Archive for the ‘Wartime’ Category

Another blog about some Pontypool characters

February 28, 2012

ANNIE FROM PENYGARN

Stories from a South Wales Valley

I have recently been in touch with Steve Parry who came across this blog and who lives in York. His mother and father are both from Pontypool and he was born in Panteg Hospital in 1958. He says that his Mum is full of stories of her growing up in Pontypool.

He says that his mother is a Curtis by birth and that her stories are about the Curtis/Hughes/Gregory families. Steve has put some photographs on the site. He says he regularly returns home to wander the family sites. Yes, the pull of the valleys never goes away!

I’m quite certain that visitors to this blog will love to read Steve’s. I’ve just done so and I found it very evocative of past times, many of which I’ve written about in previous posts. It’s called “Annie from Penygarn” – Stories from a South Wales Valley.  Just click here to read it:

http://anniepenygarn.blogspot.com/

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.

Pontypool Home Guard on Parade in the Park

December 2, 2011

I dealt with Pontypool’s Dad’s Army much earlier in this blog. Michael Taylor has kindly sent me some photographs of the Home Guard taken in 1943. It was a celebration of the third year of the forming of the Hone Guard. At the march past the salute was taken by Major-general J.G.Halstead.

Pontypool Home Guard marching into the park. In the background is the
Girls’ Convent School, now St Alban’s Comprehensive School.

The march past. To the right, standing on the dais is Major-general J.G.Halstead.

Another section of the parade.

It must have seemed like a never-ending line.

Major-general J.G.Halstead inspecting the troops.
The park bandstand is just visible in the background. 

Michael told me that he has recognised his own Dad in the photographs. Perhaps visitors will also see someone they know.


Murder at the Parrot Inn and some old photographs of Pontypool

July 20, 2011

I’ve recently received another email from Mary (ptcp officer at Pontypool Museum) in which she says that she was given the name of one of the wrestlers by a lady who remembers reading about the murder at the pub. His name was “Fancy Fan” (or possibly “Fran”) and came from Blaenavon. If anyone knows about this character please write in and say.

I don’t think he would have gone to West Mon ! Living in Blaenavon would have put him in Priestley House (named after the first headmaster). Certainly while I was at the school I can’t recall anyone who looked like a transvestite wrestler. No, I’m sure he would not have been an old Westmonian !!

*     *     *     *     *

I’ve just received several photographs from Clive Barnby of Pontypridd. They were given to him by Allan Everson and I publish them below:

Moreton Street, Pontypool. This photograph was probably taken during
the construction of the houses in Moreton Street. This was given to
Allan Everson by a lady who lived in one of the houses on the left of the
picture. You can just see two people looking out of the bedroom windows
and a young boy standing under the scaffolding.

Brian Everson when in the RAF.
This is Allan Everson’s older brother. I’m including it because
Brian and I shared the same double desk when we were in
Mr Rees’s class in Town School. We were about nine at the
time. I liked Brian and we got on well sharing similar interests
such as Tommy Handley’s ITMA broadcasts during the war.

This is a photograph of some of the customers at the Noah’s Ark public house
in Pontypool, taken about 1930. I don’t know where this pub was so if anyone
can remember it please let me know.

*     *     *     *     *

I was recently looking through an old scrapbook of mine when I came across two very old photographs of Crane Street which were taken about 1850. In the first one you can just see the entrance to the narrow lane (under a large sign) at the side of Sandbrooke and Daws. This is where I saw the sheep being slaughtered which I described in a much earlier posting.

Lower Crane Street

Upper Crane Street

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

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

May 1, 2009

As I’ve stated in the new short heading to this blog, I’ve had quite a number of emails sent to me concerning the contents and other people’s memories. These are personal emails and not the same as the comments which are included in the blog from time to time as they are sent in.

 

Last week I was thrilled to receive several emails from an old West Mon boy, Peter Jefferys who, for the past 42 years, has been living in Ilfracombe. He was surfing the internet looking for a picture of West Mon when he accidentally came across my blog. On reading it he was amazed to find the account of the tragedy when Robin Lafone was drowned in the school swimming baths.

 

Peter was in the new form one I referred to in my original account of this tragedy and in his email he says:

 

I was the boy who ran for help and was in the same class as Hancher and Lafone. Lafone was a close friend and sat next to me in class. The day’s events of this tragedy will be  with me always, and sadly the circumstances of the accident were not as generally accepted. The teacher in charge was unable to swim, and my memory of him in the water hanging on to the side of the Baths with his gown still on, is as clear now as then. I ran for help [without towel] to a classroom on the ground floor, and the teacher attempted to save both boys. I was a boarder at the school, having moved down from London in 1945? until 1950. Hopefully I will be able to make contact with others who were at West Mon during those years. [The school song is now running through my head, whilst writing this.]”

In my reply to Peter I asked him some questions to try to clarify in my own mind exactly what happened on that day. He replied:

 

The master in the water with gown was not the teacher that I went for help to.  [I cannot recall the his name.] The teacher that I went to in a class came back with me and dived in to try and save the boys. My recollection was that Garnett was not there. I did wonder why the boys were not questioned at the time about the event, but maybe we were all thought to be too young to be reliable witnesses.

Lafone jumped in, as he had been dared to by the boys, and he had been told to jump in from the deep end of the baths and jump towards the side so he could get out, although he admitted he could not swim I think he felt he could not lose face.”

Taking account of all the comments and emails I’ve received about this matter, I think I’ve now arrived, as near as possible, to a definitive account of this tragedy. I’ve come to the conclusion that, over the intervening 55 years, there has grown up around it a sort of West Mon folklore, some of which is not very accurate. For instance, it was interesting that Peter said he was not wrapped in a towel when he ran for help. I must agree.

 

From Peter’s account it seems as though Garnett was not in the baths at the time but that the master in charge was someone wearing a gown. Garnett never wore a gown but as the sports master, he would certainly have been able to swim, so I can only suppose that another member of the staff, who would have been relatively older because the young staff members were by then in the forces, was standing in for Garnett, possibly for only a short while. If this is the case, then it’s doubly tragic that the accident occurred during that short time.

 

It’s also very sad that Robin Lafone should have died as the result of accepting a dare from some of his fellow students. If any other former West Mon boys were at the school when all this happened I shall be most pleased to have their comments. And if any of them knew Peter Jefferys and wish to get in touch, I have his email address.

Franketti’s Fish and Chip Shop

December 15, 2008

In my last post I made a passing reference to Franketti’s chip shop. My long-time friend, Eric Smith, for years my next-door neighbour, phoned me today and we discussed old Pontypool. As a result, I am indebted to him for much of what is included in this post.

For many years Franketti’s chip shop was a much-appreciated institution in our part of Pontypool. It was situated on the corner of the Bell Pitch and Bridge Street, and many people in our neck of the woods declared that you couldn’t get such fine fish and chips anywhere else.

Mr Franketti was assisted in the shop, mainly in the capacity of servers, by two sisters who lived in North Road, Louise and Elsie Grimson. They were all kept busy as there was invariably a long queue waiting to be served, often right around the small shop and out onto the steps. Children in the queue didn’t mind the wait as sometimes they would receive a few free chips on a piece of paper while they were waiting. I well remember being one of such a queue on many occasions and was always fascinated by the square chip chopper with the long handle. They made it look so easy!

Mr Franketti had a secret recipe for his fish batter and he had a habit of holding up the battered fish for customers to view before plunging it into the boiling fat. He was a proud Italian who produced good quality food at a reasonable price. Eric, with his parents and sister, were very regular customers at Franketti’s and he told me that  they would often buy fish and chips for all four of them for just one shilling. Sometimes, when they unpacked the parcel they would discover an extra free fish had been included.

When Mr Franketti died the shop passed on to the two sisters who had been his helpers so that the high quality was maintained; but after their day the business passed into other hands and the quality dropped.

The shop is now demolished. I suppose it’s a case of “Goodbye Mr Chips” in another context. Perhaps “Farewell Franketti” would be more appropriate.

In April 2010 I received an email from Rob Shipley of Jersey who lived in Pontypool to the age of nine and is the grandson of Elsie Grimson. I quote below part of his email which visitors might find of interest:

My aunt, Louise Day (known to everyone as Louie) probably did help out in the chip shop. She was my grandmother’s half-sister and her maiden name was Stevens. Her husband was Jack Day, who was in the Royal Navy before the War and later worked as what I believe was an armaments factory known as ‘The Dump’.

It is likely that my grandmother did inherit the chip shop when Mr Franketti died in the mid-1950s, but if she did, she did not run it for very long afterwards. After we moved to Jersey in 1960, she spent long periods with us in the Island, having retired. When in Pontypool she lived with the Days at 77 Bryn Wern.

I can remember my mother telling me that working in the shop was no easy life. My grandmother used to begin the day down in the cellar preparing fish which, at the crack of dawn, used to be delivered from Milford Haven.

*****    *****    *****    *****

In a previous post about the “Dig for Victory” campaign during the war, I referred to the fact that part of Pontypool Park was dug up to produce much needed food and stated that it was done by Penygarn School. It now seems that this was not entirely accurate as Eric informed me that he remembers his teacher, Mr Jarvis, at Park Terrace Junior School, asking the class to bring along to school some gardening tools so that they could cultivate a plot in the the park.

Eric remembers helping to harvest some of the crops. He was given a marrow to take home and it was the first time he’d ever tasted one. So, it seems that some credit for this digging for victory must also go to Park Terrace School.

The Gregories of Cwmffrwdoer

October 7, 2008

I’ve previously mentioned my aunt Phyllis who taught in Town School Infants. She married Percy Gregory and went to live in the house above the shop in Hanbury Road, Cwmffrwdoer. Years before, during the hard times of the depression, Uncle Percy’s father had built up a thriving business in the shoe trade by allowing people to have new shoes and to pay for them in instalments. Repairs were also carried out on the premises.

I always admired my Uncle Percy. He was the sort of person sometimes described as a “gentle giant”. He was full of energy and always willing to help anyone. He was a member of Pontypool Toc H for many years. At the front of the house above the shop was the store room which contained hundreds of boxes of shoes and nearby was a very steep flight of wooden steps which led down to a door into the fitting room. It was almost vertical and, whenever I went down it, I carefully hung onto the rail at the side and was terrified in case I should fall. Consequently I was filled with wonder whenever I saw Uncle Percy descend those steps. He would put one hand on the rail and then jump down four of five steps, then another few and leap down the rest. I was always amazed at this daring feat.

The three Gregory children, Michael, Anthony and Vera, were of course, our cousins and, although they were some years younger than my brothers and me, we always looked forward to visiting them. The whole family were very active in the local Pontnewynydd Methodist Church.

They were a very generous family and we always felt welcome when we visited the house. During the war years they invariably put on a party when either of my brothers were home on leave from the forces. Aunt Phyll, somehow or other, even managed to produce sausage rolls as part of the fare, a great luxury at that time. And then, at Christmas time, there was the round of parties at our various houses on three or four evenings. When my grandparents were alive, the Christmas Day party was always at Osborne Cottage.

It was in the greenhouse at the back of the Gregory’s house that I first came across yellow tomatoes. During the growing season, Aunt Phyll was always generous in providing us with a bagful to take home whenever we visited.

But the place which fascinated me most was the wooden workshop which was also in the back garden. As a young lad I always asked to go there to see Uncle Percy and also his father repairing shoes. I marvelled at their skill and speed. First of all they would use a short but deadly sharp knife to cut out the new sole from a large sheet of leather. Then they would take a small handful of black tacks and put them up to their mouth, almost as if to swallow them, but instead they merely held them between their lips. Then, using a long iron bar, which looked to me rather like a file, they would take a tack out of their mouth, place it in position on the sole of the shoe and with one hefty bang drive it in, then another and another in quick succession. I was always amazed at the skill, speed and precision with which they did this. Then they’d take another handful of tacks and continue right around the sole of the shoe until it was all firmly in place. Then they performed something else I loved to watch. They would take a special hot iron with a wooden handle and apply molten black wax all around the edge of the sole, making it look like new.

Michael Gregory lived at Osborne Cottage for some years and it was while he was there that he started teaching at West Mon School. I have had several emails from former pupils who remember him as a very popular teacher who treated then as grownups rather than boys. He later gave up teaching to become a Methodist minister with very successful ministries in both Abergavenny and Bristol. Sadly it was while he was ministering in Bristol that he died about nine years ago. His wife, Maureen, died shortly after him.

Anthony also became a Methodist minister and has been very successful,  with his wife, Elma in ministering to the people of Tenby.

Vera is still living in Pontnewynydd not very far from the old shoe shop which, I understand, has now been converted into a house.

Pontypool’s “Dad’s Army”

September 22, 2008

The popular TV series “Dad’s Army” took on a humorous vein and was meant to create laughs, but the formation of the Home Guard in 1940, as we feared a possible invasion by German forces,  was anything but humorous. To start with it was not known as the Home Guard but as the Local Defence Volunteers.

I well remember that early summer evening of Tuesday 14th May 1940 when our whole family was sitting in the dining room at the back of “Garfield” in School Lane. Just after nine o’clock, Anthony Eden, who was Secretary of State for War, spoke to the country on the BBC’s Home Service. He asked for male civilians “of all ages who wish to do something for the defence of their country” to register for the LDV at their local police station. He told them “Your loyal help, added to the arrangements which already exist will make and keep our country safe.” The Local Defence Volunteers was launched without any staff, or funds, or premises of its own. Eden had simply instructed his listeners “to give in your name at your local police station and then, as and when we want you, we will let you know.”

There was a large number of men in the country who were just a bit too old to join the fighting forces but who were physically fit and able to help. My father was one of them, being in his early forties and having seen servcie in the Royal Navy in the Great War of 1914-18. He said he would go along and register the following day.

Before Eden’s broadcast had ended, police stations all over the country were deluged with eager volunteers. By the end of the first 24 hours, 250,000 men – equal in number to the peacetime Regular Army – had registered their names. Membership continued to grow at a remarkably rapid rate. By the end of May the total number of volunteers had risen to between 300,000 and 400,000, and by the end of the following month it exceeded 1,400,000, many more than the government had anticipated.

At first the volunteers had no uniforms but wore ordinary civilian clothing with  arm bands bearing the initials LDV. But it wasn’t long before Winston Churchill changed the name to Home Guard.

To begin with the volunteers had no proper equipment, no uniforms, guns or ammunition, so were forced to train with replica guns made of wood. But they embarked on serious training exercises ready for any invasion or attack. The training included camouflage techniques, assault training, the handling and firing of various types of weapons, learning how to set up road blocks and check-points and how to deal with German pilots who were shot down and other captured enemies who might attempt to land by parachute.

The aim of the volunteer force was not to engage large enemy forces which might arrive in the country but to go out on watch in small patrols and to man observation posts. Soon the uniforms, guns and ammunition arrived so the force began to look like a real army.

As a young lad I was very interested in watching the activities  of the Home Guard and I recall two occasions when I witnessed them on duty. The first was early on when I saw a group drilling in the field just beyond the duck pond at the side of the chicken run at Osborne Cottage. The other occasion was when Captain Jim Hamar had taken our Boys’ Brigade company out one day up the Race near the gypsy encampment
https://oldpontypool.wordpress.com/2008/06/28/pontypool-boys-brigade-8th-eastern-valley-company ) There was a large flat field there surrounded by shallow banks. The Home Guard had set up a target on one bank and had a gun set up on a tripod some 150 yards away on another bank. I remember them loading what looked like a bottle of yellow liquid into the gun and firing it at the target. We saw it explode and were thrilled!

As the threat of invasion faded in 1943 and later, the need for the Home Guard decreased and eventually it was disbanded. But it had served a useful purpose. At its peak the force had numbered 1,793,000 and 1,206 of its men had either been killed on duty or died from wounds.

The Home Guard didn’t disappear quickly. It was still quite active in Pontypool well into 1944. In the “Salute the Soldier Week” in May of that year the Home Guard played a leading part. On Saturday 6th May we saw C Company provide the guard of honour at the parade held in Pontypool Park to inaugurate the week. On Sunday afternoon at 3.00p.m. we were thrilled to see all Home Guard companies parading in the park where the salute was taken, dispatch riders performed and there were tactical displays.

The war ends, and Pontypool celebrates

September 6, 2008

The end of the war came in two stages. As we entered 1945 it was obvious that Hitler’s forces were on the back foot and struggling. I took great delight in looking at the many maps of the progress of the war as they were published in the newspapers and I filled in with pencil the extra areas of countries as they were occupied by allied forces.

The Battle of the Bulge in Belgium headed by one of Hitler’s Panza divisions made slight ground to begin with but soon even they were driven back. It looked as though the end of the war was not far off. By 8th May 1945, after the suicide of Adolf Hitler, all German resistance finally ended.

Early in the morning of that day, unaware of what was happening, my friend Eric and I decided to go for a bike ride to Goldcliff, just on the coast near Newport. It was one of our favourite destinations where we could visit the seaside. Late in the afternoon, on the way home, as we cycled through Newport we were surprised to see people putting up flags and bunting across the streets; we wondered what was happening. On arriving home, of course, our families told us about the announcement on the wireless about the ending of hostilities with Germany, and we were thrilled. It was VE Day! We were still at war with Japan, of course, but that seemed less of a personal threat as Japanese forces were not near enough to bomb us.

I shall always remember Monday, 6th August. I had been to a matinee performance at Pitts Cinema in George Street and when I arrived home at Garfield, School Lane, I discovered that my parents were out. I put on the wireless and soon there was a news broadcast. When the news reader said that an atomic bomb had been dropped on the city of Hiroshima, I didn’t really know what that meant, but I shall never forget the words that followed: “The pilot reported that, when he looked back after dropping the bomb he could see nothing left of the city.” We were used to the dropping the “block buster”, a 1,000 pound bomb which could destroy a whole block of buildings, but a whole city? Wow! What sort of a bomb was that? I remember telling my parents about it when they returned and they were as shocked as I was. We later learned that the bomb dropped on Hiroshima was 2,000 times more powerful than the blockbuster.

Japan did not surrender immediately, but when another atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki three days later, that did it. All Japanese resistance crumbled and on 15th August they too, like Germany, unconditionally surrendered to the allied forces. It was VJ Day! The whole war was was over and peace had returned.

The following day at midnight the Prime Minister spoke on the wireless declaring Wednesday and Thursday to be public holidays in celebration. Crowds of people went out into the streets shouting, singing and dancing. On Wednesday evening floodlights were turned on in Pontypool Park. It was amazing after almost six years of intense darkness at night, to be able to see clearly at that hour of the evening.

Bonfires could be seen on the hills for miles around Pontypool, and in the streets loud music blared forth as people showed that, despite all the hardships, they had not forgotten how to party. I remember coming out of my house and, just the other side of the allotments, I could see the lights and hear the singing from the folk in Edward Street and Prince Street who seemed to be having a right royal “knees up”.

On Thursday evening at Pontypool Park and at Talywain Rugby Ground, massed choirs gathered to sing the Hallelujah Chorus and other hymns and also community songs. They were largely impromptu affairs and various people volunteered to take part. I was fortunate enough to get a seat in the park grandstand. I clearly remember a contribution from two young girls slightly younger than I, who lived in the Brynwern area quite near to me (I’m fairly certain they were sisters). They had made something of a name for themselves for singing in close harmony, just like the popular Andrews sisters. I still remember the song they sang as it was a favourite of mine: “Ragtime Cowboy Joe”. I bought the sheet music for 6d in Woolworths and loved playing it on the piano. I can’t recall the girls’ names but, if anyone else knows, I’d love to hear from them. They were excellent!

At Pontnewynydd Tinplate Works the workers held a thanksgiving service in the morning. The following Sunday afternoon a thanksgiving service was held in Pontypool Park where the Salvation Army supplied the music. As there was no time for the printing of hymn sheets, everyone was asked to take along their own hymnbooks.

Another impromptu event was arranged by John Griffiths who was the organist at Pontnewynydd Methodist Church at the time. A platform was erected on the pavement and a piano from 24 St Luke’s Road was put on it. As John played, many of the local residents gathered around The Fountain to sing popular songs and listen to the ad hoc concert. John started to learn the piano at the age of six. He became the organist at the Methodist Church in 1940 and, last November, at the age of 79, he celebrated his 70th year in the job. I’m fairly certain I knew John as a young boy who was a year or so younger than I. I think he was quite a small lad with fair hair. I have a vague notion that he might have been in the Boys’ Brigade or there might have been a connection through the Gregory family who attended the same church for many years. If he reads this blog post, or if anyone who knows him can tell him about it, I’d be delighted if he would get in touch.

After all the excitement, we all had something rather special to look forward to: all the boys returning from the fighting. I had written to both my brothers all through the war and occasionally saw them when they came home on leave, but to have them once again permanently as part of the family was something I really looked forward to.