Archive for January, 2012

Pontypool Rugby Reminiscences

January 25, 2012


The following is a page from an old programme for one of Pontypool’s rugby matches. Unfortunately it was not dated but I think it must have been written in the early thirties or soon afterwards.

It is written by someone named Retlas which, I assume, is a pseudonym for the person who wrote a weekly page in the programmes. I cannot trace who this person was so if anyone knows I’d be delighted to hear from them.  I tried to make enquiries on the Pontypool Rugby website but I could not leave a message without registering; when I tried to do this the registration was not working.

Cecil was the step-brother of Edgar Smith, the father of my friend Eric Smith, my one-time next door neighbour. Royce Pritchard was Cecil’s son and one of our playmates; he features in one of the Boys’ Brigade photographs earlier in this blog. Eric told me on one occasion that he was the only player that had played for Wales in every position on the field. There are various records claimed for him in the piece below, but, of course, over the years these might have been equalled or passed.

“Cecil Pritchard, one of the best and brainiest forwards who
ever played for Wales, is the subject of my sketch this week. Cecil
came to the fore just at the period when specialisation in the various
phases of forward play was beginning to develop, and he was one
of the first to be given the specific job of hooker, for which he was
selected by Rowe Harding, who captained Wales against England
in the game in which Cecil gained his first cap in 1928. His opposite
number was Sam Tucker, whom he beat to the tune of 24 scrums
to 16, thereby establishing himself as the Welsh hooker. Cecil
played for Wales in every game in 1928 and 1929 and so set up a
record for Pontypool by getting eight caps in a row.“Born on the Tranch on May 1st, 1902, Cecil was the second
of three brothers all of whom started with the old Tranch Rovers
and gained fame in higher circles. The oldest, George (“Cogley”),
played full-back for Blaenavon, Torquay, Barnstaple and Devon,
and in both Welsh and English trials. Royce, the youngest,
played for Blaenavon and Abertillery. All three played against
the Waratahs in 1927-28 season : Cogley for Cornwall and Devon,
Cecil for Pontypool, and Royce for Cross Keys and Abertillery.

“Cecil went to Blaenavon in 1923 and helped that club to win
the Monmouthshire League medals, playing with his brother
Cogley.   The following season he came to Pontypool.   In those
days it was a case of “first up, first down,” and Cecil shone in every
phase of the forward game, besides being quite capable of giving .
a good account of himself at centre or full-back in an emergency.
His playing career lasted just over twenty years, his last season
was with Talywain. He captained Pontypool in 1928-29, and
played five times for Monmouthshire.

“Cecil has no doubt which was the hardest and best game he
ever played in : it was the game with the Maoris on New Year’s
Day, 1927. Next hardest was that at Perpignan during Pontypool’s
first French tour.

“A prolific scorer, Cecil set up a club record in 1926 when he
netted 21 points against Edgware ; a try, six conversions, a placed
penalty goal and a dropped penalty goal. This record was later
equalled by Frank Beddington. In each of two other games he
scored 14 points—against Belfast Collegians and in a final Welsh
trial at Cardiff.

“For the best part of one season (1929-30), Cecil played for
Bamstaple, for whom W. W. Wakefield (” Wakers “), the famous
English forward, was at that time turning out occasionally. Wake-
field’s international career had ended the season before Cecil’s


I recently received an email from Emrys Lewis, an old Westmonian who played for the school colts rugby team. He enclosed a photograph of the team which he thought some old visitors might like to see. I’m sure the photograph will stir up some memories for some people. Emrys is the boy holding the ball.


Last week I had an email from Lucy Jones who lives in Newport. She is doing some family research and said:

“My father is Paul Jones, a player of Pontypool RFC in the 60’s. But his father’s family are from Llanelli and I wanted some help from him looking there. Anyway, meanwhile I began looking at my mothers side. I have done quite well using the usual websites and have some names and dates to build upon. I am looking forward to building upon these names and dates. I have a rich Pontypool heritage it seems.

“I was interested in the fatality of Henry Whitcombe in the 1939 coach crash. I have a Henry Whitcombe in my tree (my great, great Uncle), however as the report in your blog states this chap was 62 in 1939, it doesnt quite fit with the Henry whitcombe I have as being some 7 years younger and born in Raglan. It says that Henry lived with his son, William. I have another great great Uncle called William Whitcombe who WOULD have been 62 in 1939. So, I cant help being interested in this. My great great grandfather to whom this family links is a John Henry Whitcombe (also found as Whitcomb). He was a 49yr old railway platelayer living at 8 Park Street, Griff in 1911. My mother talks of Park Street, so this house must have stayed in the family for many years. If John Henry came to Pontypool, maybe his brothers did too?”

If you are able to help Lucy in her search please either leave a comment on this page or email me and I shall forward your information to her.

Severe Pontypool weather in 1940s

January 19, 2012

On August 19 2008 I wrote a blog post about Pontypool’s big freeze   <  Pontypool’s big freeze of 1941  >  On February 5 2009 I wrote about Pontypool’s great snow of 1947    <  Pontypool’s great snow of 1947  > You might have read these.

I have recently received an email from Michael Taylor with some photographs of these events. I assume that the first photograph is of 1941. Certainly this is typical of what could be seen all over Pontypool and the surrounding areas. You can clearly see how the weight of ice has brought down the cables and has even pulled over the massive post.


The ice-covered cables caused them to crash to the ground

The other four photographs below are of the snow in Pontypool Park in 1947. I imagine these were taken after the first fall because they do not show how deep the snow was, in some places well over a foot with drifts considerably deeper.

Snow on Pontypool Park tennis courts 

Snow covered Pontypool Park

Difficult to see the paths

Snow-laden tree in the park

My grateful thanks to Michael for providing these photographs.

West Mon School Song

January 13, 2012

I’ve had a number of enquiries about the West Mon School Song. I was at the school when it was published in 1945. The words were by  Mr Robert Stephen M.A. and the music was written by Mr Alfred J. Thompson B.Mus., F.R.C.O., L.R.A.M., F.T.C.L. As I stated at the beginning of this blog, previous to this publication we had “borrowed” the school song of Harrow, “Forty Years On”. I’ve come across the copy I bought as soon as it was published, so for those who do not have a copy I print it below.

The cover

Page 1

page 2

I must point out that this copy is for the personal use of visitors and, under copyright law, cannot be sold or reproduced in quantities. I don’t know whether the song is still in use at the school or whether copies may be bought there.

Pontypool Town School’s great raffle

January 12, 2012

In the 1930s school funding was nothing like as generous as it is today. When I became the head of a junior school in 1984 I inherited a stockroom which was as large as a classroom and filled with hundreds of feet of shelving stacked high with all manner of exercise books, text books, pens, pencils, rulers, craft materials, art materials and a host of other things; we wanted for nothing.

But in Town School in the 1930s the entire stock of school books, rulers and pencils etc. was contained in two small, glass-fronted cupboards in the office of J.P. Lewis, the headmaster. The room was not large but also contained the headmaster’s desk and the inevitable tortoise stove.

I remember the two occasions when all the children who were about to enter the Eleven-Plus exam at West Mon and the Girls’ County School were summoned to Mr Lewis’s study. We were each given two brand new, sharpened pencils, a pencil sharpener, a rubber and a ruler. We were told that, if we were to break the point of one pencil, not to waste time sharpening it but to use the other one. It is because of these two visits that I know where the stock was kept. Needless to say, these items all had to be handed back the following day for future use in the school.

The funding of the school was based on the average attendance figures which is why, as I explained in an earlier post, the headmaster used to get so very annoyed when whole families went hop-picking in September, the beginning of the school year.

Consequently the staff would organise from time to time some sort of effort to raise money for the school. It was during the 1930s that the BBC started broadcasting for schools; these were received on the wireless of course. There was just one snag: schools were not supplied with wireless sets to receive the programmes. As a result they had to buy their own. As a result, the staff at Town School involved both themselves and as many parents who wanted to help, in the manufacture of oven-pads. These were knitted squares of any colour which would form some sort of insulation when handling hot items from the oven. Each oven-pad was sold for 4d. After a month or so enough money had been raised to buy the much-needed second-hand wireless set.

I recall the grand occasion when two classes were assembled in Miss Brooke’s room to hear our first BBC broadcast. It was a music programme about Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture, also known as Fingal’s Cave. It takes about ten minutes to perform, but the broadcaster introduced it to us in small sections and explained what the composer was trying to do before we heard the whole piece right through. I really did enjoy it right through to the end when the seagull’s call is played on the flute.

The second broadcast we assembled for was on English literature: Shakespeare’s Julia Caesar, no less. The broadcaster told us that he had chosen just one speech from the play, the funeral oration by Mark Anthony which you’ll probably remember from your own school days. It begins: “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears . . .” We were told what a clever speech it was and that after saying what an honourable man Brutus was, Mark Anthony repeated this with ever-increasing sarcasm so that the listening crowd realised that he didn’t mean that Brutus was honourable in any way and they rushed off with the intent of burning down his house. I was most impressed with this speech and thought what a clever chap this Shakespeare was. Later on, in form four, we read his “Merchant of Venice”. That was great too.

A short while later the school was given a second-hand tricycle by a doctor whose son had finished using it. It was in excellent condition and, wonder of wonders, it had a chain to drive it just like a proper bicycle. Most tricycles in those days had a fixed wheel so that when you stopped pedalling you stopped moving. Hence they had no brake. With a chain you could free wheel so a brake was needed in order to stop. We were informed that the school was going to raise funds by raffling the bicycle. Naturally, we all wanted the tricycle so we rushed home to ask for money to buy tickets the next day. The selling went on for a couple of weeks and then, on the great day the whole school was assembled in the playground for drawing the number of the winner. The ticket was drawn and the winner was – Miss Lewis, sister of the headmaster. We all laughed at this as a more unlikely person to want a tricycle could hardly be imagined. Miss Lewis was my class teacher. She was short and dumpy and had no children to give a tricycle to, so, after the laughter had died down she asked that all the children who were in her class and had bought tickets should have their names put in the hat and the draw should take place again. Only twelve of us in her class had bought tickets. Our names were put in the hat and the name drawn out was mine! I could hardly believe my good fortune. I was the owner of a tricycle with a chain! The cost of these now is over £300.

The tricycle had been kept locked away in the caretaker’s cellar. The door to this led off the playground and when we were playing in the yard we sometimes peered down the steps into the cellar’s murky depths to see the caretaker bustling about amongst the piles of coal, coke and wood.

Mr Lewis announced that I was the winner and that I could now have a practice on the tricycle on my own in the playground while the rest of the school went back indoors. My family were delighted with my win and all my friends wanted to see – and have a ride on – my new tricycle. I spent many hours using it for the next two years or so until I eventually bought my first “proper” bike, a second-hand fairy cycle for which I paid the princely sum of 2/6.

Tricycles – red fixed wheel, blue chain driven


See the video: “Who Killed Dripping Lewis?”

January 11, 2012

In my blog-post about the Peake’s coach tragedy, I mentioned Monty Dart who is currently writing a book “Who Killed Dripping Lewis?” I wrote briefly about this murder on 25th August 2008 in my blog-post entitle “Murder Most Foul in Pontypool”.

Monty has really gone into this matter and has researched all manner of documents including the Scotland Yard files. She also has the list of all those who gave evidence; strangely enough one of them was my old Boys’ Brigade captain, Jim Hamer. I mentioned him in a previous post.

Monty has recently emailed me to say that she has put a short video on Youtube giving a short introduction to the book. It is due to be published in September this year and I’ll put a special post on this blog when that happens. In the meanwhile you might be interested in looking at the video. Just click on the link below:

Pontypool people really seem to be world travellers

January 1, 2012


From time to time I have briefly mentioned the fact that I receive emails and phone calls from various parts of the world, so I have suspected for some time that it must be from people who have moved from Pontypool to some other country. However, for the first time the good people at WordPress – the organisation which offers the facilities to run blogs – have sent me a report on my blog for the year 2011. I found it absolutely fascinating, particularly finding that people from no less than 24 countries have visited this blog during the past year.

I thought that visitors might be interested in the assortment of information which has been provided in this report, particularly as some of you are named in it.

The visitors from the various continents are treated as a separate entity as follows:


UK 94%
France 2.6%
Germany 1.1%
Netherlands 0.4%
Spain 0.3%

North America

United States 81.5%
Canada 17.7%
Cayman Islands 0.5%
St Lucia 0.3%


India 32.5%
Malaysia 20.3%
Indonesia 10.6%
Kuwait 5.7%
Singapore 4.8%


Australia 81.6%
New Zealand 18.4%


South Africa 60%
Zimbabwe 20%
Kenya 20%

South America

Brazil 54.2%
Peru 25%
Colombia 8.3%
Ecuador 4.2%
Argentina 4.2%

Now you know what I mean when I say that Pontypool people are world travellers. I feel quite a small fry by comparison. Apart from two years living in Africa I merely moved to Cardiff and Newport.

The WordPress report was presented in an attractive and graphic way so I print the report in the following pictures:

Well, there you have it. That’s the complete report. If any of the visitors from the far-flung parts of the globe would like to write in with some of their Pontypool memories, I’d like to hear from them.