An unknown Pontypool poet. Do you know him?

January 7, 2015

I am indebted to Craig Smith for sending me a copy of a poem he found when he bought a postcard on eBay. I enclose below the handwritten copy of the original poem. All we know is that the poem was written by someone with the initials H.M. and that it was written in 1935. Craig and I both think that, because of the style of the writing, the poet was probably a man. We might not be correct, of course.

The second illustration is a typed copy of the poem for ease of reading, and for the third illustration I’ve made it into an illustrated version on parchment with the idea that some visitors might be keeping a scrapbook of Pontypool, in which case they might like to use it.

If you think you know who the poet is please either email me or make a comment. He might be an ancestor of yours or a friend of the family.

A happy New Year to you all.

Screen shot 2015-01-05 at 00.21.19

 

THE FOLLY TOWER



O’er mountain breast to Folly Tower
Speed exiles’ thoughts in lonesome hour
Bold on the crest, it scorns the gale
And dominates Gwent’s fairest vale



Seven counties charms here cheer the eye
Gwent’s noblest hills point to the sky
An epic scene delights the mind
Here downcast souls can solace find

The winding Usk with silv’y sheen
Between the graceful trees is seen
Hill, field and wood in one huge page
Are here unfurled to human gaze

Rome’s cohorts bold, in days of yore
Paused here to rest, ‘ere on they bore
And on this panoramic view –
Feasted – they passed to conquests new

And from this hill since that far day
Legions have gazed – passed on – away
Their spirits cheered in this fair sphere
Faced life anew with vision clear



H.M.
(May 1935)

 Folly poem on parchment

Annual Report on this blog provided by Word Press

December 30, 2014

Each year the WordPress company which gives me the space to provide this blog
send me a report on how it has done during the year.
I thought that regular visitors might like to see a copy of the report so I’ve printed it below.

The concert hall in the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 43,000 times in 2014. If that were a concert at Sydney Opera House it would take about 16 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

There were 18 pictures uploaded. That’s about 2 pictures a month.

The busiest day of the year was October 16th with 380 views. The most popular post that day was Photographs of West Mon boys 1964.

The main attractions in 2014 were:
1. Pontypool’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs with 1 comment.
2. Tragedy at West Mon (revised account) with 93 comments.
3. Parts of old Pontypool that have vanished with 25 comments.
4. Old photographs of Pontypool with 4 comments.
5. Murder most foul in Pontypool with 6 comments.

The most commented on post in 2014 was The G.Is. in Pontypool during the war.

The five most active commenters were:
1. Jennette (Osborne) Randall 9 comments.
2. Dot Jones 8 comments.
3. Lionel Barrel 6 comments.
4. Craig Smith 5 comments.
5. Glenys Hughes 4 comments.

Visitors came from 108 countries.

My thanks for your visits. I’d like to wish you all a very happy New Year in 2015 with my invitation to visit this blog during any day of the year.

The West Mon Annual School Quiz

December 21, 2014

While I was at West Mon from 1942 to 1947, every year on the last day of the school year we had the school quiz. Everyone had exactly the same questions no matter what the ages of the boys concerned, so it was possible for any pupil to win the prize.

All the teaching staff would take charge of a class each and the questions were called out. I can’t remember how many questions we had to answer but it took about an hour to complete the quiz. I can’t remember how the papers were marked, whether we exchanged papers and marked them that way or whether the staff did the marking. The former would have been quicker and would have enabled the winner to be announced the same day. Otherwise it would have meant that the winner would not have been known until the following term.

I have an idea that there was some sort of a prize but I can’t remember what it was. I imagine that someone must have made some sort of endowment to provide the prize but I cannot be at all sure of that.

Does any visitor remember the quiz? Did they participate and is it still happening? If anyone has any memories of this event please either email me or append a comment. Do we have a visitor who actually won the prize?

Pontypool – then and now. And Christmas greetings to all visitors.

December 19, 2014

The very idea of this blog for over the past six years has been to think about old Pontypool. At this time of year, as we draw near to Christmas, I suppose many of us tend to think about past times and past Christmases more than at any other time.

Over the last year or two I’ve been talking to friends who used to live in Pontypool in the nineteen thirties, forties and fifties, and there seems to be unanimous agreement that, during those times, we lived in more family oriented times and that life was happier and more innocent. Few mothers went out to work but they worked very hard in the home, cleaning, cooking and acting as the sheet-anchor of the family. Families were often poor but they rarely split up with the children being shared between father and mother. Some people have even said “I’m glad I lived through my childhood then. I feel sorry for the children of today.”

It was during the sixties that things started to fall apart in this country with a massive lowering of moral values. It was the time of “The Profumo Affair” with Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice Davies, whose death was announced today. I suppose today it would hardly raise an eyebrow.

Pontypool town was more cohesive; several people who still live there have told me that Pontypool has lost its soul. I cannot comment on this as I have not lived there since 1947.

So, if you still live in Pontypool or have lived there fairly recently, what is your opinion on these matters? If you have any opinion on the foregoing, please add a comment. Up to today there have been 537 comments placed on this blog; more will be welcome. For your information there has been over 180,000 hits on this blog so far and there are 139 followers who have asked to be informed whenever a new post is published.

Finally I would like to send to all visitors my sincere Christmas greetings with the following Christmas card:

Christmas cardMy best wishes for Christmas and the New Year

David Hughes

Pontypool expressions, humorous and otherwise

September 22, 2014

There were all sorts of expressions we used when I was a young boy in Pontypool. Some were the remainders of words from the Welsh language; others sound rather humorous now but we used them frequently years ago. Of course they might not have been used exclusively in Pontypool but in a wider area. I publish a few I remember below. Do any visitors remember such expressions?

Tamping    When we bounced balls up and down on the ground this was often referred to as “tamping the ball”. There was another expression tamping mad which meant that someone was extremely annoyed.

Whipper-in    This was a term applied to the man known as “the attendance officer”. If someone was thought to be away from school without any reason, the head teacher would ask the whipper-in to call at the house and if the pupil seemed to be in good health he or she would be grabbed by the whipper-in and marched to school.

Tapped    This was used when we had shoes repaired. When pupils were absent when the teacher called the resister a fellow pupil might explain “He’s getting his shoes tapped”. Another use of the expression was “He or she’s a bit tapped” meaning they were a bit crazy.

Ych-a-fi    This was an expression of utter disgust when something, or someone, was in a particularly filthy condition.

Mingy    This meant “mean”; any of our friends who bought a packet of sweets and didn’t share them was called “mingy”.

Taw    A good quality glass marble was referred to as a “taw”. We often played “following taws” down the gutter trying to hit an opponent’s marble. The one who did this kept the marble.

Right-o    This was an expression of agreement. There was a certain woman who lived in Bridge Street who was known as “Mrs Right-o”. The story went that, when she was getting married and the clergyman asked her “Do you take this man . . . etc.?” instead of saying “I do.” she replied “Right-o”.

A rather peculiar expression which I often used to hear used in Pontypool market when enquiring the price of an item was something like: “What do the cabbages run to today?”

One expression I have tried many years to find the source of and have so far failed is a word which was used by my mother. I can’t remember anyone else using it. Can any visitor enlighten me? The word was fakie. I’m not sure of the spelling but that is what it sounded like. If she knew of an implement which did a special job but couldn’t recall the name of it, she would say “Where’s that fakie for getting nails out of wood?” etc. Can anyone help with this one?

Of course, many of these expression might still be used in Pontypool. Visitors who still live there will know.

The G.Is. in Pontypool during the war

August 20, 2014

I recently received the following email from Craig Smith:

“I was doing some research on a story about German POWs (written for Wikipedia) and was trawling local newspapers for information about the first German bomber to be brought down in the UK (in Newport no less) during WW2. Anyway, whilst searching I came across this request in the South Wales Argus from last year.

I’ve heard about the black GIs stationed in the Pontypool area but haven’t seen anything more definitive written about it. Wonder if it’s something you could blog about and see if it generates any interest.”

I followed the live link to the Argus article and read the following:”

 

“AN American journalist, is seeking help from people in Pontypool to build up a picture of the forgotten black American soldiers based in Torfaen in the 1940s.

Linda Hervieux, a journalist based in Paris, is writing a book about a forgotten unit of black American soldiers.
This unit spent a several months in Pontypool and the surrounding area in late 1943 and early 1944.
She began her search after one member of the unit received the Legion d’Honneur medal in France in 2009.
After this, the journalist began trying to find survivors and tracking their journey from the United States to Britain and then on to France.

She explained that these men were heavily involved in the D-Day landings, raising the barrage balloons in a protective curtain over Omaha and Utah beaches, while their medics saved scores of dying men.
But before they boarded ships and headed off to war, they spent a few happy months in and around the Pontypool area.

She said: ‘Local people welcomed them with open arms, often inviting the men to their homes.
‘Girls danced with them at the Palais de Danse on Main Street, [this should read “Crane Street”] and the GIs raised pints in the pubs alongside local men.

‘Many of the Welshmen sympathised with the black soldiers, who were treated as second-class citizens by the white American soldiers, who often abused them.

To the black soldiers, the warm welcome they received from the people of Pontypool, Abersychan, New Camp Inn, Griffithstown and other towns and villages was a revelation. . .

. . . They arrived in Wales not knowing what to expect, and to their surprise and delight they got a memorably warm reception.”

They did indeed receive a very warm reception and their colour made no difference to the people of Pontypool and they were welcomed into people’s homes.

I remember these soldiers very well indeed. As I walked along Wainfelin Road to West Mon twice a day I saw them visiting some small houses almost opposite St Alban’s church and hall, especially in the evening when I believe dances were held in the hall. There was a large yard area just in front of the houses. On one occasion when I was coming home from Boys’ Brigade with Captain Hamer, who lived in Wainfelin Avenue, quite near to School Lane, there were a dozen or so black American soldiers sitting on the wall in front of the houses chatting to some young women who were joining in the chat with some enthusiasm and giggling. Captain Hamer remarked in a very confidential tone: “I wouldn’t be surprised if we see some black babies around here in the near future; and he was absolutely right. However, this is not to detract from the genuine warm reception given to all ranks and colours in the American Army by both the men and women of Pontypool.

If any visitor remembers these American soldiers in Pontypool, please feel free to make a comment.

Photographs of Tirpentwys Colliery

August 16, 2014

A number of visitors have expressed an interest in Tirpentwys Colliery. I’ve received from Dot Jones some photographs of it which are published below.

The first coal extracted from Tirpentwys Colliery was in 1894. A tragic accident occurred there in 1902 when eight men and boys were killed when a winding rope broke and the cage plunged to the bottom of the shaft.

When I lived in School Lane our next door neighbour worked at the colliery. His name was George Bright and he had a wife named Clarice. Some visitors might remember him.

TirpentwysColliery

TirpentwysColliery3

TirpentwysColliery2

 

 

Photograph of original pre-war Folly Tower and visit by King Edward VII to Penygarn

August 12, 2014

Some younger visitors might not have seen a photograph of the original Folly Tower. Dot Jones sent in this shot of the tower with Dot and her friend Doreen standing just outside the doorway.

Dot&Doreen The Folly118

You can clearly see some serious cracks in the stonework above the door.

When the flower Show was held in Pontypool Market there were other competitions apart from the flowers. One was a drawing competition depicting the Folly. My brother, Garth, who was very good at art, entered a very good pencil drawing and won first prize in that section of the show.

*     *     *     *     *

Dot has also sent in a photograph of King Edward taken when he visited Pontypool in 1937. The lady waving her arms is Lyn’s mother and the man in the trilby is his father.

King Edward065

Elsewhere on this blog I have described the day when I was in Town School Infants and we all marched to the bottom of Penygarn Hill to wave our flags at the King.

Famous Pontypool people/ Robin Hood pub

August 7, 2014

I recently received an interesting email from Dot Jones who has a lot of memories of Pontypool, its places and its people. She has no objection to my using parts of her letter for a posting on this blog so here goes:

“I’ve only just stumbled across your web site and oh, what a find. My husband and I have only sampled a few of the items but look forward to reading them all in due course.  I don’t want to bore you with the following but just want to give you some background information regarding us and maybe you can use some of the comments.

I am 82 and my husband (Lyn Jones) is 85.  I (Dorothy Dobbs)  was born in Goytre and he was born in King Street, Pontypool.  At the age of 17 he joined the RAFfor 10 years,  after attending Abersychan Tech and working at Winsor’s Garage.  His father died in 1989 at the age of 92 and his mother the same year aged 89.  My mother (Sarah Webb) was born in Cwmffrwdoer and was a Maid to Jeremiah’s who kept the “Horseshoe” Pub in Pontnewynydd.  When they retired to Goytre they took my Mother with them and that is when she met my father.

Famous Persons from Pontypool – We can remember  Lyn’s parents talking about the film star, Ray Milland.  They used to go dancing at a place called “The Duck” and Reg Jones (as he was known then) would also be there. His nickname was “The Rajah”.  This place was situated at the top of Trosnant somewhere behind the Clarence Hotel. Although he was born in Neath he came to live in Pontypool and   worked in the Steel Works.  His house is no longer there but it was on the left hand side at Pontymoile.  He  joined the Household Cavalry and in later years when he was a film star he regularly visited his Aunt who lived in Prince Street. Apparently he took the surname Milland,  which referred to him working in the Mill.

Dame Gwyneth Jones (Opera Singer) who I believe now lives in Switzerland.

Robin Hood Pub – I have a photograph taken I think in the 60’s, outside the “Robin Hood” Pub which I will attach to this email. From left to right – my husband (Lyn Jones) myself (Dot Jones), ?  ?  (don’t know who these were) , Landlord (I believe), Jean Collins, Landlady (I believe), Val Cross and Betty Thomas.

RobinHoodPub060

 
Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs – My husband remembers his cousin was one of the Seven Dwarfs (Peter Davies from Newport) but can’t pick his cousin out from the photograph but remembers him saying at the time – “I’m going to be a drawf”.  He lost touch with his cousin some years ago.

The “Palais” – We used to go there occasionally in the 40’s when the big bands like Ted Heath, Ray Ellington, Cyril Stapleton etc. visited but we “Goytre girls” used to go to St. Alban’s every Saturday night and that is where 4 of us met our husbands, all from Pontypool.  Myself married Lyn Jones, my sister Joan Dobbs married Ben Wilding (ex West Mon), Thea Merrick married Bill Richards (ex West Mon.) and Brenda Merrick married Mac Harris (ex West Mon.).  At the time Joan worked in Chalmer’s Chemist on the Clarence and Brenda worked in the Millinery Department in Fowler’s.

Cafes – Two of the Cafe’s we used to frequent were Gus Pelopida’s on the Clarence and Fulgoni’s in the main street.”

I expect a number of regular visitors will remember some of the people and places mentioned by Dot. Please make any relevant comments you have or email me with extra details.

Possible solution to the West Mon sports mystery

July 28, 2014

Thanks to those who have commented on my previous post about the mystery of how the sports teams were selected. I realise that there were first teams and colts. That was also the position when I attended West Mon and it offered a natural progression of talent. My query was about the selection procedure for ANY team; there didn’t seem to be one. In my five years at the school there was not a single announcement about any trials which were to be held and I certainly saw no printed notice to this effect either.

Because of your comments I now think it must have been due to wartime conditions. By the time I arrived at the school the war was well underway and all the younger staff had been called up into the forces. These were replaced by mistresses who would have had no interest in boys’ rugby or cricket teams. The demobilisation of the masters would have started some time towards the end of 1945 and continued through 1946. I remember the return of both Whitty and Mosely who were keen cricketers, both of whom played for the Trevethin Cricket Team.

According to your comments it would have been in the later forties and early fifties that trials for sports teams were held, probably reverting to the process in being in pre-war years.