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AMONG the many industries which four and twenty, metres, which, it is fondly
have helped to bring South Wales to hoped, will hold sway over the poetical its present high position in the mercantile world till time be past. world, the tin plate trade should certainly When I was asked to write something have a place. It is not the most important about “The Tin Plater,” I went to him, of Welsh industries, but, from many points and he told me that there were thirty-two of view, it is the most interesting, at any varieties of him, and that each variety had rate of the industries on the coast of the sub-divisions. The reader will, therefore, Bristol Channel. It is in
It is in the various be kind enough to understand that this is Welsh towns skirting the Great Western not a scientific treatise.* line after you cross the border that the One fine morning in June, 1894, Mr. industry reaches its real zenith of activity. D. J. Davies and myself marched out to Sporadic efforts have been and are being one of the most important works here, made on the other side of the Wye. But conquering and to conquer, as we fondly once on Welsh ground the tin plater feels thought, the mysteries of this wonderful at home. As far west as Carmarthen,- organization. We have not done so, but upon which the memory of Dafydd ab we gleaned a few facts which deserve the Edmund still rests,—at an interval of attention of all who care for the toilers of every few miles tin plate works are found. our country.
Without attempting anything more than Imagine yourself in a town which, with an introduction,—to be followed by closer its suburbs, numbers something over forty details of history and method,—we will thousand inhabitants. There are plenty of content ourselves now with pointing out a few proofs that the various processes are monograph that may safely be consulted. It is printed at the as interesting even as the intricacies of the
* But I may state, by the way, that there is an excellent
Guardian office, Llanelly. The author is J. L, Bowen, Esq., of that town,
chimneys, which continually pour forth a The fair estuary of the Llwchwr generous supply of smoke. "Day and night stretches at the feet of the town. Across you can hear the steam engines, the it we see the lovely undulating contour of hammers, and the rollers, fulfilling their the Gower hills. The river Llwchwr starts natural and rightful functions. The streets from the solid rocks near the historic castle are full of life, the place full of energy. of Carreg Cenen. I have often thought All that is “keen” in athletics,—the foot that these facts are signs and symbols to ball team beat redoubtable Newport this those who will read circumstances in the year, and the volunteers produced the light of nature. As the river has its
ROLLS AND FURNACE. Queen's Prizeman last year,—yes, all that source in a quiet, rocky, be-aldered and beis “keen” and all that is musical has a mossed nook far up the hills, and flows to home here. I will not refer to the victories the confines of this busy place, so the of the Town Band, because I might damage youth and strength reared on the barren our literature by decreasing the circulation highlands find work and occupation, and of WALES. Human nature is human learn skill and science, in our smoky town. nature, and envious eyes have been cast on The Gower hills tell us that we may have Llanelly from other directions than the tin confidence in our own race. We look upon plate works in America.
a beautiful country occupied by another
race, and proudly reflect that the artisan make it bubble up like a veritable ocean of Llanelly is superior to the peasant of of flame. If Mr. Davies includes an illusGower. And does not the beauty of tration of a furnace, it ought to be specially nature, surrounding the “ din and smoke of printed to illustrate the next edition of this dim spot,” whisper to us that Ruskin, Paradise Lost. like Homer, sometimes has a nap, and that There are four chambers. In the first, after all it is possible that beauty and skill gas is passed over the metal. The second are one ? Physically and literally, Llanelly and third are air furnaces, and the fourth is a living proof that mercantile and gas. The air, of course, is introduced to artistic power can co-exist and co-operate. enable the gas to burn. The bubbles are
We all live on the tin plater. Therefore caused by the carbon which is released by come with us for an hour to the “works.” the action of the fire. When you look at Here we
see the process from the be this conflagration of the element, blue ginning. We enter through the big doors spectacles are necessary to protect the and catch sight of a medley collection of eyesight. “Mae'r tân fel yr haul yn steel scraps, pig iron, and "oddments” of anterth ei nerth,"* remarked a furnace-man every description. If you are English, you
He had seen it many times in had better rely on the manager to explain many years, but familiarity had not bred
For we are nearly all Welsh here, contempt. and if you have a little of “ the old The next thing is to go and see the language” about you, you will soon find metal "tapped.” In the dusky atmosphere this to be true. The begrimed, but honest, of the shed, with the half clad and unfaces will brighten into what is more recognisable forms flitting round you, with celestial than cleanliness at a word in the clang of many hammers and the whir Welsh.
of many wheels deafening your ears, you We return, not to our“ muttons " but to begin to feel heated and dazed. A strange our “pigs." These remind us of Charles longing presses upon your spirit.
You Lamb. They are roasted alive, iron ore of begin to want to go home to the bosom of a rough kind being put in the furnace to your family and rest awhile.
Then, bring the temperature up to the required suddenly, the trap doors open, and the melting point. The furnaces are heated yellow steel, scintillating with silver light, by gas made on the premises. This is, if leaps down to the receptacles that transfer we may use the expression, gas in the it into the cases from which, when rough. It is of no use for ordinary lighting cooled, it emerges as “ ingots.”
What an purposes. Having enquired where the tin avalanche! It impressed me far more plater gets his coal, we are informed that than the Niagara did. It represented it is from the Rhondda,--another home of nature conquered by man, and the music and merchandise, of art and hard sentiment of the power of man is necessary work.
to crown the sentiment of the power of We are now told that we shall have to nature. endure great heat in viewing the furnaces. Whenever you cut your can of tinned Not very many years ago a popular fruit, remember that some men in South preacher is reported to have caused Wales have faced a deluge of liquid steel revival by informing the people that, if and compelled it to go where it should, — they were wicked, they would go to a in optato alveo,—for you. place the warmth of which was so great You can barely hear your guide explainthat it would mean capital punishment to ing that the ingots go into another furnace its habitual occupant if he were placed for to be reheated. They then come out hot,a quarter of an hour in the hottest furnace
which appears to be quite natural,—and in Llanelly. He would die of cold. This are “put upon” by a seven-ton hammer, is doubtless mere report, for I, with an and flattened from their original size of exiguous imagination, can conceive of no ten inches to about four inches. Then the sea of fire like that which we view now. pitiless knife cuts them into lengths. The gas plays over the molten metal and
* "The fire is like the sun in the might of its strength."
What strikes the nervous observer of all the machinery. Still this music brings this is the ease with which the men use bread and children's happy laughter, and their tongs in dealing with these abused, man and wife's content to most of the Mattened, decapitated, but still red-hot houses. Whenever I go away, either on ingots. They pass them one to another as business or pleasure, my first anxiety, on if they were playing tennis.
my return, is to see if our chimneys show You ask about accidents. Very few signs of life. If the stacks smoke, I know
Some eighteen months ago that the little children of Llanelly have hammer-man was killed. The steel ingot
The steel ingot their daily food. slipped while under the hammer, and the We next come to the rolling. Our ingot weight drove the tongs into his side with a
two broad rollers, and fatal result. Custom had made him care emerges, like a hobbledehoy, much greater less, and though he was a good workman, in length than in thickness. In short, it
he was looking round and talking to some now resembles a flat fiery serpent, about one instead of keeping his eyes fixed on his half an inch thick, and it is, as should be own business.
done in all such cases, at once plunged into In reference to the hammer, you will not a “bosh.” Ordinary people denominate fail to notice the action of the steam this a bath, but the tin plater allows his gauger. He regulates the force which is phraseology to suffer no sea change. brought to bear on our poor ingot,-neè In certain works, I should explain, there pig, -and his work, for all the world, is no hammering. The steel goes straight resembles that of an organ blower. You away from the furnace to the roller. But almost expect to hear a voluntary. But the discipline of the hammer is good, no; there is nought but the thud! thud! though it is doubtful whether civilization of the hammer, and the grind ! grind ! of will tolerate the better article at the higher