For The last few years I have been thinking of writing my autobiography and numerous people have said I should tell my story, not about my childhood but about the things that I have seen and done in the last 20 years of my life.
I was born on the 16/11/1943 , My mother died in childbirth when I was one and I was put in what was known then as a home, up to the age of fourteen all the family I knew or thought I had was my brother, I had from what I can remember two foster parents, at 13 I was back in the home at the age of fourteen My biological father wanted me to go back to the family home in Colwyn bay finding out I had such a large family was a complete shock after what I had gone through in my young life as an orphan, I stayed in the family home or with my Grandmother in Llysfaen until I married in 1963.
4/7/2006 I started writing about myself in November of last year, shortly after moving to Luxor Egypt, when my wife said I should learn to type on the computer so I thought what better way other than to write my story . then my computer crashed and I lost all my data (silly me didn’t use back up disks)and my biography up to the age of 10 went with it. Started re writing in 2008,
In November of 1990 I was re building our 13th house, this was a period oak wooden framed house pre 1600 known as gethin farm Aberhafesp Newtown Powys to most people it is known as a black and white house, I had been working on it for four years and was nearing completion when I was getting up as usual to work on the house ,bent down to put my socks on and I was paralysed I Could not move my arms my legs nothing, I knew Pam was out milking the goats and tending to the animals that we had , mostly rare breeds that we had accumulated over the past 4 years so no point in shouting for her at that time and the pain was indescribable nothing like I had experienced before, and I have had a lot of broken bones in my life but nothing as painful as this, Pam came upstairs to see what all the fuss was about and calmly as anything just called the doctor out, by the time he arrived Pam had managed to get me on the bed, but to try and straighten up was too painful so I lay doubled up on the bed, the doctor told me I had slipped discs and all the nerves running through the spine where trapped causing the pain and paralysing my body then with a few sudden movements he straightened me up gave me some pain killers and told me to rest and only to walk a few steps at a time with the aid of walking sticks and when I could manage to get about I had to go for x-rays to the hospital, within 4 days I was at the hospital and found out I had 3 slipped discs and had to go for physio every week, no lifting anything heavier than 10 kilo which meant no working. So the story people ask me to write about is what happened between 1990 and 2008 , now I live in Egypt, not because of my slipped discs but for the last year in England I was in a wheelchair it is to cold and humid for my arthritis , and before I tell you of my life and work as a volunteer I must tell you of my childhood as it has all to do with the reason and my becoming a christian at the age of 46.
The monitory system then was £ s d and for you young uns as my story is pre decimalization 1972
Coins ¼d farthing, four to a penny ½d halfpenny, 1d one penny . 3d , threepenny bit, 6d sixpence, . 1/-, shilling , 2/-: florin, 0r shillings, 2/6d / half a crown, .
5/-: crown, five shillings, 10/6d: half a guinea £1, 2 40d,
21/-: guinea, twenty-one shillings.
Bank notes 10s £1: £5: £10: never saw one until I left school £20
My brothers name is David John And we were never separated until he left school at the age of 14, up until I left school he was the only family I knew and I called him Jackie. At the age of 14 when I left school my father wanted us to move back to his place in Colwyn bay and we met the rest of our family dad had remarried after the death of my mother when I was 1 year old, and I found I had two sisters and 5 half sisters and a half brother, my grandmother lived in Llysfaen Colwyn bay with my sister Gwen, I had 2 aunties and 14 uncles on my fathers side but never met any family from my mothers side, my sister Mavis I was told was adopted as a baby after mum died having her, and according to dad she lived in Wrexham with a wealthy family called Dodd ? What my father told me was mostly lies as I found out when he passed away in 1995, He showed me where my mum was buried in Llandrillo church he even showed me the unmarked grave, and that I was born in rose cottage Llysfaen he even told me that mum died in the cottage,
I was born in Ruthin and mum died in hospital after having my younger sister Mavis, When I was thirty and I was living in bangor North Wales , I had a phone call from the Salvation army in London asking if it would be ok if our sister got in contact with us, by this time I had four Children and my sister Gwen had four and we would meet quite regular most weekends, funny thing was about a month befor I had the phone call we where discussing how nice it would be if we could find our sister, a week after the phone call we hired a mini bus and we all went to meet Mavis who was married with 2 boys and lived in Stratford London. And during our conversations it turned out she was brought up in Denbigh and we had to pass their house every day on our way to secondary school and even went to the same school as Jackie and I, there is 11 months between me and mavis, mavis was married in Gibraltar while serving in the wrens and her husband had left 2 years previously to go back to Gibraltar. Leaving My sister to bring up two teenage boys, my father never saw or even knew where she was until after our meeting in London,
My first meeting with my father , I had travelled all the way from Wrexham by bus first to chester then had to change for Llandudno,
And my instructions where to get off the bus outside the big church in Colwyn bay here the bus stops for about ten minutes depending on the time of arrival, and I was to wait by the entrance gate of the Church, I had been there for about 15 minutes when I heard someone shouting my name I looked around and the only person trying to get my attention was a man standing in the doorway to a public house across the street, once he got my attention he called me over, told me he was my dad, and asked me if I wanted a pint just like I was an old pall, then telling everybody, this is my son Tony, so my first encounter with my father at the age of 15, I soon found out was in his second home (the pubs of Colwyn bay and the surrounding district) at throwing out time then it was 10 o’clock and two pints of bitter later. I was taken to what was to be my new home, Sunny side , The old Highway Colwyn bay,
And my step mother Agness was ordered to make some supper “beans on toast” and was given a bedroom that was to be sharred with my brother Davy who was coming in 2 weeks, there was 5 girls and a baby boy sleeping in one room with Agness and dad, so hearing I had a brother called Davy came as no supries, but 2 weeks later it was Jackie who turned up, dad had got him a Job in the Egg packing factory. In the bay, and was starting work the next morning. My first day at the family home I was woken up at six and had to get my work clothes on to go to the coal yard to fill the coal bags from the coal railway wagons these 1 cwt bags where loaded on to the lorries for house deliveries, and this job had to be done by Eight o’clock. Then we caught the no 22 bus to Llandudno, where I was to be the new dish washer for Sumners Café, where dad was the head chef, (summer season only) this job was from 12 midday until 9 in the evening that was the time the last no 22 bus went to Colwyn bay, after a week of this I had £5.00 wages and was allowed after paying dad house keeping ten shillings, and two weeks later I got a job as bakery assistant @ £5.00 a week, this job intailed catching the first bus from the bay at 5.30, so my coal job was only on the weekends, Saturdays I worked from 5.30 till 8 loading the coal, Sundays was spent in the woods behind the house cutting wood and sawing logs for the fire, (Cheaper than coal) then went out with the delivery lorry mostly around old Colwyn & llysfaen by choice so I could spend the afternoon with my new found gran and sister Gwen, more often than not I would stay over for the weekend, in the later months, and moved in with them after I had a fight with my father over the way he was using me and my brother for our money, And our money was the only reason he wanted us back home,
The time Jackie was in Sunnyside all he did was work , with his wages on Friday he would buy sweets for his new sisters that went to meet him from his work place, and the rest Dad would take off him (beer money ), after a while he started smoking and quite heavily, and started to get bouts of depresion .
When dad came back from the pubs usually at 11.30 after his pub crawl that started at 5..30, 15 pints a night was about his average intake. So would usually be quite drunk especially if he had spirit chassers, and when he got home every body hid from him or would go to bed so as to be out of his way including me and would start cooking bacon and eggs or whatever was in the pantry, then one night the kitcken caught fire, and Jackie was blamed, and they took him to the mental asylum in Denbigh, when he came home after a month, he was even worse than when he went in and would forget to go to work thinking it was Saturdays etc, this really made my dad mad, and eventually they took him back to Denbigh, and he never recovered from the electric shock treatment he was given, later to be housed in a home for the mentally disturbed in Queens rd Rhyl, where he still is today, he can remember every thing from when he came out of Denbigh but nothing of his youth, he never forgets my children’s birthdays , mine or Pams,
He could of sued the Denbighshire health authority for his miss treatment, but the time limmit lapsed by the time we knew about it , but money will not bring back what they took from my brother. And he is better off where he is as he gets looked after, and does not have the worries of finding his next meal, And thankfully this hospital for human trials closed , the irony of it is Jackie as a boy always said that I would end up there if I did not stop being so stupid.
My first Job for wages was with the corona bottling plant on Smithfield rd Wrexham at the grand old age of 14, as a delivery boy on the lorries, the delivery route was around the Wrexham villages as far as Chirk, the bottles then where spring wire top and the most sold was dandelion & burdock and cream soda, followed by orange, cherryade, and lemonade, a bottle was sixpence and three pence on the return bottle, and we where only allowed on the delivery run to take empty for full or otherwise we would have been full of empties kids used to try and sell us empties for 1 penny, but the tally back in the depot had to be the same amount of empty in as full going out, It was the same policy for the shop deliveries, I worked 5 days a week for the vast sum of £1.50 and had to pay the place I was staying , the orphanage in Acton Wrexham £1.20 shilling for housekeeping, this covered bed breakfast and 6.00 o’clock dinner, after six months I was informed I had to have a real job, and had to move to another place, the house I moved to was on Benjamin rd 2 doors away from the Youth centre, and started in the Rubery owen factory on the Queens park estate, my job was to rivet coat hangers in the metal what we call lockers for work places, and was paid on piece work. Half a penny per hook , the applience I used was an automatic pop rivet air gun, this job lasted 2 days I was not going to stay there for the foreseeable future, not this open air boy . On my way from the factory there was an army recruiting sign that was asking for 15 year olds to Join the apprentice corps of the royal welsh, so the next day I went to Sign up, the office was on the Ruthin rd and I was signed up for the January intake after my 15th bithday , and seeing it was only June I was ordered to get a job and found one the next day on a farm in Marcwiel, and moved again, this job was an easy job after my upbringing on Cil Llwyn farm with the Edwards’s, I was the new cattle man and my job entailed looking after the 100 herd of Milking cows , the farm covered a lot of the old munitions factory and the cows some times went inside the shelters so I would have to do a head count every time I brought them in for milking, the milking parlour was brandnew with out feeders as each cow came in to the milking trap once all the cows where milked they would be taken back to the pasture land, I had a horse for the job called prince he was a shire but much smaller then the ones we had as a boy, all I needed for it was a halter
And ride bare back, and it was no halter no getting on the back, he had been doing this job for a long time and knew the pace to drive the cows and I could never get it to a gallop, not even getting back to the farm, he or I took a day off there was no need as my job only entailed looking after the cattle, this included reporting any ailments with the milking herd, or one came into season , once a cow was put out of the herd either to calf or if it stopped milking, it was another’s responsibility, the cattle went in for milking at random .unlike the cattle we had at Cil Llwyn, , after a few months I bought a 5 gear Raleigh bike and spent most evenings in Wrexham town youth club or the young farmers club in Pentre Mailor
In January I went in the army did my 6 weeks of training in The Hightown barracks then it was the pioneer corps, and was moved to a barracks in Bodelwydden, this was supposed to be an army aprentice place for learning to be a mechanic all we did was march around the place make beds and spend the rest of our time bulling boots or ironing our uniforms ready for parade and marching the next day I got rebellious and was ordered out as an unsuitable recrute, much to my amusement and pleasure, and 2 months after leaving my last Job I was back there asking for my Job Back, but it had been taken at this time I was staying in Bejamin Rd and had the letter from the orphanage that my father wanted me back home.
The jobs with my father in the background never lasted long, and I did not like indoor work and I got a job with a friend In the glass contractors on York road behind Woolworth , and went on a course to their factory in Manchester for 3 weeks to learn the trade of repairing and making stained glass windows, then my first job as a craftsman was repairing a church window in Trearder bay Anglesey,
Then a few months later they made redundancies and it was last in first to go, I worked on for a week and got myself another job at “Westwells” a beer and drinks company in Rhos on Sea, most of the time bottling the beer and spirits, and loading the wagons for deliveries to the pubs, at the age of 15 I could lift Hogshead barrel above my head, these had a 25 gallon capacity, and would load these barrels on the wagons on my own, and I was nicknamed hogshead, while working in Westwells they where building a new house across the road, I watched them for about a month and was envious of them working out in the open, and decided that I wanted to be a bricky, The boss used to come on a Friday to pay the men’s wages, and I went to see him, while talking to him the lads in Westwells knew I was trying for a new job and shouted over he will make a good hoddy ( brick carrier) No brains just brawn ! I got the job as an apprentice stone mason, and started work after working my 2 weeks notice in Westwells. They even gave me a bonus and wished me well in my Apprenticeship and as I was only going to get £4.00 a week I got myself another evening job with the petrol garage ( No self sevice in them days) this paid more than my main Job as we got good tips from customers, the ones who mainly used this garage had gas gusling Mercedes Benz, the garage and petrol station belonged to Dingle garage the main distributor of mercs in north wales, My first job in the building trade only lasted a few months as all I was doing was hod carrying (A mans job)and I was only getting an apprentice wage of £4.00 A week and I wanted to be a bricky stone mason, I got a job with A stone mason called Peter Wright and the first Job was building a Brick and stone new bungalow by the Fire station in the bay . I worked with peter as an apprentice for 2 years until He died of a stroke on a job on the links estate upper Colwyn bay, where we where building artificial concrete stone clad houses, on the same Job another builder Pete vaughen asked me to work for him but on Piece work, this job I was paid the princely sume of £4.00 per thousand bricks and £1 per 2 square meter of stone work , this almost trebled my wages, and could make more working weekends building stone fire places for the customers who had bought the new build houses and bungalows, and now I was self employed I had to pay my own tax yearly and stamps every week If I remembered. If not it had to be payed at the end of the tax year in April. And then the tax was 20% after the weekly national stamp contribution of £1.50 per week, and was A lot to find that time of Year especially if we had a bad winter, during this time I had my taste of Jail, and another job of sewing mail bags 2 shillings a week, and spent it on cigarettes ( yes I started smoking)
I was in the pub known as the Imperial sitting with my mates and a girl on holiday from Liverpool,
When a policeman came in and asked if I was Neville Sly’s boy, I said I was and he asked me to step outside with him this was a back door that led to the alley. As we got in the alley he said , think you are as hard as your father , I knew what was coming and as he took his helmet off to put it on the ground I hit him hard on the chin knocking him out cold, I had learnt to hit and ask Questions later, I then went back to the bar, and later took the girl back to the hotel she was staying in . and went home at 11.00 o’clock the police arrived dragged me outside and handcuffed me to take me to the police station. In the cell I was beaten with a wet towel. (This leaves no marks) the next day I was up in front of a judge who gave me 2 months inside until the hearing date and I was taken to the remand centre in Manchester prison, the charge was attacking a police officer while on Duty, and was put in a cell with a real nutter, ( I suppose it was to teach me a lesson) I never had a visit or saw a lawyer the whole time I was there, on the day of the hearing I was brought back the day before and spent a night in the bay police station cells, my hearing was set for 11.0 o’clock at 8.00 Agnes came to visit me and asked if I had a lawyer, and asked why they took me away, I told her the story and who was with me that night, so she went and got two of my mates to come to court, during the hearing the judge asked who was my lawyer I said that I did not have one, and he appointed one who was already in the court that day, as he said this was a serious offence and if found guilty I was to receive a custodial sentence of at least two years, then I was taken to a room to talk with my Lawyer I told him I had two witnesses waiting in the court after hearing their version of what happened, “that the policeman called Tony outside“ , the lawyer waited to see the judge and the judge on hearing I had witnesses , to say it was not an attack on the policeman just dismissed the case, no apologies nothing just A piece in the north Wales weekly paper saying I had received a 2 month custodial sentence for hitting a policeman on duty??, the police man was known to me in later years as sgt woodbine and last time I saw him was on duty in Bangor North Wales, soon after this 7 of my mates emigrated to Australia, I also applied but was turned down because of what I now had “ a police record“ , Another four mates got killed in an accident in Gronant by Prestatyn some guy pulled out in front of them in a mini van and they all pilled into him on their motorbikes the only survivor was a friend called Barry ganggang he got this nickname because he had a motor bike with a bad ignition problem and as he revved it up it caused a misfire hence bang bang and changed from that to ganggang as was always in one gang or another,
After that my motto was If you worry you die if you don’t worry you die so why worry,
And it was time I looked after “no 1” I did what I wanted when I wanted, If god wanted me he will take me, not that I believed in god after the things that happened to me up until then,
I moved to Gran’s in Llysfaen, as it had come to fisticuffs with my father after what he did to Jackie, and I never forgave him until years later, when I became a Christian.
At 17 I joined the territorial army 372 Regiment this was mainly to keep me out of trouble, I never told them of my stint in the army, and by this time I found out my date of birth was not 10/11 as I had been told by my foster parents but the 16/11, and I was signed up after receiving a medical at the centre at Prestatyn , this was an artillery unit with the old 25pound guns and I was the cook i.e. main cook and bottle washer, and this is where I passed my driving test one day after my 18th birthday , the test was in an Austin champ then in the evening I took my test with an instructor from the regular army from Bodelwyddan, with the Bedford known as the tractor and towing gun trailer
This test was to go up the Great Orme, . After this I could drive anything on the road, excluding a steam roller, why that I do not know, not that there was any around in the 1960s, our pay for 2 evenings Mondays & Thursdays plus week end weekend was Saturday afternoon until Sunday night was £8,00 per month, this came to an end 3years latter when the 372 unit disbanded, A pity as this was a great time in my life. Soon after I got my Licence I had whit I called a before work job, with Garstangs fruit and veg, driving the articulated lorry to Liverpool docks and the farms in and around Garstang for the fresh farm veg, this was from three in the morning and usually got back at 9.00 to go to my building Job, so when I got Married I was running two Jobs , and would often take my new wife with me in the lorry to Liverpool., until we had our first born,
In 1961 I met my now wife of 45 years , Pam, I was sitting in the national milk bar by the Station in The bay with my mates the summer was over the fun fair was closed for the winter and the Swedish swap girls had gone home and my then girlfreind from Llysfaen had not turned up, usually it was because her dad would not let her go out with a ruffian like me, and by this time I was known as Nevile sly ‘s boy ( and dirt rubs off ) but saying that I was a bit of a ruffian and as a new boy on the block so to speak, I had to prove myself and got into all kinds of scrapes. Not to mention under age drinking, and if caught again was threatened with six months in borstal, and I had quietened down a bit since my time in Manchester, stayed out of the local pubs as the police had warned them not to serve me or any of the gang, Pam was sitting on what was then a raised roundabout at the bottom of station rd , I said to one of the lands she was mine and we had a bet, Which was the next round of drinks if I could chat her up for a date, I never went back to the café that day Just waved at the boys as I took Pam to see a film at the local cinema, (North to Alaska) never saw too much of the film, then I walked her home along the Promanade to old Colwyn where she lived, Pam and her parents had only moved from Peterborough 3 days previously, by the time I got Pam home it was late and the last bus had gone so had to walk all the way back to the bay, mostly skipping , when I got home I told Agness I had met the girl I was going to Marry , and later on during our marred life she told me that she went home that night and told her sister she had met her future husband, who said there is no love at first sight, as soon as pam turned 16 we got married, I am now retired and all my married life I have been a builder,
I don’t remember anything about my childhood until I was about six or seven years old, my first memories are of being in hospital after falling against one of those cast iron radiators in the orphanage playroom and cracking my skull open ,today the scar is about 6 inches long so at that age I guess it was about 3” and 6 stitches , so I suppose that was the cause of my mental block up to that age, it only seems a short while after leaving hospital that Jackie and I was fostered out to a couple in Rhos on Sea .Colwyn Bay ( cannot remember their names)and also I guess it was summer all the time we where there we never had school and it seems looking back the only reason we where there was to peel potatoes and push their daughter on her three wheeler bike around the park she never did let us have a ride on it, some afternoons we would have to go stumping(collecting cigarette ends) along the promenade shelters, only returning after the box was full the one thing in them days not many people smoked tipped cigarettes so it would not take long to fill the box, or if it rained the only place you would find dog ends was under the seats in the shelters, that was put an end to when we where stopped by the police and taken back to the house, the policeman was informed that these two little bugers will never smoke again after he was finished with us, when the police had gone they both set into us she screaming her head off at me, and Jackie getting a belting across his bare bottom, he was told the beating was not for collecting stumps but for getting caught and he was the oldest and should have known better, that evening we talked about things, I said we should run away but he called me stupid because we didn’t know where we were and I wanted to know the reason why the man would send us out to get the dog ends if it was wrong we never saw anything wrong in what we were doing just that he asked us to do it, the first time we collected stumps he came with us it was early on a Sunday morning after the shelters would have had the Saturday night couples smoking in them so he knew Sunday was always a good time to go stumping and there would be no one about, after a couple of days we where back in the orphanage in Rhuthin and told that we had been naughty boys and had brought disgrace on the family who where willing to give us a home, and as punishment we had to leave our three wheeler bicycle there so the daughter could play on it and was too big for me anyway and Jackie was not bothered anyway, the woman who ( today she would be called a child counsellor)moved us from one place to another was called Mrs Sheppard she was ok with us but every time we told her something she would say now boys its not nice to tell lies,
The orphanage Brynhyfryd in Rhuthin was opposite the boys private school and on the Mold road, and had a large garden to the front with two entrance gates one for trades people in the side lane and another for visitors off the main road with an octagonal summer house set back off the road under a huge pine tree, here I spent as much time as possible, I liked watching the gardener mowing and digging the garden and from my den I could see everything that went on in the main rooms of the orphanage to the front of the building was the front door with 2 large windows each side one was the office come staff living room the other the children’s eating & playroom so I knew when it was time to eat and who was doing what ,Mr Jones was the head of the orphanage his wife was a nice matronly type of woman and spent a lot of time in the vegetable garden and greenhouse to the side of the house where most of the vegetables for the home where grown. One of the staff at the home was a girl called Liz who had always been in the home and decided to work there after leaving school and was a favourite of Mr Jones especially when matron was in the garden, the other woman who we called Miss Fran was 21 we knew this because she had just had her 21st party and was shortly to get married, she was the cook and main child minder my favourite time with her was bath nights ( I’d get a bath quite often me being in the garden all day)and she would say now we must not get our clothes wet must we, most times she would take her top off other times she would get in the tub with me, I never thought anything of this or other things that went on at the home until I was much older,
so memories of my young life in the home where happy ones.
At the age of eight I remember Jackie and I where told we had special visitors, and to have a wash and to put on our new Sunday clothes, this was Saturday and Jackie said it must be our mother and father as this was Saturday, and we had seen other children having special visits especially on the weekends from mom’s & dad’s and I had watched the kids been hugged and kissed by people in the office, so this must be a visit from our parents but Jackie said that we had never had a visit from our parents before so they must be coming to take us back home, and after all he is my big brother so why shouldn’t I believe him, in the afternoon we where ushered into the office where matron made a full check on us( washed behind the ears etc) so we where presentable to our special visitors, then we saw that the gardener was making his way to the front gates to let in a black van, most transport in them days was black ,green or maroon, and so this black van must be the police if weren’t it would use the tradesman’s entrance, so I thought the only other black Mariah that I had seen was in Rhos on Sea when we where picked up by the police and that they were here to take us away, Jackie accused me of being naughty and I said I hadn’t done anything wrong and said it must be his fault and we had a fight right there in the office, matron came in and parted us , when she knew what it was about she just laughed and said they where our new foster parents coming to see if we where suitable to live with them , by this time these people where parking up outside the office window, we were in a mess and had to go with Fran to get tidied up she made things worse by pulling me up against her big boobs and sobbing saying how she was going to miss us, I didn’t want to leave here especially after our last episode with foster parents and told Fran I did not want to see these people, she said how nice they were and that they had a farm and I could spend all day outside in the fields, so I thought ok and went back to the office , when we got back to the office Mr Jones had arrived and told us to be good boys stand up when Mr & Mrs Edwards came in to the room and only answer when asked a question, when they came in they asked who is Anthony & who is David John neither of us answered then Mr Jones said that we are very shy boys and to answer the lady, at this I said we where not the boys they had come to see, and I felt quite relieved at this, no more questions where asked of us and Mr & Mrs Edwards left shortly afterwards. the following Friday after school Jackie and I were told to get all our things ready and to put them in a box because we were going away to live with Mr & Mrs Edwards in Bodfari, I don‘t remember speaking to each other about this ,anyway we only saw each other at meal times and meals took precedence over a big thing like having a new mum & dad. on the morning of getting ready we were sitting on the long bench in the entrance hall and Jackie said, that these people were not like the other foster parents because we had to call them mum& dad and that they had given us new names just like real parents do, and don’t worry stupid ( stupid was my brothers favourite word) this was very reassuring for me, On the Journey to Bodfari (about 20miles) from the home Mrs Sheppard told us to be very good boys and to do everything that our new mother and father told us to do, I can remember thinking what happened to our old mother & father, this was the first time I heard any mention of any parents, I know one of the older boys in the orphanage lost his father in the war ,and maybe our old mother & father were lost in the war as well, And maybe, after all to a child lost is lost and killed means dead, so to me one day they might be found, and there was no point in asking about them, and if they were lost she wouldn’t know anyway, Then she said we would get a visit from her once a fortnight to make sure we were alright with our new mum and dad, on arriving at the farm we met and was introduced to our new grand parents, and we had to call them gran & grandpa they were Mr Williams’s parents they were in their seventies but to me they were very very old but wise, their first Question was ,now who is the oldest I am said Jackie, ah! so you must be David John , and I must be Anthony I said , of course you are but we will call you Tony no point in giving such a small boy a long name is there, so from then on the Edwards’s always addressed us as David John & Tony, Mrs Sheppard was told that their son would not be home until about 5 o’clock and if she wanted to wait she could, but decided not to and off she want ,we where to excited and wanted to see our new house and everything to notice that all our things were still in the boot of the car on their way back to Rhuthin,
Then we were told our new mum & dad had gone to Denbigh shopping for us and that it would be a while before they came home, and that grandpa had to get morning sticks for lighting the fire to get the water hot ready for when his son came home, I was to go and get sticks and my brother was told to help gran. I went off with the old man first to get a sack from the barn which was cut open down one side and the base to form a blanket to put the twigs on, the sticks were gathered from the hedge rows and he told me that I must only get the dead ones, if they snapped off in your hand they would be good ones to get the fire going, when we had collected enough we put them on the sack blanket ,I had to fold one end of the blanket together and he the other, but my hands where to small to grab a hold of it, wait a minute he said and went in his pocket and pulled out a penknife and then in the other pocket and pulled out some string, then he tied the two ends of the sack to form a handle which made it easier for me to carry my end, don’t forget I was a townie never been in a field before to collect sticks especially with a man who carries a knife and a pocket full of string, when we got back in the farm yard we had to cut the sticks so they would fit in the fire, here there was a big log which the old man sat on with his leg on each side then he took what seemed at the time a huge steel blade out of the log and started chopping at the sticks, yes the ones we snapped by hand from the hedge, I think he did this to show his wife what hard work cutting sticks was, when they were all cut into pieces they were put in a basket but didn’t look like half the pile we brought in the sack from the field, this really puzzled me then the old man said what a good job we had done and in future I could have the job of getting the morning sticks every Saturday, (so within one hour of arriving I had myself a job)Now making the fire was grans job, the fire place was in the living room and was a large black range with a water tank on one side with a polished brass tap in the front, in the middle was the open fire and an oven on the other side, on the front of the fire was a cast iron swivel plate which sat the big black kettle, then there was a big chain coming down the chimney and a hook on it to hang another kettle or a cooking pot, before she lit the fire the old ash in the fire place had to be cleaned out, under the oven and the water tank was a small door which she took off and then took a long L shaped metal rod to pull out the soot and the clinkers from where the old fire had been, then the ash box was cleaned out to finish the cleaning process it was brushed down with a goose wing, then Jackie was told to empty the metal bucket with all the ash and soot in the compost heap which was at the bottom of the garden next to the lavvy , not wc because there was no running water on the farm the lavvy was a brick shed with a two holed wooden sitting area down the garden, when he came back his face was black, the wind must of come up as he was emptying the soot, gran laughed and said he looked like the gollywog on the Robertson’s jam jar, now remember our stuff was in the car so here we were in our Sunday best clothes, I had been with the old man in the hedge rows and Jackie looking like a chimney sweep when Mr& Mrs Edwards returned from their shopping trip, not a very good start to a new parental relationship , first they were shouting at the old couple for not changing our clothes before they set us to work, and then it was our turn for letting Mrs Sheppard go off with our things,
Now everything with our new Mum & Dad had a reason ( this I realised later on in life)
The reason they were angry with their parents was not because we got dirty working, they were most likely told to set us to task before we arrived, but because mums brother was coming in the morning to take service in the chapel to welcome the two new children into the community, and it was too late to go and get new clothes, also it was milking time on the farm so no one could go to Rhuthin to get our things, we were told to take our best clothes off so she could wash them, and were sent to bed in our vest & pants.
This piece of machinery is a hay tedder and has been converted from horse drawn the same as the Cil Llwyn farm machinery,
The address of our new home was Cil Llwyn. Y Waen. Bodfari .Nr Denbigh.
Cil Llwyn was a 110 acre farm mainly milking cows, fat stock, poultry and a large white pig called dolly And 2 porkers, when we moved to the farm in 1951 there was no electricity, mains water or gas any modern equipment whatsoever, farm or house, water was hand pumped from a well, There was only candles that we used to see our way to bed and these had to be extinguished and put outside on the landing when we were in bed, the lamps in the house itself where the old wick type run on paraffin as was the Tilley lamp this was used in the barns if there was jobs to be done i.e. milking , the Tilley was quite a thing to light there was a spring cup that was filled with mentholated spirit this was in two halves the clipped beneath the lighting part and when the lighting part got hot enough the primer was pumped to pump the paraffin from the bottom container up to the lighting the lighting part was made of silk and once it had been lit we could not touch it or it would disintegrate, and one if looked after would last maybe a week, then there was the storm lamps these where lamps with paraffin wicks if and when we needed to go to the toilet at the bottom of the garden or to the woodpile for logs for the fire if it was too windy to use a candle, the electric was brought to the farm in 1955 then the mains water a few weeks after,
Most of the farm machinery was horse drawn there were two cart horses to do all the work apart from the old fordson tractor that always had a small dung cart coupled to it mainly for cleaning out the cow sheds, tvo is the old petrol system on old machines, first the engine would be crank started with the petrol switch on, then when the engine was warm it was switched over to paraffin tvo ( crank handle is situated in the front of the machine) and had to be started by hand, there was no bathroom, bath night was on Saturday night the metal tub would be brought into the kitchen in front of the fire and scolding hot water put in it from the water tank of the range then would be cooled down with cold water just enough to be able to get in without scolding ourselves, the tub would be used for all kinds of things from washing the clothes to salt curing the pig in the autumn the toilet was at the bottom of the garden but we had a peepot in our bedroom only to be used for no 1ns, the room called the scullery had a Belfast sink in it and water was drawn from the well by hand pump this is where we would wash before meals etc, also this room was used for sieving the fresh milk ready for putting in the milk churns, churning the butter and making cheese , to the front of the farmhouse was the entrance hall with a grandfather clock a large wooden seat and a hat/umbrella stand , with the best room on one side and the living room on the other we only went in the best room when the vicar or relatives came for tea and the living room was only used at night by the Edwards’s, then there was 4 bedrooms on the 2nd floor, 2 where used for guests and our rooms were in the attic the only thing in there was a metal bed with a straw mattress and a chest of drawers for our clothes for the first year or so of living there we slept top and tailed then Jackie moved to the other attic bedroom which up until then was our play room,
The farm itself had a large orchard and garden with all kinds of fruit trees we had to go through here to the toilet which was a brick built unit about 4 ft square with a wooden two holed seat that was sat on to do the business
under the seat was about 3ft down for the soil and was emptied once an year this made good manure for the vegetable garden , the toilet paper was hand made by cutting up the previous Saturday news paper into 6 inch squares then it was holed and hung up with string on a nail behind the toilet door that job was done on a Sunday after diner and before going to Sunday school .
Then there was the barn this was quite new and had a quarter round roof and telegraph poles as stanchion legs and was clad with corrugated sheets to three sides leaving the whole of one side open for loading and getting the hay out to feed the cattle , this was also the favourite place for the hens to make their nests and was one of Jackie’s jobs to find them. Before the hens decided there was enough to sit on you knew if one was sitting at feed time it would strut around with its feathers fluffed up when they were broody, to one end of the barn was the implement shed the tractor was kept in a part of it and the hay scythe and corn binder to the rear and most of the other harvest machines, to the end of the main barn there was the grinding room and above that was the corn loft which kept the different corn ,wheat oats, and barley with a chute down to the grinding machine, grinding was done once a week and put in sack cloth bags which would be fed to the animals and also the flour would be made here for the bread, then there was the machine house that had an engine in it to drive the pulleys and wheels for grinding and other machinery in the barn, before the new tractor there was a large lister what they call a put put engine then there was the calving shed and the fat stock part which was called the over winter shed and above this area was the hay storage loft , then there was the pigsty on the end of the building opposite the scullery (easy to feed the pigs on the house waste) to the back of the barn there where more sheds that housed the bull, chickens, ducks , geese and more fat stock to the rear of all this there was the manure yard and to the end of the yard was the milking parlour this was a new brick built unit modern for its time there was 16 milking cows all milked by hand but the parlour unit was built for 30 cows with all the pipes and fittings ready in place for milking by machine and the water was siphon fed from the pond , all the animals on the farm watered in the pond the fat stock in the winter were let out twice a day the pigs and small calves had their water given to them by pail,(Bucket) when we first came to the farm there was no feed in the barns i.e. hay, straw, corn etc it was brought in by lorry every week or from neighbouring farms by horse and cart, the farm grew all the vegetables it needed for the kitchen and every thing that the farm stock needed except the milking cows nuts (pellets)these were bought in bulk from the manufacturer Bibby and they boosted the milk yield, from what I can gather the farm had just been bought by the Edwards’s, because grandpa used to live in Penmachno and worked in the slate quarry all his life until he retired and our new mum worked as a nurse in London during the 2nd world war and had not long been married( just putting 2&2 together) by 1954 the farm had been modernised. When the electric came.
Our first day at Cil Llwyn
Mr &Mrs J Edwards were the names of our foster parents which I will refer to as mum & Dad,
The night before we had bathed we had been taken up to our room in our under wear, given a lecture on how to use the chamber pot shown how to sleep top and tailed and were told the mattress had been given clean hay so we could not catch any bugs even the pillows had new hay, and told as soon as you hear the cockerel in the morning to come down stairs, as soon as we were alone it was question time, what on earth is a cockerel ? It must be something very big to be able to hear it up here, or maybe its some kind of hooter like on the steam train, Jackie said he liked the old people but not our new Mum & Dad and maybe Mrs Sheppard will come with our clothes tomorrow and she can take us back to the home in Rhuthin , we had only had some corn flakes and a boiled egg with toast that morning before leaving the orphanage, so I asked big brother why we didn’t have any tea or supper, he said don’t be stupid its so you don’t shit in the potty you heard what she said only number ones ,? What is number ones? he said don’t know but it could be pee, so we never used the potty apart from the time they locked me in the room (another story)
In the morning I woke at first light waiting to find out what this cockerel sounded like it never did make a noise that morning or any other morning, apparently grandpa had been given a load of instructions the morning we came one was to kill the biggest chicken for Sunday roast, and as I mentioned grandpa was a quarry man not a farmer and the rooster was the biggest chicken, gran had already plucked and feathered him and he was waiting in the kitchen with the rest of the meal for the oven to heat up.
So we were up in our room waiting for the cock to crow and mum was waiting in the kitchen for us to come down , but we was told wait till you hear the noise and then come down, then we heard the noise, mum was bellowing at the top of her voice wake up you lazy little people time to get up and do something for your dinner, when we got down stairs we were given a pair of new overalls and wellies, I think they gave me Jackie’s because his was a good fit and mine fitted like a sack, it would take at least 3 years to fit into them but after a few turnups and stuffing paper in my new wellies I managed to get about, then we where taken to the shipon (milking parlour) Here the cows were tethered by a chain around the neck and were eating hay mum & dad were milking the cows by hand the cow that mum was milking had its back legs tied with a leather belt and she was sitting on a three legged stool with a bucket between her legs and two of the cows tits in her hand that she was pulling with downward strokes and this white frothy stuff was filling the bucket, then she told Jackie to take the pail off her and for me to pass her an empty pail, as I turned to get the pail the cow must have been frightened by the sight of these strange looking little people and kicked out spilling the contents of the bucket and sending mum under the cow next to her, then the cow decided to have a shit and because her legs were tied she had to do it all down her, belt and all, then dad got off his stool and reached out for a stick that was hanging on the window and beat the poor cow calling it a stupid beast and other names that I had not heard before (not the f word), then blamed us for getting to close and frightening the cows,” I thought” the cows are scared what about me ? when things calmed down mum went back to the house she was covered in cow shit so I guess she went to clean herself up.
after the cows were let out of the shipon we were told to clean all the troughs to the front of the stall, any hay that was left had to be put back in the rack, then the channel where all the cow shit was had to be cleaned, so we where given a fork, shovel and a wheelbarrow first he showed us how it was done by cleaning a couple of stalls and then taking the barrow outside into the dung heap, then he said we had to finish the rest before we had any breakfast, we soon filled the barrow but then Jackie couldn’t lift it, then I tried but I was to short to lift it so I pushed it towards the door like a skid but then we could not get it out of the channel the step was about 6 inches, so I ended up tipping the thing over then we had to upright it and with half the muck back on the floor my brother could manage to lift it but not push it , now on the front of the stalls the twine (string)off the straw bales was tied, otherwise it would be hung on any convenient nail depending where the bale was opened so with a little effort I untied one and tied it around the front of the wheelbarrow, no easy task as this was a wooden wheelbarrow with two pieces of wood in which the spoked wheel was placed also these strings where in a loop so I thought about the day before and the old man with his knife maybe he would borrow me his knife , but Jackie had tied two pieces together and tied them to the front of the wheelbarrow, so without two much effort with Jackie lifting and me pulling that is how the muck was cleaned out of the shipon every morning for a few months.
After the shipon was cleaned out we went to the house, first we had to take off our wellies and overalls and hang them up behind the scullery door (not the wellies)
And then we were washed in freezing cold water from the well, the reason for this we were told was to get rid of the smell from the cow dung and we had to do this ourselves in future. Then we had breakfast no such thing as bacon eggs and toast here, we had brewass this was a concoction of bread, corn flakes, wheat cereal a piece of dripping and a spoonful of Bovril on which boiling hot water was added from the kettle on the fire, now this sounds an awful concoction but we had not eaten for over 24 hours and it was palatable and were told it would make us big and strong so we could help on the farm,
After breakfast we had to watch how the milk was sieved and put in the milk churns but most of the Sunday’s milk was used to make cheese and butter and would be put in what they called the vat and every so often the cream would be taken off the top and put in a jug ready for churning, the milk that was over would be left until Monday as there was no collection on Sundays, at about 9.0’clock we had to put our overalls back on and were told to go and play outside and not to come back in the house until tea time, the reason for this was they had to go to chapel and we could not go with them because we still did not have any clothes except what we came in, so for me the rest of the day was spent exploring the barns and sheds, at least the ones I could open, most of the sheds had latches these were opened by putting the big finger in a hole in the door to lift the catch on the other side and most of them were out of my reach and a good job too or most of the farm stock would have been let out into the yard, to the rear of the buildings there was the stables this building was much different to the shipon, firstly it was knee deep in straw and big round lumps of dung in piles, it fascinated me to begin with then I went to found Jackie and all excited I told him I had found the cockerels house, how do you know it’s the cockerels house he asked well I said it must be something even bigger than the cows because one of the shit piles would fill the wheelbarrow, so he came with me to see what I had found, as we where looking around inside one of the big cart horses came in , of course we had seen horses before but only with a cart behind them or being ridden, this was a giant of a horse and we were in her house there was no way out only through the door and she took most of that space up, but she just stood there starring at us with those beautiful big eyes she must have been just as curious as us she just came closer and closer until I could touch her nose, then Jackie said that’s no cockerel stupid it’s a horse, Jackie had found another interest “chickens” and wanted me to come and have a look, in the hay loft of the main barn seemed to be the home of these chickens about one hundred of them I guess one or two of them had little chicks, now that is what took Jackie’s interest but every time he tried to get one the mother would fly at him, so most of the afternoon was spent trying to catch one of these chicks by the end most of the hens were upset, but the more noise they made the better my brother liked it so I left it to him and went back to the stable to make friends with my new found friend when I got to the stable she had gone, the stable was full of leather things some had shinny brass pieces on them, most of it was quite old and worn out with straw showing under the leather, some pieces had chains attached to them and long leather straps , the other side of the room there was two troughs about my height off the floor and with a wooden slatted rack on the wall, with some of the bars missing and an open area above that went off into what seemed a black hole, being very inquisitive I climbed up to see where this place went or rather what was up there, all that was there was some old straw scattered around the floor and another door, on opening this I found my brother had caught the mother chicken and was sitting there stroking it on his lap with all the chicks wondering what was going on, then we heard the van pull into the yard, and we left the barn via the new door I had found to the stable and made our way to the yard, when dad saw us he shouted over to come and say hello to the vicar and introduced us as David John and Tony and he was the rev Thomas from the chapel in the Waen and were told to have a wash because we where going in the best room as the reverend had something for us,
When we got to the front room there was another vicar who was the brother of Mrs Edwards , the vicar to me at
the time was just someone who wore black clothes and a white stiff collar, I had never been to a church or chapel not that I could remember anyway, so to have two of them in the same room must have been important and also we were in the best room, but the two of them had big smiles on their faces and laughing with each other and speaking welsh then the brother called out and mum came and took us to the scullery after a few choice words and a slap across the face we where told to go to our room , (the underwear problem again) I think??
Our room in the attic had a good view over the yard and fields to the river Clwyd and beyond to Denbigh, Denbigh is set on a hill with a Castle on the top, as adults quite unmistakable, but also Rhuthin has a castle and we as children had passed this many times on our way to and from the orphanage, so here I was my first day in our new home everything that went wrong was my fault, had a couple of smacks and worse of all no food only that awful brewass, so we was planning to escape and go back to the orphanage Jackie said Rhuthin is not far but we would have to find a bridge to cross the river, then we discussed the beating at Rhos on sea and I said did you see the way he beat the cow with the stick, if we do something wrong he will beat us with the stick so we must run away, then mum came up with our best clothes all washed and ironed and told us that dinner was ready and we had to eat as a family in the best room, what she meant was the vicar had been invited for dinner after chapel service and we had to keep up appearances as this was a monthly custom when her brother was preaching at the Waen, or any vicar was invited to tea, and that was the only time we were allowed into the front room, after we finished dinner it was
Speech & presentation time from what I remember of the speech it was about all good Christian children have to go to chapel three times on Sundays and our seats were to be right in the front and that we had to learn a passage from the bible off by heart ready for Sunday mornings and the present was a bible each that had been written in I suppose by the vicar “presented to Anthony Roberts in the year of our lord 1951 for his attendance at Y-Waen Methodist Chapel Bodfari” But in Welsh and Jackie’s was the same apart for the David John , then we had to get changed into our overalls and help with the milking before we got changed again ready for chapel (evening service) by this time the escape was put on hold, the Methodist chapel to me at the time it was a big building and was the first building in the village of the Waen coming from the farm ,it had one of those wind organs playing real chapel like, and as we entered the music stopped and we were ushered into our seats at the front right under pulpit, were told to sit there until the vicar called us up, and were given ½ a penny each to put in the collection plate, all the rest of the Edwards’s went to sit in their row 4 seats behind us then Mr Thomas went up to the pulpit said a prayer something about god to care over us , all the services where in welsh and at the time we only understood a few words, then he called us up and said something on the lines of welcome to Bodfari chapel and that we were always welcome to be with the family of god and that Jesus would always watch over us, at this I pocked Jackie in the ribs and asked him what the vicar was saying , Jackie turned to the vicar and said, My brother is a bit stupid he doesn’t understand what you are saying its because of the accident and he has lost some of his brain, all I can remember after that was there is that word again “Lost” and maybe I was in the war and my brain is lost, and why does my brother call me stupid dad called the cow stupid as he was beating it, and I went off into my own little world,
Let me Explain when I went into my own little world I could never remember what was there and sometimes I would stay there for hours and not remember anything real or unreal ,for instance I found out that Mrs Sheppard had brought our clothes back on the Monday morning, I took them to the room and unpacked them, I know because Jackie told me, but I don’t remember her coming back with our things don’t forget I wanted to leave and
My plan had been to sit in the car and plead with her to take me back to the orphanage, I am sure my brother knew that “ in his words” I was not right in the head and would fill me in on certain things if I asked him.
I do not remember anything of the service only sitting in the vestry with a group of people and eating biscuits and kids asking all kinds of questions, one girl I remember asked ? did they sew your head up with string, no I said they put a bandage on it , well she said when I had my dix (appendix)out they sewed me up with string and my scar is like yours look and pulled up her dress to show me, sure enough it was like mine a line with hole marks on each side, so they must of sewn me up with string and then put a bandage on it I said ,
On the Monday after cleaning out and breakfast it was washday, Monday was always washday by the time we had finished breakfast gran would of washed all the weeks wash, this was done with a dolly and metal tub, a dolly looks like a 3 legged stool with a handle attached
I was to go with her to mangle the clothes dry, the mangle was made of cast iron with two long rubber rollers and a wheel connected to one of the rollers with a wooden handle on it turn the rollers, my job was to turn the handle while gran fed the wet washing in to the rollers so the washing came out dry enough to hang on the line I wont go into all the details of how this contraption worked, only it depended on the wheel being turned and me being small could not get the height to fully turn the wheel so gran said she would turn the wheel if I put the wet clothes in the rollers ” I told you these old folk were wise” this only went on for a couple of weeks before they made a step for me to do the turning , and when the electric came they bought a washing machine that had its own mangle attached to it, after helping gran hang out the wash it was then time for dinner
Every day meals where eaten in the living room that had a large wooden table and 8 chairs around it and a babies chair that turned into a babies rocker“ why it was there don’t ask because I don’t know” maybe it came with the house or maybe it was something to do with the baby they had three years later, now this was our first meal at the farm since arriving and everything on the farm was fresh and always smelt good and cooked right there in the living room first we had to let dad say grace “bless this food o lord so it makes us strong to do thy work amen, always the same grace“ then we had broth (soup) then the dinner was set out on the table mum would put the veg and potatoes on the plate and pass them to dad who always carved the meat and served, first to granddad then to gran then mum, Jackie and then me and always himself last and took great pride in this feat, then mum would walk around the table and pour out the gravy in the same turn granddad etc, if we where full and could not eat it all mum would say plenty of little black people would love to be able to eat it and would take it away and feed it to us for tea later we learnt to eat all the dinner or we would miss out on the pudding always a fruit pie with home made custard, I will tell you later how we had fruit & veg all the year round without refrigeration, During diner no one was allowed to talk only yes please and thank you or please pass something, no one was allowed to leave the table until the head of the household got up first to leave, this was the first time we were all together as a family so to speak and as soon as the table was cleared we had the lecture , first was if you do not get up in the morning and clean the shipon you will not get breakfast or dinner, if you misbehave you will get the stick, never to answer back as little boys should be seen and not heard “misbehave meant doing things we should not be doing” and were told that next Sunday we are to be baptised so that this would make us good Christian boys and Jackie was given a passage to learn from the bible to say before the christening, and a paper was handed to me to learn ( at the time I could not read but never let on and My brother would teach me the writing) which read something like, David John and I want to thank our new mother and father for taking us into their home so we would become good Christian boys, then grandpa said we had to go for a haircut and meet the neighbours, our new neighbours lived at the end of the lane that came down to the farm, this was a thatched cottage called Acar Wen and was rented to Mr & Mrs Williams and they had a daughter called June who was the same age as Jackie, when we got to the cottage we were greeted by Mrs Williams who informed us that June had not come back from school and Bob was at work so we had to come back after tea or better still come and have tea with us because I’ve made some biscuits, then we went to another thatched cottage called Llwyn-y-Gog where an old lady lived , I think she was some relation to the Edwards’s, and was bedridden we had to go and meet her as Jackie would be running errands for her I never saw her again after that, then grandpa told us to go back to the farm and tell mum that we were having tea and a haircut at 6.00 in Acar-Wen , we could not leave the farm until after milking and the shipon was cleaned out so we arrived at Acar-Wen about 6.30, the Williams’s were waiting outside the cottage in the lane for us and we were greeted with, its about time you got here been dawdling in the lane I suppose, come on the tea is spoiling, Acar-Wen was quite small inside but very cosy, we sat by the table with June and her parents sat on the fender stools by the fire place which was quite similar to the one at the farm but smaller, after tea we had our hair cut first a bowl was found that fitted Jackie’s head it was similar to the one we had our brewass in but it was blue and white and any hair outside the bowl was cut off with hand shears then the bowl was taken off and the rest of the hair was trimmed with scissors, the hair on my brothers crown always stuck up and bob said to my brother “just like the cockerel” stop teasing him June butted in, then I asked June what is a cockerel, she said it was the man chicken the one that wakes us up in the morning, I said, you can hear it all the way from here, she looked at me puzzled then said come on I will show you, so we waited for Jackie’s hair to be done and off we went to see the cockerel “ what a disappointment I was expecting to see something at least the size of a cow considering the noise it was supposed to make and here it was sitting in the middle of the chickens, and of course we had heard the cockerel before but it was called the cock “you know when the cock crows“ But to the Edwards‘s cock was a swear word so they used cockerel, that is what fooled us, then it was my turn to have my hair cut I was sat on the stool and put a towel around my neck Just like Jackie then I was told to take my beret off, I only took my cap off if I was told to, and the hospital did give it me to keep the wound clean, the day before I was told to take it off to go in the chapel and was told only the women are to wear headdresses, so it crossed my mind that I was being sissy wearing this beret, anyway I took my cap off and there was all kinds of fuss made over this scar on my head
First there was a kiss off Mrs Williams saying ooh that will make it better and oh! You are a brave little boy, then bob saying we can bring his hair forward to hide it , then June asked how did you do it/ I said I did not know , then Jackie said Some boy pushed me against the radiator and cracked his head open, and most of his brains were left in the hospital and that is why he is so stupid, I didn’t say anything because I was enjoying all the fuss and attention I was getting , on the way out of the cottage June had my cap on her head and said you are leaving something I told her too keep it as I did not need it anymore and said she looked like Johnny onions” it looked better on her anyway , on the way back to the farm Jackie said I looked like friar tuck , I told him he looked like the cockerel , Jacky’s hair always stuck up on his crown , so we had a fight in the lane, the lane was a course rubble lane that had been smoothed off over the years by the cows and the small amount of vehicles that passed over it. And another of our jobs was to fill in the potholes if we ever saw one appear usually they came after the rain. When the cattle come from the upper fields for milking, and with the coarseness of the stones during the fight my head was opened up and was bleeding quite badly, the fight stopped, I suppose he was afraid the rest of my brains would come out of my head, on getting back to the farm, Jackie said I was running and I fell over, so I was washed down and a plaster was put on my head, and was told its only a graze and maybe now I will have some sense, I took this as, now I am not stupid.
That night in our room I asked my brother questions like what happened to my head? we had never discussed this before, apparently my big brother saw the incident and I asked if what he was saying while having our hair cut was true, then he told me you where playing, and it just happened , you were on the floor with blood coming out of your head the matron came in and thought you were dead and you were taken by ambulance to hospital, I asked who pushed me. And he said again, you were just playing and it happened,
I asked how long was I in Hospital, (I knew I was not dead) I don’t know but it was a long time, but we were all told that when you come back we have to look after you as some of your brain is missing (not damaged) < one thing about my brother he never questioned anything, black is black and white is white,
He asked “ do you remember yesterday you were going to run away,” he did not have to say anymore,
Next day we were up with the sun as it came in through our window on to our bed, went to the shipon to do our chore and we where confronted by a new face , dad said he was the gwas ( welsh for farm labourer) and he was soon to go in the army as he had his call up papers, and we must learn all from him on how the work is to be done seeing that we will be taking his place when he leaves at the end of harvest time. And he has been to the medical examiner to see if he was fit to go in the army . At that he got hold of the mucking out fork and made like it was a rifle. And said he was going to kill some gorillas in the Congo, I asked what are gorillas, he said they where bad and they were killing people in Africa, then the order came from dad to get to work things do not get themselves done around here,
“now I had visions of these monkeys running around with guns in Africa“,
The new face on the farm Was Bob Jones, but only new to us, Bob had been there with the last owner of Cil Llwyn, as usual was the case on farms in them days, Bob was a very kind chap and must have only been 18 as that was call up age, and taught us a lot about how the farm was run, even a few tricks to keep the cows happy while milking, one cow loved an apple before milking that is the one that mum had strapped up the day before, she did not know about the apple, so I guess in the cows mind it was where is my apple before I kick you.
He taught us how cows had habits, like always being in order when the cows were let in for milking it was always the same cow in order, and if A cow dried up she had to be let in the milking parlour or there would be confusion with the rest of the herd as to there places in the parlour as was the case of one cow that went to near the river bank and the bank gave way with the cow in the river feet up and drowned,
She was the third cow in so for three days there was great confusion with the herd, the main reason was the milking bays were for 2 cows the rail in the middle separated the two cows so milking was done either to the right or to the left, so losing one cow meant the cows after no 3 were milked opposite to what they were used to, so kicking the pail was the order of the day , the cows also knew when it was milking time if they were in the top pasture they would all be waiting at the gate in the lane to be let out so they could make there way to the yard ready for milking, on the farm apart from the two cart horses their was on old fordson tractor bob showed us how to start this contraption up, first the petrol was turned on, then the switch was tripped no key just a switch for ignition from the dynamo, the dynamo was to set spark to the pistons, turning the handle to start this machine was an art in itself the handle was cranked until it was hard to turn, then it took a greater effort to combust the engine if this was not done at the right moment it would kick back leaving you with a bad bruise, or worse,
The only thing the tractor was used for was drawing a trailer for the dung, called a muck spreader but it did not do any spreading as the chains to drive the spreader were all rusted up, so it was used just as a dung trailer,, or pulling the hay cart when it was time to get the hay and corn in, in the summer months the cleaning up after milking and the manure out of the sheds was put in a manure pile , this in the winter would be moved again and put in piles in the field latter to be spread by fork to an even spread on the field that would be either ploughed in or used as fertilizer for the hay fields then chain harrowed and later as the grass was growing in spring it would be rolled.
The first months at the farm, first there was the hay cutting which was done by the horse pulling a scythe this contraption was all steel
And the blades for cutting worked off the turning of the wheels as drawn by the horse
Getting to know the tractor,
Every Saturday our new mum and dad went to Denbigh mainly for the weeks groceries and the Smithfield market to buy or sell live stock. In the beginning we went with them quite regular as we needed a school uniform and boots had to be ordered then we had to have them fitted and always they would be 2 sizes to big so they would last as we grew into them as soon we would be going to the church of England junior school in Bodfari, this one time they left us on the farm to do the cleaning out of one of the over winter sheds that housed the fat stock cattle. these had been collected during the week for slaughter. And the shed was deep in manure and straw that had accumulated over the winter, by 10.0clock the muck cart was full. This was left there by Mr Edwards just after milking time. But the shed was still half full of manure. And the cart was so close to the doorway we cold not use a wheelbarrow which would have been the only other means of getting the manure out, so me being a clever little boy I decided that I would use the tractor, not forgetting we had only been on the farm a few weeks and I was only about 3 foot 6” tall , I set about starting this mechanical monster that I had watched Bob & Mr Edwards start with great ease.
First the switch had to be put on then the petrol had to be switched from tvo on the carburettor , “easy “ then I told Jackie to press the accelerator down as this was always a two man Job to get started, now came the turning of the crank handle , it turned with great ease but nothing happened until I realized the handle had to be pushed into a pivot and this had a recoil spring on for ejection as soon as the engine started, so it was quite an effort to push and turn the handle at the same time but in my stubbornness , I managed to get it started, luckily it was left in neutral , if it would have been in gear none of the following would of happened, because if it was in Gear I would of just thought it was not possible for me to turn the handle and left it at that,
Now the tractors of old where not equipped with levers, synchronised gearboxes as modern day machines this was a double clutch job and the peddle had to be pushed all the way down to get it in Gear, 1st gear was as slow as a snail even with the engine running at full throttle
So now I had a live tractor between my legs, and being short this was a stand up job, one foot on the brake one on the gear change peddle and a hand on the throttle , this was situated under the steering wheel, just a simple piece of iron on a ratchet that would adjust the speed of the engine by pulling it in or out, now if the speed was to high It would grind the gears so had to be almost on idle before you could get it in a gear, the same even if the tractor was moving and to go through the gears it had to be double clutched ( foot on the peddle to disengage then off then pressed down to engage the next gear) that is double the clutch, the tractor was parked with its front to the hay rick so had to be reversed now I knew there was a reverse, and it was clearly marked on the gear box but me being me did not bother reading the instructions because I did not know what they meant , 1 2 3 r, so I tried them all first got me in the hay rick second gear it stalled and now we had no chance of getting this contraption started again as the crank handle was well embedded in the hay, now I knew I was in trouble
So I tried to push the tractor back to no avail, this was a 2 ton plus job with steel wheels, the only thing I could think of was my new friends the horses they where strong enough to pull a fully laden cart , but problem was I had no Idea on how to tack the shires, so they could pull the tractor with the steel chains, then we heard the Edwards’s coming down the lane , they where back early with a big livestock lorry behind them. I went and hid in the corn barn from there I could peep through the air brick vents on all that happened in the yard , on their arrival Jackie went to meet them saying Tony has been naughty again and has got the tractor stuck in the hay, I told him not to but he wanted to move the muck cart so I could finish the cleaning out,
now the lorry arrived so all was stopped , they had bought 8 cows 6 milkers & 2 heifers in calf, bringing the total of milking cattle to 30, + 10 young calves for fattening up ( more shit to clean up)
Once the animals where housed and the lorry had gone it was time to find Tony, so my name was called a few times then My brother said He has run away he said he was going to run away back to the Home (orphanage) so mr Edwards got in his car to go and find me, an hour later he returned saying he will be back when he’s hungry. Then he started shouting at Jackie , I left you in charge and started slapping him across the face . At this I ran out of the barn and started shouting to leave my brother alone its not his fault, I started the tractor so we could finish the cleaning out , but that fell on deaf ears . He said how dare you talk back we are your elders, and I let it all came out, I told them my name is Tony not Anthony and my brothers name is Jackie not David John. You have got the wrong children and we do not like you and we do not want to stay here, next thing I knew he had me on his knee strapping me with his belt on my bare bottom, It just seemed to go on forever when he had finished I couldn’t even stand up and Mrs Edwards had to carry me up to my bed,
I lay there for 2 days refusing to come out Jackie had been moved to the attic room to sleep , then they started talking through the door saying stupid things like you must not let your new dad get angry again, stay there see if we care you will be down when you get hungry, be a good boy and they will have no reason to hit you again, the third day I was getting a little bit more than hungry and there was a lot of activity in the yard people talking a lot of horses and carts around, then came this huge machine a steam tractor and threshing box came trundling into view of my bedroom, I had never seen anything like this before smoke filled every corner of the yard , as did the bacon cooking smell fill my bedroom, so I went down in my pyjamas on an excuse I needed water, on arriving in the kitchen gran said I knew you would be down and gave me a big hug, and said while they are all busy outside we will have some bacon and turnip mashed potatoes, I was that hungry even a bowl of brewass would have been good, and my curiosity grew to a point where I asked gran what that machine was in the yard , she said it must be something to do with the corn because tomorrow we will be making fresh bread, now my imagination was running wild as to this thing in the yard. So I put my working clothes on and my new hobnailed boots, so I could help with the making of bread,
When I arrived in the yard there was a lot of people, these I found out where the people from neighbouring farms who all helped each other during harvest time, the steam engine called a fowler traction engine as was written on the front of the machine, was being coupled up to the threshing box with a pulley belt and the wooden blocks put against the wheels to keep the belt at the right tightness, there where 3 corn stacks in the yard 2 wheat and 1 barley , and the machine had been placed between them for ease of getting the sheaths of corn into the top of the box. Once it started up there was dust everywhere from the back of the box this was the chaff the actual corn came out of a chute where a sack was put to be filled up and it would be taken in turns by 3 men and put in the granary , so only 3 sacks were used for the whole of the threshing
Some would be sold but most would be put in the granary for fodder, Barley was crushed for the fat stock and wheat for the milkers and the flour to make bread etc, the pig lived on it mixed with either whey from the butter making, or milk
That evening at tea time dad said , so you want to drive the tractor, well tomorrow we shall see how good you are, as I said there was always a reason with them, nothing else was said so the next day before the men came to finish the threshing I had my first lesson right after cleaning out the milking shed, dad sat on the tractor and gave the instructions on the first attempt he put it in gear and of course I could not turn the handle so lesson number one make sure the engine is not in Gear, then I was order to try again this time it made a phut noise and back fired, and almost took my thumb off as the handle spun in reverse from the backfire , lesson no 2 always grab the handle with out your thumb just the 4 fingers, next attempt it fired up , so my starting the engine the first time with Jackie was sheer fluke. Then it was my turn to drive He showed me all the gears 3 forward and one to go back. Then it was stop and start , that was it he told me to drive in the field to get the hang of it and lesson no one was over in five minutes, I was on my own, as I was in the field the farms arrived an d the thresher was put to work, and I was told to go and get the trailer to move the chaff, and spread it on the fields where the fat stock where, my helper was June who would be riding in the trailer and as the tractor went around the field she would be throwing the chaff out on the field, leaving behind us great clouds of dust, all that day I had to learn how to reverse with a trailer and change gear the first few loads it was in first and was told it was taking too long to get around the field and had to learn to change gear while on the move, it was hard work as the day was progressing my tiny legs where getting tired, and even for a grown up four hours of tractor driving would be tiring even if it had rubber tyres and a synchromesh gear box, and I never volunteered for the tractor driving job again, but now I was the official tractor driver soon after the harvest was finished they bought a grey Massey fergie This was bought with a box attachment for the rear and was to be used to take the milk churns to the top of the lane for pick up by lorry for the creamery, 6 churns each day
The other attachment was for scraping the cow shit out of the shipon it was of steel construction with a rubber scrapper . Both these attachments could be raised and lowered with the hydraulic lever it also had a pulley attachment to drive other attachments but mainly for the saw bench the corn and mangle grinders. It also came with a two furrow plough, And this was my new tractor it was started the same way as the fordson tvo Petrol engine and a crank handle to the front but it was a real step up to the old fordson, most of the horse drawn things over the next year where converted to being drawn by tractor .three years later we had a new ford dexta when one of the shires died. And the other was put out to graze and died the year after,
The harvest time
The first year on the farm we where not involved with the hay, the corn fields where already in ears that time would ripen and turn the crop a gold colour before it was ready to cut, the horses where harnessed up to pull the binder
this was an old model and only cut the corn then it would be hand sheathed this was done by picking 4/5 stalks and wrapping it around on armful of corn stems and tying it with a twist. Twelve sheaths would be stood upright leaning against one another to dry then they would be collected up on to the hay wagon by pitchfork when the load got high there was a knack in throwing the sheaths with a twist of the wrist to the person stacking on the top of the load,
The base of the new stack was made up of branches these would keep the corn off the ground and would act as on airier beneath the stack
And would be laid in a circle the stack was then made by putting the ears of the corn to the middle and the cut of the stem to the outside so if it rained it would keep the corn dry the top of the stack would be cone shaped then covered with a tarpaulin sheet, and was ready for when the threshing machine came on its round of the local farms, during corn cutting as the field was cut in a circle and got smaller and smaller a net would be put around part of the field to catch the rabbits that had gone to the middle of the field would get caught in the net, these where then taken to the butcher shop in Denbigh but a few would be kept in the cooler , this was a hole dug in the ground with poles in the banks to hang the game , i.e., pheasant, ,hare, pigeon ,partridge, rabbit and pigeon would be in the cooler for up to a week before it was ate the other meat was hung until it was ripe that meant until the maggots where in and it started to smell, we used to have wonderful rabbit & pigeon pies but I did not like the gamed meat as it had a strong taste, also I had to clean them before giving them to gran for cooking , when they came to the table I could imagine the maggots that I had cleaned out of them” yuck”
But for most of the year we could eat rabbit and pigeon always beef or pork roast on Sundays chicken was always available these apart from the cockerels would be culled after 2 years laying eggs and would be called boilers the young birds could be put in the oven and roasted but the old birds had to be boiled I asked gran why and she said they would be tough as old boots, now from the hard days stories Gran and grandpa used to tell us I imagined that they must of tasted old boots, so I asked what they tasted like , she laughed and said, how do you think I lost most of my teeth, and he, pointing to grandpa has lost most of his, so they must of eaten quite a few, the fruit trees where getting ripe and ready for picking , all they where to me at the time where fruit trees, plums apples and pears , now I know them by names First the damsons where ready, most of these where made into jam as was the greengage and the Victoria plums, some would be half cooked and put in what is known as pickle jars , the only apples and pairs that where eaten at harvest time where the windfalls some apples would go to make apple and blackberry jam my favourite. Jam was stored in screw top lid Jars , But the ones that where picked where stored in the attic of the main house, russets and golden delicious where not good keepers and would be either sold or made into juice, the pippins and granny smith cookers would keep for almost 12 months if stored in the right place where the winter frost could not get at them like in the winter of 57 they lost a whole clamp of potatoes about 10 tons and beet all the apples got the frost, after harvest while looking for fire wood in the hedgerows it was the time when the hazel nuts where ready after a good wind these would be wind fell and all that was needed was to pick them up, that is as long as the squirrels had not been there first, some times if there was a bad season I would sit in the hedge row to see where the squirrels hid them for their winter stock usually they would put them in an old rabbit hole , when rabbits burrowed in the hedge rows if they hit too many roots they would abandon the dig ,these where the ones the squirrels used, some times there would be more than 200 nuts in one place they could not eat all these nuts so in the spring the nuts would grow and over the years it would make good thick hedge rows. It was also blackberry season and usually gran would need about 20 lb just to make the jams for the household, blackberry, rhubarb, apple & pears would be made into pies from the pickle jars all the year round, nothing like home made puddings served with home made custard after Sunday roast diner, as the weather got colder mid November the pigs would be culled and cured this was done in the back yard , first it was killed by slicing its throat then hung over a pail so the blood ran out, the blood was used to make black pudding. Its bladder mad a good football this had to be blown up while still warm .as it cooled the bladder hardened the valve was the inlet tube of the urine this was folded and tied with twine then pushed inside what is now the ball, if looked after the football would last about 2 months once it was burst it could not be repaired so was thrown away, then the pig was scalded with hot water and only thing I can think about is shaved of all its hair. Then the head would be cut off and boiled in a muslin sack “ as it was“, with herbs and spices, cooled off then sieved and made into brawn. The rest of the pig would be cut into pieces and salt cured in the tin bath, so no bath for us for 5 weeks “hooray“. After it was cured it would be hung in the pantry and sliced when needed, the trotters made good soup cooked with lentils , and as they say the only part not eaten of the pig is the squeal, another messy job we had to do was clean the intestines out as the skin would be used to make sausages,
today pigs are taken to the slaughter house and not fed for 2 days , what they call cleaning out but this taints the flavour of the meat as I proved when I reared my own rare breed pigs in the 80s,
I will stay with the pig story
When we arrived at the farm there was 3 pigs called dolly, a huge thing I am not sure of its breed but it was either a large white or a landrace ,the others pork and bacon, these where fed from kitchen waste milk and flour and the two porkers where given the whey from the butter making when available and mixed with crushed barley as a staple diet to fatten them up,
The pig sty buildings where in the yard and opposite the kitchen of the main house also the milk sieving shed, the milk in them days was just sieved direct into the big churns and taken away to the creamery in Tremerchion, dolly was also allowed to graze in the orchard after windfall to eat what was left of the fruit on the ground. She was also a very clever pig she knew that if she rubbed hard enough against the trees she would create her own wind falls, her favourite was the damson. And knew when to hit the tree these trees she would hit in the late afternoon with her backend causing clouds of damsons to fall, we also knew it was time to harvest the tree , some trees would be ripe 2 or3 weeks apart, the year before we came dolly had her first litter of 12