Swansea and Port Talbot Docks History

The Smiths – four generations on Swansea Docks

Ray Smith, who worked in the Electrical Engineering Department of Swansea Docks between 1950 to 1985 writes to tell us of his family’s 146 years of service at the port, working variously for the Swansea Harbour Trust, the Great Western Railway, the Docks & Inland Waterways Commission, the British Transport Commission, the British Transport Docks Board and, last but not least, Associated British Ports

Ray’s grandfather, Evan John Smith, was born in 1873 and worked as a Hydraulic Repairer at Swansea docks from around 1889 to 1938. In those early days there were no electric cranes or hoists on the dock – everything was driven by hydraulic pressure, and the hydraulic repairers dealt with any burst or broken water mains in the high-pressure hydraulic system. 

Ray’s father, Charles Smith, worked in the Docks Traffic Department from around 1919 to 1965, and Ray’s son, Paul Smith, has been with the port’s Electrical Engineering Department since 1973 to the present day.

Ray’s parents and his grandparents lived in Lamberts Cottages on Swansea Docks – cottages that were built in the early 19th century to house workers from Charles Lambert’s copper works situated on the foreshore at Port Tennant. Ray’s grandmother used to tell him that, before the Kings Dock was built in (1904/1909) the sea would come up almost to the cottage doors! Sadly, Lamberts Cottages were demolished in the early 1960’s.

The proud record of the Smith family’s service at Swansea Docks in terms of years is as follows:-

Grandfather – 49 years

Father – 46 years

Ray – 35 years

Paul – 48 years to date

Grand total - 178 years

Dock Manager Ernie Howells Presenting Charles Smith with a clock on his retirement. Also shown is Swansea Dock Master Captain Lew Rowe, Bill Boatfield and Alf Conibear.

Lamberts cottages - built for the workers of Lamberts Copper Works, they were demolished in 1964 and the tenants' re-housed in the new flats at Sketty Park.

Bill King, Docks Manager, presents a clock to R E Smith (centre right) for 30 years long service and silver trays to G Stevens (second left) for 51 years service, W E Rees (second right) 32 years service, and C McCoubrey (right) 25 years service. The awards were made to mark their retirement. Also in the picture is Tom Wilkinson (left), soon to take over the position of Docks Manager.

Bill King presenting a sherry tray to Mrs. D Smith who worked in the canteen. Others retiring were J Couch, S G Cartwright. Also in the picture were; S J Watson, H Roberts, I F Williams T C Lloyd, T B Jones, B L Davies, R L G Smith, A E Wastell, Capt Jack White, Capt Terry Chappell, Brian Flower and Hugh Jones.  

The man in the uniform is Charles Smith. The man in the doorway is believed to be Alfie Popham. This photo was taken from the book Heyday of Steam in South Wales, published by Ian Allan. Permission to put it on our site was given by John Wiltshire, who took the photograph. 

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