Archive for the ‘Pastimes and hobbies’ Category

Pontypool choirs in the 1930s

September 16, 2015

Back in the 1930s the entertainment on offer was limited; there were cinemas of course but we had to pay to visit those; the wireless was free, once you’d bought it and were prepared to pay the annual licence fee of £1. The BBC was set up in 1922 so it was a fairly new experience.

As a result there was quite a lot of local amateur entertainment put on by churches, Sunday Schools, Brotherhoods, and youth organisations etc. I remember that at Park Terrace Methodist Church there was the annual Sunday School Anniversary with three services on the day during which the scholars sang and recited. There were generally a few “socials” during the year, such as the Harvest Social which took place on the Monday after the harvest services. There was a small charge to attend in order to raise church funds.

Some of the major events were put on by the two Pontypool Choirs: the Pontypool Choral Society and the Pontypool Male Voice Choir each having well over 50 members. Recently, while sorting out my collection of thousands of photographs I came across two photos of these organisations which I include in this post. If you can identify anyone please either make a comment or email me.

Pontypool Choral Society

Pontypool Choral society

Both my parents belonged to this choir. My father is in the seated row third from left and my mother is immediately in front of him. The only member I recall them talking about was George Ashman. One of his relatives might identify him if he is in the photo.

Pontypool Male Voice Choir

Pontypool Male Voice Choir

My father was also in this choir and is seated in the front row third from right. If any visitor knows anything about either photo I’d be pleased to hear about it.

Catching “taddies” in Pontypool

March 12, 2012

I’ve been living in my house at The Moorings, Newport for over 46 years. The name suggests some boating connection and, on the original plan for the houses, the open drainage ditch – called in South Wales a reen – in the field just outside my back gate was scheduled to be widened to make room for a landing stage with access to the River Usk which is just 600 yards away. Alas, all this never happened and the reen remained in its original state.

There must be about 10 acres of fields between the bottom of my garden and the river and until about 10 years ago, we were accustomed to seeing the farmer making hay, and various animals such as sheep, cows and horses roaming there from time to time. The Caerleon valley and the distant hills made it a very rural setting. It was a genuine “panoramic view”. The trains passing by some half a mile away looked like toys.

The view from my roof garden today. The houses below cover the
 and obliterate both the railway line and the River Usk. 

The fields in question were a flood plain and, from time to time, with the spring tides and a following wind, the fields were flooded. This fact didn’t cause us any concern as the fields were some 20 feet or more below the level of the house. About ten years ago approximately 100 houses were built in the fields and as a result I noticed the build up of water right at the bottom of my garden. I’d always wanted a garden pond so I just dug a large hole and let nature do the rest. As a result I now have a fair sized natural pond on the left side of the garden stocked with goldfish and other varieties all living happily together. On the right is a shallower pond which is the home of many frogs and toads.

A week ago I looked out of my lounge window and noticed that the second pond looked as though it was boiling. I went down and, yes, there they were, the usual large collection of frogs jumping and swimming about and making huge clumps of frog-pawn. It’s a sort of annual frogs’ convention and I have no idea where they all come from, unless they spend the rest of their time well hidden in my garden. I counted 62 frogs and there were probably a similar number hidden in the reeds or below the water. One small area of the pond was so full of frogs that it looked like a rugby scrum so I took a photograph which I show below.

Part of the “frogs’ convention”

All this reminded me of the times when, at this time of year a few of my friends and I would take our jam jars with string tied around the tops and our fishing nets, and go on a trip to hunt “taddies” and usually to collect some spawn as well. We had several favourite places to do this. One of the most popular was Pontypool Park lake. It was very large and we were certain to find tadpoles and spawn within easy reach of the pathway skirting the pond.

Another favourite spot was the canal basin. The water was fairly wide at that point and a good haul of “taddies” was assured together with huge clumps of spawn.

The Fish Ponds just off the Crumlin Road was another haunt of ours. These offered plenty of water but access to them from a convenient spot on the banks was not as convenient because in some places the banks were steep and were overgrown with ferns.

Sometimes we would return home with some jam jars containing frog spawn and some containing tadpoles, together with a few bits of pond plants as food for our captives. We would then have a good look at them every day to watch their progress. Some of the spawn hatched out into “taddies” and a few of the tadpoles started to grow legs and turn into frogs which caused us a great deal of satisfaction.

On some occasions we had lessons in school about frogs to which we always gave our undivided attention. However, none of us had a garden pond in which to place our frogs and “taddies” se we usually ended up returning the survivors to the place where we found them.

Panteg Hospital, Pontypool and “Retlas” revealed

February 19, 2012


Panteg Hospital was built in 1837 as a workhouse. As it was built on Coedygric Road, Griffithstown, it isn’t surprising that it became known as Coedygric Institute.

Later it became a mental hospital for women. Some of these could be seen from time to time walking the streets of Griffithstown in their drab white uniforms. They were in a crocodile formation with two men leading and two men at the rear.

It might be because of this that there was a section of the hospital for mentally ill women in the late fifties when I used to visit the hospital once a month on behalf of the Toc H Film Unit to show the patients a film. This was before television really took over. Once inside we were locked in. I well remember my first visit. I needed to plug the projector into the electricity supply and I knew that there was both DC and AC available in that section. As no member of staff was present I asked some of the patients which plug was used by my predecessor. They confidently pointed out one of the plugs which I then assumed was the AC supply. Unfortunately they were wrong and I plugged in to the DC supply. When I switched the projector on I blew the whole supply for that section of the hospital.

It became Panteg Hospital after World War II and had one of the best maternity sections in Wales. Immediately below the hospital is Coed-y-Gric Farm which is one of the oldest buildings in Wales.

If any visitors have information about the hospital building, particularly any photographs, or memories of working there, please contact me.

*     *     *     *     *


In my posting about the Welsh international rugby player Cecil Pritchard, I mentioned that I had obtained my information about him from a page in one of the club’s programmes and that it was written by someone with the pseudonym of “Retlas”. I asked whether anyone knew who he was and my friend, Eric Smith, has come up with the answer. It’s the reversed surname of Jack Salter who for many years was Editor of the Free Press.

Jack Salter was very active in the Pontypool area in a number of diverse ways. He was the first Secretary of the Pontypool District Motor and Motorcycle Club and also a member of the Trevethin cricket Club. My uncle, Granville Hughes, was also a member as were two West Mon masters: Messrs Whitty and Mosely.

Titch’s Secret Society Chapter 2

February 18, 2012


Lost Ball

  Pontyrabad, according to the official holiday guide, was “a small peaceful Welsh coastal town, one of its main attractions being a 12th century Benedictine Abbey, the ruins of which grace a peaceful green common a short distance from the sea”.

At the moment. however, the common was anything but peaceful.

Titch and his friends playing cricket on the Common

    “Howzat?” bellowed four voices in unison. Titch  turned quickly, bat in the air, to look with dismay at his middle stump now lying flat on the ground behind him. He turned and grinned good-naturedly at Gogs, the cause of his downfall.

“Well done Gogs! I must remember to do the same for you sometime.”

The other four boys converged on Titch who was still standing at the wicket.

“I vote we have tea now,” said Bunny, and to reinforce his idea he started to pull out the two remaining stumps. But no one disagreed with him. All five were hungry after their afternoon’s cricket and it was now well past their normal teatime.  It was often their custom to have what they termed a ‘cricket picnic’ on Pontyrabad common. Having collected their gear together they sat down on the springy green turf to eat their meal.

They were halfway through an assortment of sandwiches, fruit, cakes and other tasty items when their banquet was suddenly interrupted by a man’s voice right behind them.

“I hope you young gentlemen don’t make yourselves sick.” Turning around they saw a middle-aged man with a large moustache making his way across the common. As the boys turned he gave them a smile and waved his walking stick.

“Evening sir!” chorused the boys suddenly realising who the speaker was.

“Coo!” exclaimed Miff in a half whisper to the other four. “It’s old ‘Fungus’ our new history teacher.”

“Whacko and bang on!” joked Titch twirling an imaginary moustache now that the teacher was at a safe distance and out of earshot.

“I wonder where he’s going,” mused Smudgie.

“Home of course,” replied Titch.

“Does he live around here then?” asked Gogs looking over his shoulder at the now distant figure.

“Yes,” replied Titch. “He lives in one of those flats in the big houses on Common Crescent.”

“Oh yes,” added Bunny. “I can see his car parked outside.”

“What I don’t understand,” drawled Gogs in a puzzled voice, “is why he came to our school when none of the other teachers have left.”

“Yes, I wondered about that too,” added Smudgie.

“I thought it strange myself,” agreed Titch, “until about a fortnight ago when I had to take some chemistry books to the staff room for old ‘Stinks’. ‘Fungus’ was chatting to him and said that he had come to relieve the staff shortage a bit. Apparently there’s a great shortage of men teachers all over the country and really we could still do with a few more at our school to balance the staff better.”

“A few more teachers!” eclaimed Miff. “Coo! I reckon we’ve got a few too many. I’m willing to part with a few of ours any day.”

“Me too!” agreed Gogs.

“Well, anyway, that’s why he’s come,” ended Titch.

“We could have done a lot worse,” stated Bunny.   “He’s not a bad sort really. He’s jolly interesting, and that’s more than you can say for Miss Morrison’s history lessons.”

“You must be joking!” burst out Miff. “Hist’ry interestin? What’ll the boy say next?”

“No, I mean he’s not all dates and names of Kings and such like,” replied Bunny defending his opinion of the new teacher. “He tells you how people in olden days used to live, the things they used to eat, and the games the kids used to play and all that.”

“Of course there is one good thing he’s helped with,” said Gogs thoughtfully as he surveyed the grass and brushed his long dark hair away from his eyes. “He helps out a lot with the boys’ cricket.”

“Yeah, that’s true,” added Bunny. “With old Millie, all she wanted us to play was rounders. Huh! Rounders! We do get to play more cricket now.”

“I must say I was jolly surprised at all the things he knows about Pontyrabad,” said Titch, “considering he doesn’t come from round this way, I mean. I wonder where he does come from?”

“London,” replied Gogs simply. The others were amazed at hearing such a confident reply coming from him.

“And how on earth do you know that?” asked Miff.

“Well, I was outside the Head’s office the day he came. I was waitin’ for a telling off by the Head and I heard him tell the sec’try”

“Just imagine, Gogs,” teased Titch, “if you hadn’t been sent for a telling off we’d never have known where he came from.”

“I’m not a bit interested where he comes from,” protested Gogs. “I’d much rather not had the telling off I can tell you!”

“Cissy!” jeered Smudgie, at which Gogs flung his empty banana skin at him catching him full in the face. Smudgie launched his reprisal attack at once and fell upon Gogs trying to stuff a hastily gathered handful of grass down the back of his shirt, and in a few seconds the two boys were rolling over and over on the grass until they were interrupted by a shout from Titch.

“Come on you two nitwits, it’s time we were going.” Then he grabbed his bat and ran a few yards off.

“Just one last knock, Gogs, before we go. I’ll knock you for six this time.”

Gogs, who was always ready to fall in wih a challenging suggestion, rose to his feet. He grabbed the ball and, after brushing his hair from his left eye, flung the ball down hard at Titch. A smart piece of footwork enabled him to take the ball on the half-volley and it soared high into the air. Up and away it went followed by the admiring gaze of the other four, and eventually fell amongst the ruins of the old abbey where it bounced amongst the stones.

“Six it is!” yelled Bunny as he dramatically raised both arms above his head in true umpire’s style. “The only trouble is that now we’ve got to find my ball. Come on you lot, that’s my new ball. We can gather our kit together when we’ve found it.”

Though the grass on the common was fairly short, being regularly cut by council workmen, their search for the ball was considerably hampered by the stonework which was scattered about where the grass was much longer. The five boys made their way in amongst the old ruined cloisters, but, although they looked everywhere for it, the elusive ball could not be found.

 [D1]Illustration: Boys playing cricket on common   DONE

Titch’s Secret Society Chapter 1

February 11, 2012


 Titch Has an Idea

Four young boys were leaning in silence against the stone wall of the old tower on the steep hill rising up from the sea in the small South Wales coastal town of Pontyrabad. They were enjoying their half-term holiday. Their eyes were fixed on the distant figure of a strangely dressed man making his way towards them carrying an artist’s easel and a large portfolio bag.

Gogs Palfrey, the tallest of the four, glanced at his watch and was first to break the silence. “Can’t think where Titch has got to, but here’s old Louis again to do another of his paintings.”

“Wonder why he spends so much time painting the old tower?” mused  Bunny Francis.

“Dunno,” replied Miff Smith  “There’s already plenty of his paintings on sale in the art shop in town. Perhaps they’re popular with the tourists.”

“Sometimes he paints the scenery you can see from the hill. I’ve even seen him inside the tower sketching the scene through the doorway,” added  Smudgie Wright.

“He’s coming straight towards us,” said Bunny      “Perhaps he’s planning to sketch inside the tower again.”

“Don’t want him in there while we’re having our meeting!” exclaimed Gogs. “Let’s go inside so he’ll go somewhere else.”

The others appreciated the sense in this suggestion so all four slowly walked around to the side of the tower and mounted the solitary step to go inside. They sat down on some of the very large stones strewn about which had previously been part of the tower wall.

A short while later, the artist Louis, appeared framed in the doorway. Seeing the boys inside he hesitated at the door as he greeted them: “Ello lads! Having fun?”

“Hi Louis!” they chorused in return.

Bunny looked up at him from his large stone armchair, “Going to do another painting Louis?”

The artist looked slightly hesitant. “Er. . . well I was thinking . . .”

“We’re waiting for Titch,” chimed in Smudgie. “Don’t know where he’s got to or how long he’ll be”.

Louis waved his one free hand. “No trouble. No trouble. I’ll go down to the shell house and work down there. I come back here later. Bye lads!” With another wave of his hand he walked around the tower and down the side of the curving hill in the direction of the old shell house.

Gogs looked through the open doorway at the retreating figure. “Didn’t seem to want to do any painting here with us around,” he said.

“Perhaps artists like a bit of quiet when they’re working,” suggested Miff.

“Are you suggesting that we’re a noisy lot?” protested Bunny in mock indignation.

“Well, we have been known to make a slight amount of noise from time to time,” returned Miff with a smile.

The impatient Gogs hauled himself to his feet and strolled to the doorway to look down the hill. “Hey! I can see Titch. He’s on his way up. Wonder where he’s been till now.”

The other three joined Gogs outside the doorway. “P’raps he was late having dinner. You can ask him in a minute or two,” replied Bunny.

As Titch neared the crest of the hill Gogs sauntered down to meet him. “Where’ve you been?” he asked. “You said you had a good idea to talk about at our meeting. Let’s go inside the tower. There’s no one about now we’ve got rid of Louis.”

“Yes, I passed him on the way up,” replied Titch. “I think he’s going to do another painting of the shell house.”

Titch chatting to his friends by the wall of the old tower

As Titch joined the others they all chatted for a few minutes and then went inside the tower. Bunny and Miff sat down on two of the large stones, and Gogs, Titch and Smudgie hauled themselves onto a large rectangle of rough masonry just over a metre high that was built into one of the walls.

“Tell us about your idea Titch,” said the ever-eager Gogs.

Titch took a deep breath. “Well, you know we said that, as there’s not much for us to do in Ponty, we could consider forming a club of our own.”

“That’s right,” chirped in Bunny. “I think it’s a good idea. We could decide what sort of things we want to do, and we might get some other boys to join us later on.”

“Makes sense,” added Smudgie. “We do all sorts of things now but it would be good if we could have our own rules and get things organised, especially in the  holidays.”

“Yes, August holidays especially need a bit of organising,” added Gogs who was already warming to the idea.

“But there’s something else I’ve been reading about in my boys’ magazine which might be useful,” said Titch.  “It was advertising a small book which is free and tells you how to form  your own secret society.”

There were interested mutterings all round. Gogs jumped to his feet. “That’s real cool Titch,” he cried. “How do we do it? When can we start?”

“Let’s send for the book,” suggested Miff, “especially as it’s free.”

“I already have,” replied Titch. That’s why I’m a bit late arriving. I went round to the post office first to post the form asking for the book. That’s why I came up the path past the shell house.”

“Well, what are we going to do in this society?” pursued Miff.

Titch was hesitant. “Well . . . I think it might be a good idea to wait until the book arrives to see what is says, but we did say that one of our activities was going to be playing cricket.”

“Yeah, we’ve got to play cricket,” enthused Gogs, “especially as we all had some equipment last Christmas.”

At this Titch stood up and announced with an air of finality, “I suggest we have a game of cricket now.” He went to the tower doorway and looked down the hill. “There’s nobody playing on the common so we can play there,” he said.

By now they were all on their feet. “We’ll all collect our cricket gear and picnics and meet by the Abbey,” announced Titch. “First one there bats first.” This challenge resulted in a mad dash downhill towards the town.

Index of this blog

December 5, 2011

As the number of posts on my blog is now considerable, I am publishing a page index below so that visitors may go to a post that interests them by selecting the page it is on. The order is as they appear from the beginning of the blog. Alternatively the search facility, top right, may be used.

Hello Pontypool!

The Folly Tower

Arriving in Pontypool

Town School junior section

Tragedy at West Mon (Revised account)

Pontypool Boys’ Brigade – 9th Eastern Valley Company

Comics, magazines and other literature

The “Scholarship Class” at Town School

Pontypool in wartime: the start of rationing

When the sirens sounded in Pontypool

West Mon’s “Spitfire”

Osborne Cottage at Pontnewynydd

The good people of Pontypool help the war effort

Pontypool’s big freeze of 1941

Murder most foul in Pontypool

West Mon forms six and seven

The war ends, and Pontypool celebrates

Going to the pictures in Pontypool

Pontypool’s “Dad’s Army”

Fire at Wainfelin, and the slaughter of animals.

The Gregories of Cwmffrwdoer

Pontypool park for fun frolicks and fairs

The Grotto in Pontypool Park

Park Terrace Methodist Sunday School Pontypool

Climbing the mountain with the help of Watkins the tinsmith

Franketti’s Fish and Chip Shop

Christmas time in old Pontypool

World War II shipbuilders in Pontypool

The games we used to play in Pontypool

Pontypool’s great snow of 1947

Pontypool’s Secret Society

Drama in Pontypool

Tragedy at West Mon 2. Words from a key witness.

High Days and Holidays at Pontypool Town School

Pontypool Personalities

Two Broadways: Pontypool and New York

Decline in West Mon boarders

A great revelation on Haden Street

Accidents, Fatalities and Diseases

The book of the blog

Town School Centenary booklet 1938

Parts of old Pontypool that have vanished

News of Gibson Square

More nws about Gibson Square

Old photographs of Pontypool

Surprises in disguises

Old photographs of Pontypool carnival in the park

Information and a request

Old photographs of the Clarence area

More about the Robin Hood pub

Old photographs of Pontypool’s shopping centre

The Fowler family of Pontypool

Two interesting comments

The Queen’s Ballroom Pontypool

Fairfields of Pontypool crops up again

Is this how you remember the Donkey Steps and Gibson Square?

Donkey Steps & Gibson’s Square – a revised sketch and more information

A request from Pontypool Museum

The Parrot Public House Pontypool

Emerging information about about The Parrot and Gibson Square

Murder at The Parrot Inn and some old photographs of Pontypool

Photographs and more information about the Parrot Pub

A word map of Pontypool 1881

Further information on the Robin Hood, the Gregories and playing marbles

Further information on the Robin Hood and its proprietors

Ragtime comes to Pontypool

Tragic Peakes’ Coach Accident – two men killed

Photographs of Peake’s coach crash scene

Introduction to my Pontypool blog

Pontypool Home Guard on Parade in the Park

Do you remember Aubrey Hames?

Ponypool’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Three photographs of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Pontypool people really seem to be world travellers

See the video: “Who killed Dripping Lewis?”

Ponypool Town School’s great raffle

West Mon School Song

Severe Pontypool weather in 1940s

Pontypool Rugby Reminiscences

Some Pontypool Baptists in hot water

Free new e-book for visitors to this blog

Titch’s Secret Society  Chapter 1

Titch’s Secret Society  Chapter 2

Panteg Hospital, Pontypool and “Retlas” revealed

Interesting comments on Panteg Hospital

Titch’s Secret Society  Chapter 3

Another blog about some Pontypool cgaracters

Titch’s Secret Society  Chapter 4

Sports Day at West Mon School

Photographs taken inside West Mon School 2010

Titch’s Secret Society   Chapter 5

Catching taddies in Pontypool

Tragic drowning of nine people

Titch’s Secret Society   Chapter 6

The Swan Inn Freehold Land

Titch’s Secret Society   Chapter 7

Titch’s Secret Society   Chapter 8

Titch’s Secret Society   Chapter 9

Titch’s Secret Society   Chapter 10

Some close shaves in Pontypool

Titch’s Secret Society   Chapter 11

Titch’s Secret Society   Chapter 13

Heartless hoaxer in Pontypool

This index is by no means complete as I only index this blog from time to time.
There are a number of posts after the last item indexed above.
The latest post will be at the beginning of the blog. You can scroll down from there to find the latest posts.

Ragtime comes to Pontypool

November 13, 2011

Ragtime music was at its peak between 1897 and 1918. The main characteristic of this genre was its ragged or syncopated style. It started life in America in such cities as St Louis and New Orleans. It was a mongrel type of music produced by Sousa’s marches and African music.

One of the leaders in this style of music was Scott Joplin who, in 1899 composed his “Maple Leaf Rag”. Just click here to hear it on YouTube and use your back button to return to the blog:

 Here is a copy of the cover of the sheet music published at that time.

 I’m indebted to Harold Clarke for the following information:

 “I am attaching a photo of a group calling themselves the Ragtimers.  If you consider it of enough interest to put on the blog it might turn up some information as I can find nothing out about this group but the fact it is a photo approximately twenty by fourteen inches taken about 1916. This date arrived at by guessing the age of my wife’s father 3rd from left 2nd row would suggest they might have been quite well known around the area.”

Bearing in mind what I have said above, Harold’s estimate of the date – 1916 – would appear to be about right. If any visitor can shed any light on the Ragtimers, and if anyone can identify any of the group I’m sure Harold will be interested.

Pontypool Ragtimers

The Queen’s Ballroom Pontypool

May 10, 2011

In a recent telephone conversation I had with my friend, Eric Smith, he was telling me that a lot of people do not know where The Queen’s Ballroom was in Pontypool. This is quite understandable because it is now known, and has been for very many years, as The Palais de Dance.

I remember it by that name way back in the early 1940s when dances and other forms of entertainment were held there. At that time it was the only dance hall in Wales with a sprung floor; in fact there was only one other such place in the whole country with such a floor and that was in the Blackpool Tower. You might remember that, a year or so ago, some of the Strictly Come Dancing programmes were held there.

One of the regular events at the Palais de Dance was the annual NSPCC Children’s Ball, an event to raise money for the charity. Eric attended these and, on one occasion, all the children were taken along to Turner’s Fish and chip shop in George Street and were provided with a meal of fish and chips. When Eric asked me to go along to the ball with him I agreed. We were about 12 years old at the time so it was during the war. Sadly there were no fish and chips on that occasion but I do remember going upstairs to have refreshments on the small balcony. I remember it being very crowded with several hundred children in attendance and quite a number of adults.

The entrance to the Palais de Dance, usually referred to by Pontypool folk simply as “The Palais” (usually pronounced “pally”), was directly opposite the top entrance to the market in Crane Street. I don’t have a photograph of the whole building but I do remember it had a fairly large foyer leading to the inside doors. There were a few steps down to the pavement. I do, however, have a photograph of a troupe of performers in their costumes sitting on those steps. If anyone has a better photograph of The Palais, please let me have a copy and I’ll include it in a future blog post.

A troupe of performers sitting on the steps of The Palais de Dance

Old photographs of Pontypool carnival in the park

March 15, 2011

Here are some more of the photographs sent in by Terry Stunden. These are all about the carnival which was held in the park. I’ve also included a photograph of the park gates at Pontymoile. If you have a good look at these gates you will see that there are several bunches of grapes on it. One of them is missing! When I was at West Mon I remember one of my teachers talking about this and he told us that the Italian artist who had made the gates didn’t notice his omission until it was too late to rectify his mistake and, as a result, he committed suicide. I don’t know how true this story is. It sounds rather drastic to me.

For those visitors who like to look at these old photographs, I plan to post more on the next two Tuesdays at 11.00 a.m. So, if you are collecting these photographs you now know the day and time to look for them.

The park gates at Pontymoile

The park lake was another favourite playing place for my friends and I. Apart from the lake itself, there was a stream above which fed into the lake and below the lake another stream, all of which afforded a lot of fun making dams and jumping from one side to the other. There was also a variety of creatures which lived in the streams and the lake. In one of my very early posts I mentioned that I wrote my first poem about this lake.

Pontypool park lake

Below are four photographs of the carnival. Two are of the carnival queen and her court ladies. The quality of these old black and white photographs was not very good in those days. I’ve tried to enhance them slightly on my computer so there might be some ladies in the photographs that someone might recognise. If so, please let me know who they are.


Pontypool carnival queens

It looks to me as though these photographs were taken just in front of the grandstand, assuming that it was there at that time. Behind the groups you can make out the bank where we used to sit to see all the carnival activities. In the lower shot you can see the path along the bank. If any eagle-eyed visitor can help to date these photographs that would be great.

Two photographs of the carnival

I’m not sure what is going on in the above two photographs but it looks to me like part of the general procession which used to wend its way through town and end up in the park where the judging took place.

I hope you enjoyed the photographs. See you next Tuesday.

Surprises in disguises

March 14, 2011

Visitors who have been following the posts in this blog for some time might remember one about my secret society. If you need reminding or if you haven’t seen it, just copy the address below and put it in your address bar to view the post:

In that post you will see two pictures of the books I bought. One of them is called “Detection and Disguise”. It contained all manner of advice about how to disguise yourself as somebody else so that even your close friends won’t recognise you. This was the sort of thing that Sherlock Holmes often did in the stories we were so fond of reading. He was so good at this that even Dr Watson didn’t recognise him. Eric and I spent hours reading through the disguise techniques recommended in the book.

Also, on page 121 of the same book a disguise outfit and instruction book was advertised as in the picture above. The picture below gives the contents of the disguise outfit which are quite comprehensive. Needless to say, it didn’t take me long to get the 4 Quaker figures and save up the 3d to send for the outfit

One of the recommendations in the book was about making yourself look a lot older, so, as we were only about 14 or 15 at the time, this sounded like a good idea. It recommended one of the ways to do this was to pad your shoulders out with newspaper, and also do the same with your chest and stomach. This was intended to make us look slightly taller and a bit more corpulent. Under some pretext or other we both managed to borrow overcoats and trilby hats from our fathers as these would offer comprehensive covering over our assorted newspapers which might stick out from beneath our own jackets.

Having assembled all our kit we decided to try it out for the first time under cover of darkness. In Eric’s front room we busied ourselves padding our anatomies with newspapers by tying on large bundles with string so that they would stay in place. When we’d finished this we were fairly satisfied that we looked a lot more bulky and when we put on the overcoats and trilby hats we were quite thrilled. By sticking on the false moustaches we were absolutely satisfied that our transformation was complete.

By then it was reasonably dark so we crept out of the house and down Wern Terrace eventually making our way down the Bell Pitch and into town. As the shops were shut there were not many people about and those we passed didn’t even give us a second glance. The trouble was that we didn’t see a single person that we knew and that would have been the acid test of our enterprise. Having reached Woolworth’s we decided to stick to our plan and walk further, so we went up Osborne Road. As we approached the vicinity of Merchants Hill we heard running footsteps behind us, then a child’s voice shouting “Daddy! Daddy!” Immediately a little boy of about six ran up to Eric’s side and looked up at him. It was only then that he realised that Eric wasn’t his daddy so ran off again. It was just as well he did because we both almost collapsed with laughter at the event.

There was a certain amount of satisfaction as far as we were concerned. At least we must have looked like grown up men. Now, I don’t know whether it was the result of shaking with laughter or all the movement involved in walking a couple of miles but, as we turned up Merchants Hill some of our newspaper stuffing and bits of string worked loose and fell down onto the ground. This, of course, caused more laughter with the inevitable result that more newspaper stuffing started to work loose and fall down. Eventually we ended up with large bunches of newspapers under our arms making us look like latter-day Argus sellers.

Our moustaches had stuck manfully to the job. The only trouble was removing them before we returned home. Just trying to pull them off proved rather painful but by applying liberal quantities of spit we finally managed it. We found a suitable place to ditch our newspapers and then returned home. We were reasonable satisfied with our exercise in disguise but we were realistic enough to allow that Sherlock Holmes definitely had the edge on us.