Cyril (Cid) Thawley

Cyril (Cid)
Family name: 
Work area/craft/role: 
Interview Number: 
Interview Date(s): 
30 Mar 1995
Production Media: 
Duration (mins): 

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Interview notes


SIDE 1 Summary of the CYRIL THAWLEY interview. File 350.

Born  near Barnsley in 1907.Father was a Blacksmith and during the First War was reported missing, believed killed.

His mother, meanwhile, had met someone else. However, his father returned home after two years, a situation which broke up the family, after which they moved South to Chalfont St.Giles.

After the First War and the Recession which followed, Cyril was unable to find work as a blacksmith in Barnsley and so he came South to join the family at Chalfont St.Giles. He purchased a bicycle and cycled around looking for work, discovering Denham Studios in the process.

He describes how he obtained work at the Denham building site and reminds us that he received no dole or social services at that time. His wages were approximately £5 per week as a scaffolder during the transition from wooden poles to tubular scaffolding.

He was asked to join NATKE almost immediately as the unions began to organise - details.

He loved the work and felt that he was in another world and provides us with an interesting job description.

He tells about the enemy bombing at the studios and the series of events that nearly resulted in the loss of "The Great Dictator" neg.He became a NATKE Committee Member, attending the branch meetings every month and describes how the work of the union fitted in to film production at the studios and on location.

He talks about the rise of Communism when Labour came to power after the Second War and how he fought to reject it.Cyril, himself, was completely apolitical and respected all views.

But the Communist working practises went against the grain. Cyril talks about location work on the island of Tobago.



Tobago continued.    Even on location, Cyril was always looking for ways to help other people and he gives some illustrations.

He talks about a special FX that went wrong on the set when shooting In Which We Serve.Flash powder ignited prematurely and severely burned the technician's face, who lost his life as a result. He discusses Lean, Neame and Hitchcock and reads from notes about his own life in the business, some of which was covered on side 1. He mentions other studios he worked at when Denham closed down - Worton Hall, Bray, Shepperton, Riverside and Pinewood are mentioned as is his rise to prominence in NATKE. Dawn to dusk union agreements for location work are detailed as Cyril had a hand in promulgating them.

He worked until he was 73.But tells how management wanted to make him redundant at 64 with a pension and a golden handshake. Cyril's whole interest in life, it seems, revolved about his work, and he refused the offer! Management tried every trick in the book to make him retire so that union influence could be removed from the studio.

He mentions an occasion when he was in town one day and witnessedthe recovery of bodies shortly after the "Bowbe11"/"Marchioness" disaster on the river.     He makes light of his own near disaster when he was washed away from a set on location and nearly drowned! The only people Cyril had no time for, were what he called 'lazyites' who ruined the reputation of the union and were simply carried as 'passengers'. He gives examples.


Cyril reads a recent letter from BECTU asking him for a subscription!   As a life member and a previous branch secretary, now aged 87, he was visibly upset and hurt. So much for computerised records!! Pam Harbord watch out.

He talks about the development of NATKE as the industry progressed, including his insistence that TV Grades should be included.

Cyril talks in general terms about some of the productions he'd worked on and the people he'd met.

More information about his union work and the tendency for management to be suspicious of suggested working practises.

Night work is discussed and the storage of sets, some of which had to be destroyed - a heartbreaking job.He showed us a piece of furniture made from redundant timber. Pieces were made up in the Carpenter's Shop - the work was done quite openlY. He was impressed with Tom O'Brien and his commanding oratory at meetings. Cyril was blessed with a magnificent physique and was immensely strong, and these attributes enabled him to train others in how to lift heavy pieces safely - details.

There is a very funny story about his unsuitable accommodation in    Wa1es     when   he    worked on   The Last Days of Dolwyn !


Dolwyn saga continues with a commendation from Emlyn Williams for Cyril's work in organising the villagers.

Alcohol and its effects on union deliberations and management meetings is discussed.

A lightweight racing cycle was Cyril's mode of transport from home to the various studios.   But on a social occasion when accompanied by his wife, he received a serious arm injury whilst getting off a bus when the door closed on him - details. his wife saved his life. The accident has left him with a lack of grip in the right hand.     Yet despite the disability he still manages to decorate his home and tend his allotment, single handed, at the age of 87.

The last film he worked on was The Battle of Britain.

He reminisces about the artistes he got to know quite well and about Brian Forbes in particular.

He describes how the 'backings' were set up in the studio.

SIDE 5. Continues with the description.  END.