Archive for November, 2012

The Sunday School Anniversary

November 29, 2012

In my last posting I was talking about memorising poetry when we were in school. It reminded me of the Sunday School anniversary at Park Terrace Methodist Church. This was a very important occasion and a lot of effort was put into it by the staff and the children of the Sunday school. For about two months we were expected to attend a practice every Wednesday evening at the church to practise the hymns and rehearse the items we were going to perform at the anniversary; some sang solos and some recited poems.

Horace Webb, who was the conductor of the church choir, also conducted the rehearsals. He lived at the bottom of Bridge Street just around the corner from the church. We always had a small booklet published by Ernest Nichol’s company. I assume it was still being run by someone else at that time as Ernest Nichol died in 1928. During his lifetime he wrote about 130 hymns and the music.

On the outside of the booklets it proclaimed that the music was written by Ernest Nichol and the words by Colin Sterne. We were told that they were the same person, Colin Sterne being an anagram of Ernest Nichol. One of my favourite hymns of his was “We’ve a story to tell to the nations”. It had plenty of “go” and we all loved singing it.

The Sunday before the anniversary, normal Sunday School was abandoned in favour of the full rehearsal. The great event took place the following week when we would have special preachers and there would be services in the morning, afternoon and evening with a packed church full of church members, friends and parents.

When I was 10 I was asked, for the anniversary, to recite Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If”. You probably remember it:

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you; 

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you

But make allowance for their doubting too . . .”

When I studied art in college, I also studied calligraphy so it is unsurprising that I made a calligraphic design of Kipling’s poem which now hangs on my study wall.

I also wrote my own parody of it for someone passing their driving test.

If you can pass your test when all about you

Are failing theirs and making quite a fuss,

If you can drive back home, alone, unsmiling,

While all the others have to go by bus . . .”

I don’t want to take up too much space by printing the whole poem.

My son was the first to receive a copy when he passed his driving test many years ago. As I wished to incorporate his name in the poem it meant making an amendment in the last four lines. Many other friends have received copies over the years. It’s amazing how influential in my life has been Park Terrace Sunday School all those years ago.


Incidentally, if anyone would like a copy of my parody to send to someone who has passed their driving test, just email me and I’ll include a copy in my reply. If a lot of visitors want a copy I’ll be justified in printing a full copy on this blog.

“Who Killed Dripping Lewis?” – the book is now published

November 13, 2012


My post “Murder Most Foul” on this blog has been read by 938 visitors which shows a considerable interest in the mystery of who killed Dripping Lewis, and why he was killed.

Monty Dart’s limited edition book “Who Killed Dripping Lewis?” is now out and on sale. The author is an archivist and researcher who works for HTV, BBC Wales and BBC radio on local subjects. She has written two other books.

William Alfred Lewis, a quiet unassuming bachelor aged 59 was found battered to death in his bed in May 1939. Scotland Yard police were sent to Pontypool, a small Welsh town in Monmouthshire, South Wales to help solve the mystery of Lewis’s murder. Nicknamed “Dripping Lewis” the victim was a wealthy local property owner, regular in his habits, everyone locally knew when he was on his rent rounds.

Was someone watching him, waiting to steal his money? Was it a robbery gone wrong or a dispute between himself and another man? Or was it, as rumour has persisted to this day, a female rival for his affections? This book draws exclusively from the Scotland Yard files and newspaper reports of the time

The well researched book is a 314 page paperback, with illustrations, published by Book Midden Publishing, 58 Sutton Road, Newport, NP19 7JF. They may be contacted on:

The book costs £10 plus postage but check with Book Midden for latest special offers on this and other books at:

It is also on sale at Pontypool Museum.

The Swan Inn, George Street, Pontnewynydd.

November 7, 2012


Yesterday I received a comment from Andrew Palmer of Bristol. He said:

“I have an old postcard of a pub called the Swan Inn, landlord Frederick Harvey, circa1920 which I am trying to identify as to its location. I can forward a scan of the card if you let me have an email address. There is a large party of people outside plus a vehicle but the upper floor of the building is visible plus the signage. It is on a corner site.”

The Swan Inn, George Street, Pontnewynydd

I followed this up with a visit to the Frith website and saw a message by Sarah Vann, together with a photo of George Street, Pontypool. She said her great grandfather, Frederick Harvey, was the beerhouse keeper and that her grandfather, Arthur James Harvey, was born in the Swan. I wrote to her via the Frith site to point out that the photo was of the wrong George Street. The Swan was in George Street, Pontnewynydd. My grandparents and my father lived in the same street many years ago.

Today I received another email from Andrew Palmer with a scan of the photograph of the Swan. Andrew said:

A friend of mine Nigel Bowen has found a reference in the 1911 census to a Fred Harvey as licensee of the New Swan Inn, George Street, Pontnewynydd, Nr.Pontypool and I wondered if my unidentified postcard was this property. The brewery is Bristol United Beers and I wondered if they operated as far out as Pontypool. The men on the image appear to have daffodils in their buttonholes and the signboard shows the licensee as Frederick Harvey.”

I tried to enhance the photograph a bit on my computer and
selected this section showing the sign above the door.
You can clearly see the name of the licensee  “Frederick Harvey”.
I wonder what is significant about the teddy bear.

Some while ago, one of my postings on this blog referred to the Swan Inn. I said:


A friend of mine recently asked whether I had a photograph of the Swan Inn, Freehold Land, Pontnewynydd. He wants one for his father who actually does have a photograph of the Swan but there are so many people standing outside it that the building itself can scarcely be seen. He tells me that the building no longer exists.

So if any visitor who lives, or used to live,  in the Freehold Land or George Street area has a photograph of the Swan Inn I should be delighted to hear from them. If no photograph is available it would be helpful to know where the inn used to be.”

I don’t recall the name of this enquirer but, from all the foregoing, it seems that this is definitely a photograph of the Swan Inn, George Street, Pontnewynydd.

As a result of a comment by Lionel Barrell we now have the exact spot where the Swan was located. He says:

“‘The Swan’ was about 200yds up George St., on the right, from the ‘Pavilion’ cinema.   My great-aunt Edie was the land-lady in the 1940s and I remember going there with my mother.  Edie, my maternal grandfather’s sister, had the maiden name Haysum but I don’t know her married name.   Her daughter, Dorothy, married Elvet Baker.   I don’t know when Edie took over the pub but I tend to think it was pre-war, I seem to think she was well-established when I was there.”

I hope this satisfies the enquiries of Andrew, Sarah and my unremembered enquirer. It seems as complete a picture as we are likely to get unless any visitors who lived in Freehold Land during the 1930s and 1940s have anything more to add or any further photos.

Then and Now – Memory work in school

November 4, 2012

At a social gathering at my church this week we were given a quiz. One question was about the introduction of decimal currency and it suddenly occurred to me that no one under the age of 50 would know much about it; that must mean over half the population.

Bearing in mind that many elderly folk don’t have a computer and access to the internet I think it would be a fair assumption to say that approximately two-thirds of the visitors to this blog would have no personal experience of conditions during the 1930s and 1940s.

I’ve therefore decided to publish a series of posts on the “Then and Now” theme, comparing Pontypool life in the 1930s and 1940s with life today. If any visitors have any queries about this or if anyone has anything to add from their own memories, please feel free to make a comment or email me. I know that World War II is in the syllabus of many schools today so this information might be of use to any visitors who are teachers.


From conversations I’ve had with my grand-children, I gather that, in schools today, children are not required to learn much poetry by heart. When I was at Town School we had to learn a good many poems by writers like Wordsworth and Masefield and from time to time we had to chant them in class. As it was a Church school we also had to learn the Church of England Catechism and the Ten Commandments. This gave us an interest in poetry generally and I often liked reading poems which I found in books, especially if there was a comic element in them.

I have written in previous posts about the boys’ literature we loved to read in magazines like the Wizard, Hotspur and Adventure. I suppose I was fortunate in having at home a large book-case full of all sorts of books which my father had collected. I well remember one set of large red encyclopaedias – 12 volumes in all. There were many items in them to interest children including some poems and I spent many hours browsing through them.

I used to like reading the limericks by Edward Lear which were illustrated. Another poem which I often read was “The Story of Augustus” by Heinrich Hoffmann. He was a German psychiatrist who was also an author. He published a book called “Struwwelpeter” full of illustrated cautionary tales informing children what might happen to them if they misbehaved, told lies or in this case, didn’t eat their soup. The English translation below was publlshed in 1848.


The Story of Augustus,
Who Would Not Have Any Soup

By Heinrich Hoffmann

Augustus was a chubby lad; 

Fat, ruddy cheeks Augustus had; 

And everybody saw with joy 

The plump and hearty, healthy boy. 

He ate and drank as he was told, 

And never let his soup get cold.

But one day, one cold winter’s day,

He screamed out–“Take the soup away! 

O take the nasty soup away!

I won’t have any soup today!”

Next day begins his tale of woes;

Quite lank and lean Augustus grows.

Yet, though he feels so weak and ill,

The naughty fellow cries out still–

“Not any soup for me, I say:

O take the nasty soup away! 

I won’t have any soup today.”

The third day comes; O what a sin!

To make himself so pale and thin.

Yet, when the soup is put on table,

He screams as loud as he is able–

“Not any soup for me, I say:

O take the nasty soup away!

I won’t have any soup today.”


Look at him, now the fourth day’s come!

He scarcely weighs a sugar-plum;

He’s like a little bit of thread,

And on the fifth day, he was—dead!