Page last updated at 13:42 GMT, Wednesday, 21 January 2009

In Pictures: Llansaint cocklewomen

Llansaint cocklewomen

Cockles have been harvested off Llansaint in Carmarthenshire for centuries. But the tradition of women supplementing the household income by gathering by hand and then transporting the shellfish on donkeys came to an end in 1973.

Elizabeth Jones, Gwyneth Phillips and Gwen Bevan

The last three women to make a living this way were Elizabeth Jones, Gwyneth Phillips and Gwen Bevan. Mrs Bevan's son Fred took this photo shortly before they retired.

Elizabeth Jones, Gwyneth Phillips and Gwen Bevan

It was back breaking work and during the summer months they would work two tides - which would take at least 10 hours a day.

Llansaint cocklewomen

The trek to Ferryside train station was a two hour round trip alone. Mr Bevan said the women would lead two donkeys each laden with sacks of cockles.

Cocklewomen at Ferryside Station

Once at the station the sacks would be weighed by the station master and then loaded onto the train - often bound for Cardiff or Bristol.

Llansaint cocklewomen

Their husbands would work in the mines, at the brickworks or on the land so the cocklewomen were expected to run the household as well.

Llansaint cocklewomen

The women would work with a scarf on their head, a sack wrapped around their middle and gym shoes on their feet.To collect the cockles they would use nothing more than a rake and sieve.

Llansaint cocklewomen

It was all a long way removed from the mechanical tools and dredging used by many commercial cockle gatherers today.

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