen him and she changed  them  for pennies.  I'm sure old Ned was mad.  My mother had made a Christmas  parcel for her brother who worked in the same Quarry as  myself, he  worked in a different shed and I had to give the parcel to  a man that worked near him but he would not take  the  parcel off  him as he thought they were playing a joke on him  and  they opened  the parcel and ate all the mince pies and all that  there was to eat, but there was a pair of socks for my cousin in as well and he had to take them home and he made his wife go to see my Auntie and apologise.