The furnaces were tended by furnace men, the engines by drivers and each mill was worked by a team of five men, as follows:
Roller Man – was in charge of his mill. He pushed the red hot steel into the rolls after receiving it from the Catcher and repeated this until he had the required length and thickness. This was a highly skilled job, and every other millman’s wages depended on him.
Doubler – received the rolled sheet from the Roller, doubled and sheared it and returned the doubled steel to the Furnace Man. He also relieved the Roller as his deputy.
Furnace Man – had care of the two coal fired furnaces and to heat and re-heat the steel sheets.
Helper – a young man who relieved every other millman to learn their tasks.
Catcher – also a young man whose tasks was to catch the steel as it came out of the rolls and swing it back over to the Roller.
All millmen worked in similar clothes – a white towel around the neck, a short sleeved, collarless waist length flannel shirt worn outside trousers, a long white apron and thick boots. The Doubler also had a steel toecap on his left clog which he used to stamp on the hot steel during doubling.
The next process was to ‘cold roll’ which sealed the surface and gave it gloss. The sheets were then ‘pickled’ by dropping them into a vat of sulphuric acid, then ‘annealed’ and sent to the ‘Tinhouse’ for finishing. Here they were passed through molten tin by skilled Tinmen. Finally, the ‘taggers’ went to the sorting room, where women worked as ‘sorters’ and allocated them from ‘prime’ through to ‘waste waste’. Packed in wooden boxes, the sheets were exported all over the world, from the village railway siding.
On some of the photographs, you can see the Doubler holding the tongs of his trade, the specially reinforced boot, and shears which squared the edges of the hot sheets, and the Helper, holding the tongs he used to separate the sheets after rolling. **
It was the development of the automated strip mills of South Wales that brought over three hundred years of tinplate manufacture here to an end, where at its height the work force had numbered about 500, but had reduced to about 150 when it closed in 1961.