BILL SHEPARD WRITES: I left school in August 1935 to take up employment with my father at Messrs Croucher's Ltd at 6 Quay Street, Newport. My wage was 10/- a week (50p) less two pence for an insurance stamp.

Mother, ever the joker, presented me with a pigskin wallet with two pockets clearly marked for 10/- and £1 notes. It was a long time before a note of the lower denomination rested in it for long. I gave 7/4d to mother for my keep and 2/6d for myself that melted to nothing long before the next pay day.

Working for Croucher's Ltd on Newport Quay meant the work was always varied. With a fleet of 16 lorries, ranging in carrying capacity from one to six tons, and having 11 river boats and extensive storage meant you never knew what your task was going to be from day to day.

The worst of the jobs was the unloading of Welsh slates and if the morning was cold and wet one's heart sank. Lashing rain on a gale force south-easterly wind, the Islander's Luccomber, we knew there would be no respite that day.

A Luccomber was so named because of its direction, coming in over Luccombe, near Ventnor, on the south-east tip of the Island, and inevitably meant a wet and very windy day.

There were no easy handling methods to expedite the work and perhaps the most daunting of all no wet-weather clothing as we know it today.

Only the skipper of the vessel, standing almost motionless operating the ship's winch on the deck of the vessel, enjoyed the luxury of a waterproof coat, an oilskin. This was of a canvas material soaked in linseed, rendering the garment so stiff it would stand up unsupported. It was impossible to engage in strenuous activities in such clothing.

Those engaged in physically handling the slates were reduced to working in more pliable clothing, invariably a heavy overcoat that trebled its weight by the time the water had soaked through. That sad state of affairs was offset to some degree by wearing a heavy corn sack around the shoulders.

The slates were stowed on their edges right across the width of the ship, and the crew handled them onto a wooden platform or board measuring around 42ins by 20ins. The slates were then stacked correctly to avoid breakage and then lifted out of the ship's hold onto a lorry on the quay.

Those in the hold, who had a little protection from the weather, tried to keep as many of the tarpaulin-covered hatches in position as practicable. The lorry crew, however, were open to all the elements. The lorry having been loaded, it was then driven to local builders' merchants to be unloaded. A load comprised around three tons of slates and three loads constituted a day's work.

There might possibly be a change of clothing at lunchtime, hanging wet clothes in a room set aside for just such an emergency. Here there was a roaring fire but a room filled with filthy clothing would take three or four days to dry out. Nobody minded you taking a coat that wasn't your own under such circumstances.

Then the arrival home at the end of the day, cold, wet and thoroughly miserable, making a change into dry clothing and then that indescribable ecstasy of well being at the heat from a roaring log and coal fire that slowly crept into your bones.

I should perhaps point out here these were in the days long before sick pay. If after working in those appalling conditions a man went down with the flu or put his back out doing the heavy lifting that resulted in him taking time off work, there was suddenly no money coming into that house. No sick pay, no protective clothing or safety gear and no security of employment. The employer could sack you on the spot simply because he took a dislike to you. It was because of this trade unions became so powerful and the bad employers had only themselves to blame.

So there you have it just one example of a working day on Newport Quay in 1936.