On Monday, 12th May, former employees of the Glanmorfa and Engineering Company Limited (incorporating the Glanmor and Morfa Foundries) held their 18th annual reunion at Llanelli Liberal Club. It is remarkable that this function continues to be held considering that the firm was closed in 1979. The first reunion resulted from a desire by Stephen Rees, the last surviving director of the company, for its history to be recorded, not primarily for personal reasons, but generally, for former employees, their families and for anyone interested in what was an important aspect of Llanelli's industrial past.I was offered the task of collating this information which, at first, appeared rather a daunting task as very little was available on the subject. There was virtually no documentary evidence of any kind remaining; valuable archival material was swiftly consigned to the skip virtually on the day the company was declared closed when and liquidators took over. However, the project soon got under way when a group headed by Stephen Rees organised a reunion at the Liberal Club in May 1977 which not only was a social success but also proved a fruitful source of information with oral, written, documental and photographic material readily offered.

It was in 1850 that John Powell, a blacksmith, started up his own blacksmith's shop in Copper Works Road; in 1873 he was in a position to erect a small foundry and machine shop alongside the Great Western Railway station. Coincidentally in 1874 Henry Thomas and John Clement formed a partnership as iron founders on a site at Machynis, which became known as the Morfa Foundry Company, situated approximately a mile south of Glanmor Foundry. Throughout Glanmor Foundry's history only two families were involved with its ownership and management, the unrelated Powell-Rees and Rees families, while descendants of Thomas and Clement were similarly involved in their business. The growth of the two businesses coincided with Llanelli's own growth as a manufacturing centre. In 1939, the two companies merged to form the Glanmorfa Foundry Ltd.

Succeeding generations of families retained their links with the companies passing down their trades and skills from father to son. Foundry work was arduous, often hazardous, and carried out in an unwholesome environment, but it is evident that, generally, a 'happy' family atmosphere prevailed enlivened by many memorable characters. The foundry side of Thomas and Clement closed down in 1954, but other departments on site were kept going until 1964; a similar predicament which had threatened Glanmor Foundry on previous occasions became reality in 1979, when the company went into voluntary liquidation, putting 170 employees out of work.

The unions and management worked hard to keep the works financially viable, but there was little new investment in the engineering industry, the work was just not there. After the decision was made to close the foundry employees had literally less than an hour to vacate the premises. It was an ignominious end to an illustrious period of local history, spanning a century and a half of toil and dedication of generations. The Glanmor site was acquired by the Borough Council for housing development, while the successful 3KS Engineering Company occupy the Machynis site.

Inevitably with the passing of time since the inaugural meeting, when 80 people attended, numbers show a gradual decline. That said, 21 people attended on 12th May, including die-hard regulars, as well as some faces not seen for a number of years, and a welcomed appearance of a former employee who was making her first appearance at the function. Stephen Rees gives each visitor a cheery welcome on arrival, and with meticulous care, befitting an accountant, proceeds to mark the attendance register. A bonus was added that evening when the entire company was treated to a round of drinks by Stephen in celebration of his 80th birthday.

Over 100 items of memorabilia has been collected over the years, comprising photographs, documents and personal mementos, and the collection is always displayed on the evening. They include a silver cup donated to winners of an inter-departmental bowls tournament, a Glanmorfa Cricket Club cap and an advertising ashtray showing the company's logo. Surprisingly, items continue to be donated, the latest being a set of photographs taken by an employee showing an experimental manufacturing process, which has lain in a drawer since the foundry closed. The entire collection is returned to the town's archives after the event.

The enjoyable evening would not be complete without the annual bilingual address given by Stephen Rees in his usual light hearted but sincere manner. He thanked everyone for attending and was quite adamant that the event would continue for the foreseeable future.

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