Posts Tagged ‘walking to school’

Fire at Wainfelin, and the slaughter of animals.

October 6, 2008

As I have already written in a previous post, from the age of eight I started walking to and from Town School four times a day. As school dinners for all who pay did not exist in those days I preferred the walking to having sandwiches for dinner. The only exception was in the extreme winter weather when a lot of snow had fallen and walking was very difficult.

This was nothing unusual. I had a friend called Peter Knight who lived at Penygarn and was also in Mr Petty’s class. On a number of occasions he also walked home to dinner and then walked to School Lane to call for me before we both walked back to Town School. If you wanted to go anywhere in those days it was almost invariably on foot.

Naturally, making the same journey twenty times a week became boring so I tried to vary my route. Sometimes I would go through town via George Street and Crane Street, and sometimes I would go up Broadway and down the Donkey Steps by the “old buildings” as we called them. They were not only old, they were wrecked.

There was a third route which I took, just occasionally, but which was more lonely. On the way home it involved going down Crane Street and turning down the alleyway by the side of Sandbrooke and Dawe’s. This led to a narrow track just below the railway in front of a row of small, old cottages. It emerged in the upper reaches of George Street slightly lower than the bridge over the railway. There are several events which occurred on my journeys which remain vividly in my memory.

On my way home to dinner I always walked on the right hand pavement along Wainfelin Road and always passed a row of about six old cottages which ended at the wide entrance to the field at the rear of the school. The doors of the cottages were always open and the people living there seemed to be very friendly, always chatting on the doors and popping into each other’s houses, so that I could never tell who lived where. 

One day as I was walking along that pavement, a couple of hundred yards short of George Street School, I suddenly noticed a huge cloud of smoke emerging from one of the cottages. As I got nearer, I could see violent flames inside the front room which shattered several of the windows and showered glass all over the pavement and road. Suddenly a man dressed in long-johns, and with bare feet, leaped out onto the pavement to escape the heat. I can only imagine that he had been in bed when he suddenly realised that the cottage was on fire. There was nothing I could do, of course, and the event scared me quite a lot especially as , on that particular day, my mother had had to attend an urgent appointment and had left my dinner at home for me. This was a very rare event indeed. In fact it was the only time I can remember it happening. Consequently I had no-one to tell about the fire when I arrived home. When I returned in the afternoon the fire had been put out but, it was obvious, that considerable damage had been done to the cottage.

On another occasion I decided to take the route at the side of Sandbrooke and Dawe’s. After walking along the narrow lane for a hundred yards or so I was aware of a scuffling noise behind me. I turned around to see what was happening and, to my horror, I saw a sheep tied securely to a wooden trestle with a man wearing a large apron standing by the side. The sheep was kicking wildly which made the scuffling noise. Suddenly the man took out a large knife and plunged it straight through the neck of the unfortunate animal. I shall never forget the splashing noise made by the blood as it poured out on the stones. I stood frozen with horror for several seconds and then hurried on my way. It was well known that there was a slaughter house in that place but it was the first time I had witnessed any of the slaughter.

There is another tragedy I also witnessed on the way home which happened right outside George Street School. At that time, motor transport was relatively rare and, it was a common sight to see a dog, out walking on its own, suddenly objecting to the noise of a car, van or motorbike, and running alongside barking and growling ferociously at it. It’s a sight never seen today. At that time there were a number of light, red Brooke Bond tea vans which were used to make deliveries to the grocery shops. They were quite noisy. Suddenly one came along Wainfelin Road and a passing dog chased it running alongside and barking. It obviously misjudges its position relative to the van and ran too close. Suddenly there was a loud bump and a cracking noise as the van struck the dog. I don’t know whether the driver knew of this or not but he van carried on along the road leaving the poor dog on its back in the gutter with its legs in the air. I shall never forget the pitiful howls it made as it lay dying. Such dogs would frequently be killed and would never reproduce which, I suppose is the reason that, today, dogs leave motor vehicles severely alone.