BNC Text K7G

Oral history project: interview. Sample containing about 7072 words speech recorded in educational context

2 speakers recorded by respondent number C657

PS5R1 Ag5 m (Thomas, age 71, retired baker, interviewee) unspecified
PS5R2 X m (No name, age unknown, historian, interviewer) unspecified

1 recordings

  1. Tape 125501 recorded on 1983. LocationUnknown () Activity: Interview for oral history project interview, reminiscences

Undivided text

Thomas (PS5R1) [1] [cough] Well my name's Thomas Nelson .
[2] I am seventy one years of age.
[3] I was born on Christmas Day nineteen twelve.
[4] Unfortunately my father was killed in the first war, nineteen seventeen January, and my mother was left with four children to bring up.
[5] My mother worked all her life and she retired at eighty three which is not bad going.
(PS5R2) [6] Pretty good.
Thomas (PS5R1) [7] As a family we couldn't get away from school quick enough to try and earn a bob or two for to help my mother.
[8] I left school at fifteen years of age.
(PS5R2) [9] Which schools did you go to?
Thomas (PS5R1) [10] I went to school then Secondary School.
[11] I started work with a fishmonger or a hawker rather r round the streets and when a woman cried over the window for fish I ran up the stairs and delivered it.
[12] [laugh] From there.
(PS5R2) [13] How much did you get paid for that?
Thomas (PS5R1) [14] Oh eleven shillings I think it was eleven shillings a week.
(PS5R2) [15] And what kind of hours?
Thomas (PS5R1) [16] And it was oh nine o'clock to two o'clock.
[17] Er and I had three shillings change.
[18] Two a half crown and a sixpence and a threepenny and three pennies and sometimes he forgot to take it back but however I didn't remind him.
[19] [laugh] After that I started in Bakery as an apprentice baker.
[20] And I worked there until oh nineteen forty nine or nineteen fifty.
(PS5R2) [21] When was it you started there?
Thomas (PS5R1) [22] Oh that would be what er ... that'd be about ?
(PS5R2) [23] Nineteen twenty nine?
Thomas (PS5R1) [24] Aye more or less that that's right.
(PS5R2) [25] And it was a five year apprenticeship was it ?
Thomas (PS5R1) [26] Five year apprenticeship yes and er it was more or less labourer work you were just a boy and run and did messages and carried whatever the journeymen bakers wanted.
[27] Er you didn't really start thinking seriously about being a baker until about your last year of your apprenticeship.
[28] And of course made it part of the job that you had to attend night school classes for bread baking and confectionery.
(PS5R2) [29] Where did you go for that?
Thomas (PS5R1) [30] Went to a night school in Fountain Bridge.
[31] And if you had a complete attendance you got your er you got your fee back again from the from .
(PS5R2) [32] But you had to pay it initially?
Thomas (PS5R1) [33] paid but if you had a complete attendance they gave you the money back for your self which was quite er a good thing in these days when a a tanner was a tanner.
[34] I served er my apprenticeship as I said in .
[35] I was married in nineteen thirty seven prior to the war breaking out in nineteen thirty nine.
[36] I became very interested in the trade union movement and my first appointment was as a collector in collecting the union dues and taking them up to the union office.
[37] And the scope of that work I had enrolled all the the lady workers both on the confectionery side and the dispatch side and that made it what you would term as a closed shop.
(PS5R2) [38] Did you take er members complaints and things when you collected the dues or they had anything to pass on ?
Thomas (PS5R1) [39] Yes yes if members had any complaints about their work I would report it up at the head office and up up at the the branch office in [...] Park.
[40] And er take their sick lines up and bring back their sick money and such things as that.
[41] Er I even visit a number of homes and delivered their sick money.
[42] This was all part of the the set up.
[43] And I carried on doing that for quite a number of years and I managed to be voted onto the Edinburgh committee.
[44] And I progressed from there to vice chairman chairman and local organizer full time local organizer.
[45] That was in nineteen fifty four.
[46] My job as local organizer was going the bakeries collecting the dues where there was no collector and dealing with complaints.
[47] ... In nineteen sixty six I stood for election of the national organizer and was successful and joined the head office in Glasgow in May nineteen sixty six.
[48] The area I covered as a national organizer was from Berwick to Stirling and everything in between.
[49] Now as a national organizer all the branches in your area if they had any complaints or anything that they wanted attending to used to write to their national organizer and I used to visit and deal with their complaints.
[50] ... Well er going back to when I started serving my time as an apprentice er I think I started with eleven shillings and I was there for about nine months when the manager come over and says to me he had been paying me short.
[51] About one and odds a week short.
[52] And I got a packet with a few quid in it that day which my mother er appreciated.
[53] Anyway it was very kind of the manager to do that he could have said nothing.
[54] I think the wages went up round about a half a crown the first year or five bob the second year in er er progressing like that.
[55] And when your time was out there was no question of you not getting a journeyman's wages you were you were paid that alright.
(PS5R2) [56] And did they tend to keep their apprentices on at ?
Thomas (PS5R1) [57] Yes.
[58] Very little very few apprentices were sacked unless through misdemeanour or anything but if you done your work you were there to as long as you you liked.
[59] Now in in the bakery at that time it was one of the most progressive bakeries in the city and it must have employed at least about a hundred bakers.
[60] Maybe forty women and er so many van men dispatch workers and van men.
[61] The the thing that er sticks out is that at time there was no women organizing the union and er I had a go at organizing the women and I was very successful.
[62] Because at the end of the day we had a hundred percent women in the union in that bakery.
[63] But I must say through help of the national agreement and that takes us back to nineteen forty seven.
[64] All local agreements up and down the country which it counted to eighty odds were all scrubbed and there was what you call a national agreement established to cover the whole of Scotland which meant the man in the remotest part of Scotland got the same wages and conditions as in as the man in Edinburgh or Glasgow or any big city.
[65] And that was a a certainly a step forward for the the little places.
[66] And they loved the national agreement [...] .
(PS5R2) [67] How long did it take to establish that did it take you a long time to?
Thomas (PS5R1) [68] It must have took about three years any way.
[69] It I think forty five they started negotiating forty five forty to forty seven and er when we tried to alter the national agreement or change it in our minds for the better you always had the solid block of these wee fellows up and down the country sticking by the national agreement because they got such a good deal out of it it brought their standards right up to the the best that was going.
[70] And by no way were they going to let the national agreement down.
[71] Anyway
(PS5R2) [72] To take you back a wee bit before that er when you were an apprentice was your tuition from your journeymen quite good ?
Thomas (PS5R1) [73] Oh going back to the apprenticeship you were more or less left [...] as you stood because I I thought that journeymen were very what's the word very er they were only too willing to let you know what was going on and when you think about it you can see why.
[74] In these days they were feared of their job.
[75] There was unemployment going about and the man that had a certain job at making certain things weren't to keen to show the apprentice what to do or give them the recipes.
[76] But however you you wangled them some way and you you eventually learnt your trade by half going to classes at night school and half of information from the bakers you had to put two and two together and you worked it out.
(PS5R2) [77] Was the night school classes were they quite beneficial?
Thomas (PS5R1) [78] The night school classes were very er efficient because the teachers that taught in the night school were actually bakers.
[79] Expert bakers in the trade and er they showed you it from A to Z.
[80] Although some of the things that you were taught you maybe never got a chance to do them in the bakery.
[81] You were only a sort of number in a bakery and er worked at a table along with the rest.
[82] You weren't doing anything individual it was more communion thing you were making the likes of if it was brown bread you're all standing rolling up and chaffing brown bread and putting them in tins.
[83] Then you went on to the next thing you all done the same thing over and over again.
[84] But there were some in individual jobs where you had their wee experts er doing sponges and er icing cakes and all these individual jobs.
[85] The man that was the best at it got the job.
[86] But most of my work in the bakery was on the the small side scones and pancakes and crumpets and er little cakes.
[87] That was er more or less the compartment that I worked in.
[88] They had other compartments where it was only bread and other compartments where it was just confectionery.
[89] But er this is how they they wanted the work done and it wasn't a question of one man had to learn the lot you just had to do work away where you were sent to work [...] .
(PS5R2) [90] Now was one of the biggest bakeries in Edinburgh you told me it was er three stories and each story had a different function .
Thomas (PS5R1) [91] Yes.
[92] It was a it was a very big bakery it had three floors and on the bottom floor was that's where they done the bread and rolls.
[93] On the second floor it was all the scones and tea bread and currant bread and on the top floor it was all confectionery work and sponge making and what have you and pies.
[94] But er it was quite interesting and er more or less you got a chance of going through the departments when you were before your time was out.
[95] But er that was how they they got you into the the trade.
[96] If you were keen and that well it was up to yourself a lot how you how you picked up a lot of things because if you were keen you could pick up anything you wanted if you weren't well that was just too bad it's your own fault.
(PS5R2) [97] Now did you work er an eight hour day?
Thomas (PS5R1) [98] Yes it was an eight hour day.
[99] The apprentices er didn't start before six o'clock in the morning of course they couldn't start apprentice before six o'clock in the morning until he was maybe in his last year then it would be either one o'clock or two o'clock in the morning.
[100] And the hours er the early that's what they called the early men they went in at one o'clock.
[101] They were they preparatory workers they called them.
[102] And they had everything ready for the squad coming in you know.
[103] Well the main squad would come in about two o'clock or three o'clock and er [...] was already for them to start working.
[104] Now on a Saturday when they come to a Saturday the early start was eleven o'clock at night.
[105] And I think the last start was about one o'clock in the morning and you got extra payments for the extra hours.
[106] But you you always needed early men in.
[107] Preparatory men in because if you took a body of men into a bakery half of them would be standing looking about doing nothing until something was prepared.
[108] So that was ideal having preparatory workers.
(PS5R2) [109] So you were working eight er eight hours six days a week?
Thomas (PS5R1) [110] Eight hours six days a work that's right.
(PS5R2) [111] Could you give me an example of how you went about making a a bread scone or a roll or what had to be done?
Thomas (PS5R1) [112] Well in in our in our in our er compartment where it was scones and crumpets and pancakes and everything they had the they had the special man that done the dough in.
[113] Then the dough was all cut out on to a table where you had men chaffing them up.
[114] That's rounding them making them round.
[115] Then you had a a squad of men pulling them out and cutting them.
[116] Putting them up in the wires and other men putting them on the hot plates to fire.
[117] That was a process there.
[118] Oh and the bread again it you had your dough men on the bread who made the doughs.
[119] The doughs were [...] come through the machine cut into sizes certain weights moulded and the men put them in tins.
[120] And er that was a constant process from start to finish.
[121] You were on the same thing all day all day long.
[122] A a set plain bread.
[123] Plain bread was a different matter.
[124] It comes through the comes through the machines and moulded.
[125] Then it had to be loaded up what they call long thin boards.
[126] And the boards were carried onto the drop plate and knocked out.
[127] And you knocked the next one out until you got whole complete drop plate of of bread.
[128] And that was put in the oven to fire it.
[129] It took about two and a half hours to fire that bread.
[130] Cos pan bread was only about three quarters of an hour.
[131] So that's why they tried to fade plain bread out the market altogether.
[132] Takes to long to make and fire.
[133] But that's the bread with the two crusts.
[134] The top crust and the bottom crust.
[135] Compared to the pan bread there's a crust all round it.
[136] That was er that was the process of bread.
[137] Well in these days your your sponges had to be set in the afternoon for the men coming in [...] in the morning.
[138] But nowadays they have m machines, high ratio machines which beat this dough up in three minutes.
[139] These doughs are made in three minutes now where it used to take six hours.
[140] Or the process was six hours.
(PS5R2) [141] So you'd be producing thousands of scones and lots of bread [...]
Thomas (PS5R1) [142] Yes yes.
(PS5R2) [143] turning them out.
Thomas (PS5R1) [144] That's right.
[145] There was er y you had er you had a certain amount to make every day.
[146] Some days was more that others.
[147] Especially at the weekends.
[148] There was more at the weekends than there was through the middle of the week.
[149] And it was all girdle scones [...] scones muffins cream scones currant scones pancakes crumpets treacle crumpets treacle pancakes and all this.
[150] But er it you got enough to keep your day going anyway.
[151] And er as I say that was one of the busiest bakeries in Edinburgh.
[152] During that period.
(PS5R2) [153] Mm.
[154] Don't remember how many shops they had then do you?
[155] Had a lot of shops ?
Thomas (PS5R1) [156] Yes.
[157] They had over a hundred shops in in Edinburgh.
[158] I I couldn't tell you the exact number but it was over a hundred shops in Edinburgh.
[159] But I think they've closed a few since then.
[160] There's a lot of them been closed since then.
(PS5R2) [161] Now what were your conditions?
[162] What was it like to work in in factory?
Thomas (PS5R1) [163] Well the conditions were top conditions.
[164] Er comparing bakery with bakery were as good conditions as anybody.
[165] And they had also er showers for you wash up when you finished.
[166] Wash hand basins in the toilets and everything.
[167] It was er up to the standard of hygiene that you could get.
[168] The basic you get at that time.
[169] And er
(PS5R2) [170] Was it very hot if you were working in the ovens there?
Thomas (PS5R1) [171] Yes.
[172] Well these were the hottest place that you could work at the ovens of dough in the bread ovens.
[173] The sweat was running down your back all day and I've seen me taken off my white clothes and hang them up and they were still wet when you come in the next day.
[174] And er working at the hot plates of course that was a hot job as well.
[175] You were over the hot plate all the time.
[176] But there was no extra money for that.
[177] Ovens er ovens men.
[178] But this has only happened since we got the national agreement.
[179] Ovens men and dough men got extra money.
[180] But er the extra money they got was no worth taking the job.
[181] It wasn't worth the responsibility.
[182] But they tell me now that it's been increased immensely now what they get for being an oven man.
[183] Because at the end of the day nobody would take the job.
[184] Because of the responsibility they had a pound was no covering it as far as they were concerned.
[185] They so it could be five pound now for the responsibility I don't know.
[186] But it was a very responsible job because if you got an oven for your stuff and you burnt that [laughing] boy there's a lot of waste [] .
[187] So they had to get a chap that knew his business and I think he was entitled to get extra money.
[188] And the dough man was just as in the same responsible position.
[189] Because he could jigger up the doors just the same as anybody else.
[190] So I think he was quite right in handing out to get extra money.
[191] Because he could ruin a dough as well as anybody else.
(PS5R2) [192] What about er safety was it a fairly safe place to work?
Thomas (PS5R1) [193] Yes.
[194] Er bakery was pretty safe.
[195] They had maintenance men of their own of course who they seen that all the machine was guarded and everything else.
[196] But you know you'll always get the chap that comes along and lifts the guard to get his hand in and he loses a finger and he blames that he blames the firm.
[197] [laugh] But er no as a as a safety bakery it was [...] as good as any.
[198] As good as any I would say.
[199] But very little accidents in .
(PS5R2) [200] Now er during the war baking was er a reserved occupation.
[201] Can you tell me anything about that ?
Thomas (PS5R1) [202] Yes.
[203] Well du when the war broke out the all bakers up to the age of twenty seven was reserved.
[204] Which meant that er you could try and get away if you liked but you as soon as you mentioned you were a baker and they looked at your age you were [...] .
[205] So anybody that worked at the baking trade and was twenty seven was reserved.
[206] Could not get into the army.
[207] Anybody under that is they were taken away to the army no bother.
[208] And er of course during the war we didn't have the freedom for making the stock that we we done prior to the war.
[209] A lot of all these lines were cut down you know.
(PS5R2) [210] Couldn't get supplies?
Thomas (PS5R1) [211] That's where er we made some money potato scones.
[212] [laugh] It was er potatoes were being used oh bags and bags of potatoes were used in I don't know.
[213] Went into everything.
[214] Pies scones [laugh] and they made their own [...] with the potatoes.
[215] They bought the potatoes and they put them into this machine to mix them up with a couple of pails of water and then they drained all the taters off and left the milk that was left and used that for the baking.
[216] But er
(PS5R2) [217] Were conditions any different during the war?
Thomas (PS5R1) [218] Well no no not really.
[219] I would say conditions were a wee bit easier a wee bit you had a wee bit more freedom because they knew they could not replace anybody if they gave the sack.
[220] And if they did give you the sack you would be walked away to the army I expect.
[221] But every firm every private firm was took the advantage of the reservation.
[222] That the bakers would be reserved at twenty seven.
[223] The only bakery that I know that didn't do that was the .
[224] The didn't reserve anybody and quite a lot of their men at forty was taken away to the army.
[225] And how how they got on er with losing these men I just don't know.
[226] But they never reserved anybody the .
[227] So if you were in the and you were forty years of age you weren't safe for going to the to go to the army.
[228] [break in recording] Well er continuing on bakery the bottom floor which was a break making plan.
[229] Now during the war when we had to have all the windows sealed and blacked out that place became very warm and very uncomfortable to work in.
[230] And eventually the bakers nicknamed it the Belsen camp.
[231] Now the squad that worked down there when anybody left there was nobody would take their place.
[232] Because they didn't want to work under these conditions.
[233] And as as I say they had to put all the mens name in the hat and pick them out and put up a roster and they had their turn of going down the bread week by week.
[234] But at least ten to fifteen bakers to my knowledge left rather than go down to what they called the Belsen camp.
[235] And the the firm was very annoyed at hearing this name getting banded about because it was getting a bad name.
[236] But that is really truly what happened.
[237] It was that uncomfortable to work in.
[238] Every window was black with paint and there was no air coming in at all and you walk in between very very hot ovens and the sweat was lashing down your back.
[239] So they had every difficulty in getting bakers to work down there.
[240] Now if we can go back to the period when the eighty odd agreements was developed into one national agreement, it seemed to break up what we would term a big happy family.
[241] Because all the local places that had agreements everybody knew each other you knew their families and whatever.
[242] And the interest in the trade unio trade unionism was kept alive.
[243] But since we got the national agreement in nineteen forty seven the same interest wasn't in the trade union movement.
[244] Although heaven knows we tried to keep it there.
[245] But the simple reason that the men the local men had nothing to do with making the agreement now so they lose they lost interest in the trade union movement.
[246] And er further to further that opinion when we got the dues taken off the worker's wages and delivered to the office that still didn't help the the matter.
[247] It still helped the remote chance of getting people to come to the meetings.
[248] They had no interest in the trade union movement.
[249] The the dues was deducted of their wages so therefore why should they go to meetings.
[250] They hadn't they had no er inherent right to make resolutions or ask for increase in wages that was all done at conference by their their representatives.
[251] So I think bringing out the national agreement, although it was a great development for the union, and these docked a lot of the work they had to beforehand had to do, it certainly didn't help the relations and the entries in the trade union movement.
[252] More or less I think it went against the entries because the members just wouldn't turn up to the meetings.
(PS5R2) [253] Did you get the feeling when you moved about that the members felt this that the the organizers of the union was a wee bit adrift?
Thomas (PS5R1) [254] Well that's a feeling you got moving around that er what the hell was the good of coming to a meeting you had no say in your conditions or wages or whatever.
[255] It was all taken up by the top brass [laughing] you know [] .
[256] And this is what you got.
[257] But as you look at it nowadays you can see if they were going back to these days would we still have the same interest.
[258] Would they still come to the meetings.
[259] Because we had halls where the members couldn't get in it was packed.
[260] But nowadays you're lucky if you get a dozen.
[261] And it's only because they have no rights in what they're negotiating for.
[262] And negotiations are all done on their behalf.
[263] And they've gotta lump it or like it.
(PS5R2) [264] You you can't have much influence at all in in these decisions?
Thomas (PS5R1) [265] No well [clears throat] more or less the branches had the opportunity to send in resolutions to the national agreement which were dealt with at conference.
[266] But regarding wages and hours they were all taken by the executive council and debated at the national joint committee with the employers.
[267] But it was what the executive council thought the increase in wages should be not what the members thought.
[268] And I think this done away with a lot of entries and keeping people away from meetings.
(PS5R2) [269] When did you actually go back to when did you you worked there after the war for a while did you?
Thomas (PS5R1) [270] Yes.
[271] I worked in up there about nineteen fifty or fifty one when I had a dispute with the manager and I gave him a week's notice.
(PS5R2) [272] You want to say anything about that?
Thomas (PS5R1) [273] Well it was on at that time I was dropping pancakes and crumpets and the manager come up one morning and said that there was running late.
[274] The despatch was complaining that the stuff was late.
[275] Well you either left the line for me to try two or three mixes for custom purposes.
[276] Which meant you had to try the mixing drop it onto the plate count how many you got out it clean out the machine and try another one and do the same again and the same again.
[277] I told him this and he says, Is that all it takes minutes.
[278] So I says, Well if it only take minutes you bloody well do it yourself.
[279] And at that moment I told him to take my week's notice.
[280] During the week he come back asking me if I forget about it and withdraw my notice but stubborn as I was I refused.
[281] And I left in about nineteen fifty or fifty one and started in a little shop in Road in [...] .
(PS5R2) [282] How were your er wages moving by this time?
[283] Did the war make a big difference to the wages?
Thomas (PS5R1) [284] Er the wages weren't really moving at all in these shor er times.
[285] Er we had lost quite a bit during the war.
[286] Prior to the war the bakers was at the top of the tree of tradesmen.
[287] Three pound nineteen and six or four pound one shilling that was about the top wages in in the land at that time for tradesmen.
[288] But during the period of the war the bakers sadly fell down to about the middle of the table through the old saying that you've got to be patriotic and help the war effort.
[289] So the bakers lost out during the war.
[290] And it took us a long long time to try and get back where we were.
[291] And we're still not there yet.
[292] Although we're getting nearer and nearer.
(PS5R2) [293] When you worked er before the war did you experience any wage cuts?
(PS5R2) [294] Prior to the war no no.
[295] Er prior to the war we we did very the three pound nineteen and six and the four pound one that I'm talking about that was all done with local negotiations.
[296] Locally we done that and it wasn't until we we went nationally under national agreement we lost the wayside.
[297] And er we fell by the wayside in the wages right.
[298] And we never got back again.
[299] The [...]
(PS5R2) [300] Mm.
Thomas (PS5R1) [301] are still very poorly paid.
(PS5R2) [302] How about your hours.
[303] Were your hours coming down at all?
Thomas (PS5R1) [304] Er we got the hours down to eventually we got the hours down to forty four.
[305] I think it was forty six forty seven forty er forty six forty five forty four.
[306] They come down that way.
[307] Er and usually we maybe had to give them a holiday.
[308] We lose a holiday for to get an hour off the working week.
[309] But these were all the traps in negotiations.
(PS5R2) [310] Now when you moved to was that [clears throat] a kind different kind of work obviously you were doing a wee bit more variety.
[311] There was only about three of you was there?
Thomas (PS5R1) [312] Yes it was different type of work altogether.
[313] Er [...] was on a smaller scale of course and more done with the hand than machine.
[314] You had your certain lot of wee machines that helped you to do things but more or less it was all done with the hand.
[315] Even er the breaking of dough was done with a lot of mang a little wringers thing you know.
[316] Compared with these big electric rollers.
[317] But the however we got by and it was a very progressive wee bakery.
[318] But unfortunately the parting of the ways had to come and I worked in another wee shop er down in Albert Street in Leith.
(PS5R2) [319] You want to say why you left ?
Thomas (PS5R1) [320] Well it was through er [...] up and I ended up doing bakers work.
[321] I complained and although it was stopped I still got my books later. [laugh]
(PS5R2) [322] So you moved down to Albert Street
Thomas (PS5R1) [323] So I mo
(PS5R2) [324] which is another small bakery?
Thomas (PS5R1) [325] I moved down to Albert Street which is was in the borders of Edinburgh and Leith.
[326] [clears throat] And er during the time I was in in Albert Street although I was still very interested in the union and on the committee I think I was president or vice president at the time, there the job for a local organizer come up.
[327] But with me being in practically the borders of Edinburgh Leith branch was [...] er they pulled me into Leith branch.
[328] They say I should've been a member of Leith branch.
[329] But our to avoid that situation I left and went to work with which kept me in the Edinburgh branch and within three or four weeks I stood for the local organizer and had not been successful.
[330] And that was the end of my baking days. [laugh]
(PS5R2) [331] What was this [...] full time union work?
Thomas (PS5R1) [332] That was full time union work.
(PS5R2) [333] Er just before we go onto you union work, what were you having [...] was quite a good employer I believe?
Thomas (PS5R1) [334] Yes.
[335] They when I when I became a full time employer er a full time employee with the union it was all more or less small bakeries.
[336] The only bak er and the that was about the only three big bakeries and they had plenty of collectors and shop stewards in these places to look after themselves.
[337] But I'd dealt more or less with the small firms even to the the extent of collecting dues.
[338] And attending to their complaints.
[339] Now that developed that developed from er nineteen fifty four to nineteen sixty six.
[340] That was twelve years.
[341] When er I stood for the election of the national organizers for the East of Scotland and I was successful there and I left the Edinburgh branch in May nineteen sixty six to start work with the head office in nine May nineteen sixty six.
[342] And I was there from May sixty er May nineteen sixty six to December seventy seven.
[343] Which was about another twelve years. [break in recording]
(PS5R2) [344] Now how did you first get [clears throat] interested in the trade unions Mr ?
Thomas (PS5R1) [345] Well I got interested in the trade unions because at that time more or less [...] eighty five of the workers went to the trade union meetings.
[346] So the men always made sure the apprentices went and er it was just a matter over the years going to the meetings that you get interested in the business of the trade unions.
[347] And er it developed from there that er I was appointed collector at collecting the money and er
(PS5R2) [348] Would you tell me a wee bit about that?
Thomas (PS5R1) [349] Well when you collected the dues er it meant taking it up to the office every Monday and when you got up to the office and got talking to the officials and such like the interest became greater and er it developed from there that er the workers of thought they should have er should have a representative on the committee.
[350] And er I was put up for the committee and was successful and sat on the committee for quite a number of years.
(PS5R2) [351] What kind of things did you do there?
Thomas (PS5R1) [352] Well on the committee you dealt with com you met once a week on a Wednesday.
[353] There was about ten on the committee and er the full time secretary.
[354] Now we dealt with all complaints that had been lodged during the week and er [...] would be attended.
[355] And also er letters that had been sent from head office.
[356] These were all dealt with on a Wednesday night and the secretary would get his instructions how to deal with them or or how or when to deal with them.
[357] And this was er more or less the trade union business.
[358] And and between that er every year the conference was held and er we had four meetings a a year local meetings.
[359] Quarterly meetings which they call them that was held in er the Odd Fellows Hall in Forest Road and I think it was the March January February March quarterly meeting that they er the ballot was taken for delegates for the conference.
[360] The conference was held in June.
[361] And all your big branches Glasgow Dundee Aberdeen and Edinburgh was allowed six delegates.
[362] The er secretary went because he was a full time official.
[363] So that was the er full secretary and six delegates attended and er put up the case for Edinburgh branch.
[364] [...] only resolutions that stood in the name of the Edinburgh branch was dealt with by some of these delegates.
[365] And also any alterations or recommendations for the national agreement the case was put up for the delegates.
[366] And er you would have maybe a hundred and twenty delegates attending from all over Scotland.
[367] The small branches only got one delegate and that would be the part time secretary [...] branch secretary he would attend.
[368] And er but they had they they said very little.
[369] Er you got one or two bright er part time branch secretaries and some of the wee branches quite capable lads.
[370] And er they would put up any case that they had from their branch.
[371] But on the whole they had er what you call a standing orders committee.
[372] That was picked out of er the whole.
[373] The voting er you voted for them at the delegate meeting and I think it was the six top six highest in the vote became the standing orders.
[374] Now they met on the Friday prior to the the delegate meeting and went all all over the agenda.
[375] And anything that was to be ruled out of order or they did it.
[376] But but prior to doing that they met with the branch that had put the resolution in.
[377] They met with the branch and discussed it with them and told them how it was out of order.
[378] And usually that was accepted.
[379] Although it had to come to the [...] before it was accepted.
[380] And er that was er that was er the main topics of the conference.
[381] The rest was the rest on the agenda was resolutions dealing with the broader feeling on the economy and what have you.
[382] The likes of Scotland's economy that was on nearly every trade union agenda at conferences.
[383] Every year.
[384] But it never did it any good they never got to run their own economy.
[385] [laugh] So that was that covered you delegate meeting.
(PS5R2) [386] What kind of resolutions would you [clears throat] bring up there?
Thomas (PS5R1) [387] Well er protocol you know.
[388] Er in fact there was very little resolutions dealing with their own business.
[389] More or less dealing with the labour party business of the government business.
[390] And any any reso what I call resolutions that were passed they were sent to the proper departments of government.
[391] And er ... whatever happened to them after that er.
[392] We usually got one back saying they'd been accepted and they'd deal with them at a [laughing] certain time you know [] .
[393] But er that was practically your conference.
[394] Now they set aside a day of the conference for er deal with the national agreement.
[395] And er all the branches had a cook at the national agreement how to try and alter it and make it better.
[396] But it was usually the big branches that was doing the cooking.
[397] And er when it come to a vote to try and get anything passed or changed the wee branches were solid voting for the national agreement.
[398] So you had very little chance to change any.
[399] Unless it was changed at er a yearly in the negotiations.
[400] But er it certainly did a lot for the bakers but as I said it certainly took away the happy family union that we had before.
[401] Because as soon as the national agreement come into being our our [...] of the meetings dropped down dropped down dropped down until there were very few attending.
[402] And I think the reason for that was because they didn't have a say in what was happening.
(PS5R2) [403] Now to take you back to when you were on the committee representing what kind of complaints did you have to get there?
Thomas (PS5R1) [404] Well one of the commonest complaints that we had to deal with was er when your time was up at twelve o'clock you they usually kept you working until about five or ten past twelve.
[405] That that was a regular thing and er that was unpaid of course.
[406] Then of course you had to take that up to the office and report it to the the branch secretary who would come down and deal with it with the management.
[407] But they just in these days they just looked at them and said, Alright.
[408] But it happened it kept going on happen.
[409] But one of the complaints that I was very bitter about was at that time I cycled to my work and they had paving stones in the bakery with the slits in them for to keep bikes.
[410] And er I used to keep my bike in there.
[411] And this day when I come out the bike was gone.
[412] ... I went up to the union and reported it and asked them to do something about it.
[413] They said oh they couldn't do nothing about that but er didn't think they could do much about it.
[414] Anyway I I bought a little book that I saw in one of the shops and it was er The Industrial Lawyer.
[415] And in that little book it said, If the firm provided space for bicycles or what have you they were responsible for them.
[416] And I took that little book up to the union and showed it to the branch secretary and still I never got my bike or any compensation for it.
[417] I was very bitter about that.
[418] Then that I got that book back when I became a full time official it was still in the [laughing] still in the office [] .
[419] So I took it away.
[420] But er I that's one of the complaints that I was very bitter about.
[421] I thought I should've got some er compensation anyway or something.
[422] But I don't think the branch secretary bothered himself much about it.
[423] And of course I was to blame for not keeping on his [...] and making him do something about it.
[424] Er the other complaints were just more or less er maybe arguments er workers getting into trouble over their [...] arguing about frivolous things you know.
[425] Shouldn't have been doing that and shouldn't have been doing that.
[426] And er there was always two sides to these stories.
[427] But you report it anyway and let the let the branch official deal with it.
[428] But more or less [...] er dirty towels for drying your hands that's another common common complaint.
[429] And as I say er seven people seven workers did [...] when they all that trouble started [...] the bread.
[430] These were all things that er you.
[431] I reported them when I went up but whether there was any success in the things I just don't know.
[432] One of the another thing that I remember when I was in er they come to the er delegate meeting in June.
[433] You've gotta ask to get away for three days.
[434] And I went into the management the bakery manager and asked him and he says to me, This is not a cooperative bakery.
[435] I says I know I says it's not only cooperative bakeries that's in the agreement.
[436] Anyway I says, Well I've asked you and you've said told me no.
[437] I says well I'm gonna take it higher.
[438] So I went up to the general manager Mr and he he sa told me certainly I can go.
[439] [laughing] So. []
[440] However how however how the [...] managers felt I don't know.
[441] But I certainly got to the delegate meeting.
[442] Er
(PS5R2) [443] What about organizing the women?
[444] Did you do that before you were full time?
Thomas (PS5R1) [445] Oh yes I was collector collected the money the dues and in er bakery at the time.
[446] But er the national agreement was established by then and er I just I just took it upon myself to try [...] the women and that I was very successful.
[447] But then [...] where it was a closed shop.
[448] We got every every women that worked in the bakery into the union.
[449] Now on the ground flat it was a despatch where they despatched the goods.
[450] That was all women as well.
[451] But we never touched them at that time.
[452] Because we we hadn't wages or conditions or anything like for them [recording ends]