Film: 8343

Social History | 1950 | Sound | B/W


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A day in the life of a valley town in Wales in the 1950's.

Factory chimney belch smoke. The camera tracks across Welsh valleys and 'grimy frowning hills' (commentary). Sheep graze on and around a ruined Victorian ironworks. A cemetery crowded with gravestones lies beneath slagheaps. A beautiful castellated Victorian mansion appears. The terraces of miner's cottages crammed into and along the valleys. Camera tracks along rows of back-to-back valleys streets. A huge detached chapel stand towering in the middle of one street. A young couple shot from behind walk down town steps. At the bottom they turn into a street and catch a single-decker bus. They are Mr. and Mrs. Evans setting out for work at the start of the day. The bus driver is shot at work. Close-up: He is bespectacled and wears a smart peaked cap. A sequence of shots from the viewpoint of his cap shows narrow, tight streets and corners. The bus then leaves from town uphill. Another (double-decker) bus steers round tight bends as it climbs down the hill. It is seen on the crown of the hill, then descends into another valley town with tight streets. Here a terrace of houses rises in steps in typical Welsh valley style. A phlegmatic bus passenger smokes a pipe in the double-decker bus as it too winds into town. Then it crosses a railway with a goods train passing on a viaduct above and behind it (lovely shot). A group of passengers in cloth caps includes a man lighting a cigarette. Miners traipse into a colliery off the bus. But, says the commentary, mining's tyranny is over - it is only one trade among many. Traffic passes along an arterial road with modern factories. At one of these Mr. and Mrs. Evans go to work. Inside the factory they walk past machinery, then part to start the day's work. Outside again, a young man in coat and carrying a briefcase hurries along a village street. His name is Alun Davies and he is late for a class at Technical College. A quick sequence now shows others starting the working day: A miner collects his lamp from a long row; Mrs. Evans sits down at a working bench in the factory and says 'Good morning' to her colleagues; Alun Davies hurries breathless across another village street; Mr. Evans in overalls greets his female assistant and takes a working panel from her; miners in a group leave the lamp room for the winding cage; Alun Davies runs through a pleasant garden and up the front steps of an old mansion, now the Technical College; indoors he enters a classroom and sits at his desk; a middle-aged teacher lectures on the structure of coalfields while Davies takes out his pen and opens a notebook. The lecturers hand points at a diagram of the 'Gellygaer Basin' on the blackboard; in the colliery the cage packed with men drops and disappears down the pit; then the wheels at the top of the winding mechanism once seen spinning.

Now a sequence of the music of Handel shows the working in progress: Men at benches in a workshop; a man working with a retort and Bunsen burner (or similar); men in overalls working on propellers and an enormous aero-engine; spinning machinery in a textile factory; brad baking; a man laying out freshly cleaned gloves at a dry cleaners; seamstresses at work and women packing gloves; a sort of cutting machine; engines and trucks at a major (possibly chemical?) works; Mrs. Evans working on electrical circuits and Mr. Evans entering data on his panel. (The Handel fades out at this point). A final shot of Mrs. Evans at work fades into: A bus reversing in a town centre; it is now midday and lunchtime and crowds are shopping in the centre of Pontypridd. New trades have brought greater spending power (commentary). A Welsh bus drives through, a Littlewoods advertisement on its side. Behind it comes another bus advertising Vernons. Crowds throng a street market as people get off the bus. People look at fabrics and haggle over prices. Others gaup in shop windows. For contrast the scene moves to a country railway. A ganger called Ivan Edwards trudges along it carrying a pick over his shoulder. He appears to tighten something on the rails with this implement, then looks over a viaduct at a quiet country scene. But, though it looks timeless, surveyors and engineers work in the fields measuring and planning new tracks for new railways. A man behind a theodolite waves directions as another man in wellingtons draws a hue through the fields. A working railway gang of six lifts a rail into place. Together they draw a rail along using vast metal trugs to grip it. A train stands at a railway station. A distinguished-looking middle-aged man shows a couple into a carriage, slams the door and waves goodbye. He is Glyn the Tickets, OBE, LP. He walks into the ticket office to start his evening shift. He checks a list, a whistle is heard and the train departs. Glyn the Tickets now serves a young lady in a hat. A goods train belching smoke chugs through the station. It moves through town and valleys, the wheels of the steam engine spin. It passes towns, factories, a pretty valley with a stream and old chapel as it steams down to sea. A truck loaded with gravel goes into a tunnel. [At this point there may be a small amount of material missing]. A sign by the railway reads 'All Trains Stop Here'.

Ships tied to berths in the port appears. Crated cargo is led out of a warehouse on a wheeled trolley and loaded by rope and chained on to a ship. Cranes load more supplies and cargoes. Other stuff is unloaded. The winding mechanism of the colliery reappears as the sequence on the early evening begins. Below the miner's cage (again packed) rises from the depths and miners pour out. Crowds spill out of the factories on the arterial road. Many wait at bus stops. A train steams into Treforest Estate Station: The platform is full. A stream of buses passes along the road. Crowds enter a waiting train on the station. On a bus the conductor checks tickets. People look happy and share jokes as the working day ends. Buses with headlights beaming roar through darkness. A man in tweed jacket, specs and tie conducts a massed choir of smartly dressed ladies and gentlemen. They sing 'All We Like Sheep' form Handel's 'Messiah'. This music continues as the next sequence of evening pursuits is shown: A group getting off the bus; a street at night with people carrying umbrellas and a policeman patrolling in a cape and painted helmet a la Jack Warner; people going into a cinema; other browsing in a public library; a sewing group including Mrs. Evans; Mr. Evans working ion a transistor radio at technical College; men playing chess at a club; others playing cards, bowls, table tennis; young people dancing looking very smart and respectable; two young women playing badminton; young men playing basketball; Glyn the Tickets still at work late in the evening; people leaving the cinema; night buses with lit-up signs for Aberdare and Pontypridd.

The scene returns to the choirmaster and choir. The music changes for the last evening sequence: Glyn the Tickets walks home through dark streets. A couple of lovers kiss and part. A man catches a late bus. Glyn the Tickets is now at home and turns a light out to make for bed. Outside again lights, flames and smoke shimmer over factories.

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