Cecil Corfield Interview at Home
Listen to Cecil Corfield as he recalls his time working at the Llanymynech Limeworks. The interview was carried out by Kerry Knapper, then Head teacher at Llanymynech Primary School, in 1979.
A transcript of the interview can be found HERE
Cecil Corfield Talks
LLANYMYNECH ROCKMEN - A HARD LIFE
Quarries and Limeworks offered a variety of jobs but few were without a health risk or some chance of accidental injury.
In the quarries there were ‘powder monkeys’ – often only boys – who took the blasting powder (in use before dynamite) and the fuses or detonators: down to the ledges where drillers had been making vertical holes in the rock. Below, gangs of men used hammers to break the rocks into relatively regular sizes and loaded them on tramway trucks.
Common injuries included broken limbs and severe bruising from falls or mishandled tools or rocks. Dust and falling rocks were regular occupational hazards. Medical facilities were very basic and would rely on ‘patching and mending’. In extreme cases the village doctor would be called, often paid for by the patient. Accidents involving explosives were rare but devastating.
Rates of pay were poor and were based on piece rate. In 1900 a lime drawer received around 25 shillings (£1.25) a week – just enough to cover rent, food, household items, fuel, insurance, clothes/boots and doctors’ fees. Many men had second jobs on the land, but these were scarce in winter. Poaching to supplement a meagre diet was not uncommon.
Men working on the inclines and tramways faced the likelihood of foot or bodily injuries from heavily laden trucks running out of control. A dozing brakeman or poorly attached coupling could result in a truck breaking loose and hurtling down the hill. If the brakeman was quick enough, he could pull a ‘check point’ lever and divert a runaway truck into an earth-filled safety siding.
The limekilns were notoriously unpleasant places to work. Smoke and fumes caused lung disease and the strong alkaline nature of quicklime caused serious damage to skin and eyes. Protective clothing was often limited to aprons made from old sacks – anything more was unpopular because of the extreme heat
At nearby Porthywaen quarry a diverted runaway truck crashed into a stack of explosives that had been left next to the safety siding, causing the death of four men and two boys. Unfairly the coroner blamed the brakeman for the tragedy.