Pontypool Boys’ Brigade – 9th Eastern Valley Company

One of the strict rules of the Boys’ Brigade, as opposed to the Boy Scouts, was that every company had to be sponsored by a church. Consequently most companies met in a church hall or similar building. Such was the case with the company I belonged to, the 9th Eastern Valley Company, which met every week in the schoolroom of Park Terrace Methodist Church.

Several years earlier, my brother Garyth and his friend, Glyn Cleaves, had joined the Boys’ brigade company at the Methodist Church in Freehold Land, Pontnewynydd which was led by Captain King. Both our families attended Park Terrace Methodist Church and, as it was a considerable trek to Freehold Land, Garyth and Glyn suggested that a new company be started at Park Terrace. Mr Jim Hamar was appointed as Captain and my brother, Garyth and his friend Glyn Cleaves, were his sergeants. The company soon built up to 20 or 30 boys and, later, had a drum and bugle band.

All this happened before I was old enough to join the Boys’ brigade but I heard glowing reports about their activities such as going away to camp, and I just couldn’t wait to join. Promptly at the age of 12 I did. By then, of course, the war had started and both my brothers were in the Royal Navy and Glyn was in the Royal Air Force. I also joined the band and eventually attained the dizzy height of warrant officer.

Another Boys’ Brigade rule was that all members had to attend the company Bible Class, or, as an alternative, attend a Sunday School. As I attended Park Terrace Methodist Church Sunday School until the age of 17 when we moved to Cardiff, that was not a difficulty. We also had a monthly company parade to the church, marching there with our band.

The above photograph shows the company assembled in uniform on the steps outside the main door of Park Terrace Methodist Church (which no longer exists) at one of the parades. Front centre is Captain Hamar, right front is my friend Warrant Officer Glyn “Mickey” Morgan and  the sergeant in the front row is Ray Hurcombe. Right in the centre of the back row is Royce Pritchard who, last I heard, was living at Trevethin. I am to the right of him as you look at the photograph. I remember all the faces so well but cannot recall any other names. If anyone recognizes themselves – or an elderly relative when a boy – I should be pleased to hear from them. (email right column bottom “Pages”)

One of the features at every weekly meeting was a short Biblical talk by Captain Hamar. He was a carpenter by trade and would often tell us of some of his experiences when he was a carpenter in the Canadian Royal Mounted Police. About 20 years after this photograph was taken I was working in the Nigerian bush at a teacher training college training African teachers. On one occasion, when visiting a school there, I was suddenly called upon, without any prior notice, to speak to a crowd of 300 children at a school. I was caught on the hop. Then, suddenly, I remembered one of the talks given to us by Captain Hamar and I used that. It got me out of a very awkward situation. Thank you, Captain!

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3 Responses to “Pontypool Boys’ Brigade – 9th Eastern Valley Company”

  1. Pontypool’s “Dad’s Army” « Reminiscences of Old Pontypool Says:

    […] Jim Hamar had taken our Boys’ Brigade company up the Race near the gypsy encampment. ( https://oldpontypool.wordpress.com/2008/06/28/pontypool-boys-brigade-8th-eastern-valley-company ) There was a large flat field there surrounded by shallow banks. The Home Guard had set up a […]

  2. Paul Villa Says:

    The Sergeant in the front row left is indeed Ray Hurcombe (now deceased) who was my father in law. This is a photograph that his widow June hasn’t seen before. Is there any way of obtaining a copy I wonder?
    Regards Paul Villa

  3. Christine Bibby Says:

    Jim Hamar was my husband’s maternal grandfather. 100 years ago he returned from 6 years in Canada seeking a new life. However when he returned to Pontypool in 1912 he married his sweetheart and never returned to Canada. This year we shall visit some of the places he went to in Alberta.

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