A Wedding and a Funeral by Wyndham Jones
I lived for the first 21 years of my life Fairview, with my mother and father, Cecelia and Idris. I was the eldest of four children, the others being Brian, Cyril and Patricia. We had a happy childhood in spite of WW2. We were so young we didn't really know that we were deprived due to rationing and other various restrictions because of he war. In the photo, the street half way up the mountain is Fairview, some fair view, collieries, railways and slag tips. We lived in the middle house in the top block of five. When I left school at 16 years old, I went to work in the Britannic colliery where, after I did my six weeks training, I became a collier boy, “a butty” to David Lawrence loading coal on conveyer belts in the coal faces. David and I have been friends ever since. One morning after about six months of working with David, I was called into the undermanager's office, Mr. Sid Lewis. I thought I had done something wrong and I was going to have the sack. Mr.Lewis asked me if I would like to have a job as a measuring clerk, more commonly know as a measuring boy. There was a vacancy for such a job because two weeks earlier, Reggie Aymes who had held the job and was only 18 had been killed by a horse that crushed him in one of the headings [tunnels]. I said I would like to have the job. In those days, much of the work, such as digging the coal from the faces, extending the headings as the coal faces moved on and various other work was done on a piecework system. It was my job as a measuring clerk to measure the amount of work done by the colliers each day and keep a record of it. Everyone was a collier then, not a miner. I and my four colleages hated the term “measuring boy”, we preferred the more upper class term of “measuring clerk” but sadly, whenever I was wanted up in a coal face, the call came down as “send for the measuring boy, he is wanted in so and so's stent" never once anyone shouted for the measuring CLERK. At
the end of the week, I would total up in my â€œmeasuring bookâ€?, the amount of work done by each collier in my district, I would give the totals to the pay clerks, the timekeepers as we knew them, they would then work out the pay for the workmen for the following week. Most of the evening entertainment provided in the valley that children and teenagers could attend were cinemas.There was also a youth club on two nights a week, Monday and Thursdays in Abercerdin School but it was mainly to the cinemas that we went. No teenager drove a car then, so to go out of the valley it either get on a bus or walk. There were two cinemas in the Valley, The Workmens' Hall and the Globe, new films were shown twice a week from Mondays to Wednesday and Thursdays to Saturdays at each cinema and old films on Sundays in the Globe. Quite often there would be live shows in the Workmen's Hall on Wednesdays, plays by the local drama groups and also variety shows.
I used to go to the two cinemas regularly as a teenager, mostly with my friends. The Globe seemed to have the best films, apparently because it was privately owned and could get what films they wanted but the Workmens' Hall cinema belonged to a syndicate and could only show the films that was sent to the Cinema committee. A little about the Globe here, they showed very good films but when it was cold and the heating system was put on, there used to be a tremendous clanging and banging in the pipes carrying hot water around the building. It could be very annoying at times, there you were engrossed in a vital part of a film with the hero talking to the heroine, it would go something like this " Darling I [CLANK] you, I want to [crash] you", you can put your own words there but remember there was no swearing on the screen in those days. Another thing was that at one side of the cinema where the main exit doors were, there was a canopy about 15 feet long outside of the building, when it rained, sheep by the dozen used to shelter under it, if you were not careful, you could be up to your ankles in sheep sh!!!, oh, pardon me - sheep droppings. Quite often I would go to the cinema on my own, especially to the Globe after I met a girl there. We became friendly and then very friendly and then graduated to the coveted back row for courting couples. She was Maureen Purchase as she was then, her mother and father were Ivy and Henry, no one knew him by that name, he was always known as "Dai", even to Ivy, he too worked in the Britannic. The situation of the back row was a bit different in the Workmens' Hall, wheras the back row in the Globe was one long one, the back row in the 'Hall were short ones. However when you became an established courting couple you went up-
market and had seats in the ninepennies, near to the upstairs balcony. It cost four pence to sit down stairs, sixpence to sit upstairs at the back near the projection room and ninepence to sit near the balcony, the best place in the house to watch the films but a bit too public for courting couples. Appropriatly, I proposed marriage to her while we were walking to the Globe cinema from her house in Elm Street in Garden Village. It turned out that me and Mo had a lot in common, we shared the same day for our birthday, November 25, Mo was exactly two years younger than me. When we became engaged, and decided to get married, we set a date and went to see the vicar of Saint Barnabas Church, High Street. Vicar Jones lived in Glamorgan Terrace, he called the Banns in the church for the three Sundays prior to our wedding. Meanwhile we and our families were making preparations for the big day. We invited many guests, Mo had a big family so because of this we needed a big hall but it was at Easter time that our wedding was to take place and all the clubs such as the Ex - Sevicmen's, the Social and the Festival were booked for various functions. The only hall that we could book up was the vestry of the Libanus Chapel which was in effect the cellar of the building, the chapel was and still is, at the top of High Street. We were told my one of the deacons of the chapel, Mr Richard Jenkins, that the only drink we were allowed in the chapel would be wine for the toast.
We were all set for our wedding when disaster struck, Mo hadn't been well for some time and had been for examinations and X- rays and was diagnosed with tubercolosis. She was so ill, that she was in effect rushed into hospital only days before we were due to get married. I had to go to see Vicar Jones to cancel the wedding. There were many young people, especially girls, at this time who contracted the disease. It was said it was the result of working in cold, damp factories. Mo had worked in Del Guerra factory in Tonyrefail from the time she left school. The product they made there was waterproof clothing, Mo was a sewing machinist. Maureen was taken to Tyntyla Hospital in Llwynypia where they specialized in nursing TB victims. Mo had the disease in one lung and for the several months that she was in the hospital she could not get out of bed and had to lie on one side all the time. The visiting times at the hospital was on Saturdays and Sundays from 2 pm to 4 pm. I was able to extend my visits by an extra hour on most Mondays, I worked in the Britannic colliery as I said and I went to study more about mining at the Rhondda Technical College on a day release from work, the collage was only about 10 minutes walk from the hospital, so during my lunch break I used to go up to the hospital to see Mo because, luckily, her bed was right by a window which was always open and I was able to talk to her. Mo told me one day that there had had been a lot of trouble on the ward, the ward was heated by an old pot - bellied stove, very close to her bed. The girls on the wards used to supplement their hospital food by having food brought in by relatives. One of the girls had put a tin of beans on the stove but neglected to puncture the top of the tin with the result that the tin exploded covering Mo and her bed with beans and bean juice. Due of the nature of my job in the Britannic, it was necessary for me and my four colleages, the other measuring clerks to work for a few hours just about every Sunday, we had to do work in the coal faces when the face conveyor belts wern't running. The photo below shows only a few feet of a coal face but they were usually from 100 yd. to 120 yd. long and there were normally two faces, left and right.
We only worked until 12 pm. and then would go back up to the surface but more often than not there would be a maintenance crew working on the colliery shaft or the pit head winding gear and we couldn't go up the normal Britannic shaft so we had to go up the shaft of the Old Britannic which was in Evanstown and then we would have to walk across the valley to check out. It was quite an experience to travel up and down in that shaft. The winder of the Britannic was steam driven and the cages went up and down very fast and smoothly. The winder of the Old Britannic was driven by blast, compressed air, and it would seem for ever to go up or down in the cage with constant bumps. A short note here, one day on a normal weekday, everyone turned up for work to find that the Britannic pit shaft had been damaged and could not be used, we were asked by the managers, we being the entire day shift work force, to walk across the valley and use the old shaft to go underground to our work places. After a meeting, the union officials, decided it wasn't safe because there was no alternative way out of the colliery if there was an emergency and so refused the managegment request to go to work, every one went home. The colliery officials such as the overmen and deputies went underground to check on the safety of the coal faces, they belonged to a different union. The management asked the union officials if we, the measuring clerks, could work to accompany the deputies [deputies?? - deputizing for the management underground, their primary job was the safety of the district they worked in but they were also the bosses underground after the overmen].
The union officials left the choice up to us, we went underground but I felt uncomfortable all day because there was only one way to the surface. For a few days following that incident and everything was back to normal, while most of the men understod why we worked, some of the young boys used to call us "blacklegs" because we went against the union decision not to go underground that day but that didn't last long.
The visting times on Saturdays at the hospital were alright because there was plenty of time to get on a bus to Penygraig and then on another one to go to Tyntyla in Ystrad. It was a different story on Sundays though because the first bus out of the valley was at 1.30 pm, so by the time the bus got to Penygraig and then another one to Tyntyla, almost an hour would be lost visiting Mo. I took to walking over the mountain to Penygraig, I would be on top of the mountain above Mount Pleasant when the first bus of the day was in the valley and I could still get to Penygraig and onto an earlier Tyntyla bus and not lose any time at the hospital. I did not have much time when I walked the mountain because as I said, I worked in the colliery until 12 pm. then it was a quick dash across the valley to have a shower. A few months prior to Mo going into hospital, a couple of unused rooms behind the managers office were turned into a shower room with six shower units in it and lockers for a change of clothes. This was for the colliery officials, overmen, deputies and luckily enough, the measuring clerks. So it was a shower, charge up the hill from the colliery to Fairview to have
dinner, Mam never failed me, always had my dinner ready. Then hey, ho! and up over the mountain on the path that many, colliers who lived in the Rhondda and worked in the Gilfach Goch collieries used to walk to and from work in all kinds of weather.
Maureen went into hospital in April, 1956, only a few weeks later, my mother told me she had cancer. She told me that she had bumped herself on a latch on the door to the back of the house, the result was that she developed breast cancer. In September, Mo was transferred to Sully Hospital, a very large hospital near Barry Island to await an operation on her lung. Here, she didn't have to lie down all the time and could walk about. Often when it was fine, Mo, me, her mam and dad used used to go down near the sea front, we couldn't go down to the small beach because the whole hospital and grounds were fenced off. The visiting times in Sully were the same as those at Tyntyla 2 pm to 4 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. On Saturdays I and Maureen's mother would travel by bus to visit Mo, it meant catching a bus from Gilfach to Tonyrefail, Tonyrefail to Cardiff, Cardiff to Sully and back again after visiting, Mo's mam liked to go to one certain butcher in the middle of Cardiff to get
meat. I would go with her and then see her onto the bus home and I would then wander about the city shops, usually record shops. This changed when my mother started having treatment for her cancer. Sometimes she would have to stay in Whitchurch Hospital, close to where Velindre is now and other times she would stay in Cardiff Royal Infirmary. So I would go from Cardiff Bus Station after visiting Mo, walk up to the Infirmary to visit Mam and then walk back to the bus station to catch a bus home. The ward that mam was on in the infirmary was the longest one I had ever seen, it seemed to go on forever. I had a friend who was a nurse on that ward, she was Patricia [Paddy] Thomas, from Hill Street. She now lives in Australia with her husband Doug Firstbrook, the three of us were in the same form together in Tonyrefail Grammer School. I never went to the Whitchurch Hospital on the weekends but I would go to see Mam during the week. Quite often I would to to the hospital to take her there or bring her home following her treatment. This meant travelling from Gilfach to Tonyrefail, Tonyrefail to Cardiff and then Cardiff to Whitchurch and back again. This was after I finished work for the day or getting up in the middle of the day when I was working on the night shift. Being so close to Cardiff, Mo had many extra visitors, she had great aunts and uncles and second cousins living in Cardiff and Penarth who visited her. On Sundays, we usually had a lift with a wonderful man called Roy Allen from Thomas Street who was a friend and worked with Mo's Dad in the Britannic. He became mine and Mo's friend also. He would take us to the hospital on one road but never come back on the same one if possible, I still do that whenever I can. He loved his car and was always dreaming of having a Jaguar, sadly many years later, he was killed in a car crash. It was during the time that Mo was in hospital that I became interested in photography. I bought a small camera, it was a Comet, I can't remember if that was the make or model. I took hundreds of photos and had them developed by George Enticott who was Mo's godfather. If it moved, I took a photo of it, if it didn't move I took a photo. I used to take them into the hospitals to keep Mo in touch with home. Over the years, most of the photos have been lost and only a few remain. I also used to write long letters to her every day, 15 to 20 pages long. I still have the many letters that Mo wrote to her mam but none that I wrote to her or her's to me. In November, the hospital doctors told Mo that she could come home for a weekend, Friday to Monday. Me and Mo decided to get married if we could, Mo asked her parents and I asked Dad, at that time the age of majority was 21. All said we could if it was possible. That was on a Sunday, on Monday after work I went to see Vicar Jones to ask him if he was able to marry us on Saturday, he didn't know and said he would have to consult the Bishop of Llandaff if the banns the vicar had called in March was still alright. It wasn't until Thursday that we had the answer we wanted - yes, we could get married.
Mo came home from the hospital on Friday afternoon, and in the evening we went the the Vicar's house to rehearse our vows for the ceremony at the church the following day. On Saturday, sister Pat was at Maureen's parents house, she was to be a bridesmaid, she was 10 years old at that time. Brothers, Brian, Cyril and Dad and I were up at our house in Fairview, Brian was home on indefinite leave from the Royal Airforce because our mother was so ill, he was in the airforce for a total of six years. Dad went to the Church on his own and us three brothers walked there together, Brian was to be my Best Man. Mo and her bridesmaids were driven to the church by our friend Roy Allen, we didn't need to ask him, he in effect claimed the job, he always said in all the times that he took us to Sully Hospital, that he wanted to drive Mo to the church when we got married. After the ceremony and we were finally married, my father still had to sign the register even though I was only a day short of being 21 yr. old. We were not the first couple to be married in the the Church after it was rebuilt and rededicated following the bomb damage during the war but we were very close to the first ones.
We only had a small reception at my now, mother and father - in - laws house, just family and close friends because we had had no time to book a hall anywhere. Dad didn't come to the house with us, he went to the Royal Infirmary in Cardiff to visit Mam.
There were very few telephones in private houses at that time and important messages were delivered to households by the police. In the middle of our wedding party, there was a knock on the front door, there were two policeman wanting to talk to Brian and me, they told us that they had had a message from the hospital saying that Mam had taken a turn for the worse and was very ill. Mo's great uncle Harry Priday who lived in Cardiff and was at our
wedding and the reception volunteered to drive us to Cardiff, when we got to the hospital, Mam was very ill and did not recognize us. We stayed for some time, this was the first time I realized how ill Mam was, this happened to me again, many years later. Uncle Harry, as I knew him brought Brian and me back home. The following morning I went from Elm Street and up to Fairview to see Dad, I found him crying, he had been notified that Mam had passed away. It was November 25, she had died on mine and Mo's birthday. Mam was the eldest girl in a family of four brothers and eight girls, she had two brothers older than her and all Mam's brothers and sisters and her parents, my grandparents, lived in Slough. They had all moved there from Thomas Street, Gilfach Goch, in about 1935 except Mam. This was a double blow for the family, mam's second youngest brother, Windom, yes that was the spelling of his name, had passed away only a year previously - he had had TB. My grand parents and several aunts and uncles came from Slough for the funeral. I didn't know much about funerals, this one, even though I was 21, was the first I attended, I seem to have made up for it since though. Apparently , women didn't attend funerals locally at that time but Grannie and my aunties went to Tonyrefail Cemetary - it was done in Slough. I remember Grannie, that's what we called her - Grannie Watkins, gave a tip to the grave digger, again not done around here. Mo had contacted Sully Hospital to tell them what had happened and her doctor told her that she should go back to the hospital by the following Monday, a week later than she should have. We had a terrible time to get her to go back, we all coaxed and quarreled with her because she didn't want to return. In the end we resorted to bribing her. She finally gave in when we told her that we, me and Ivy, I couldn't call her Mam, would buy her a fur coat, several of Mo's fellow patents at the hospital had one. We had to go back to hospital by bus so we stopped in Cardiff and went into Court's Fur Shop which was situated immediatly at the side of Cardiff Indoor Market and bought her a beaver lamb fur coat and also a short white artificial fur jacket. It took us a couple of years to pay for them because we had them on the "never never". Mo didn't wear the beaver lamb much when she came home but it came in very handy on cold Winter nights, it was worth three extra blankets on our bed, there was no such thing as central heating, only a coal fire downstairs. Mo came home from the hospital for a week that Christmas, and that was when K1 was concieved. She then went back to the hospital and on March 1, 1957, I think it was a Thursday, she had an operation in which part of her lung was taken away which left her with a very large scar on her back. In the 15 months that Mo was in hospital, that was the only day that her Mam failed to visit her when she could have. I was glad of that because when me and Mo's Dad, Dai, saw her after the operation, she looked so ill that we thought we would lose her and the baby. Mo came through it alright and in July, she came home. When K1 was due, Mo had to go back into hospital for another four weeks. She went to Saint David's Hospital in Cardiff. Here she was pampered and spoiled by her great aunty Nan, Mo's grand
mother's sister. Aunty Nan was Sister/Tutor on the maternity ward and later matron where Mo was. When I used to go visiting Mo, it was always in Aunty Nan's private rooms. After Mo had the baby, she came home but had leave K1 there for another two weeks. Mo always said that he could have come home with her but Aunty Nan wanted him with her as long as possible, K1's middle name is Wyndham, Aunty Nan wanted him to have the name for some reason and no-one argued with Aunty Nan. A few years later, along came K2, then K3 and K4, the four boys names started with K, a bit confusing later when they were growing up and a letter came to the house for K Jones .The "K's" didn't stop there however, our no. 1, daughter- in- law is K5 and our first grand daughter is K6, to whom all this and my other grand children and great grand children is dedicated. One more, my only niece in the UK is K7. Me and Mo lived happily ever after, well for 48 wonderful years. Wyndham.