Allan Watkins -     Pickler Team Leader -     29 years at the Works     The closure announcement came and we were all a bit stunned. Management kept saying how professional the workforce were by carrying on as usual but deep down people were gutted and hurt that this had happened after making team working at Ebbw Vale such a success.    And with the announcement came a complete change in people’s attitudes, as positions were being made available at other Corus plants.  This meant filing in application forms and going for interviews which was very daunting.  I personally had not had an external job interview since I started at Ebbw Vale.    The last shift I worked was the 6-2 shift on the day of closure itself.  I walked the complete area of the Pickle Line from the Hot Mill Warehouse to the Exit Warehouse – just taking in as many memories as possible on the way.    I was gutted and hurt, but I knew deep down that we all had to pick ourselves up and move on.
   Alun Hodson -     Engineer on Pickle Line -     12 years at the Works     I started in Ebbw Vale in May 1990.  I was 23 years old and I remember coming home after my induction day, which included signing up to the Works Club and becoming an Ebbw Vale Rugby season ticket holder. Oh, and we briefly talked about health and safety!  And telling my dad, who had retired from the steelworks a few years earlier (he was a colour blind electrician’s mate) that I was going to be in the labour pool and would be sent to either the Tractors, the Temper Mill, the 5 Stand or the Pickler and he said      “Whatever you do, don’t go down the Pickler!”     The following day I was sent down to, yes you’ve guessed it, the Pickler and the rest, as they say, is history.      One of the younger breed of characters was a lad called Johnny Collins who was sent to the Pickler because nobody else would have him. Now John was a big ‘Rat Pack’ fan and would often serenade us with his impressions of Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Junior and his favourite Frank Sinatra.  But sadly this came to an abrupt end on one particular night shift, because on this night shift, John with tannoy in hand, was giving it his all with a fantastic rendition of the classic ‘My Way’.  Sadly for John, he had forgot that at 3 o clock in the morning, sound travels a little bit further in the dead of night and a resident who lived in Clovelly Avenue, which was a street less than 50 yards from the Pickle Line, got in his car whilst still in his pyjamas and drove to the Spotters (Security) Cabin at the North Gate and explained that     “Unless Frank Sinatra shuts the fuck up, I will shove that tannoy right up his fucking arse!’
  Alan Lewis (left) - Anode Caster - 13 years at the Works    Nigel Davis (right) - Anode Caster - 15 years at the Works
   Alan Harris -     Electrical Fitter -     34 years at the Works     My strongest and fondest memory of the plant was the life- long friends and work mates that I had for the whole period I worked at Ebbw Vale.  In the electrical Departments around the site, everyone looked out for one another – from the day’s regular boys to the shift boys.  There were quite a lot of great mates and friends made during that time and they still are today.    It was never a chore to get up in the morning and go to work, because when you actually got to work, even if you were feeling a bit down, you could guarantee that someone would always say something or do something to bring you back up.  Normally with a bit of a joke or the odd trick being played on you.    It was hard to know how I felt at the time.  I had spent 34 years at Ebbw Vale from boy to man and I remember that the announcement came as a bit of a shock, not just for me but for everyone else who worked there and everybody in and around the town itself.  I suppose that it took a long time for it to sink in that it was actually going to close.  I loved every minute of everyday at that plant.  I never imagined that the steelworks would ever close.  My thoughts were - What were the people who worked there going to do?  What were my mates going to do?  What was I going to do?  
   Alun Rees (left) -     Team Leader Warehouse & Distribution -     32 years at the Works      Howard Vaughan (right) - Team Member Warehouse & Distribution - 25 years at the Works     Alun Rees...    My strongest memories of the Works were…    Great workmates; Great friendships; Real internal customer satisfaction; A sense of belonging; Hard workers; Fun; True friends; True enemies; Life changing experiences such as the selection process and promotion; Bad management; Closure Teams; Demolition.     At the time of closure I felt…    Devastation! Sad; End of an era; Wanted to die; Relieved (knew it was coming); Cheated; Resigned to the fact; Helpless; Keen to move on; Wanted to prove people wrong about the closure; Cheated again and again.    The impact of the closure…    Made me almost commit suicide; Made me stronger; Made me really think of providing for my family.    Howard Vaughan...     
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   My strongest memories of the Works were the friends I made.  The work was just work at the end of the day - it was something you had to do to get a bit of a life. That work has now gone, but most of the friends are still around and those who are not, I will always remember with great affection. It’s the social aspects I remember the most - the five-a-side games, going to Glastonbury and Reading festivals together, the trips to Spain, many a night out watching bands in the pubs, going to international matches and attending friends weddings.    At the time of closure it was obviously a big step into the unknown for me, as I eventually decided I was getting out of the steel industry for good.  But once you've made that decision, you just have to go with it.  I had lots of feelings all rolled into one - a new job, new friends, a different way of working, different humour, the list is endless.    The closure impacted upon me in an unexpected but positive way.    I started a new job in Caerphilly and was off the ‘continental shifts’ so I found I had more energy. I then met my wife, moved to Caerphilly, have every weekend off and just feel good and better in myself.
  Andrew Brace - Team Leader Cleaning & Annealing - 25 years at the Works
   Andrew Stokes -     Team Leader 5 Stand -     16 years at the Works     I quickly made the decision to take my redundancy as both my wife and I had parents who were unwell and most of the jobs that Corus said were available were dependent on moving home to be in the location of the new plant. I’d previously unsuccessfully applied for a Team Leader rol twice (apparently I was too nice to manage a team) and felt the steel industry was not a career option for the future.  As the months running up to the closure went on I was given a Team Leader’s role almost by default as people started to move to other plants. I spent just over a year trying to motivate people who had years more experience and knew they were going to lose their jobs.      I think the final straw for me was when we had to process work for Trostre in Llanelli because they couldn’t process the steel as well as we could. That left a really bitter taste especially, as in my opinion, Ebbw Vale was sacrificed to save Llanwern. There’d been talk of Llanwern closing but there was such an outcry that I believe the jobs were taken from Ebbw Vale to save the Newport plant.
   Ambrose Pope -     Steel Process Operator & Training Officer -     35 years at the Works     My strongest memories of the plant are the comradeship me and my fellow employees shared from when I first started work in 1967 until its closure in 2002.  But there were times towards the latter years where the managements’ attitude changed.  When people were deselected, some of the reasons given were quite bizarre.    For example – one crane driver was told he was being ‘let go because he did not communicate much during his shift’ – although how he was supposed to talk to anyone when he was 30ft up in the air is anyone’s guess.    During the 1980’s there was a sense of change as we saw the coalmines around us close and the way the miners were seen by Westminster and the media as left wing yobs.  But to their families and us, they were heroes protecting their way of life.  Little did we know it was going to be our turn next.  I remember we went on strike and the anger of the workforce at that time.  As we came nearer to the closure of the works, a sense of betrayal grew and a feeling of a great loss of all that had gone before.    At the time of closure I felt a great loss for the workforce, for the effect the closure would have on the community of Ebbw Vale and the surrounding areas and the lack of opportunities for future generations.
  Alan Lewis - Anode Caster - 13 years at the Works
   David Ashman (left) -     Shift Specialist, Cleaning & Annealing -     24 years at the Works      Andrew Brace (centre) - Process Specialist, Cleaning & Annealing - 25 years at the Works      Keith Williams (right) - Stock Base Loader, Cleaning & Annealing - 29 years at the Works     David Ashman...    I have two distinct memories, one being the environment itself - namely the smell of the place.  The smells could be the strong smell of the Five Stand palm oil coming off the strip going into the cleaning line.  If you were unfortunate to be first for the end of shift shower then you were guaranteed to have this smell ingrained in your clothes for hours later on.  There was also the smell of the caustic soda fumes that, as with the smell mentioned earlier, we took for granted and did not think of the long-term health effect.     From the time I started working at 16, I was looked after and mentored by the men I always knew they would be there to fight my corner, whilst at the same time knowing the support was reciprocal as I always was there for them.   Like others, I have so many good memories like being sent down the stores for a glass hammer, sky hooks and a long weight.  Four hours later they told me!     I felt numb struck at the time of closure.  The closure announcement delivered in the Lever Hall lacked compassion, something that did not help with the acceptance of closure. One main factor with the distaste after the closure was epitomised by one of my very good workmates who I met collecting trolleys in a supermarket.  He sat me down and told me that in the Works he was very good at his job, was respected and people liked him.  He told me he doesn’t have any of that with his new job and that he’s got a 19-year-old boss who talks to him like shit.  Unfortunately like many other good men, he is also no longer with us, dying at a young age.  But I can be sure of one thing he’s not pushing trolleys up there in the heavens, but working on the cleaning line with Ron, Colin and the Bird.     Respect was something that was earned in the steelworks and was a cornerstone in Valley people’s lives.  Having this taken away from so many people was never taken into consideration when closure was announced and the so-called support for job searching was given.
  Bill Davies - Team Member Warehouse - 22 years at the Works
  Bill Hill - General Labourer - 41 years at the Works
  Jason Briggs (left) - Maintenance Fitter - 18 years at the Works    Brian Evans (right) - Maintenance Fitter - 34 years at the Works   Brian Evans...   It was a man’s world where the work could often be hard, but you all worked together for the common good.  There was great comradeship and a unique sense of humour and everybody watched each other’s backs in more ways that one.  Friendships there were always strong and shared for life.  You looked after each other.  After all, we were one big family.    At the time of closure I felt numb, betrayed and a victim of politics.    Numb – Because this was your life and you had not done anything else.  You had worked there since school and you had invested your working life into it.  Your life was planned around your working there till retirement.    Betrayed – Because you had done everything asked of you – the nights in college; training and exams; multiple courses; the unsociable hours to cover all eventualities.  Ultimately, your plans had all been destroyed.     For a while I had a job with a contract firm who were dismantling the Works.  It was surreal taking apart plant that I had been looking after all my life.  Now I was dismantling it and putting it onto the backs of lorries to be sent all over the world and never seen again.  I felt like I was desecrating a grave.       Since the day the Works closed up to now, there have been loads of people (literally hundreds) that I have not seen again, although I knew them all my working life.  They all live in different towns and our paths never normally cross.  Sometimes you hear of someone passing away and all the memories keep flooding back.    I guess all the people who worked there are still grieving in their own way.
  Byron Price - Team Leader 5 Stand - 34 years at the Works
  Clive Jones (front) - Team Member Warehouse - 22 Years at the Works    Nick Dallimore (back) - Team Member Warehouse - 24 years at the Works
   Colin Hazlewood -     5 Stand Team Leader -     32 years at the Works     The 5 Stand was the place where nobody else from any other department wanted to work.  It was a dirty place to work.  I remember we used to call it ‘creeping grease’ because the grease would get everywhere.  Anything and everything you touched would be coated in grease.  Many times I would row with my partner due to the black grease making its way into our home.    I remember my work colleagues fondly and the camaraderie between us leading to lifelong friendship.  We would each take in turn to cook or bring in a feast to fuel us for the busy shift ahead. This ranged from cooked breakfasts to curries to stews in winter.  We would hold inter-departmental tournaments covering various sports with the winner having all the bragging rights for the year.     At first, I felt devastated when I heard about the closure.  I felt let down and angry that the company decided to close Ebbw Vale when it was making money and improvements right up to the day of closure.  We were let down by the company who used us as guinea pigs to trial new practices and procedures including cutting the workforce which we did successfully while maintaining output.  Looking back, all the things we had done were a waste of time and money.  I was under the impression that all these changes were happening in other works, but it was only in Ebbw Vale, so in my opinion they were deliberately pushing us to closure.    I felt angry as top management was lying to us all along.  I felt frustrated because we were told that we were the best performing works with the highest quality.  I believe that a mixture of politics and location led to the downfall of Ebbw Vale.
   Daman Jukes -     Team Member Pickler -     13 years at the Works     My strongest memories are playing a game called ANGLES in the Roll Shop.  This involved throwing the little rubber balls (that came out of the sandblaster) around the corners of the mess room with the lights out.  Plenty of black eyes and bleeding noses came out of that room.    Loads of great memories from the Pickle Line but the one that will stick with me is where I got a three day suspension for playing badminton.  We had a court marked out, net and all. Unfortunately the Works Engineer decided to make a visit….     At the time of closure I had three young children, so I felt panic to start with.  Plant closure had always been talked about since the day I started, so it didn’t come as a massive shock.  I had ten good years and three bad years there, the last three was when they decided to put graduates in as managers.  Most didn’t have a clue.  In a way I was glad to see the back of it in the end.  I did miss my workmates.  I spent more time with them than I did with my family due to the nature of the shift work and it took a while to adjust to that.
  Darren Powell - Team   Leader   Post   Coating   - 25 years at the Works
  Darren Roberts - Team Member Stockyard & Warehouse - 18 years at the Works
   David Lloyd -    Team Member/Deputy Team Leader on 3 ETL -     25 years at the Works     The camaraderie and the adaptability of the workforce at Ebbw Vale are the memories that will always stay with me.    At the time of the closure I felt very sad that an era in the Valleys was ending.  As I chose not to be relocated, I was extremely anxious wondering what the future held for myself and my family as I had worked at Ebbw Vale since leaving school and all my skills and qualifications were for the steel industry.  I was given 3 months notice and advised of training opportunities outside of the steel industry.  Job opportunities in other local steel plants were very few and far between so I decided that I would pursue an HGV driving course.      However, during the very last week of my 3-month notice I was offered a job in the Hot Mill Down Coilers at Llanwern Steelworks. I was lucky.
  David   Wilkshire   - Bench Joiner - 36 years at the Works
   Delwyn Evans -     Store Keeper and Team Leader -     35 years at the Works     My strongest memories of the plant are working with a great bunch of people who became mates.  The socializing, not just with work colleagues but also with their families.    How did I feel at the time of closure?  Devastated.  I think that all the workers felt down in the dumps.  Myself, I felt very sad.  The Works was a big part of my life. Almost the whole of my life.    The impact was enormous.  It hurt me very much.  I lost all my friends and mates.  I lot moved away to find work elsewhere, although I have still managed to keep contact with some through social media.
   Deri Noble (left) - Warehouse Team Member - 33 years at the Works      Robert Russell (right) -     Warehouse Team Member -     28 years at the Works     Robert Russell...    My strongest memories of the plant are all about the camaraderie of the work place and the characters there. It was unique.     I had an overwhelming feeling of sadness when the Works closed. It truly was the end of an era.  Fortunately I managed to get relocated to Trostre, but it was a time of great worry for me and the family at the time.
  Dilwyn Evans - Mechanical & Technical Engineer - 33 years at the Works
   Glyn Williams (left) -     Team Leader Tinning Line Operator -     33 years at the Works     My strongest memories are from when I first started at Ebbw Vale - the enormity of the plant and the diversity of work being done.  Jobs like maintenance architects, boiler makers, and all the skills on show I miss and will probably never see again.    When the closure was finally announced, my worries were firstly for my crew, which I worked with, wondering what lay ahead for them.  Most of then had children and loved ones to look after and also mortgages to pay.    It seemed to me that help was not given to most of them in their hour of need.  Myself, I decided to leave the steel industry behind fearing its demise and follow a different path of employment.    Was I apprehensive?  Yes.  Was I disappointed?  Yes.  Did I feel betrayed?  Yes.
  Ian James - Roll Grinder Roll Shop - 13 years at the Works
   Ian Powell -     Fitter Turner -     39 years at the Works     Everybody in the modern world talks a bought the concept of "Team Working" which I find rather amusing, because the camaraderie and the friendship of all my workmates were second to none and if we hadn't worked together as a team the works would have ground to a halt.      One of the proudest moments of Ebbw Vale has to be the last coil that was run through number 3 E.T.L.  It was a prime coil.  They should have made a film of the workers in the run down to closure to show people how a proud work force acts in adversity.  It would have been so easy for them to say ‘why bother?’ but they stayed proud of their work and carried on regardless. So some of my strongest memories are of the great friends I made in the Works and also observing some of the great skills of the people working there.      Eventually sad times came and the bad news of the closure of the Works was announced and I then became part of the Decommissioning Team.  My job entailed isolating hydraulic systems, pneumatic systems, working with contractors and generally making safe the plant for closure.      It was a very sad time in my working career because after 37 years of maintaining the plant to keep running I then had to work the last 2 years of my career closing down the machines that I had kept running. I worked for 39 years in the steel works and enjoyed every minute of my working life.  I can never ever remember not wanting to go to work.  It gave me a great living and helped me to put my two sons through University, so when the news of the closure came I was 51 years of age and I wasn't ready to finish work.    I had the opportunity to transfer to Port Talbot but having to re-locate was too much of an upheaval, so sadly I took early retirement and I remember crying as I was walking through the North Gate with a black bag with my working clothes in over my shoulder for the last time. A very sad moment I will never forget.
   John Chaffey -     Fitter Turner/Roll Grinder -     37 years at the Works     I felt stabbed in the back at the time of closure!  We did everything they asked us to do and they still shut us down.  The director told us they were shutting down the wrong works – Trostre should have been shut and not Ebbw Vale, but it was a political decision.    The Labour Government did nothing to keep us open, they didn’t support us, although this was a Labour stronghold.  I felt frustrated at the lack of investment in infrastructure for rail and road networks that could have influenced the decision not to close.    They just didn’t care if we went to the wall, financially or mentally.  We were just a number to the Directors and MPs - to do with us as they wanted.  As long as they were OK that was all that mattered to them.  We were dispensable.
   John Riley -     Team Leader Stores -     33 years at the Works     The closure of the Works was a travesty as the Plant was a profitable one, but having been taken over by Hoogovens of Holland, the decision was taken out of our hands.    On a personal note, the closure didn't impact on me greatly as I had just turned 50 and was eligible for my pension (albeit not a full one). Nevertheless I felt really sad about the turn of events for the younger workers who now had an uncertain future.
  John Sheppard (left) - Manufacturing Support Specialist - 34 years at the Works    Dilwyn Evans (right) - Mechanical & Technical Engineer - 33 years at the Works
   John Sims -     Crane Driver -     30 years at the Works     The main thing about the Works was that we were all good friends and would always help one another out.  It was just like one big happy family.    At the time of closure I felt gutted.  It took me a very long time to get over it.  It was my life.  I enjoyed it there so much.  When it happened, all my family were devastated.  But I was lucky as I managed to get a transfer to the Orb steelworks in Newport. I was very lucky indeed.
  Keith Edwards - Team Member Galvanizing - 22 years at the Works
  Jonathan Griffiths - Lighting Engineer - 10 years at the Works
   Keith Williams -     Annealing Bay Stocker, Base Loader and Crane Driver -     29 years at the Works     Ebbw Vale was a great place to work as mostly everyone knew everyone else.  My strongest memories are of all the great friendships I made.    I remember the closure being a very sad day.  I was on ‘nights’ the evening before the official announcement.  I finished my shift as normal and went home to bed.  But later that morning my wife Wendy came in and woke me to tell me that it was all over the news that Ebbw Vale was to close.  At first it felt like a dream until I got up then saw it on the television.     I felt sick to my stomach at that time.  On the next shift it was all everyone was talking about.  The atmosphere was not very good, as no one could believe it.
   Lyndon T Crosby (left) -     Welder -     35 years at the Works      Steve Watkins (right) - Team Leader Annealing Electrician - 35 years at the Works     Lyndon Crosby...    I was extremely apprehensive during the time of closure, but remember feeling fortunate.  Fortunate at having left school and starting work within a week and lucky enough to be employed for 35 years and leave with a considerable lump sum and a small pension.  I was also fortunate enough to gain further employment, albeit with a great sadness, in the demolition of the Works.  That time was tough emotionally.    Initially, for a short while, I missed the daily routine and the work, which I had always enjoyed.  But overall, I think about how lucky I was to have been employed for so long and to be now comfortably off while so many others were forced to find lesser work or even have to move themselves and their families away.
   Mark Ford -     Roll Shop Engineer -     10 years at the Works     I think that we had taken such a pounding over the years, cuts after cuts (so called efficiencies), workloads increasing, pressure increasing, it seemed like it was bad news every day.  When the closure announcement finally came, it seemed inevitable.  However, the camaraderie was fantastic.  It was a dirty, heavy and potentially dangerous place to work but everyone stuck together and still managed to have fun.  People who managed to deal with everything thrown at them and still made jokes of it.    Against this background I suppose I had mixed feelings, on the one hand I was absolutely gutted for us all that our livelihoods were at threat and our families could suffer. Some of the men in the Roll Shop had only ever worked in the Works.  They hadn’t had to produce a CV or apply for a job in thirty years, or more in some cases and you could see the anguish, torment and anxiety in their faces.     On the other hand, I was personally relieved that the continual pressure and negative atmosphere was coming to an end and that I could now focus on getting a job where both myself and the people I worked with could be valued.    For me personally, although worried and concerned, I looked at it as an opportunity to move on.  Ebbw Vale had allowed me to go back to college, see some of the world (Japan, Venezuela) and gain some experience and confidence.  I thought this may be an opportunity to put some of the things I had learned into practice and move on.
  Mike Gardner (front) - Team Leader Electronic Tinning Line - 32 years at the Works    Ian Lapham (back) - Team Leader Electronic Tinning Line - 33 year at the Works
   Mike Gardner -     Team Leader Electronic Tinning Line -     32 years at the Works     My strongest memory of the plant is comradeship.  The experience of working in that environment will be with me forever.  You met people from different areas and different ways of life.  Some were strong characters, some were comedians, some were more serious than others, but when you put them all together you had a brilliant place to work.  To give an example, when I worked in the Coal and Coking plant you relied on your workmates to wash your backs in the showers – just as it was in the coal industry.    At the time of closure, I felt very sad.  Even in the 1970s there was talk of a full plant closure.  It may only have been scare mongering, but it was always there in the background.  Myself and all the other teams were doing all we could to make the Ebbw Vale Works the best in the industry.  We did all things from mechanical repairs to lab testing, and attended endless meetings – anything that was asked of us.      When closure did finally come, it was a sad time to see the younger workers with young families and mortgages and no prospect of new employment that would pay the wages that they were used to.   I was sad not for myself, but for the ones who had bigger commitments than me.    So all this ‘Team Working’ and ‘Total Quality Performance’ and ‘High Quality Output’ seemed like a total waste of time.  It was a worrying time ahead with questions about a bleak future.
   Mike Tarr -     Projects Engineer -     29 years at the Works     My strongest memories are all my friends and work colleagues that I worked with during my 29 years service at the plant. It’s difficult for many on the outside to understand the camaraderie that the steel works had. Only the coal industry could equal it.  Ebbw Vale, and its surrounding area, is a very close community.     We socialised together, our children and grand-children played and went to school together. Ever since the early 1800s, the Works was part of the community, which our children have now lost. The heavy industries of iron, steel and coal, all working together, are what made the valley towns successful.     The closure of the plant had come as a complete shock. We were expecting redundancies to be made, but not complete closure. Especially with the plant being up-to-date with new technology and the work force being the most highly trained when compared to other plants.  Craft and production was at a high level and work force IT skills were second to none.      So the feeling of being let down by Corus and the Government was high. It was felt that closing of Ebbw Vale instead of another plant would cause less backlash in the press.     I had expected to see my working life out at Ebbw Vale Works. We were on good wages and I loved going to work. It was on my doorstep, so travelling was no problem. But after the Works closure, along with other personal things, life became very hard. That took its toll on my family and myself, I became very ill, and did not go out for two years. I had made my mind up to take a long time off work and found it very difficult to think positively.  In my eyes, I felt finished. So the impact on myself and on many others of the work force was devastating.  Fortunately though, time is a good healer.
   Mike Williams -     Team Leader -     32 years at the Works     My strongest memories of the plant are the banter and the friendship.  Work was your other family.  In fact, looking back, I probably spent more time with colleagues in and around work, than with my wife and children.    At the time of closure I was gutted.  Disappointed.  Sad.  I really couldn’t believe it would happen to us, especially after being told by the directors of the company, not twelve months before, that we were the best in the world and that we should be proud for what we had achieved. Needless to say a lot of the workforce did not believe a single word senior management said after that.    Following the closure, I was extremely lucky to be selected as part of the Decommissioning Team. Lucky in the sense as in still having a job and a wage coming in.  I had mixed feelings about the decommissioning work itself, as parts were shipped out to other plants in the UK and even abroad.    I don’t think that the big picture hits you until a lot later.  When people were selected for jobs in other plants it sometimes meant their whole family had to go with them and that had a significant impact on them and in the local community that they left behind.
   Neil Mitchell -     Electrician -     38 years at the Works     My first memories of the Works was as a child.  I visited my grandparents with my Mum and Dad every Sunday for tea.  They lived in a white washed terraced building in Augustus Street, practically inside the Works.  It had stone floors and a stone staircase, a tin bath to bathe in with an outside toilet up the top of a long garden.  If you used the toilet, as I did a few times, it was scary.  It was basically a hole carved in wood with torn paper and if the Works were tipping slag, the toilet would light up red.  I couldn’t get out of there quick enough.     To go home we would wait for the bus in the dark outside the railings of the Works, watching the sky grow red, smoke rising, steam hissing, sparks flying and the pungent smells emanating from the Works.     My first impression of the plant as we walked through the different sections was the vast size, the number of employees, the noise inside the mills, the overhead cranes carrying huge 20 tonne metal coils, the dust in the air and the different smells.    Also, having a job in the General Offices and seeing the Boardroom and General Managers Room which were full of ornate antique carved chairs, tables and huge fireplaces and thinking of my grandparents who were living in sparse housing conditions whilst the managers enjoyed the opulence of the well paid bosses.    I remember the closure being announced on the television news and I had that sickly sinking feeling.  Before then, there were just rumours in the workplace, but then it became a reality.  My first thoughts when the closure was announced was that of complete bewilderment, so many emotions of feeling totally insecure, being worried and stressed.  How was I going to provide food, pay the gas and electric bills, and of course the mortgage?    An official meeting was announced to tell us our fate and I remember walking towards the entrance of the Works on the morning of the meeting – it was dark and cold and raining.  I was on my own and a camera crew and interviewer approached me for an interview and asked me what I thought the outcome of the meeting would be.  I replied very emotionally and near to tears, that I never gave up hope but dreaded the outcome.    The last days were very sad, just a few electricians working together and on the final day going to the pub for a final get together and finding it hard that I would not returning to work anymore.  38 years of work had ended.
  Paul Lewis - Team Leader Temper Mill - 18 years at the Works
   Paul Price -     Production Operator & Team Leader -     38 years at the Works     Two funny memories come to mind, though there are very many.  The first is that of when we were all having food in the mess room.    Alan Morgan, who had turned to Christianity, said to Alan Sandy that he would pray for Sandy’s guidance as he was going to Chapel tonight (it was a Sunday).  Sandy replied,      “When you go to Chapel tonight Alan, don't pray for guidance for me, pray for stiffness (in his lisping voice) and I will guide the fucker myself!”     The second memory is that of ice cream making!  We were all again in the mess room taking our food break.  Gerry Tyler (no longer with us sadly) said to the boys,      “I’m going to make ice-cream and will need two large coal buckets.”     Big Mac (Brian McCarthy also no longer with us sadly, who was a really lovely person), said to Gerry,      “If you make the ice-cream in coal buckets then the ice-cream would be black!”     Gerry replied,      “You use clean fuckers!!”     As the banter was going on the mess room was in uproar with laughter.    The announcement of the closure of the plant was devastating.  I remember I was working a night shift on the eve of the announcement.  We were all talking amongst ourselves of the outcome.  I remember saying to the boys that I thought they would put us on Monday - Friday working, rather than shut us down.  At the end of the shift I went home to bed.   I got up at 1 pm and my partner was watching the Welsh news and she said      “They are shutting the plant with 18 months grace.”     I was absolutely devastated.
   Paul Skinner -     Production Worker 5 Stand - Entry End Operator -     30 years at the Works          When they announced the closure of Ebbw Vale, I along with many hard working men were shattered and devastated.  After all they had asked the work force to do and to take on new skills.  It was hard, but I remember a colleague saying,    “ They can take away our jobs but they can’t take away our sense of humour.”
   Peter O’ Callaghan - Fitter/Roll Grinder -     15 years at the Works     At the time of closure I was sixty and would liked to have had five more years to take me to retirement.  But I was devastated seeing young men with families losing their jobs.  My strongest memories are of my work mates.  We all had a good relationship with each other, so to recall the atmosphere at the time is emotional.    Most managed to find jobs elsewhere at Llanwern, Newport; Trostre, Llanelli; Port Talbot, Swansea.  You have to remember that the Ebbw Vale Works never had one strike and that it made the best steel in Britain.     I was very emotional the day I picked up my last pay.  It was a sad time, but you have to get on with your life.
   Philip Lawton -     Fitter/Roll Grinder -     34 years at the Works     At the start of my apprenticeship in 1968, there were approximately 10,000 people working at the Richard, Thomas and Baldwins (RTB) Steel Works in Ebbw Vale.     The Apprentice School was situated at the South end of the works, in Victoria, and the enormous size of the Steel Plant was locked into my memory when in my first year of employment I had to walk to work through the snow. Walking through the various Mills and Departments along the length of the works was the easiest and quickest option. The sounds and sights I experienced on that trek left a lasting impression on someone who had only just left school. The constant noise from the Tinplate Lines, the smell of the acid being used to clean the steel coils in the Pickler, the sight of a large hot steel ingot as bright as the sun, being reduced to a thin steel slab, together with the bright light emanating from the Converter Shop lingers in the mind.     Standing out amongst my memories of the Plant, are the characters that enlivened the working day. From the workmate who often performed his version of the floral dance, wearing steel clogs, on an empty oil drum, to the workmate who used paraffin to show his prowess as a fire breather. Unfortunately he set fire to the hair of a fitter working near him and spent the rest of the shift, playing hide and seek with the gentleman who had a smoking head.    The closure impacted on everyone.  No matter what age group you were in, you had concerns, not only for your own future but also that of the people you had been working alongside for the best part of your life.    The younger element had mortgages and family to worry about. The older workers had the worry of their pension options/prospects to be added to the list of the unknown problems that would face everyone with the sudden loss of earnings and probable long-term unemployment.    Many of those working at Ebbw Vale had to suffer the upheaval of moving home and family to the Swansea area. Others have constantly commuted between Ebbw Vale and Port Talbot on a daily basis.  The closure of Ebbw Vale Works obviously had a detrimental effect not only on the majority of those who had worked at the plant, but also on the future job prospects of the younger people in the area.
  Ralph Stevens - Double Reduction Mill Operator - 32 years at the Works
   Ray Best (left) -     Fitter/Turner -     40 years at the Works      Philip Blackmore (right) -     Fitter -     46 years at the Works     Ray Best...    When I started working at the plant, it seemed everybody either had a relation or knew someone who worked there.  At that time, 1962, there was a workforce of over 10,000 people.  And the Works seemed to dominate the valleys for 24 hours a day.    Whenever you met friends or relations socially, the first greeting was always along the lines of      “What are you working?”     meaning what shift rota you were on.  You felt very secure in your job and happy to know your future, at least at that time, was in safe hands.     When the works finally closed, everything changed and there was a feeling of doom, which still exists to this day in the valleys.    Philip Blackmore...    I cannot overstate the camaraderie, and even allowing for the dangers, I loved working there.  The Works dominated the town.  There could not be many factories where you could get up at 5.50 in the morning on a day shift and clock on at 6.00am.    One instance of danger that I recall was on an afternoon shift in the Open Hearth when a ladle crane transferring hot metal to the teeming landing (where the molten metal from the ladle would be poured into ingot moulds) suffered a broken gear-box (hoist) shaft and dropped the ladle containing 180 tonnes of molten steel all over the floor.  That no one died was a miracle, although it took a couple of hours for the heart-rate to subside!     At the very end I was working for the contracting firm ‘Vinci’ and after the official closure I had 3 months work removing assets that were to be sent to other plants in other countries, mainly Holland and India.  I found that I was more than annoyed that other countries could see the advantages of keeping this equipment and we could not!  I felt like a grave robber!    When I visit Ebbw Vale now, if I am honest, I feel that it is a sad place as its heart is gone and the good living that I had there is not available to others.  It really once was a vibrant town.
  Rob Collins - Team Member Roll Shop - 34 years at the Works
  Robert Plummer - Boiler Plant Operator - 25 years at the Works
  Ron Jones - Pickle Line Operator - 32 years at the Works
  Steve Timothy - Team Member Pickle Line - 16 years at the Works
   Steve Watkins -     Maintenance Electrician -     33 years at the Works     During my 33 years at the Ebbw Vale Works, I worked in the steel-making end known as ‘Victoria’, the Hot Mill and the Cold Mill and I can truly say that the men I worked with and for were, and still, are an inspiration to me.    I still meet men who are now elderly and who made time for me as a ‘boy’ and I make sure that I now have the time for a chat about old times with them.    The time of closure was upsetting.  There had been rumours flying around, so it wasn’t a complete surprise.  But I remember after the meeting at which it was announced, that I finished work early feeling sick and went home with a tear in my eye.    I always thought I would have a job at Ebbw Vale and then retire.  All of a sudden at 50 years of age, I had to go out and work in a completely different environment with a completely different type of person to those I had been used to inside the Works.
  Stewart Price - Team Leader Roll Shop - 1 year at the Works
   Tony Wilson (left) -     Team Leader Mechanical Services - 37 years at the Works      Brian Evans (centre) - Maintenance Fitter - 34 years at the Works      Bob Warfield (right) - Maintenance Fitter - 35 years at the Works
   Tony Wilson -     Team Leader Mechanical Services -     37 years at the Works     That I never ever minded going to work.  It didn’t matter whether it was the day, afternoon or the nights; once you entered through that gate you entered a different life.  Working with skilful people in difficult conditions with plenty of humour was a delight to behold.  I enjoyed every minute of my time there, as it was always a pleasure.  The only regret for me was that it closed too early.     Having worked at Ebbw Vale for the whole of my career, we always lived under the constant threat of closure.  Nevertheless, when the eventual closure arrived, it dealt a devastating blow to the area.     My job kept me in contact with most of the employees at the Works as I was covering the plant with maintenance down days.  With closure came the end of many of the friendships that I had made during my lifetime.  People who you saw everyday you now very rarely see again.    When it finally ended, it really hit home to me that I had never realized what skilful people, characters and enjoyment fulfilled the place.  I never realized how great the job was until it was taken away.
   Vincent Keane -     Team Leader Temper Mill -     33 years at the Works     I remember there being over 12,000 men when I started in 1968, at the very young age of 16 and a half.  Back then the steelworks ran the full length of the Ebbw Vale valley and was the heart and soul of the area.  All of my family have worked there over the years - my grandfather, my father, my two brothers and so did my son.  It was basically expected of you.    I started as an apprentice in the ‘Slab Yard’ as a ‘Spare Boy’ and progressed from there.  I remember there being an amazing camaraderie amongst us all and there being a real positive atmosphere when being at work.  It was hard work, but fun at the same time.  Once we managed to catch a lone sheep that had wandered into the Works. We guided it inside through the buildings to a cabin where all our seniors were gambling and playing cards.  We turned off the lights and pushed it in. Chaos.      We did a similar thing on a night shift once.  Some of our seniors were in a cabin, trying to grab some sleep.  We grabbed a couple of sulphur sticks, used to light the furnaces, set them off and threw them into the darkened cabin.  They all came out coughing and spluttering.  You could never get away with that kind of stuff now.    When the closure was announced, I was totally devastated, gutted and hurt.  There were rumours about potential closure years before the actual announcement.  But nobody believed it because we were still producing such good steel.  I was actually in the Works when I was told.  We were told to down tools and called in to be spoken to senior management who broke the news.  We were all numb really.     And for me as well, it was an additionally difficult time as I was a union shop steward and friends and colleagues kept asking me what the union was doing in all of this.  But there were greater politics at play. About a week before the closure was announced, there was a big meeting in London between the Westminster elite and Corus managers.  Paul Flynn, the MP for Newport was present there as well.  Then there came the announcement that Ebbw Vale would close and the Llanwern plant, in Newport, would stay open.  It was a stich up.  There was a feeling that it was all out of our control.    The last day was very muted with little conversation.  I felt terrible.  Some people were taking photos at the gates, but most people clocked in, stayed for a couple of hours and then left quietly, alone with their thoughts.    
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