Archive for June, 2014

Happenings in Pontypool in the 1920s and 1930s

June 22, 2014

From the many emails I’ve received from visitors to this blog, I know that some people have come across it quite accidentally when they’ve been researching their family history. For this reason I thought it might be helpful to publish this post about three somewhat unusual events which occurred in the 1920s and 1930s. Some visitors might recognise the names of some of their ancestors and might be able to comment with further details.

I was reminded of this brief account yesterday when my next-door neighbour told me that her cat had killed a snake in the garden and brought it up on to the lawn. Here is a comment published in the Western Mail on Monday 28th July 1927:

“Miss Littlehales, of Pontypool, killed a snake with her putter during the golf county championships at Tredegar Park, Newport.”

* * * * *

For some unknown reason, the following account was published in the Hull Daily Mail on Tuesday 29th December 1931:


Sequel to Christmas Eve Crash

Mrs Edwards, wife of Amos George Edwards, a Monmouth farmer, died in Pontypool Hospital on Monday night of injuries received on Christmas Eve when their motor car overturned on the way home from Pontypool Market.
Her three-month-old baby died immediately after the accident, and Mr Edwards and a 12-year-old daughter are still in hospital.”

*     *     *     *     *

This brief account tells of the great bravery of a Pontypool mother who lived in Cherry Tree Cottage, Pontypool. It was published in the Western Times on Friday 24th December 1937:

“Mrs Harold Harvey, of Cherry Tree Cottage, Pontypool, ran three times into her blazing home to rescue her six children.”

The address of the cottage is not given. If any visitor knows where this is – or was – please leave a comment.

“We will remember them”

June 6, 2014

I’m writing this on 6th June, the 70th anniversary of D-day. You will, doubtless, have seen on TV the great remembrance events organised on the French coast today. Visitors to this blog who are about my age will not have regarded the events as “history” because we lived through them and remember them so well.

In my memories of Pontypool from 1929 to 1947 I have dealt in some detail with things I remember about the war. I stated when I started this blog that I don’t want it to be my memories only but the memories also of visitors; if you have any memories about the war which you’d like to share please make a comment.

Once again today we heard the verse from Laurence Binyon’s poem “For the Fallen”:

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”

The words are quoted every year at the Armistice Sunday remembrance services all over the country. What you might not know is that they are also quoted at every Toc H branch meeting during the ceremony of “Light”. I have been a member of Toc H for the last 66 years so I must have quoted them many hundreds of times.

But have you read the complete poem? If not you might like to do so now. I’m sure they will remind you of the remembrance events you might have witnessed on TV today.

“For the Fallen

By Laurence Binyon
WITH proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.”

Pontypool barbers. Who was YOUR barber in Pontypool?

June 1, 2014

Although I’ve mentioned a number of traders in Pontypool I’ve never published a post specifically about barbers, with the exception of Mr Biby whose shop was next to Town School. He was the one I usually visited, often with my friend Eric Smith.

I have a rather vague memory of what I believe was my first visit to a barber in Pontypool. My mother took me there at the time so I must have been quite young. Also I remember being very scared of the electric cutter which made a very loud noise. I think that barber’s name was Ray Long and his shop was right at the top of Crane Street tucked away in a corner almost under the railway bridge on the right hand side going up Crane Street. It was almost opposite the gents’ toilet. Does anyone else remember this barber’s shop and do I have the correct location? I understand that, later on, he moved further down Crane Street.

At the top of George Street was the barber’s shop of Mr Amos. I only visited it on one occasion. Mr Amos asked the man before me how he wanted his hair cut and he replied, “Cut it to the bone Amos. Cut it to the bone.” That fashion has recently returned with a number of young men having all their hair cut off; little wonder that so many of them now wear some sort of woollen hat.

There was a very small-fronted shop close to Woolworth’s. I believe it was called Pillips. The part immediately inside the door was a tobacconist’s and also sold a few unusual fancy goods. A door through a partition led into the small barber’s area; I only remember visiting on a couple of occasions.

Those are the only four barber’s shops I can recall but, I imagine, there must have been quite a few more. If you know of them please add a comment.

In those days all gents’ barber’s shops were staffed by men and, apart from being able to get a haircut, men could also have a shave. It always puzzled me why some men chose to pay for a shave rather than take the cheaper option of shaving themselves. Admittedly you can’t give yourself a haircut but you can give yourself a shave; and safety razor blades were available at that time. Some men also had their hair singed. To do this the barber held a lighted wax taper and burned the very end of the hair; I think the idea was to avoid split ends. There was a very definitive smell when this was done.

Today quite a number of gents’ barbers are women and the title of the shop has been elevated to a salon. There are no shaves or singeing. Also none of them now repair umbrellas which used to be a side-line of some barbers. I suppose this was done when there were no customers who wanted a hair cut.