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Titch’s Secret Society Chapter 9

April 7, 2012

CHAPTER 9

 The Secret Room

  “Where?” asked Gogs eagerly.

“If Bunny’s father is willing, we can put it underneath his new shed.”

The others looked momentarily mystified. Smudgie broke the silence: “Underneath?”

“But we can’t Titch,” said Bunny. “There’ll only be a space of one or two inches underneath. We couldn’t possibly get under there.”

“No, not with the earth there,” answered Titch. “But we could dig a room underneath . . . that is if your Dad will let us.”

The frowns on the faces of the other four changed to smiles of delight as they finally understood Titch’s plan.

“Wick . . .ed!” shouted Miff.

“Brilliant idea!” yelled Gogs as he jumped up and waved his fist in circles above his head now that his curiosity had finally been satisfied.

“Sit down Gogs!” ordered Titch as he turned to a page in his volume marked with a slip of paper. “Look, it tells you exactly how to do it in this book.”

The others gathered round eagerly as Titch pointed to a series of sketches and diagrams, and read out the instructions.

“Excellent idea Titch,” said Bunny. “It says the underground room must be dug before the shed is put up. Mmmmmm, I wonder whether my Dad would let us do it. We’ll have to get moving pretty fast because the shed is being put up on Monday.”

“Is your father in now?” asked Titch.

“Yes, he hadn’t finished his coffee when I came out,” Bunny replied.

“Go and ask him now,” urged Gogs.

“OK,” agreed Bunny. “Oh, there’s just one thing though, suppose he asks why we want a room underneath the shed? What’ll I say Titch?”

“Er. . . tell him we have a kind of club or something. After all it is a kind of club.”

“Right, I’ll see what he says,” and with that Bunny disappeared along the path and up the drive to the house.

The other three examined the instructions in Titch’s book.

“How are we going to get down into the room with a shed on top of it Titch?” asked Smudgie.

“It tells you here,” Titch replied indicating one of the diagrams. “We must have a small passage which ends outside the side of the shed. On top of this you put a trap door sunk an inch or two into the ground. It’s kept up by being a bit bigger than the passage.”

“Oh, I see,” said Smudgie. “Yes . . . it says you can even walk on it.”

“Look out!” cried Miff who had looked through the greenhouse doorway. “Here’s Bunny and his Dad’s with him.”

The others stood up to see.

“Oh dear!” groaned Smudgie. “I bet Bunny’s put his foot in it.”

“I hope he hasn’t spoilt everything,” said Titch apprehensively.

“Well, at any rate he’s smiling,” said Gogs hopefully.

Mr Francis and Bunny came along the path to the greenhouse. The four boys went outside to meet them.

“Hello lads!” said Mr Francis smiling. What’s all this about? Bernard’s just been telling me you want to dig a hole under my new shed.”

“Well, you see Mr Francis,” began Titch, “we have a sort of club . . . just the five of us . . . and we thought it would be nice to have a room to meet in; one of our own I mean.”

Mr Francis looked at the vacant ground prepared for the shed. “Er . . . tell me,” he asked, “how do you propose to get into this hole when the shed is on top of it?”

Titch explained about the trap door. At this Mr Francis looked doubtful.

“Mmmm . . . doesn’t sound very safe to me. Can’t say I like that part,” he said.

The five boys looked glum, and Gogs’ face wore the expression of someone who’s just been sentenced to death.

“It’’l be all right, honest Dad,” pleaded Bunny.

“Oh, you might think so,” returned his father, but if it wasn’t safe and one of you should get hurt, I’d feel responsible.”

“But it says in the book that it’s quite safe,” put in Titch.

At this Mr Francis seemed more interested. “Book? What book’s that Roger?”

Titch, seeing a ray of hope, handed his book to Mr Francis and indicated the diagrams and instructions. At length he said, “Oh . . . so this is where the idea came from. Well, I must say it seems safe enough in here. Do you think you could manage to do it properly?”

The boys assured him in unison of their undoubted ability in this direction. Mr Francis, once again, looked at the plot of ground and rubbed his chin thoughtfully.

“Yes, all right. You go ahead and dig the hole, but, remember, I want to inspect it before the shed goes on top of it. I want to be absolutely certain.”

“Oh, thanks Dad!” cried Bunny amidst a chorus of gratitude from his friends. Mr Francis turned to go.

“That’s all right lads. Come to think of it, it’s the sort of thing I’d have liked when I was a boy. By the way, you’ll have to work jolly hard. I want the shed up on Monday.”

“We’ll manage it,” answered Titch. Then, turning to his friends he said, “We’ve only got today to do it. Come on boys, let’s start now.

Never before in their lives had the five members of the Pontyrabad Secret society moved so fast and worked so hard in one day. Ordered by their Chief, Titch, the boys had run quickly home to their various houses to bring back any tools which they thought might be useful for digging their underground room.

Twenty minutes after dispersing, they were reassembled in front of the shed plot regarding the weapons with which they were going to make their assault. Altogether they had assembled between them two shovels, one spade, an old pick, a large stone hammer, three small ones, two iron bars and one garden fork. Titch had also brought a tape measure. He took this out of his pocket and spoke to Bunny.

“Do you know how big the shed is going to be Bunny?”

“Yes, my Dad said it will be five metres long and three metres wide.”

“Doesn’t look that big,” said Gogs doubtfully, looking at the pegged out rectangle of earth.

“Foundations never do look as big as the building,” said Titch. “Five by three,” he mused looking at the diagrams in his book. “Mmm . . . let’s see . . . yes. . . mmm. I think we can dig a hole about two and a half metres long and one and a half metres wide. That means the passage leading to the room will be about one and a half metres by a bit over half a metre.”

“Can we start now Titch?” asked Gogs who was becoming rather impatient with Titch’s preliminary calculations.

“Yes, as soon as we’ve marked it out,” Titch replied.

With the aid of some long bamboo canes, a piece of string and Titch’s tape measure, they marked out the rectangle.

“Right boys,” said Titch taking off his coat. “We can’t all dig at the same time, so we’ll have to relieve one another in turns. One of us will have to carry the earth away in buckets or the wheelbarrow and scatter it over other parts of the garden.”

“Oh, where’d we better put it I wonder?” queried Bunny. “I’ll ask my Dad before he goes out.”

“Bags me first to dig,” shouted Gogs.

“And me!” echoed Miff and Smudgie together.

“All right,” said Titch. “You start with the shovels and spade. When Bunny comes back he can help me to mark out the passage.”

Luckily the boys were able to dig down a good way before coming to clay. From then on it was harder going and the pick was in constant use. But despite this they had soon dug a hole half a metre deep, and Titch and Bunny were kept busy distributing earth over certain obscure parts of the garden as instructed by Bunny’s Dad. From time to time they all changed jobs.

They worked on and on gamely, all perspiring freely in the warm sun, until stopped by Titch.

The boys worked on gamely digging their hole

    “O.K. boys. Let’s knock off now,” he panted throwing up a final shovelful of earth.

The others, although game, welcomed this rest.

“How’s the time Bunny?” asked Titch.

“Quarter past five.”

“Teatime!” cried Miff. “Come to think of it, I’m feeling pretty hungry.”

“Me too!” agreed Smudgie wiping a grubby forehead with the back of an even grubbier hand.

“Yes, we’d better go home for tea now,” agreed Titch. “We’ll measure the depth and then go,” he said jumping into the hole with his tape measure. “That’s a fair bit over a metre he announced. That’s good. Well done boys.”

“That’s good going,” added Bunny.

They all hurried home for tea and rushed through that meal as never before. Their haste invited many enquiries from older brothers and sisters and even grownups, but all these were casually evaded.

Gogs’ mother looked rather worriedly after him as he dashed down the garden path after refusing a second cream puff. Her son had never been known to do such a thing before, and she wondered whether he was sickening for something.

Forty-five minutes after leaving Bunny’s garden the four were re-entering the gate and, on looking in the direction of the hole, they noticed that Bunny was already at work with the pick. The others joined in and worked hard for well over two hours until stopped again by Titch.

“Hang on a bit boys. I think we might have gone down deep enough in that one corner.” He took out his tape measure to check. “Not far short of two metres. That should be plenty deep enough. We’ll level off the bottom and smooth the walls and passage and we’ll be finished.”

By the time they had finished doing that, darkness was closing in fast. Titch put the finishing touches to the four steps he had cut in the clay at the entrance to the passage, then called on the others to walk up them to try them out.

This they did, then the five diggers stood around the edge of their newly dug headquarters, perspiring, tired, but very proud of their day’s work.

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Pontypool’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

December 20, 2011

WERE ANY OF THESE YOU OR YOUR RELATIVES OR FRIENDS?

 As Christmas is less than a week away I thought a “Christmassy” sort of posting might be appropriate. At this time of the year we all tend to think of the children and their presents, Christmas parties and so on. Personally, every year I have to be transformed into “Father Christmas” at four different functions where there are a lot of children present, so I have to get into the spirit quite early.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post, I have many happy memories of family Christmases in Pontypool, many of them centred at Osborn Cottage. All this might be partly responsible for the fact that my favourite book is Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol” which I have read eight times. I have three copies of the book, all with differing illustrations.

One favourite children’s character which tends to surface at this time of year is Snow White, so I thought I’d write about Pontypool’s Snow White in the hope that she and the dwarfs might read this, or that some visitors might know her or any of the dwarfs.

Although Walt Disney made his famous Snow White film in 1937 it did not come to the cinema in Pontypool until the following year 1938. I remember going to see it with my mother. You might remember this poster which was to be seen around the town advertising it:

The original story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was well known all over Europe after being featured in the collection of the German Brothers Grimm. Jacob and Wilhelm were two German academics who collected folkore and published a number of collections of it with the title “Grimm’s Fairy Tales”. As the first edition was published exactly 199 years ago this very day (20th December 1812), this is another good reason for my choice of subject. I think we might see some big celebrations at the 200th anniversary at this time next year. The volume contained 86 stories. More were added, and some subtracted until, for the seventh edition there was a huge collection of 211 stories. You will remember the popular ones such as: Cinderella, The Frog Prince, Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel, Rumplestiltskin, and Sleeping Beauty. So famous did the brothers become that they were featured on the German 1,000 Deutsche Mark bank note.

 

Although many people think of “Grimm’s Fairy Stories” as a collection of stories for children, some of them were very dark and drear and were not really suitable for children at all. Consequently they were often edited when used in other ways such as Walt Disney’s film. In it the dwarfs were given different names and the story was altogether more cheerful and bright as were the illustrations.

The original Fairy Tales were illustrated by
Philipp Grot Johann. Here he depicts
Snow White in her glass coffin.

By contrast this is Walt Disney’s much
more cheerful depiction.

Because of Snow White’s great popularity it was decided to have a competition in 1939 to choose a Pontypool Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to make an extra tableau for the usual Pontypool Hospital Carnival which I mentioned in an earlier posting.

Out of all the children who entered the competition, 35 finalists were chosen, 15 girls and 20 boys, and the judging took place at St James’s Hall. The winners were:

Snow White – Molly Irene Lovejoy of 3 Clare Wain Estate, New Inn, aged 10.

The seven dwarfs –

Stanley Lucas, Glenside, Coedcae, Pontypool, aged 6.

Gilbert Gordon Robinson, Olive Cottage, Upper Cotcha, Blaenavon, aged 6.

Lawrence Llewellyn Watkins, 23 Chapel Lane, Pontypool, aged 7.

Ronald Clifford Davies, 101 Gordon Road, Talywain, aged 6.

John Sandbrook, 36a Railway Tterrace, Abersychan, aged 8.

Terence Atkins, Pineapple Inn, New Inn, aged 8.

Peter Davies, 2, Cenfedd Street, Newport, aged 7.


Molly Irene Lovejoy

Molly Irene Lovejoy, a blonde, was the only child of Mr Charles Lovejoy, a GWR fireman and Mrs Lovejoy. She competed for the first time the previous year in the Royal Gwent Hospital Carnival, but was unsuccessful. She was more fortunate the following year when she was chosen as a court lady to the S.W.M.F. May-day Queen.

Terence Atkins is the son of Mr Jack Atkins, the former Pontypool forward.

I would estimate that Molly would now be aged about 83 and the dwarfs in their late seventies or early eighties. If any of them read this blog and can give me any further details or memories of the occasion I’d be delighted to hear from them. And if they have any photographs of the event which they could let me have a copy of they would make a wonderful follow-up to this posting.

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.

Introduction to my Pontypool Blog

November 26, 2011

A FEW WORDS OF WELCOME BEFORE YOU BEGIN READING MY BLOG

Since starting this blog I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the number of visitors I’ve received which at the time of writing stood at well over 26,000; since then it has more than doubled.  I wasn’t expecting anywhere near this number. Another surprise has been the number of comments received, many of which have been helpful to visitors in tracing family members etc.

But the most pleasing result has been the number of emails I’ve received, some from friends I knew long ago when living in Pontypool. Many of those emails are private of course so don’t get put on the blog. A few days ago I even received a phone call from a lady living in Canada who’d bought my book when visiting relatives over here and wanted to say how much she enjoyed it. Just a reminder that my email address is:  @ icon large  david.hughes43@ntlworld.com.

If you would like to be emailed whenever a new post is added you can do this by clicking on the “+ Follow” sign at top right of the heading of the blog. This is relatively new but quite a number of visitors have already done this.

Finally, if the memory of any old friends need jogging (as mine does from time to time) I append below a 1947 photograph. I won’t scare you with the latest version !

Best wishes as you walk down memory lane.           David (Dewi) Hughes

PAST POSTINGS WHICH HAVE BEEN AMENDED

Since starting this feature I have amended so many of
my postings that the list would be very large and, the
more amended posts in the list, the more pointless
the list would become. Visitors can now assume
that the majority of the posts have been amended
in one way or another.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
BECAUSE THERE IS NOW SO MUCH INFORMATION ON THIS BLOG
I HAVE ADDED A SEARCH FACILITY WHICH YOU WILL FIND
JUST UNDER THE COLOURED BANNER HEADING – TOP RIGHT
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

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:

https://oldpontypool.wordpress.com/2009/03/06/pontypools-secret-society/

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.

The Book of the Blog

September 6, 2010

IMPORTANT NOTICE REGARDING THIS POSTING ABOUT MY BOOK  17th November 2010

As a result of the considerable interest shown in the book since posting the details below, the book is now published and is also on sale at various outlets from Newport to Blaenavon.

I have been asked by the Pontypool Museum to do a book signing at their open day on Saturday 27th November starting at 2.30p.m. I understand from staff at the Pontypool Museum that an article about the book was published a few days ago in the Free Press.

If any visitors to this blog would like to come along to the museum on 27th for a chat I shall be pleased to see them.

Over recent months I have been receiving an increasing number of emails, and some phone calls, suggesting that I publish the contents of this blog as a book. With this aim in mind I have spent the last two months preparing a book manuscript which contains the material in the blogs, some additional material, some of which has been sent in by visitors, and some corrections – particularly in the case of the West Mon tragedy as I now have details from the Coroner’s Report and other relevant information.

The book is a paperback with 133 pages. Inside illustrations in black and white with two coloured illustrations on the back cover.

If you would like to order a copy please email me at david.hughes43@ntlworld.com

The price is £7.50 plus postage and packing @ £1.00

 

Two Broadways: Pontypool and New York

August 10, 2009

About ten years ago, when my wife and I visited New York, we walked down Broadway and I remember thinking how different it was from Broadway, Pontypool; yes, it was a lot different. The buildings on New York Broadway towered above us like giants. The trouble is, if you build tall buildings you cut out the sun. Broadway, Pontypool was quite wide with low buildings; consequently, when the sun was out, it was always sunny. Also you had a good view our over the town and beyond on the one side.

One day, as I was returning home from Town School, having decided on the Broadway route, I was met at the top of the Donkey Steps by a man and woman who asked me the way to somewhere (I can’t remember where). I said I always passed it on my way home and that I would show them where it was. We walked along chatting as we went. I remember the woman was wearing one of those bell-shaped hats that were very popular in the twenties. When we came to a point where I could show them the place they wanted, they thanked me very much and the man took out of his pocket a small arc-shaped magnet and gave it to me. I still have it.

The slight rise at the top of the hilly part of Broadway led into North Road. My maternal grandparents lived in North Road in the last cottage on the right walking from the Wern Terrace direction. My grandfather died when I was only five years old but I have some fond memories of him. He used to take me on long walks such as down to the Crumlin Road where he would point out what plants it was safe to eat. I remember coming home one day in great triumph after we’d captured a “snake” – actually it was some sort of dark brown worm about two inches long. I took it home in my grandfather’s cigarette packet.

I was always made to feel welcome in the little cottage and would sometimes be given pieces of paper to write and draw on. I remember on one occasion my grandfather made me a pipe out of a cotton reel and some sort of a straw. He always seemed to have ideas which I considered exciting.

The cottage was one of those two down-two up affairs with the staircase in the corner of the living room; it was always difficult to climb. They now have similar ones at St Fagan’s Folk Museum. I remember going up it for the last time when most of my family were assembled around grandfather’s bed. I didn’t know at the time that he was dying but I did notice tears running down my mother’s face. Afterwards I asked her whether she’d been crying and she replied that she’d got something in her eye. I never saw my grandfather again.

If you crossed diagonally across the road at the wide junction there was Williams’ shop where they sold all sorts of sweets in packets and large bottles. I frequently went there to get my favourite sweets at the time – Dolly Mixtures. They were small, varied and lasted a long time. Almost opposite was another smaller shop. I forget the name but I often went there to buy a bottle of pop.

About half way along North Road there was a butcher’s shop. I think it was run by Les Pope. I frequently accompanied my mother there when she went to buy her meat. I well remember the assortment of joints, chops, black pudding and tripe displayed in the window. Tripe was a meal we never had but tripe-and-onions was a popular meal at the time.

I am indebted to Clive Barnby of Pontypridd, who used to live in North Road, for the following memories sent to me by email:

One character I remember, David, was a chap I usually passed on the donkey steps – as I was walking down, he was walking up towards The Broadway, always reading from a book. I didn’t know his name or where he lived. There was Mrs Harris who had the shop by Town School & would sell cigarettes singly to the pupils who stayed on after 11.

Another was Joe Williams, the landlord, of the Forgehammer. I don’t know where he lived either but in the mornings he would walk up North Road from The Broadway direction. It was in the days when betting shops were illegal but he ran a “book” & would take bets, so he had a “regular time” he’d walk to the pub & people would come out of the house & hand him a piece of paper with their selection on it wrapped round half-crown or whatever. This was up to about when I was seven.”

I well remember Harris’s shop opposite Town School. On one occasion, one of the teachers, Mr Hughes, asked to to go over there at playtime to buy some sweets for him. At the time he was sitting in Miss Brooks’ classroom as she was about to make tea. They were married a year or two later. Perhaps those sweets helped!

Just a little way up the hill from Harris’s was a small newspaper shop accessed by a few steep steps. This was where I went every Tuesday with my penny to buy our favourite comic – the “Tip Top”. My favourite character was the handsome mounted policeman on the front page. I loved his exploits. Captain Jim Hamar of the Boys’ Brigade had been a Mountie as I’ve mentioned previously. Some years ago on a 17 day visit to Canada, you can imagine my disappointment when there wasn’t a Mountie in sight.

Opposite Harris’s was the shop of Mr Bibey, the barber. It was always full but a few of us lads would be regularly sent there with our 9d to get a haircut. Strangely enough, I’ve just returned from the barber’s this morning. My haircut cost me £6.50. Come back Mr Bibey – all is forgiven.

Murder most foul in Pontypool

August 25, 2008

I always regarded Pontypool as a quiet sort of place and not to be compared in any way with Chicago or London in the criminal league.

The first crime I remember – a relatively minor one – was perpetrated against my own family only a year or two after we’d moved to School Lane. My father was a keen gardener and had planted a small orchard of seven apple trees in the half of the garden near the house. We were all thrilled when quite a number of apples appeared on the trees and we watched their growth with great interest waiting for the day we could pick and eat them.

One Sunday evening, on returning home from Park Terrace Methodist Church, we were dismayed to see that someone had taken advantage of our absence and had picked every apple, except one, off the trees. At that time the field was next to our house and the fence consisted of only three strands of wire which made for easy access.

My father made extensive enquiries of local children, some of whom had seen the dirty deed, and he was told that “It was Paddy Hanford’s gang”. Apparently he was a character who lived somewhere in the Broadway area. As a result of this, my father bought a great dane dog to discourage this sort of thing from happening again. We called him Ras, and when he was a year old, he stood six feet tall on his hind legs. Naturally we had no further trouble with intruders of any sort.

But the crime which shook all Pontypool to the core was the murder of William Alfred Lewis known as “Dripping” Lewis. He was a 59 year old bachelor who lived at Plasmont, Conway Road. He was known as “Dripping” because of his liking for eating dripping sandwiches which were quite popular at that time. In my four journeys to and from Town School every day I passed his house regularly. As there was a high stone wall around it and a large gate in the corner, little could be seen of the house itself so it was easy to pass it without really noticing it.

A clipping from the Free Press at the time of the murder

Mr Lewis had been a draper at Cwm, Ebbw Vale until 1931. His unmarried sister lived with him at Plasmont until she died in 1936. The body of the victim was discovered by Thomas Brimble, a builder and decorator of Abersychan on Wednesday 24th May 1939. He had been working for some time on renovation work at Mr Lewis’s house. The milkman told Mr Brimble that the milk he had left on Monday was still in the two jugs and had not been used. That was when Mr Brimble went into the house to investigate. He found Mr Lewis’s body sprawled across his bed with a pillow over his face. He contacted the police at once.

Scotland Yard was informed and four of their officers came to investigate. They discovered that Mr Lewis had suffered several blows to the back of the head but could find no weapon nor any other clues. They later discovered that about £300 was missing from the house: £200 in rents from the houses and shops in the area owned by Mr Lewis and £100 worth of gold jewellery.

A post mortem later established that Mr Lewis had died on Monday 22nd May from shock brought on by his severe injuries.

The murderer was never caught but there was a tremendous amount of talk about the event for a long time afterwards.

Hello Pontypool!

June 6, 2008

I started at West Mon Boys’ School in Pontypool during the war in 1942. During one of our music lessons, our music master, “Toot” Steven informed us that we were going to borrow the Harrow School Song for our own use. I remember the opening verse very well:

Forty years on, when afar and asunder
Parted are those who are singing today,
When you look back, and forgetfully wonder
What you were like in your work and your play,
Then, it may be, there will often come o’er you,
Glimpses of notes like the catch of a song –
Visions of boyhood shall float them before you,
Echoes of dreamland shall bear them along.

I remember, at the time, feeling slightly nostalgic when I heard the words and thinking what a far-distant time we were singing about; although I did wonder how far flung we might all be and what we might be doing in forty years’ time.

Now I’m looking back, not over forty years, but well over seventy and I really do wonder what all those boys are doing and where they are. So I decided to start this blog. It’s possible that some of those old school friends might see it. I expect that there are old westmonians not only scattered all over the UK but all over the world. They might like to recall those “visions of boyhood” of yesteryear.

It’s not my intention to make this blog another “history of Pontypool” as there are plenty of those about already. This will be an intensely personal collection of recollections, almost at random as they occur to me; and I don’t want them necessarily to be only my recollections. If any visitors have any they’d like to share, I’d love to hear about them. This doesn’t mean only old westmonians of course, but everybody who’s ever lived in Pontypool and its surroundings.

Any visitor wishing to do this can either make a comment after any of the posts or they can email me at david.hughes43@ntlworld.com