September 26, 2008

It’s Job Done for Veteran Brickie

By Sarah Miloudi

PETER Lovell can honestly lay claim to playing a major part in making Cardiff what it is today.

The 68-year-old has spent more than 50 years in the building trade and has worked on lots of developments in and around the city.

But after spending 53 years with the same building firm, Peter is calling it a day. When he started work as a labourer aged just 15, Peter, of Mountain Ash, shifted up to a thousand bricks a day for a meagre pounds 2.10s (pounds 2.50).

Peter clocked in at 8am and left at 5pm - and took only 40 minutes' rest each day.

"The work was hard, but it was hard for everybody irrespective of age," he said. "It was all manual labour, but these days there are a lot of machines for work like that," Married Peter is currently the longest serving worker at Cardiff's Cowlin Construction Limited, where at the end of October he will celebrate his retirement after being with the company for 53 years.

Less than a year after joining its workforce in 1955, Peter began to rise through the ranks and started an apprenticeship in bricklaying at the age of 16.

"It wasn't until I was 23 that the moneywentuptopounds 12.10s. That was the average weekly wage back then and it was a struggle.

"I didn't know anyone earning more... the miners did, but they were out at 5am and I didn't want to do that," he said.

Peter, now a site manager earning an annual salary of almost pounds 36,000, is one of the few members of the Welsh workforce to spend his entire career at the same firm.

He saw changes in the world of work including the introduction of the minimum wage and pensions and the first female bricklayer joining his team for a five-week project at St Fagans Museum in Cardiff.

He said: "That was about 15 years ago, on a job where we were re- pointing the walls. It was an awkward moment when she joined as until then building had been a male-dominated industry.

"She got a lot of ribbing - but there was never any malice in it."

Other major works included building Phoenix House in Cardiff's Cathedral Road and the Gas Board building in Bute Terrace.

"Over the years I think I've moved around 30,000 bricks - on big jobs it could be 1,000 a day.

"I couldn't tell you the number of cups of tea I drank, but the days of doing that are behind us."

So after so long in the trade, how does he plan to spend his days?

"I will be taking it easy. I've worked long enough and will take up an interest like gardening."

Peter will celebrate his retirement at a party in a fortnight's time. Around 30 members of staff at Cowlin are expected to attend.


Started work in 1955 - aged 15.

As a labourer, Peter had to shift 1,000 bricks each day on large- scale jobs.

When he started work 53 years ago, the average weekly wage in the industry was pounds 2.10s (pounds 2.50).

Peter received his first rise eight years later, when his pay packet increased to pounds 12.10s.

After working as a labourer, Peter took on an apprenticeship, aged 16, in bricklaying.

During his time at Cowlin Construction, he saw scores of youngsters come and go, and his high point was training the firm's managing director Dave Brown.

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