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1. Summertime and the Boys on the Beach
2. Images of the Past - Thistleboon House
3. "Coming Out" - by Grafton Maggs
by Kate Jones and Clive Jenkins
Remember those summer childhoods? No school, just long, hot days, baking in the sunshine followed by long, hot nights, tossing and turning under a sheet in the heat. If we were lucky there were trips to the beach, running in and out of the sea, digging sandcastles and peering into rock pools, clambering over rocks, the feel of slippery seaweed beneath bare feet, the crunch of sand in fish paste and soggy tomato sandwiches, annoying wasps, the delicious coldness of ice cream, getting dressed under a skimpy towel and the long walk home dragging buckets and spades, toes sticky with salt and too much sun on your arms and shoulders
Sometimes the memories were captured by the family camera and small prints ('snaps' we called them) were stuck in albums, passed down through generations. Did Granny really wear all those clothes on the beach? Doesn't Dad look silly with that knotted hanky on his head! Was that where uncle got stung by a jelly fish? Just look at that knitted bathing costume, heavy with water, threatening to fall down ... Oh, but we had such fun then!
The 1950s: 1955 was the year Anthony Eden became Prime Minister after Winston Churchill's resignation; the first edition of the Guinness Book of Records was published; Cardiff became the capital of Wales and Bill Haley and the Comets topped the charts with Rock Around the Clock. After a cold winter with snow and sleet in May the summer was very dry and warm with lots of sunshine and very little rain; by the autumn there was a severe drought. The summer of 1957 was fine as well but 1959 had one of the longest spells of hot, dry weather of the 20th century. Down at Rotherslade during those summers a group of local youngsters were certainly having fun in the sun - as Clive Jenkins remembers.
1950s Summers at Rothersiade and Langland - remembered by Clive Jenkins
The weather: 'We'd go down to the beach on our bikes with pannier bags packed with whatever we could cadge off our Mums. "See you next week Mum ..." We spent more time down there than we ever did at home. The summers we had in those days were so prolonged and so idyllic. We all bathed and baked in it week after week, 'til we had to stop. We got so brown. We realised we were getting burnt. / don't think there was such a thing as sun cream but someone suggested putting something on from their mother's larder. We thought it might be of some use. I've no idea if it was.'
'The White Elephant': 'There was a big concrete building known as the 'White Elephant' at the back of the beach at Rothersiade. Outside it there were deckchairs - hundreds of them. In the evenings the council workers would build these stacks of deckchairs eight feet high. So you'd have all these nice chairs with not too much sag so they were taut enough to give you a nice place to sleep. We'd pull our bikes up at the back and hunker down and go to sleep.'
'One night we were sitting in a great curve in the White Elephant about six or seven feet away from a fire we'd made, playing guitars and singing, when suddenly there was one hell of an explosion. Lumps of concrete were flying through the air! Concrete absorbs moisture and the 'White Elephant' sometimes got a real dousing at high tide. The hot fire had heated the moisture in the concrete wall and the pressure built up so much as it tried to expand that eventually it couldn't hold its shape any longer and it exploded! We threw ourselves backwards off our deckchairs to dodge the flying concrete ... how we didn't get hurt I don't know!
Making canoes: 'We made our own canoes. They were made of soft wood. I'd go down to a wood yard by the docks and strap 10 foot lengths on my bike and ride astride them. Once I got going the wood got a rhythm of its own, swinging the bike. If I caught sight of a policeman I'd be off my bike and walking it. I started making the canoes - got the drawings from a man called Percy Blandford who lived on the Somerset coast. You could make them in different sizes. We covered them with canvas which we painted.'
Water skiinq: 'Having made our own canoes we decided to have a go at building a boat. We were dead set on water and snow skiing - but no chance of either. For a start we didn't have a boat. Down at Oystermouth there was the Motorboat and Fishing Club with buildings where they repaired fishing boats. So we approached them and asked, if we were to join their club would they allow us to build a boat there? We built our first ski boat from timbers, but we then had to find an engine from somewhere. We found out about a place in Swansea that sold 'outboards' We'd never heard of an 'outboard' and had no idea if one would be powerful enough - but it was the start of our water-skiing!'
'Then we had a bit of luck - we got offered the loan of a much bigger engine by a man at the club, so we tacked it onto the back of our boat. We went zooming along rather faster than we expected and hit the bottom and took the engine offi It was hanging under water on its length of cable. We were absolutely mortified. We'd mucked up an expensive engine, belonging to someone who had lent it to us. We opened it all up, turned it upside down, drained it and let it dry out - and it re-started first time. So we were able to give it back - later we told him what had happened.'
Gymnastics on the beach: 'We had to clear the whole area of pebbles - and it's a stony beach - so we wouldn't land on them when the pyramid collapsed and we all came crashing down. We did it for our own fun but people enjoyed it, sitting with their backs against the rocks and watching. The locals on the beach all had their own patch where they always sat. They watched us perform - we were part of their background.'
Alan climbed up until he got where he wanted to be. Terry was always at the top because he was a great gymnast. Peter had broader shoulders and was always on the bottom. Coming down we would slide and go down very carefully until you were low enough to drop. Tumbling down could be very dicey.'
'The summers we had in those days were so prolonged and so idyllic.'
As well as Clive Jenkins, 'the boys on the beach' included Alan Bevan,
Keith Davies, Fritz
Edwards, Roger Gammon, John Ham, John Hulin, Ken Hulin (who took most of the photographs), Ed Jackson, Derek Jones, Alan Lewis, Dinks Nash, Terry Nash, John 'Henry' Morgan, Ed Parfait, George Rogers, Peter Shapton and Geoff Williams. They were joined by others including Liz Gammon, Sue Jones and Pauline Sutton.
If you like to see more about The Boys on the Beach there are displays in Oystermouth Library [from July until November] and the Surf Side Café, Rotherslade.
Older residents of Mumbles will remember an impressive building at the top of Thistleboon Road. It was a large stone turreted place known locally as 'Thistleboon House'.
Before it was demolished in the 1970s to make way for the new houses on Western Close [where the Vicarage now stands] it had been converted into flats. But for much of its life it was known as the 'St David's Orphanage for Destitute Children' run by Sisters of the 'Community of the Name of Jesus'. The above photograph dates from 1907.
The community of sisters of the Name of Jesus was first founded in 1865 by Fr George William Herbert to work in the deprived communities in Vauxhall, London. It has become the largest religious community for women in the worldwide Anglican Communion. Known today as the 'Community of the Holy Name' [CHN] the sisters continue to work with some of the poorest of families at home and abroad. The ministry of these wonderful nuns has recently been immortalised in the popular BBC series 'Call the Midwife', set in the 1950s East End of London.
Thistleboon House could care for up to forty children. Older worshippers at All Saints remember the children walking in line to Church on Sunday mornings and to Sunday School later in the day. They also attended the Church School at the Dunns and played a full part in parish life. Successive Vicars of Oystermouth were Chaplains to Thistleboon House and the home was run by a nun who was affectionately known as 'Lady'.
Years after leaving Thistleboon house Amy Winters [now living in Canada] wrote about her time there with great fondness. She published her story in a very interesting book entitled 'Lady and Me'. For her, the years she lived at the orphanage were among the happiest of her long life.
'The most important person there was someone we called 'Lady'. She was to become the only mother I ever knew and I will always love her. Her real name was Rose Margaret Scott and she taught us that 'You are very special and as good as anyone else, and every one of you is capable of doing anything you set your heart to.'
For a long time - perhaps the best part of a decade - I had been getting on the nerves of all those around me and, even though I have never been the most perceptive of human beings, this message had at last got through to me. Friends had been too polite and thoughtful to pass direct comment and it was really this misguided indulgence that had helped perpetuate the charade I had created about myself. But it wasn't all my fault - it never is.
But now, the strain of trying to carry off all the acts of everyday life as a normal person [whatever that is] was getting to me and I was beginning to withdraw from the company of those with whom I liked to mingle. Something had to give and when it did, it was all sudden and rather upsetting.
One Sunday evening, after a beautiful summer's day, I sat in my daughter's garden beneath the lengthening shadow of the cherry tree. It was that winsome time of day, when, though the air was cooling, a still and sultry warmth lie about us. Far away, the sound of distant traffic, carrying tired people home from the beaches, could just be heard as a background to the quietening evening. It was all rather lovely. Then my daughter spoke,
I missed what she said.
'Sorry ?... Eh? Wossat?'
Bobby closed her eyes, drew in air laboriously between her teeth and then, ten decibels louder, exclaimed,
'Had a good day, Dad?'
'Oh! Yeah! Yeah! OK! Fine! What about yourself?'
'Great! Went down to Rhossilli - boarded with a few friends'.
'No need to feel silly, Bobby; I'm often bored with my friends.'
'Oh! Dad! Dad! What are you talking about! Crikey! For goodness sake! I give up!'
Even so, she repeated her message, louder still, with laborious emphasis on each syllable
and turned away, shaking her head, muttering something under her breath. Piqued, I thought it time
to leave. I made my excuses and, with great dignity, stiffly made my departure. If people must
garble and slur their words - don't blame me not hearing them! The pleasant, relaxing summer evening's ambience had been dispersed instantly, by just a few sharp words, quicker than a bishop's handshake.
But, there was a ruder awakening to come, from another source. A week or so later in my son's home, after a sumptuous lunch, there was another little contretemps. A seemingly minor spat which, however, was to go on and have far reaching effects, in that it set in motion a series of events that were to be life changing, as far as I was concerned.
It all started off innocently enough with Glen holding forth, during the meal, on that ubiquitous, ethereal, mind-consuming phenomenon that has come to haunt our lives - 'Brexit'. Like my peers, this was a subject on which I had little knowledge other than that acquired from media reports. All I knew that was positive was that if Brexit were to take place, [transformed into flesh as it were], it would either totally bankrupt the country for ever, or, it would transport us back to the glorious days of the Empire, the Raj, with our coffers overflowing with gold. Glen expounded his views. I looked earnestly into his face, nodding occasionally to what I could hear,
'Wurra, wurra, wurra, Boris.. ..wurra, May... wurra, EU.....bankers, the lot of them.. .wurra .wurra..
Whenever Glen paused, I would pass remarks,
'Hm, maybe..... You think so? Of course' I suppose so —it's possible.............
Glen, like most highly intelligent, busy individuals, is not the most patient of people and soon, this conversation which could hardly be called one of interchange, drove him to pursue another topic.
He liked an intelligent feedback which he certainly wasn't receiving. He switched the conversation,
'Tell me, aren't you proud of Joseph's efforts at UCL?."
'Sorry! What? Lucy? Who's Lucy?' Glen groaned. Raised his eyes to the heavens and his voice with them,
'No Dad! Not Lucy! UCL! UCL! - University College of London! Joseph, your number one great grandson! He's done well at UCL! He's got a First!'
'You surprise me! A thirst? I never thought he was a boozer".
Glen fumed, waved his hands in despair; he shook his head,
'Oh, never mind Dad! I think we'd better leave this leave it.... Anyway he's in Yale now.' 'Good Heavens, whatever for? First offence? Was he drunk and disorderly?'
That was it! Glen exploded. And then the truth came pouring out!! A great moment of enlightenment!
'Dad, please! For all our sakes! For our sanity. - Look at me! Read my lips or something! We have put up with this for years! What few friends you have left, have put up with it for years! Father Keith has put up with it for years! Wai Chow has put up with it for years! Even the bloody postman has put up with it for years!
'We are sick and tired of your acting and pretending to understand what we are saying. Sick of your ambiguous, vague, mumbling replies! Face up to it! You cannot hear us! You are deaf!! Go to your doctor, or something! Please, do something about it! Get a hearing aid!!! Pleeesase!'
Naturally, I was knocked back by this outburst and went home bruised - this was 88mm cannon stuff and it took a few days for me to reassemble my thoughts. Gradually, the cerebral dust settled, clarity of thought returned and I came to realise that I had experienced a pivotal moment in my life. My son, Glen, had spoken the truth.
I had been aware for some time that the sounds of life about me were retreating a little more with each passing day and I had fought valiantly to mask this by pretending to hear clearly. Now, I asked myself, why? Why the act, the pretense?
The honest answer lie wrapped up in the tinsel of my vanity. I didn't want people to see
me for what I really was - an old man, getting older at an accelerating rate and burdened with something that could only get worse. Deafness [in my mind] was an indication of this approaching senility and at the heart of it all was the fear of having to display this handicap by wearing a device plugged into my ear, connected to a chunky block of plastic resting behind it. This would scream out [literally- sometimes] to all and sundry the fact that I was deaf - stricken with that only physical handicap upon which the majority of those unaffected look with amusement, derision, little sympathy and much impatience. So what was I to do about it?
I had to pocket my pride. For years I had deluded myself into thinking that I had been successful in hiding my handicap from others. That intense look of concentrated intelligence which I
adopted! My vigorous nods! The feigned empathy of the buddy-to -buddy chuckle! Then the
frantic celebral grappling with the few registered words to establish a coherent understanding! Now, stark and sudden was the realisation that those about me, with an ounce of acuity - even Father Keith - had twigged the situation and had been just jogging along with it —out of kindness and respect. Indeed it had all been a charade!
That night, I slept on it. Fitfully. But, by morning I was awake with my mind made up. No more masking my true self within a false being and its constant psychological strain.
I decided to 'come out' ....... and damn the consequences!
I had to let the world know who the true me now was! No longer would I pretend to be something other than what nature intended me to be!
The first thing was to take advice and I was surprised to find out how sympathetic most people were. I discovered, suddenly, that I was surrounded by people who were either deaf themselves or had someone close who was similarly afflicted. As a result, I was showered with advice and, in next to no time, I was able to rationalise this information and condense it down to the making of a decision. There was no doubt about it, I had to get a hearing aid!
First problem, NHS or Private? Quick decision - the NHS! The bulk of people spoke in favour of this route and, as I had contributed to it all my working life [and still am] that was my choice.
Sadly, though dealt with quickly, efficiently and kindly, the NHS was unable to help me. As a young soldier, my right ear had been irreparably damaged - a legacy of the days when no noise protection was supplied for small arms fire. As regards the left ear, which was the only other one I had, it turned out that there were bony spicules in the canal which prevented the fitting of an earpiece. Sorry! No can do! So! Hobson's Choice - go privately.
Quandary! This was a real, spitting hot cauldron of mixed opinion. From their personal experiences many of those to whom I spoke, told me, bitterly, of having paid a small fortune for a private device only to be disappointed by its performance or, even, non-function. Some had never been satisfied and yet had failed to be refunded a penny from a fee, often in excess of £1,000.
Then, another piece of advice niggled away in my mind, from an All Saints fellow communicant:
'Don't, what ever you do, respond to any advert by filling in a form or by supplying your personal details over the phone! Once they've got you on their computers they'll hound you until Pressdee's take you away in a box. Most hearing aid salesmen are trained by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police - 'they always get their man'. I don't mean they'll come up your drive one day on a white horse, with a red jacket and a big hat, singing "The Indian Love Call" - they're too clever for that. They look like normal people except that they shave, wear collars and ties and have haircuts'.
In the end, it was a trusted and wise old cousin who saved the day. After a long exploration in a dense forest of cyber research, he had emerged with the name of a good private supplier and had acquired a new hearing aid. He was content with it - not jumping about the cage like a demented footballer - but certainly content. He advised,
'First of all recognise, that in the private sector you are dealing with a business, not a charity or a state service. The prime purpose of this business is to make a handsome profit. The audiologist dealing with you is there to get a sale. He is on commission. He's not on your side! It's a war! Some are worse than others. And before you get anywhere near having your aid - they demand you put your money on the table before you've even seen the device! Mind you, the guy I eventually finished up with was not so bad as the other four I'd seen. Oh yes! One other thing, watch out for the pressure salesman who says you need two aids before you've even tried one by itself - be
thankful you've only got two ears. Remember, it's a war!'
I should mention at this stage that I did not heed this advice fully. Coming out of Ian Boyd's shop one morning, I saw a small advert in his window:
"Save many pounds on Hearing Aids!"
"Second hand aids for sale. Reconditioned like new in our Silicon Valley standard laboratories, Glen Road, Norton. From only £15.00. Fitted while you wait." [A local telephone number was appended and an email address: muttandjeffgmx.com)
I phoned, made an appointment and my son ran me across in his car. I knocked and was received at the door by a very tall gentleman wearing a pair of filthy oil stained overalls. Obviously he had been working on some very highly sensitive electronic project. His reply to my greeting was brief,'
'Ave yer brought yer fifteen quid?'
I paid him. He searched in his pocket and unearthed a small piece of pink plastic, mixed up with two pencil stubs, a packet of Rizla and a squashed tube of Anusol.
Without ceremony, there in the passage, he stuck it into my ear [the piece of pink plastic],
'Off yer go, mate!'
I walked out to the car and hopped in. I spoke to Glen,
"Well, I've had it fitted, Glen!"
"Thank goodness. What did it cost you?"
"Half past three," I replied.
Then, I decided to heed my cousin's advice and made an appointment with that same gentleman who had brought him back into the world of the hearing.
Within days of my phoning, I had an appointment and I was pleasantly surprised by the punctuality, the courtesy and efficiency with which I was received at the consulting rooms. A young gentleman introduced himself as my audiologist. He was well turned out - good haircut, polished shoes, nice suit and smelled of Lynx [pity about the ball point pen in the breast pocket].
He proceeded to examine my ears [which was not completely unexpected] using a fluted light thingy and made a few notes. Then came the audiological assessment followed by his recommended course of action,
'Forget the right ear, looks like the Kingsway. We concentrate on the left. We shall have a problem with the bony spicules but will accommodate those somehow. First we select an aid'.
He produced three specimens
"That one is the cheapest. Not good enough for you Mr. Maggs! Someone of your calibre deserves that little bit more finesse!' [I nodded eagerly - here was a man of great discernment] 'We call it 'the Deacon' It costs £700.00. Forget it!'
[For a brief moment the room swam about me - but I blinked it away].
'That leaves a choice between this one and our top of the range model - that one there - we call it 'the Archbishop'. Comes in at £2,500.'
[This time, I felt my legs turn to jelly and various sphincters twitch].
However!', and now, his voice became avuncular, 'No need to waste your money by paying that! You don't need it!' [I immediately recognised him as being a man of integrity. Again I nodded my head vigorously].
'This is the one for you and with the special discount is - a mere........... £1, 600. This is the one
we call 'the Vicar'
I smiled my gratitude - already this delightful man had saved me nearly a thousand pounds!
I pointed to the cheapest one,
'First, tell me, what can the £1,600 one do that the £700 cannot do?'
'I'm so glad you asked that, sir. How delightful it makes my job when I am dealing with a
person of such perception. Well, amongst other subtle differences, the more expensive one has the ability to be selective! It can pick out a conversation though surrounded by noise. When worn in the street it can neutralise the traffic sounds about you. It's a miracle of electronics - miniaturised.'
This lovely man convinced me. He took an alginate impression of my ear. I signed an agreement [without reading it], and handed over a cheque. I departed and half way home realised that I had forgotten to ask him if they did an 'Ordinand's model.
A week later I turned up for the fitting. He produced a little wallet which he opened and took out the aid.
'Doesn't look much for all that money, does it?'
He needn't have said that, I had a pair of eyes in my head - it looked like a lacquered cockle. He filled it. It did not hurt. It lie snugly within the auricle of my ear. He then calibrated it using a similar technique to the original test. It felt strange and to me my own speech sounded muted and distant.
'You'll get used to it. See you in a week'.
There were several follow up visits and adjustments were made over the weeks. Eventually, I was sent out to face the world on my own with the new appendage filling fairly comfortably into my left ear and calibrated to my needs.
Well, was it successful? Yes and No!
In one to one conversation? - a vast improvement.
After dinner speaker? Fine, near the front row.
Vicar in Church pulpit? Again fine, near front. But....
In any other scenario which has a noisy environment - it is a deafening disaster! Any
background noise such as traffic, children squealing, kitchen clatter, drowns out everything else - almost to a painful level. There was no automatic selection or deselection, no filtering off of background noise. I came to realise that my hearing aid was basically just a microphone coupled to a small ear phone via an amplifier - all miniaturised into a small electronic piece of wizardry!
However, in spite of this, the plusses outweighed the minuses. Slowly, as I adjusted to the
gadget, so the quality of my life much improved. I became the selective mechanism! I only fit my
aid for those occasions when there's something going on that I wish to hear.
There's an even more personal factor to all this. Coupled with the partial restoration of my hearing has been the greater blessing of 'coming out'. I am very much more my old relaxed self - no longer living a life of pretence. I blatantly insert my 'ear trumpet', in full view of any one. I positively flaunt my handicap! The balloon of my self-conceit has been pricked and I have regained that wonderful God-given quality of being able to laugh at myself.
Once again, I enjoy the privilege of clear listening: in one-to-one conversation, to after-dinner speakers, to lectures and the like. I am content with that, you can't have everything!
But, most of all, I revel in the despotic power I possess in that I can switch the thing off when anyone like Ant and Dec appear on that TV screen.
1.The Royal Maundy Service
2. Those who go down to the sea in ships
3 Last Launch on Lifeboat - Graham Wright
This year I was privileged to receive the Royal Maundy gift from Her Majesty the Queen at the Maundy Service in St George's Windsor and Henry accompanied me.
The Maundy Recipients are chosen from across the United Kingdom. The precise number of recipients is equal to The Queen's age and on this occasion there were 93 men and 93 women each nominated by the Bishops of their Dioceses. The Recipient are selected because of service to Church and community.
We were required to arrive at St George's between 9.30 and 10.15am for the service at 11.00 am. It was a beautiful sunny morning and we enjoyed the walk from our hotel to the Castle. We were seated at the north side of the chapel, which gave me a good view of the Queen's entrance at the North Door where she was presented with the traditional nosegay. We sang the hymn "Praise to the Holiest in the heights" while the Queen's procession moved passed us to The Nave. The procession was very colourful with the red and gold of the Yeomen of the Guard and the Military Knights of Windsor, the Chapel Royal Choir and the Royal Almonry in their finery. The Queen was dressed in yellow and was accompanied by Princess Eugenie. She was followed by the Children of the Royal Almonry who were selected from two local schools. The Lord High
Almoner (The Right Reverend Dr John Inge) and the
children were girded with white linen towels in remembrance of the act of washing of the feet and also carried the traditional nosegays.
The choir sang the Versicles and psalm 138 and the congregation sang three hymns. There were two lessons and no address. The first lesson was John 13:1-15 where Jesus washes the Disciples feet and commands them to do likewise. It is this command that gives rise to Maundy, which comes from the Latin mandatum meaning commandment. The first part of the distribution of the Maundy Gifts took place on the South side of the chapel after the first lesson.
The second lesson was Matthew 25:31- 46 and then the second part of the distribution took place on the North side. The full procession followed The Queen during the distributions and the Maundy purses were carried on six gold dishes by the Yeomen of the Guard.
The Lord High Almoner handed the Maundy purses to the Queen who personally gave two purses to each recipient, one white containing the silver Maundy coins, silver pennies, twopences, threepences and fourpences, as many pence as the Sovereign has years of age. The second purse
is red and contains a nominal allowance for clothing and provision; this year a £5 coin commemorating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Queen Victoria and a 50 pence piece commemorating Sherlock Holmes. The distribution was followed by prayers and the hymn 'My song
is love unknown" followed by the Blessing and the National Anthem. The Queen and the full procession left the Chapel and the bells of the Curfew Tower were rung.
The music before and during the service was magnificent. The service was sung by the choirs of St George's Chapel and Her Majesty's Chapel Royal and the organ was played by Mr Luke Bond, assistant director of music at St George's and Mr Martyn Noble, sub-organist Her Majesty's Chapel Royal.
We were then escorted out of the Chapel by Wandsmen and Lay Stewards where we were invited to attend a Reception in the State Apartments of the Castle either by foot or in vehicles provided. It was such a beautiful day that Henry and I opted to walk. The Reception was given by the Queen and hosted by the Constable and Governor of Windsor Castle.
The whole experience was most uplifting and memorable. We chatted to many recipients from Devon, Nottingham, Cheshire, Yorkshire and St Asaph and to the Military Knights who were obviously helping the Constable to host the event. We discovered that they are retired army officers who have a house for duty in the Castle grounds while they are active as Military Knights of Windsor.
A magnificent and spiritually up lifting day; we were most grateful to be there.
Background to the Royal Maundy
The distribution of alms and the washing of feet on the Thursday of Holy Week are of great antiquity. The Royal Maundy can be traced back in England to the thirteenth century and there are continuous records of the Distribution having been made on Maundy Thursday from the reign of King Edward I.
From the fifteenth century the number of recipients has been related to the years of the Sovereign's life. At one time recipients were required to be the same sex as the Sovereign, but since the eighteenth century they have numbered as many men and women as the Sovereign's age. The act of washing the feet was discontinued in 1730.
In earlier times the ceremony was observed wherever the Sovereign was in residence. For many years the Maundy Gifts were distributed in the old Chapel Royal (now the Banqueting Hall) in Whitehall, but from 1890 to 1952 the Service was held in Westminster Abbey. During the Queens reign since 1952, Her Majesty has visited many cathedrals and abbeys throughout the United Kingdom, notably St David's Cathedral in 1982. Recently the Service has been held in Windsor 2016, Leicester 2017 and Windsor 2018.
Pat Steane - Easter 2019
The new lifeboat slipway and pedestrian gangway, 1916
'A sight never to be forgotten'.
On the morning of 7 January 1916, Charlie Med/and was taken from her moorings and hauled up the new slipway by the winch. That afternoon an excited crowd watched the lifeboat crew cross the gangway from the pier to board the lifeboat. Ropes were loosened and the 13-ton Charlie Med/and glided down the 1-in-5 gradient in 6 seconds - plunging into the sea with a massive wave and a cloud of spray. The lifeboat righted herself and those on shore could see Coxswain Davies and his crew waving, signalling that the trial launch was a perfect success! The reporter for the Herald of
Wales described the launch: 'It was a sight never to be forgotten,' adding that 'the slip is a magnificent structure.'
The Charlie Medland on the new slipway, 1916 (PhotoRNLI)
Until the boathouse was added in 1922 a rail was erected around the platform and the lifeboat kept beneath a tarpaulin. The new slipway saved at least half an hour in launch time. On 4 October 1916 the Charlie Medland made her first service launch down the magnificent structure answering a distress signal from a schooner dragging her anchors near Scarweather Sands in the Bristol Channel.
William Tregarthen Douglass was born in Solva, Pembrokeshire in 1857. Educated at Dulwich College and Kings College, London, William was articled to his father, James Douglass, who was for many years Engineer-in-Chief to Trinity House. In his 20s he worked on the rebuilding of Eddystone Lighthouse and strengthening the Bishop Rock lighthouse, Scilly Isles (where he was resident engineer). His obituaries describe a life of 'devoted attention' to lighthouses (he was responsible for the construction of thirty-eight), marine illumination and sea-defence works. He was consulting engineer to the governments of Western Australia, New South Wales and Victoria and also to the RNLI - hence his plans for The Mumbles Lifeboat slipway and gangway.
Tragically, William Tregarthen Douglass never saw our completed slipway. On 10 August 1913, as the 53-foot piles were being positioned off Southend, the boat he was sailing in with his son capsized off Start Point near Dartmouth and he was drowned. He was only 56, but his legacy to The Mumbles Lifeboat was to remain in use for nearly 100 years.
© Kate Jones, 2019
Sources: The Mumbles Lifeboat Committee Minutes (West Glamorgan Archives); Grace's Guide, British Industrial History (accessed 3 April 2019); The Herald of Wales, 1916; The Mumbles Observer, 1890; RNLI Log Books for The Mumbles Lifeboat. Photographs courtesy of RNLI, family of M.A. Clare and the author.
Graham Wright, the Mumbles Lifeboat Standard Bearer, will go out on the all weather lifeboat for the last time as a member of the crew on Friday 17th May.
Graham has been a lifeboatman for over forty years and has a very distinguished record of service. He has also recently retired as steward of the Mumbles Yacht Club.
Graham is one of our local heroes, we thank him for all he has done for the lifeboat and wish him a happy and healthy retirement.
1. The Big Apple
2. The Mumbles Dialect
3. Music at the Eucharist - Agnus Dei
1. The Swansea Swimming Baths - An Oasis.
2.The Crumpled Comtents of an old envelope.
3. I can never forget - My visit to the Welsh Settlement in Patagonia
By Grafton Maggs
Unlike my brother, Cohn, I was never any good at kicking a ball, or wielding a cricket bat. Somewhere there was a serious breakdown in the co-ordination between brain and those specific muscles used to control a spherical object and propel it in a chosen direction. Compounding this, there existed within me an aversion to any sport involving sweaty, physical contact; especially where there was the slightest chance of being hurt.
These failings did reduce my options somewhat in the world of sport.
But, fortunately, there was one physical activity that I did enjoy. Like all other Mumbles children, I was able to swim shortly after learning how to walk and enjoyed this exercise enormously. With friends in summer time, I spent almost every leisure moment I had in the sea which was, after all, on my doorstep and on a sunny, sparkling morning when the tide was up, to me there was no better place on earth to swim than in the sea off the bowling green steps in Oystermouth.
In the '30s and '40s, the seas of Swansea Bay were certainly not at their cleanest. Heaven knows what was washed down into its waters from the Swansea and Neath Valleys but it was common knowledge as to what was flooded into it directly from our local toilets via the comparatively crude sewage system that was in operation at the time. Even so, knowing this did not act as a deterrent and local swimmers appeared to be none the worse for the experience of swimming in the cocktail of sewage and industrial waste that enriched the waters of Swansea Bay. This, perhaps, was due to their being possessed of an innate immunity coupled with the neutralising powers of nature's brine.
Summer after summer, the seas off Oystermouth afforded infinite pleasure to generations of village children who matured into adulthood all the better for this shared social experience of their early lives. These were, indeed, times brimming with happiness when it was a common sight to see, day after summer's day, many hundreds of children along the foreshore, from Southend to West Cross, cavorting in the sparkling sea or sitting together on the sunny sea wall, chatting. And how we all chatted!
We never stopped putting the world to rights! Conversation embraced a host of subjects, from Don Bradman to the yacht Endeavour, from Hitler to Laurel and Hardy, from submarine Thetis to Haile Selassie - and we all agreed that Eddie Long was the greatest rugby player in the whole world and Roy John the finest goalkeeper. With towels over dripping shoulders we sat there as the sun warmed through to sea- chilled bones; happy in friendships that, surely, would endure for ever.
And I was very much one of those blessed children.
Obviously, such swimming was a seasonal pastime confined to a period from late May to early September but when I was about nine years old, which was some time in the '30s, another door opened when Mumbles boy, Norman Colley, introduced me to winter swimming in the Swansea Swimming Baths.
Norman was five years older than I - he was in 'Laddie' Williams class (top form) whilst I languished in Mr 'Braddy' Bradshaw's class (Standard 4). This age gap was of unbridgeable social dimension normally, but, because Norman's father and my father were close friends, Norman succumbed to parental pressure to spend a little time with me. I think my father was worried about the direction in which I was heading - socially, academically and mentally. He had never got over the time I filled our toilet with chippings from the road and once experimented by having a motion standing up on the toilet seat at my grandparents house. My grandfather was a bit upset about it, too, because he was the one who had inadvertently discovered the post-act that evening - there was no light in the toilet.
Anyway, it's an ill wind and it was my good fortune to benefit enormously in my early years from Norman Colley's tutelage, the first act of which being the visit to the Baths.
The core of this establishment consisted of two 25 yard pools, housed separately in a handsome stone Victorian building at the Slip, opposite the Bay View Hotel, St. Helens. Somewhere on the premises, too, was a Turkish Bath (whatever that was) but where, I never found out - nor wished to. This was not for reasons of xenophobia (I could eat Turkish Delight without a qualm) but because it sounded sinister and I disliked the smell of Turkish cigarettes which, surely, would be smoked in an establishment of this name by plump, decadent men strewn all over the place, wearing just fezzes - an image I found rather disturbing. But that is all by the way.
For Mumbles' patrons, the Baths had the attraction of being sited immediately across the road from the Mumbles Train stop. So convenient! Mind you, thinking back, the old train had a stop convenient for anywhere in Swansea.
(Incidentally, in those days for anything to be guaranteed permanency, it was necessary for it to provide a valuable and convenient service for the public. Today, however, that thoughtful policy has gone into reverse - now, once it becomes known to the authorities that a facility is convenient and of great service to the public - its day are numbered. Once convenient post offices, banks, hospitals, Mumbles Train - gone! Be wary, your doctor's surgery, your pharmacy, your dentist, your public toilet - if conveniently located - are earmarked for closure, or, re-siting on Cefn Bryn).
That first visit with Norman planted a seed which germinated and I was soon to become an avid winter swimmer in the Swansea Baths. Once in grammar school, Saturday morning visits with school friends became part of a regular winter routine which was never to lose its appeal. Brutally, in February 1941, Hitler's Luftwaffe brought it to an end by devastating bomb damage to the first class bath. The unheated second class bath struggled on but was only patronised by those possessed of a fanaticism capable of neutralising the paralysing effect of freezing water. Their descendants can still be seen walking around the village in shorts and sandals whenever the temperature drops below zero. They live on nuts.
Rarely was I alone on a Saturday morning swim, usually being accompanied by a couple of Mumbles friends. After arrival at the Slip there'd be the dash across the road, to be met within twenty yards of the entrance by the smell of the Baths. Chlorine! For the rest of my life that smell would trigger off a Pavlovian reflex - the slightest whiff of chlorine would instantly convey me back to Swansea Baths.
We patronised the heated first class bath (3d) and through the turnstiles we'd clank into the tiled foyer where now could be heard the splashing noises and hollow echoing shouts of children in the pool. At the entrance door to the pool itself, our 3d ticket would be thrust impatiently into the hands of the seated attendant, a burly gentleman whom we came to know as Mr. Coates. At his side was a basket in which lie a pile of folded towels and navy blue swimming slips, available for hire for a few pence. Mr. Coates always seemed to be there and appeared to carry our every operation associated with the smooth running of the first class bath. He doubled as a swimming instructor having the reputation of being a top class coach and I was to benefit enormously from his services in the years to come, finding him to be a merciless tyrant in his pursuit for perfection.
Coming into the bath itself from the sharp cold of the outside world, one was immediately aware of the warmth emanating from the green water and here, in contrast to the gloomy porch, the bath area basked in the bright light of day by virtue of the glazed roof which was supported by wooden rafters and sturdy horizontal beams. A terracotta tiled area surrounded the pool and gave access to the changing cubicles surrounding. Each of these small cabins could accommodate two youngsters or one adult; entrance being gained via a wooden half door topped with a canvas curtain. Inside, crossing the width of the cubicle, was a wooden seat used whilst disrobing; clothing and towels being placed on wall hooks. On the floor was a wooden duckboard the feel of which was rather unpleasant to bare feet, being slightly slimy. This verruca utopia, coupled with a musk of dank sweatiness, made the cabin a place in which one did not wish to linger. Not that this was a problem; such was the haste to get into the pool that clothes were torn off, hung haphazardly or piled on the seat and the cubicle vacated in less than a couple of minutes.
Before taking the plunge, it was customary to walk to the shallow end where, over the steps leading down to the pool was a shower operated by a valve on the wall. The object of the exercise was to cleanse the body before entering the water but, unfortunately, the spray was ice cold. This made the whole operation a charade because rarely could it be tolerated for more than a few seconds after which a jump was taken into the comparative warmth of the three foot shallow end. Incidentally, I cannot remember one occasion when / ever saw the bottom of the pool! Vision of the
wall tiles was limited to the top three rows, the rest disappearing down into the rich green, opaque depths.
I was soon to find out why the pool was like this. One of the swimmers in my class was a boy named Tommy Carrol, he knew everything; he was a sort of latter day Alan Titchmarsh without the cringe factor. He enlightened me.
Unlike a modern swimming pool, there was no constant filtration system in operation. The water in the pool was sea water pumped up from the Swansea Bay, forced through a primitive filter system to remove unwanted matter - dead bodies, the odd faecal escapee or anything else which might upset the more fastidious swimmer. It was then stored initially in a tank behind the baths buildings where it was salted with a chlorine rich powder and eventually used to replace the tired water in the swimming baths. This fresher water was soon stirred up by swimming activity and was topped up with more chlorine powder by Mr. Coates, who seemed to be blessed with an inbuilt evaluation system, because I never saw any scientific assessment made of the chemical content, or pH, of the water. Even so, over the years from what I saw and experienced, it seemed to work; I never heard of anyone dropping dead on the way home. Mind you, there were things that I did not wish to know; things that were brought to conscious level by others. One morning in the pool with Arthur Harris, we were holding the rail at the side having a breather and looking up, I saw a dripping Clifford Lloyd (Langland boy) running down towards the exit.
"He's in a hurry", I remarked.
"Yes," said Arthur, "snobby bloke, he's the only one I know who gets out of the pool to have a pee".
(This really made me face up to a few facts about swimming pools that are never aired and later, I came to understand why the French call their pools what they do - there's an eponym in there somewhere).
A Saturday morning session in the baths was usually of two hours duration, starting at about 10 o'clock and was one of non stop activity. There was near full freedom of access allowed in the pool, the deep end (6ft 3 ins) being open to all those who could swim. However, care was taken not to encroach on that expanse of water below the spring and high boards as there was always the odd lunatic who would spontaneously do a Tarzan act off one of the boards without checking the water below. Mr. Coates did his best; he was no fool and kept a wary eye open for any nonsense on the board, or stupidity in the water below. A culprit would receive a blistering reprimand and/or banishment from the pool but, in spite of his vigilance, accidents did happen and one day, I did see how things can go dreadfully wrong. The youngest of the three Griffiths brothers surfaced just below the high board to be met with the head of a diver, full in his face. As he was lifted from the pool, bawling his head off, I glimpsed the sheared off remains of his four upper incisors, covered in blood from macerated lips. It could have been much worse and from where I stood, I saw the diver swim off and carry on as if nothing much had happened. It is highly likely that the crowns embedded in his scalp were not discovered until bath night, a month or so later ("My goodness, Gerald!... These flits are well dug in. . .. ")
During the course of the morning, the pool would be swum up and down countless times, the spring board used frequently and, with trepidation, the high board (mind you it wasn't exactly in the clouds, it was only about 8ft high). As noon approached, subtle signs of satiety began to invade the mind and the puny body of the swimmer. Early pangs of hunger began to gnaw in the abdomen, sending signals that it was time to go home. Dressing was accomplished in minutes; hasty farewells made to friends from Manselton, Townhill, the Hafod and Danygraig. Coats were buttoned up, scarves tied and courage summonsed to leave the humid, warm foyer and face the Antarctic blasts from Swansea Bay. Indeed, stepping out on to the Mumbles Road in January was like receiving a hit in the face from a frozen hammer - it was no time for hanging around! Feet raced across the Mumbles Road for a short shivering wait for the train home - red-rimmed eyes scanned the hoardings - "Stanley Holloway" in the Swansea Empire, "Marx Brothers" in the Carlton, "Eddie Cantor in the Plaza", "Bovril puts Beef into You!". But, by now, thoughts of dinner were replacing all else - after all, it was Saturday! -and it was always hake and chips (3d) on Saturday, served by Johnny Davies himself - who else?
Stepping up on to the train, further anticipatory joy began to develop - to come was the 200pm Saturday matinee at the local Cinema (when a huge decision of Brexit proportion had to be made
'Tarzan'at the Regent or 'FredAstaire'at the Tivoli?).
Saturday, for the fortunate, abounded with pleasure. There being yet another bonus waiting at the end of the day (for those who had wireless sets in their homes). There was the Saturday evening in, with a friend or two, by the coal fire. Young bodies were now a little weary and it was good to curl up on a chair, to listen to the BBC:
7.30 to 8.00, "In Town Tonight!"....
8.00 to 9.00, "Music Ha/I!" - Vic Oliver, Rob Wilton, Elsie and Doris Waters —Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth.. .Stanelli.
9.00 to 10.00, "Saturday Night Theatre!" - drama, unrestricted by any screen size but of infinite dimension in one's head!
What wonderful evenings these were! But I digress.
The Swansea Baths was not solely a fun place. Serious coaching sessions were regularly carried out by a number of top swimming instructors who trained all grades, from absolute beginners to top competitive swimmers. Evidence of their success was seen in the performance of the highly rated Swansea Water Polo Team and the achievements of local racing swimmers, at all levels of the sport throughout the country.
And what about those exciting annual events - the swimming galas? On these occasions the Baths really came into their own, opening the doors to the general public who packed the galleries as spectators.
My initiation to these galas was as a junior competitor in the Dynevor School gala of 1937. Each of the Swansea secondary schools (Swansea Grammar, Dynevor and Glanmor) held its own annual event which was basically a school inter-house competition. Individual and relay team championships were competed for, with house points being won by successful swimmers. Certainly in Dynevor, we swam our hearts out for the glory of our Houses - Dillwyn, Roberts, Grove or Liewelyn; hoping to see our winning House name on the shield for that year. Need I say, how loudly proud parents yelled their heads off from the galleries for the glory of their progeny!
There were, of course, other more prestigious galas for championships at senior levels held by the Amateur Swimming Association. As part of these events, there would be inter grammar school relay team races, competing for such trophies as the magnificent, and much coveted, John Llewellyn Cup. A school team was made up of four swimmers, each of whom would sprint a leg of 100 yards (4 lengths of the Swansea Baths) and, adding spice to these events, was the presence of the private academies - Clevedon College, and the Emmanuel Grammar School - adding to the competitiveness of the event. I recall, with great pride that during my junior years in Dynevor (193738-39) the School had a seemingly invincible squadron team and a host of top class individual swimmers. How they cut through the water on those gala nights with the grace and speed of dolphins! Names come back - slight, blonde Alan Taylor, an international swimmer (cruelly killed as a fighter pilot in WW2), 'Folly' Ward, Cyril Goldstone, Les Gwyther, Norman Blyth, Harry Kanter, Alan Thomas, Bill Price (the latter, as gifted in the water as he was with paint brush, palette and canvas). Not only did they bask in the glory of that night's presentation at the gala but also the adulation of the whole school the following day at the morning assembly.
It was customary, after the racing events in most galas for the second half of the evening to be filled with a water polo match between Swansea and another club. Occasionally that club would be the Swansea Borough Police team who always put up a fine performance. Incidentally (I digress here - again) these were the days when the Borough Force was able to field a top class soccer side. This team was capable of holding its own against a side of ex- Swans in the traditional annual clash at the Vetch on Boxing Day, - a game rarely without multiple colourful incidents. And, whilst on the subject, I recall that the Borough Force had a fine silver band which enriched many a local function with its presence and performance. How well I remember the strains of "Poet and Peasant" drifting across the Castle Field during the summer fetes as the immaculately turned out band played in front of the Castle entrance. Those were the days indeed when the police had a highly visible presence in the community, not just on duty, but on informal occasions such as these and it certainly didn't do the reputation of the Force any harm.
The Swansea Water Polo team, in those days, was one of the finest in the country. The back bone of the side was Olympian, Billy Quick - the finest goal keeper in Britain who had competed in the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics, at the same time as Johnny (Tarzan) Weissmuller.Welsh Internationals, Victor Lyle, Trevor Lewis, Phil Sansum were part of this talent loaded side and how they powered through the water! Juggling that red shiny ball between them like trained sea lions and what a punch they imparted to the ball when powering it in to goal! They were a great credit to Swansea and a source of inspiration to all younger swimmers. Genial giant, Trevor Lewis led from the front, in more ways than one. After an action filled war as a Commando, ex-Dynevor boy Trevor returned to Mumbles and to competitive swimming. He was justly rewarded with the captaincy of the Great Britain side in the 1948 London Olympics. Trevor will be remembered, too, for his crazy comic act with Phil Sansum during the galas. After a hammed-up chase, Trevor would escape from Phil by running up through the galleries, climbing across the horizontal roof beam and diving down into six foot of water! He'd stay down in the murky depths long enough to cause some consternation then surface with a big grin on his face.
There were other occasions which made their indelible marks on young memories. If early enough in the morning, one might have the privilege of seeing Graham Huxtable, the national back stroke champion going through his daily training programme. With plugged ears, goggles and white rubber cap, he'd power up and down the bath, high in the water, with arms and angled hands cutting in so cleanly and effortlessly. At this time (in the thirties) he was preparing for the Empire Games in Australia.
Graham was the senior member of his family generation, all of whom swam exceptionally well; younger brothers Mike and Derek both being formidable crawl swimmers in their own right, with many trophies on their shelves. This was a time when Swansea seemed to breed swimmers in family groups - there were the Thatchers (Ken and Neville)), the Sansums, the Reynishes, the Griffiths's, the Carpenters - all of whom swam like fish and competed intensely. Try as I did, with all my might, compared to these swimmers, I was like a clapped-out Ford behind Malcolm Campbell's Bluebird.
Up until 1939, my swimming experience had been limited to the sea and the Swansea Baths - in other words, only in sea water. I was due for a shock! In August '39, I had the rare joy of a short holiday with my family in Weston- super-Mare and during the course of which I visited the magnificent Lido on the sea front. This vast swimming pool was brand new, having been opened that summer and here for the first time I saw 10 meter diving boards of Olympic Games standard. So incredibly high, almost cloud-capped!! The cleanliness, the spaciousness, the beauty of this lido was overwhelming. The water was crystal clear, of a Tahitian blue in colour and cried out to be swum in! I dived in. This was the first time I ever swam in fresh, clean water filtered to the nth degree and with it came the stark realization, and shock, that I could hardly get my legs up behind me! I was sinking! It dawned on me (being a Dynevor boy) that Archimedes Principle applied to swimming pools as well as to any other mass of water. Fresh water didn't have the upthrust of sea water and hence my struggle! Over the years I had access to other fresh water pools and learned how to cope but, even so, how I missed skimming through the sea water as I did in the old Swansea Bath days.
From my earliest days in Dynevor School I was encouraged to swim, German master, Eric Yates, in particular being a source of inspiration. He trained the junior and senior school squadrons, for which I eventually swam (alas, not with anything like the success of those teams that had immediately preceded me). It was a natural step from this to enlist in the Life Saving classes which were run by Mr. Burgess, the gym master. Tuesday evenings were spent in the gym, learning the theory of life saving and every Friday evening after school, practical training sessions were held in the Swansea second class bath (taken over completely for this purpose). Mr. Burgess taught all the current methods of life saving as advocated by the Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS) and up and down the baths we would swim, rescuing 'drowning' swimmers and bringing them back to dry land in a variety of ways. Once on terra firma, artificial respiration was applied as taught in the theory classes (the Shaeffer method, now out of date, I believe).
Through the year we trained and then, at the end of the summer term, were examined by the affable Inspector Chislett, a senior member of the RLSS. In his other life, the noble Inspector was an officer in the Swansea Borough police force. Candidates, if successful, were awarded the Intermediate Certificate for the first stage and the Bronze Medallion for the more advanced second stage. These were eventually awarded to proud recipients in the school hall at morning assembly by Headmaster, Liewelyn John.
The Bronze Medallion afforded privileges to the bearer - that of being allowed to wear a handsome badge on one's costume and to assist, in a low key way, the life guards of Langland Bay. How I loved the spurious façade of all this but, in fact, there were benefits of substance not the least being the privilege of getting to know veteran life guard, Arthur Goss. This good man spent endless time in Langland, not only safeguarding swimmers, but also constantly improving the life saving skills of his team. This he did by practising rescue drills in the sea - on the hoof as it were. I do not recollect Arthur Goss being recognised in any way for this dedicated work; by today's standards he was worthy of an earldom - not that Arthur would have accepted it - he was fussy about who he mixed with.
It wasn't long after World War 2, in the 1950s, when the axe fell on the old Baths buildings and it was to the Council's credit that they didn't hang about.
A modern 50 metre replacement was soon constructed on the ground behind and this pool did sterling work throughout the half century of its life. From its very beginning the older, pre war swimmers, Trevor Lewis, Graham Huxtable, Billy Quick and Cyril Goldstone were there, back in action encouraging the younger generation.
There were more joys to come for Swansea's water lovers when, in 1977, the city was gifted with its wonderful leisure centre at the heart of which lie an immense 'fun' swimming complex. But the cream on the cake, for the serious competitive swimmers, did not arrive until 2003 when the Wales National Pool was opened in Sketty Lane. Now, Swansea had it all - glorious swimming conditions backed by modern technology and housed in the loveliest of surroundings. Indeed the old swimming baths at the Slip now seemed light years away!
Yet nostalgia, that most perfidious of emotions, conjures up within me a package of memories in which the downside of the old Baths is forgotten, buried under remembrances of all that was good. To me, there was something very special about the old Baths, there was a warmth, an intimacy and a character; all of which was swept away in its demolition - never to appear again in its sterile successors.
But, perhaps, I have it all wrong? Was it the character of the Swansea people, as it was then in those lean times, which was the source of that 'special something'. Character now no longer with us. Maybe.
In May 2015 a small brown envelope was given to volunteers in the lifeboat house shop. Inside was a sepia photograph of a lady in Edwardian dress with three small children. On the back of the photograph someone had long-ago written: "Mrs Ann Michael and Family. Will. Eva. Reggie. Harry came later." Wrapped around the photograph were a much folded funeral service card and a creased page from the All Saint's church magazine - both dated 1903. The three items tell a tragic tale.
On the afternoon of Sunday 1 February 1903 The Mumbles Lifeboat coxswain Tom Rogers strolled from his cottage in Hill Street to the lifeboat house at Southend. An eye-witness described how relaxed he was: 'pipe in mouth, hands in pocket, just as casually as if he were going to a football match'. He was joined at the boathouse by the rest of his crew, several helpers, a signalman, a messenger and the winchman. Shortly before four o'clock the lifeboat James Stevens No.12 was launched. The Cambrian newspaper later reported: 'her crew left in high spirits, anticipating no danger.'
The lifeboat crew: Coxswain Tom Rogers, 2ND Coxswain Daniel Claypitt and Bowman Samuel Gammon along with three of his brothers - David John, James and Richard - and their brother-in-law Hedley Davies were accompanied by Charlie Davies, David John Howell, William Jenkins, George Michael, Robert Smith, Tom Michael and David John Morgan. The latter two were survivors of the lifeboat disaster of just twenty years before, when four lifeboat crewmen were drowned off Mumbles Head. The coxswain had lost a cousin, William Rogers, in that disaster too.
There were fourteen Mumbles men in the lifeboat that Sunday afternoon but only eight returned home alive.
The previous day a Waterford schooner, SS Christina, had gone aground on the sands of Aberavon, Port Talbot. She was high and dry, her crew safe, and it was hoped to re-float her on the high tide with The Mumbles lifeboat standing by. On reaching the other side of Swansea Bay, Coxswain Rogers found that the tide was not yet high enough for the Christina to be re-floated. The sea was rough and a snow storm looked likely.so he decided to seek shelter for a while in Port Talbot harbour.
It was then that tragedy struck. As she sailed across the bar James Stevens was caught by heavy seas and capsized several times throwing her crew into the rough and icy water. As the lifeboat righted herself for the third time and drifted towards the breakwater she scooped up four crewmen who managed to scramble ashore. But the rest of the men were fighting for their lives. Bowman Sam Gammon, a strong swimmer, dived back into the turbulent sea and rescued three, including his brother-in-law Hedley Davies, who told the subsequent Board of Trade Inquiry how he begged Sam to let him go: 'tis better for one to drown than two'. But Sam replied: 'Come on boy, we'll get ashore or drown together.'
The disaster: From the breakwater desperate rescue attempts were made by the rest of the crew to pull their comrades from the waves. They were joined by the Harbour Master Captain Jones and some French sailors who used ropes and lifebuoys, but six lifeboat crew members died. They drowned or were killed by being dashed against or trapped in the stone blocks of the breakwater.
Meanwhile, back in Mumbles families were on their way to evening church services. In the All Saints' church magazine of March 1903 he vicar wrote how villagers: 'assembled as usual to take part in the Sabbath-day evensong, little dreaming of the terrible tragedy that was being enacted on the other side of the bay. Here was the hush of prayer, the strains of sweet music ascending to the throne of God. There was the roaring of the sea, the crash of waves, the cry of strong men struggling with death.'
The dreadful news: When the dreadful news of the disaster reached the village relatives of the crew attending church and chapel were quietly asked to return home. Two of the eight survivors came home that night, the other six stayed in Port Talbot returning the next afternoon to a sombre silent village having left six of their comrades behind'. The south Wales Daily Post reported: 'they were met by a large crowd of relatives and friends ... [all] of the men went straight to their respective homes, and one or two who had been knocked about in their life struggle went to bed.'
The Funeral: The six deceased (Tom Rogers, Daniel Claypitt, George Michael, James Gammon, David John Morgan and Robert Smith) were all from Southend. Their funeral procession on Thursday 5 February stretched from the George Hotel to the Ship and Castle. Hundreds of mourners attended the service at All Saints' church then the six men were laid to rest in Oystermouth Cemetery.
It was only twenty years since the 1883 disaster and now there were five more widows and 35 fatherless children. An appeal fund was set up, and concerts, football matches and house-to-house collections raised money for the bereaved families. The Board of Trade inquiry heard conflicting evidence from survivors and decided that the accident was due to poor use of the lifeboat's drogue. The lifeboat 'did not run true in the sea' and capsized.
Afterwards: The village struggled to come to terms with its loss. On 8 February, a week after the disaster, the morning sermon at All Saints' was preached by the Lord Bishop of St. David's. At evensong, the congregation included the widows and children, relatives and friends, also the first and second crews of the lifeboat - the church was packed. A 'record amount' of money was collected at the services and given to the disaster fund.
The wrecked James Stevens 12 was replaced by a reserve lifeboat. Samuel Gammon was appointed coxswain and more men volunteered for the crew. When the new crew went out on 25 February to assist a Norwegian barque Allegro drifting up the Bristol Channel in gale-force winds, their safe return was greeted with considerable relief by a large crowd gathered on the Southend foreshore.
The contents of the envelope: One of the lifeboat crew who lost his life in the second Mumbles Lifeboat disaster was George Michael. The photograph in the envelope is probably of his daughter-in-law, Annie and three of his grandchildren. He only knew the oldest, Willie who was born in 1902. The other two were Eva (born in 1906) and Reggie (born in 1908). Harry who 'came later' was born in 1915. Someone in the family carefully kept the photo with the black-edged funeral card for the six lifeboat crew. A description of the lifeboat disaster in the All Saints' church magazine of March 1903 was folded around them - a family keepsake. On the funeral card is printed:
'We loved them. Ah! No tongue can tell.
How much we loved them, and how well.
God loved them too, and thought it best,
To take them to His heavenly rest.'
Near the north door of our church is a brass memorial to the six Mumbles lifeboat crew who drowned off Port Talbot in February 1903 - their names never forgotten.
Photoqraphs: James Stevens 12 launching on 1 February 1903, Odo Vivian; The SS Christina aground, Port Talbot, RNLI/The Mumbles; 1903 funeral service card that belonged to the Michael family, RNLI/The Mumbles; The six crewmen who lost their lives from a private collection.
by Colin Payne (Canada)
1. All Saints Choir & Servers.
2, The Prince's Fountain.
3. Images of old Mumbles -
The Natural Arch.
This photograph of the choir, servers and clergy was taken at the beginning of the year by Barbara Richards.
We hope to launch a recruitment drive for choristers and servers this month, when we will be contacting local schools and colleges to offer organ and choral scholarships to young people in the area.
A number of our past organ and choral scholars have gone on to study music and singing at universities and conservatoires. So, for young people who enjoy singing, or who would like to learn the 'King of instruments', this is a wonderful opportunity. Our singers will be encouraged to work through the Royal School of Church Music's 'Voice for Life' course. It is a highly respected qualification, divided into bronze, silver and gold levels. Two choristers have gained their gold medal in the past.
If you know of any young people who would be interested please encourage them to come along to Church on a Sunday morning or to choir practice on Wednesday evenings [at 6.30pm].
We are also a little thin when it comes to altar servers these days. If you are interested in joining our team please have a word with Mark Smith [Head Server] or one of the clergy.
We start an occasional new feature this month which will look some of the landmarks in and around Mumbles. There are buildings, objects and memorials we pass almost every day and rarely notice them. We hope that you will find the articles we are planning for this summer interesting.
This month we look at the Prince's Fountain which stands at the junction of Myrtle Terrace and Mumbles Road.
It was erected in 1863 to provide fresh drinking water for the villagers of Oystermouth and Southend. It was built to mark the wedding of Queen Victoria's eldest son, the Prince of Wales.
The inscription reads; 'The Prince's Fountain, erected by voluntary subscription to commemorate the marriage of His Royal Highness Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, with the Princess Alexandra on 10th March AD 1863.'
The marriage took place at St. George's Chapel, Windsor. It was when Queen Victoria was in deep mourning for her husband, Prince Albert, who had died two years earlier. The Queen took no part in the ceremony and even declined to attend the wedding breakfast.
Thirty eight years later the Prince of Wales became King Edward VII. He reigned from 1901 to 1910. He is immortalised in other parts of Swansea. The Prince of Wales and King's Dock were named after him, so too was King Edward Road.
According to local tradition the memorial was maintained by the Parish of Oystermouth. This was until the disestablishment of the Church in Wales in 1920.
The Prince's Fountain looks a little sad these days and is in a rather poor state of repair. Water no longer flows from it and weeds grow out of the mortar. Yet the 156 year old memorial reminds us of the Mumbles of yesteryear.
This old photograph, taken in the early nineteen hundreds, shows the natural arch at Mumbles.
It stood on the eastern side of the middle island and was something of a tourist attraction in the late Victorian and Edwardian eras.
The Mumbles Railway brought day trippers and holidaymakers in their thousands to the pier, promenade and beaches. For the more adventurous no visit was complete without a walk out towards the arch at low tide. The photograph shows the arch, with the famous 18th century lighthouse in the background.
Natural arches, like the one at Mumbles, are geological features formed by the forces of erosion. They are usually made from narrow fins of sandstone rock. At Mumbles, the softer limestone rock beneath a harder layer began to erode, forming alcoves on either side. Over tens of thousands of years an arch was formed, with a capstone on top.
Natural arches cannot last forever, for the same forces that created them will eventually destroy them. The arch on the middle island collapsed during a violent storm in December 1910. All that remains of it is a pile of large stones beneath the cliff face and this old photograph taken just years before its collapse.
3. 'Nativity Play' A new Christmas Story by Grafton Maggs
4. The Parish Hall
5. the Bells of Santiago - The Musical
God bless your house this Holy Night.
And all within it;
God bless the candle that you light,
To midnight's minute;
The board at which you break your bread,
The cup you drink of;
And as you raise it, the unsaid
Name that you think of;
The warming fire, the bed of rest,
The ringing laughter;
These things and all things else be blest
From floor to rafter;
This Holy Night, from dark to light,
Even more than other;
And if you have no house tonight,
God bless you, my brother.
By Eleanor Farjeo
sent in by Jean Ricci
At Christmas we all find ourselves with a God who does not condemn, but a God we can hold in our arms; a God who is accessible to all and who brings those on the edge of society into the centre of his circle; a God crying in the world's dark, whose tears we must dry; a God who seems so small, so vulnerable, and yet is large enough to hold the universe in his embrace.
When there are so many fearful images of God going the rounds of our world and when the dark side of religion is so often turned towards us, there is an urgent need for us to find this God who lies in the manger. Let us then go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.
Canon Trevor Dennis
[from 'The Christmas Stories']
Hesitantly, Miss Georgia Griffiths opened the door in response to the crisp, "Come!" that filtered through from the other side
"Oh! Hello, Georgia! Do sit down, dear - just a few quick words, before we lose you over the Easter!"
Georgia sat down, waited apprehensively whilst head teacher, Mrs.Trumble-Ferris, shuffled papers together on her desk. Glancing around, she took in quickly the pleasant room with its large window overlooking the play area, the diplomas on the wall and the vase of daffodils on the sill. A warm, light, comfortable ambience, indeed, but the filing cabinets and the piled desk banished any thoughts that this was other than a place of work.
Mrs.Trumble-Ferris looked up over her glasses and smiled. Though approaching retirement age she was still a handsome woman, always dressing with a quiet flair. She was a good head teacher, and she knew it, having managed throughout her time at the top to command respect and affection from both staff and pupils.
"Well, Georgia! You've survived! Come to the end of your first term without much going wrong! In fact, you have done really well, and I am so very pleased with you.
"Now then, so much for the candy floss. To business! This might seem rather early for you to take on, but, what with staff shortage and things, I have no alternative other than to burden you a little more.
"I want you to take on the production of this year's Nativity Play in the Christmas concert. As always, it will take up the second half of the evening's entertainment; the first part being the contribution by children demonstrating to doting parents their individual talents - singing, reciting and the like. You know the sort of thing; you did it yourself enough times. But the highlight every year is the play. Do you think you could handle it? Look good on your CV!"
Georgia, relieved to know that the summons to the presence wasn't for instant dismissal, exhaled with relief,
"Oh! I'd love to, Mrs. Trumble-Ferris! I'd be thrilled!"
"I knew you'd say that! Right then! You've got plenty of time to sort it all out. Write a simple script and don't stray into the world of modern theatre - be traditional! Mustn't upset Father Keith. Then, next term, liaise with Mrs. Gammon in the Arts Room - she'll work with you on scenery and props. Mrs. Collier will take on costumes and Mr. Webborn is never happier unless he's fiddling with wires and lights and speakers - he'll sort out the microphone thingies.
"Remember! One golden rule! Every child in your class must be on the stage at some time or another - in some shape or form. They love it! Parents love it! And I shall not be bludgeoned to death if anyone is left out.
"When you're back, show me what you've planned and, apart from that, it's all your baby. At times your patience will be sorely tried and if you're anything like our late dear Miss Roberts; by the time the night arrives you'll be a gibbering wreck - even so - you'll love it!"
"Wow! Do you think I'm up to it, Mrs. Trumble-Ferris?"
"I wouldn't ask you if I thought otherwise, Georgia. By the way, tread carefully, don't be pushy - remember you're the new girl on the block. Right then, off you go, dear! Enjoy your holiday; do an Alan Bennett and I'll see you early next term, OK?"
Prudence Trumble-Ferris MBE, pushed back her chair, rose to her towering five foot ten and proceeded to dispatch Georgia from her presence with the unctuous dexterity of a bishop after a service.
Once in the corridor, Georgia flopped on to the bench by the fire extinguisher and exhaled forcefully,
"Whew! In at the deep end - roll on the hols. Let's get cracking!"
Summer term had been under way for a week when Georgia placed her holiday work on Mrs. Trumble- Ferris' desk.
"My goodness, Georgia! These drawings are really beautiful. Your work? Well...
Georgia described the short scenes, each of which would be introduced by an appropriate carol; first verse sung solo and the remainder by the supporting cast - with the audience joining in. Casting would be carried out after half term.
Mrs.Trumble-Ferris smiled at the enthusiasm,
"Looks good, Georgia. Keep me informed - especially at the first signs of a nervous breakdown!"
Mid term, Georgia began to work on the casting and, by now, knowing the make up of her charges, she had a good idea as to who could handle the various roles.
There wasn't much difficulty in picking the Three Kings: Reggie Walters, Derek Jones and Gwyn Evans - these three boisterous Norton lads were always kicking a ball and fancied themselves as kings of the turf.
No difficulty choosing the Innkeeper, his role fell to Duggie Stainton, his father ran the Beaufort, he was a natural. And again it wasn't too hard to choose the Three Shepherds - Jeff Woolacott and his two Newton pals, Les and Bert Harris - all dyed-in-the wool, rural lads.
As for Joseph, someone of stature was needed; the tallest boy in the class was the obvious choice - Dai Cope, big in body and big in mind.
As in the beautiful Reredos over the high altar in All Saints Church, the rest of the class would make up the host of peoples coming to worship the infant Jesus, in the last scene (". . . drawing all men unto me...'). They, too, would supply the choral background throughout the play.
So far, pretty straight forward. But! Now the dilemma! Who was to be the solo singer and who was to play Mary, the Infant's Mother? Two key roles, of which, the solo singer's was, undoubtedly, the plum part.
Neck and neck, two lovely girls lead the field:
Hazel Hopkins and Pat Fenwick.
Dark haired Hazel, who was a Saturday regular at Stagecoach School, had a good singing voice, a sweet personality and confidence.
Fair Pat had the far better voice but sorely lacked self assurance; a trait which manifested itself in most of the things that she did, and which, sadly, held her back in so many activities. To choose her was a gamble, but lurking in Georgia's mind was the thought of what success could do for this little girl's ego (and the play). In the end, Georgia went to the Head for advice.
The Head didn't mince words,
"It has to be Hazel, Georgia! She's stage wise and confident. I'm aware of Pat's problems, and I'm sympathetic, but what if she dries up? Think of the harm done to her - in front of an audience! It would undo all the good progress that you have made with her over the past year.
"Definitely, Hazel for the solos and Pat as Mary! Pat will surely get her chance another
Georgia withdrew, not 100% happy, but, a decision had been made.
During the last week of the summer term, Georgia got things moving. She liaised with her fellow organisers and then informed the class of the choices made for the parts in the play. She noticed the disappointed look on Pat's face and felt a few reassuring words wouldn't go amiss. She called her aside before the playbreak.
"Don't be disappointed, Pat! You are going to be Mary, a very important part and maybe next year you'll be ready for the leading part. You've got a super voice. Just be patient!"
Pat shrugged her shoulders,
"That's alright, Miss. Hazel's brilliant at acting and things. She's much better than me! I'd only make a mess of it".
She smiled but Georgia could see how much she had been affected by the decision and she felt for the little girl but there was little she could do about it.
The school broke up for the summer holidays and Georgia, after her first two terms of full time teaching, felt surprisingly tired. Though young and healthy, the demands of her profession had drained her and she surrendered to the attractions of sun and surf in glorious Gower. Even so, she found time to polish up the script of her play for which she
could see now as becoming a big boost if it were a success. A flying start to her career!
On return to school in September, early preparations were soon underway for the Christmas concert. The organising of costumes, scenery, lighting, and all that is needed for the making of the school play was set in motion and within a few weeks, rehearsals started.
Georgia's Nativity Play began to take shape.
Over the weeks, the children responded magnificently and, as the end of term approached, they were playing their parts with confidence and increasing excitement. All[ this in spite of the inevitable scuffles between the Newton Shepherds and the Norton Kings; one incident leading to a visit to Morriston Hospital for the traumatic removal (with the help of WD40) of the crown from Reggie Walters head (rammed down by Les Harris). For all that, much was achieved and Hazel, as expected, played the leading role effortlessly, blossoming in the part and relishing every moment.
The concert was to be held on the last Friday of the term and a full dress rehearsal was held on the preceding Thursday afternoon. It went smoothly (the Norton Kings being kept well away from the corralled Newton Shepherds). Hazel, however, seemed to be a little below par and complained of a "bit of a headache" and Georgia did notice that she was rather flushed, putting it down to the last minute excitement. Otherwise, stage logistics, lighting, costumes, musical backing were well up to par and Georgia began to relax. Things were looking really good for "her Friday night" (as she was beginning to look at it) and she smiled to herself - no signs of a nervous breakdown, yet!
However as Mumbles sage, Tony Cottle, has frequently said:
"There's many a slip 'twixt cup and lip!"
After school, Georgia arrived home and had barely sat down to sip a life saving cup of tea, when the 'phone rang. Her mother answered.
Georgia could overhear,
"Oh! Hello Mrs. Hopkins. How are you? WHAT! WHAT! ON My goodness! Here, have a word with Georgia!"
Georgia came to the phone,
"Hallo! Mrs Hopkins. What? Oh, NO! Only this evening!.., rash.. .the doctor....! Well, she did say earlier that she was feeling a bit poorly. I'm so very sorry for her! Please pass on our love
and wishes to get better quickly.....
"No! No! Not to worry! We'll sort it all out... somehow!"
She put the phone down, slumped back into the armchair,
"Oh! Mum ....Hazel's got chicken pox!!
"Crikey! Now what am I going to do? What a time to get it! It's ruined everything! It'll be a
flop without Hazel!"
Georgia's mother tried to console her,
"Surely there's someone who can fill the bill, Georgia? What about that other little lass you
spoke so highly of. I can't remember her name...?"
"Oh, Pat Fenwick! She has the talent alright but just falls apart. She's a lovely girl but so shy
and lacking in confidence. Oh, I just don't know, Mum' I'm so tired. This is a disaster for me.
Early night, bath, bed. Pray for help. Sleep on it. .... "I just knew things were going too well.........
She did just that, and, before jumping into bed, knelt and prayed as she had never prayed before,
"Please, dear God make this, my first school play, a success. Don't let it be a disaster! What away for me to start my career- with a terrible failure! Please help me!"
She jumped into bed and, fitfully, slept.
Next morning she broke the tragic news to the class and there were gasps all round. Pleas came from one and all, not to cancel the play (especially from the Norton boys, they had a few scores to settle). Georgia reassured them that, in true tradition, the show would go on.... somehow...
When play time came, she asked Pat to stay back,
"Pat! You probably know what I'm going to ask you. Do you think you can save the day and step into Hazel's part? I'll be backstage in the wings near you and will help you all I can. What do you think?"
Pat gasped and put her hand over her mouth,
"Oh, gosh, Miss! I know all the songs and things, Miss. But am I good enough? I'm rubbish in front of of people!"
"No Pat! Let me remind you - you have a marvellous voice! The choir can start to sing with you, if you feel you want to be carried through the part. Please! Give it a go!"
"OK Miss! But I really wish I didn't have to".
Georgia patted her on the arm,
"Bless you! This afternoon we'll run through the part. I'm sure you'll cope!"
That evening, playing to a full house, the first half of the concert went well. Children, so anxious to please equally anxious parents, gave their all. Violins were sawed. Pianos thumped. Poems monotoned and songs sung. Justly the bowing, young entertainers were rewarded with a standing ovation as the curtain came down. And, who knows what early sparks were being fanned to produce, one day, a blazing Bryn Terfel, a Callas or a Kennedy?
The lights came up and proud parents, garrulous grandmas and adoring aunts shuffled off through grating chairs to the foyer, for cartons of Joe's, or tepid tea in crumply cups and KitKats. Raised voices and laughter rent the air as tension lessened its way to relief.
Meanwhile, on stage behind the curtains, there was frantic activity preparing the lovely set for the main event of the night - The Nativity Play. Excited children were marshalled into position and last minute, hasty visits made to the toilets - some, alas, a little too late.
Pat, looking so lovely with her hair brushed up under a turban, wore a multi-coloured robe and a sash, but Georgia's heart sank as she saw the whiteness of the child's face and the trembling hands.
The bell rang in the foyer and the audience threaded its way back to coat and scarf adorned chairs. Expectantly, they settled down as the lights dimmed and the curtain rose on the softly lit inn and manger scene. Pat was standing to one side of the stage and as the music came through the speakers, so she began to sing the first carol.
"Away in a manger. No, crib .........
At first she could barely be heard.. Then as her voice grew louder she quavered, to sing off
key and out of time with the music. Georgia, in the wings, quickly reacted to this and waved to the choir behind the backdrop who joined in the singing hastily, to drown Pat's plaintive attempt. The audience, slow at first, joined in for the last two verses. And then attention was diverted completely from Pat as the lights dimmed on her and brightened on to Joseph and Mary approaching to seek room at the inn. Pat withdrew to the wings where Georgia was waiting,
"I'm sorry Miss! I'm so sorry."
She started to cry and Georgia knelt to hold the distressed child. She was overwhelmed with guilt. She quietly prayed,
"0 dear Lord! This is my fault! Please comfort and help this lovely little girl, for her sake, Lord - not mine - I am so very sorry!"
And something very strange happened.
Faintly heard was the sound of distant thunder. Lights flickered and, alarmingly, the stage and auditorium was plunged into darkness. A total blackness accompanied by more muted, distant thunder.
Fuses blown, or something, thought Georgia. Perhaps the answer to my prayer! Electrical failure meaning the cancellation of the whole thing! Anxious murmurs were beginning to be heard coming from the auditorium and, on the stage, some of the children started to panic and whimper.
Georgia protectively put her arms around the child and spoke comforting words. Again the faint
distant roll of thunder could be heard.
But it was short lived.
Flickering at first, the lights came full on again and Georgia looked up to see, off stage in the wings, a thumbs up from Mr.Webborn and a hoarse whisper, "Don't know what on earth happened there, Georgia! Must have been a power cut. Anyway, everything's fine now. One of those things - a mystery!"
Georgia turned back to Pat,
"Well, Pat. I think, you've had enough, pet. You can call it a day if you wish. Up to you! What would you like to do? 'We Three Kings...' is next. But the choir can do it on its own, if you wish.. .no one will be cross!"
Pat still looked shaken but had stopped crying and, to Georgia's surprise, spoke up quite decisively,
"I'll try, Miss. I don't feel quite so bad now"
She went back on stage and the music started. Pat started to sing with the choir and, half way through the first line, turned to look across to the manger. Then turning back, she faced the audience to raise her head and sing confidently. That lovely voice, hidden until now, came out clearly over the choir,
.............. Bringing gifts we come from afar..."
Georgia gasped at the incredible change and waved down the contribution from the choir. The audience sat up, astonished at the quality of singing from such a young child, her voice carrying
with bell like clarity to the four corners of the hall. Then, as planned for the last few verses, the
choir joined in, soon to be joined by the audience who now began to sing with the joy of celebration in their hearts.
And so it continued, through the rest of the play.
Pat sang. The choir sang. The audience sang:
"Whilst Shepherds watched their Flocks... "Silent Night.. .HoIy Night...
"Hark the Herald Angels sing....... " "Come All Ye Faithful...."
Pat sang her heart out as did everyone there that night, (even Mr. Webborn amongst his switches and plugs) filling the auditorium with the most joyous of Christmas music. The show came to its end, and the audience stood to applaud a stage full of bowing children. Pat was pushed to the front by her fellow performers to centre stage and shyly dipped her head in response to a special clap. Then there was one more final bow from the whole group of tired but triumphant children before the final curtain drop.
Pat ran off stage to put her arms around Georgia's waist; she looked up and the look of gratitude in her face, said it all but Georgia could see something else there too - a look of new found confidence - sorely lacking before.
"Oh thank you, Miss! I couldn't have done it without you being there".
Georgia smiled and held Pat's hands,
"It wasn't me, Pat. You had the talent all along and you had some special help tonight to produce it - when you needed it most!"
And that is how the concert ended. The auditorium emptied and proud parents came backstage to pick up weary, but happy children and take them home for Christmas.
The Head came backstage to speak to Georgia and found her, sitting on her own in the corner of the dressing room. Her tired head was bowed in her hands and there were tears in her eyes.
"I'm giving you a lift home young lady. You must be exhausted!"
Once in the car and underway the Head spoke,
"A remarkable evening, Georgia. Disaster loomed and then something extraordinary happened amongst us tonight. Something that not only saved the play but, far more importantly, something that changed the course of a little girl's life for the better. Perhaps for others of us, too. Quite a wonderful Christmas present for us all - we were blessed tonight - don't you think so, Georgia?"
"Indeed I do, Mrs. Trumble-Ferris".
2018 should not be allowed to pass without recording that the new Parish Hall at Castle Avenue was opened on 14 December 1928, ninety years ago.
It was a fantastic achievement after ten years of austerity following the end of the First World War and was driven by the then Vicar and Archdeacon of Gower the Venerable Harold Williams. Despite the outbreak of war in 1914 Harold Williams was determined to push ahead with the Church Building extension. The Foundation Stone was laid in June 1915 and the Church completed before the end of the year as far as the clearly defined join mark which is still visible at the top of the Drangway. The west end was temporarily walled up to allow the unfinished Church to be consecrated on 7 September 1916.
The Church was not completed until 1937, as the Parish Hall was given priority because of the depressed state of the economy, and the need to give the secular village a focal point, but it was built and paid for, at some personal cost, by the parishioners. The Ninth Duke of Beaufort had granted the Parish a Lease on favourable terms in April 1924, and amongst the Parish worthies of the time had received financial support from Lord Glantawe of the Grange. It was for that reason his daughter Lady Bleddisloe performed the opening ceremony.
The Hall was used by the Parish for Easter Vestries, Parish Breakfasts and Suppers, Christmas Fayres, for plays by the 'All Saints Players' and all of the parish social events as there were no other facilities near the Church. Over the years it was also used by many outside organisations, including as two overspill classrooms for the Church School during the post Second World War 'bulge' in the nineteen fifties, and for the School and Sunday School Concerts and Christmas Productions.
By 1978 the maintenance of the Hall had become a drain on the Parish and when the Trustees of the Ostreme Community Association approached the Parish with proposals to alter and extend the building for use as a Community Centre, the then Vicar, Canon JEC ('Eddie') Hughes was delighted to lend his support. Although the project was led by Ostreme with its access to Grants, the venture was very much a joint one because of the concessionary terms given by the Church for the 35 year Lease granted to Ostreme.
The building now known as the Ostreme Centre has thus given fifty years of life to the Village as a Parish Hall, and forty as a very well used Community Centre, something to be celebrated.
Although the arrangements with Ostreme have been in limbo since the Lease expired the future use of the building as a Community Centre has now been secured as the Parish has accepted an offer from the Mumbles Community Council to take a Lease themselves, subject to and with the benefit of its occupation by Ostreme. As the Community Council has the power to provide community centres, and Ostreme exists for that purpose the Parochial Church Council at its November Meeting was pleased to endorse these new arrangements.
All that we as a Parish can do now is to wish the new arrangement every success and look forward to celebrating a Centenary in ten years' time.
The Bells of Santiago musical, was researched, devised and lyrics written by Malcolm Phillips, between 1971 and 1973. The music was arranged by Terry Minty.
Malcolm had been researching the history of Oystermouth and discussed the idea of a Pageant of Mumbles History with Mr Maurice Edwards, a Manager at BP Baglan Bay where Malcolm worked,. Maurice thought it was a good idea, and if Malcolm could get a team together, he, Maurice would support him.
It was during his history research that Malcolm discussed the idea with a local lady, She said then you must include The Bells. "What Bells" he asked. She explained that there were article in the Cambrian News. So Malcolm set about researching the news articles. He came across the stories of the Bells of Santiago and the Oystermouth connection, in The Cambrian News and The Times. A peal of Bells were shipped on Copper Barques sailing from Swansea to Valparaiso in Chile, and then overland to Santiago where they were hung in the Church de la Campagna, which would hold about 3,000 people.. During a Festival of Light, on December 8th 1863, the church caught fire and 2,500 people, mostly women and children died in the fire. It remains the World's worst fire tragedy.
Malcolm is enthusiastic, persuasive, and charismatic, He persuaded friends and neighbours to join with him creating an enthusiastic strong team.
Malcolm's narrative, his Lyrics and Terry Minty's music arrangements developed the story of the Bells into an extravaganza musical. His plan was to record the musical in sound and then to play it back as a show, in the grounds of Oystermouth Castle with the cast of hundreds miming as there was not possible to perform it live The recordings took place in All Saints Church and peoples homes. The artists included the Narrator Tim Perkins, the combined choirs of the Mumbles WI, The Brian Morris Singers and the Aeolian Singers.
Between 1971 and 1973 the team raised enough funds to put on a nine day Pageant of The History of Oystermouth, The Pageant included an amazing 47 events. The main show was The Bells of Santiago, Hundreds of people were in the cast of all ages.
The stage presentation in front of Oystermouth Castle, was devised by Graham 011iffe. As there were no 'stage wings' to bring the cast on and off the stage, Graham arranged five stage areas in front of the Castle, and to stage the show at night. The cast moved onto and off the stages in the dark, some, like the Nuns moved around the back of the Castle in the dark to appear on the Swansea side of the Castle.
To stage the musical The bells of Santiago involved a great many people behind the scenes. For example, Cables were laid in the grounds for lighting the five stages and for the loudspeakers. Hundreds of Costumes were made by a team of ladies and stored in various houses, Props were made, such as papier-mâché bells and the cart to carry them. People operated the sound system and controlled the lights. Also the gates had to be manned.
The climax of the Bells of Santiago musical was the portrayal of the fire. Using smoke and red flares in the Castle Chapel, complete with the sound of burning crackling timbers, it was an amazing, breathtaking experience.
The Bells of Santiago musical ran for over 10 years attracting audiences of up to 3000 for a performance. People even arranged their summer holidays to attend the show, or to take part in its presentation. it was wonderful to be even a small part of the show. A great Mumbles together event.
1. Remembrance 1914-1918 by Kate Jones
2. "Goodbye!" by Grafton Maggs
3. Thankyou from Barbara Richards
1. REMEMBRANCE 1914-1918
The villagers of Blackpill made their own memorial to twelve local men. At the unveiling in May 1922 Rev. Canon Williams, vicar of Oystermouth, described it as 'simple but grand'. A beautifully coloured Roll of Service, 1914-1918, was hung in Mumbles Baptist church. In Norton, a newly completed terrace of houses was re-named 'Mons Terrace' in memory of several of its wartime tenants who had fought at the Battle of Mons. Along with rolls of honour in schools and workplaces, these were permanent memorials to a war idealistically meant to be the 'war to end all wars'.
The last Mumbles memorial to the Great War was erected on the site of the wooden shrine in Southend Gardens. It was unveiled on 30 July 1939 by Mrs Ann Hixson of Newton, whose youngest son David had been killed in 1918. The monument was rededicated on 11 November 2006 - with the names of those killed in both wars inscribed on additional side plinths. In 2017 fifteen names were added to the All Saints' rood screen. The brass plaque in the Methodist church has been renewed and the monument at Clyne restored in 2018. The men of Mumbles are not forgotten.
One hundred years on: Although thousands of British men never returned, thousands more did. They came home to a country that had changed in their absence, sometimes to families who could not possibly comprehend their experiences. Often they suffered from life-changing injuries and psychological scars. Their names may not be on any war memorial, but we remember them with pride as well.
Kate Jones, November 2018
Acknowledgements: A History of Mumbles website, edited by John and Carol Powell; The Mumbles Press, 1914 & 1915; World War I records on Ancestry.co.uk. Photographs: Soldiers leaving Mumbles, 1914, M.A. Clare; The Mumbles Shrine in Parade Gardens, 14 September 1918, M.A. Clare; The Great War rood screen memorial in All Saints' Church, Tony Roberts; Mrs Ann Hixson unveiling the Great War memorial, July 1939, OHA archive; the restored memorial at Clyne Chapel in 2018, John Powell; Bill Barrington and the war memorial in 2006, John Powell.
2. Goodbye!" - by Grafton Maqqs
1. We did it! The All Saints Restoration Project
2. Undertaker Paul Murray Retires
3. Farewell to shopkeeper - Ian Boyd!
4. 'I Shall Never Forget the Time When'
5. Morfydd Owen Centenary
We Did It!
The All Saints' Restoration Project
By the end of this month the ambitious campaign and project to restore our ancient and modern Parish Church should be completed.
The last two outstanding tasks will be to paint the south aisle and clean the magnificent rood screen. This should be completed in time for the Service of Thanksgiving for the Restoration at our Patronal Festival Eucharist at 10.30am on Sunday 28th October.
This special article celebrates our remarkable achievement, from its shaky start to successful conclusion!
The Early Years
In 2004 the Church building was surveyed by local architect, Dewi Evans, as part of a programme of five yearly inspections of Churches across the diocese.
The report highlighted what many of us had feared, that the building was in urgent need of major repair. The nave, chancel and tower roofs were leaking badly. Many of the slates had slipped and the nails holding them in place had virtually perished. There was significant structural movement in the north wall around the Lifeboat window. The porch was in a very dilapidated state, with chunks of the Bath coping stones falling onto the ground below. The electrical and lighting systems were at the point of being condemned. There was water ingress around the Lady Chapel arch and in the valley between the nave and south aisle and the central heating system was on its last legs!.
Things were so bad that we came perilously close to having to shut the building on health and safety grounds. Urgent remedial work during 2005 bought us some extra time. We patched up the roof as best we could. Loose coping stones were removed from the porch and we did some upgrading to the electrical system. Though this made the building safe for a while it was very clear that the Church needed a major restoration.
In response to this very real challenge the Parochial Church Council [FCC] appointed Dewi Evans as the architect for a possible major restoration project.
Dewi Evans is a much respected and award winning local heritage architect. He was asked, in particular, to design a light and welcoming new porch [including much needed toilet and kitchen facilities] and to draw up a schedule of work for the complete restoration of the building.
The architect presented his plans for the new porch to the Parochial Church Council in 2006. As well as detailed drawings his company provided a computer generated image [below] of what the porch would look like. It included a pyramidal roof, clerestory windows and incorporated the original and medieval features of the original Church entrance.
The PCC unanimously accepted the design and the proposed schedule of restoration work, and the decision was made to apply for a faculty from the Diocesan Advisory Committee [DAC] for approval of the project.
Because we proposed to rebuild the porch the DAC asked us to make a separate planning application to Swansea City Council.
It was during this planning process that we encountered a major setback. A few heritage groups objected to our proposal to demolish the dilapidated Victorian stair turret. The application was rejected by the city and, with the backing of our architect, we went to appeal. This process took three years to be resolved and was eventually unsuccessful and costly to us.
It was only in 2012 that a new design, retaining the old stairwell, was accepted by the PCC and faculty permission was eventually obtained. The estimated cost of the restoration work was £750,000
It was very obvious to us, from the beginning, that raising in excess of three quarters of a million pounds to restore All Saints' would be a huge undertaking for the Church community.
However, the FCC had set aside £150,000 from reserves for the project. Another boost came through a successful 'Landfill' grant application, which brought in just over £75,000. We also were able to cash in an old 'Chancel Repair Fund', which brought the total at our disposal to £235,000. This gave us a third of what we actually needed and would help to kick-start the appeal.
The FCC also realised that raising such a sum of money would need professional help. That help came in the appointment of two campaign managers, Dean Michael Bunker and Nigel Morgan [photos top right].
Michael had raised in excess of 11 million pounds for the restoration of Peterborough Cathedral, during his time as Dean there. Nigel's background was in finance. After initial meetings with the Vicar they came to make a campaign plan presentation to the FCC in the early summer of 2012.
They suggested that the money would be raised during a 'Campaign phase' and by a number of different teams working together. We would appeal to Church members for help. We would also ask people in the wider community for support. Nigel would oversee applications to grant making bodies and trusts. Their presentation was enthusiastically received by the FCC and it was decided that an official 'Appeal Launch' would be held towards the end of 2012. The campaign would be divided into three phases; planning, asking and delivery. Lord Oystermouth agreed to be Patron of the Appeal; a Campaign Executive was formed, chaired by Tyrone O'Sullivan [both are pictured below]. The fundraising teams were led by Alan Evans [Church members], Les Harris [Church leaders], John Isaac [community], Nigel Morgan would oversee trusts and grant applications, Roger Beynon would be project manager and Murray Donald was appointed treasurer. Some of the leaders recruited their own team of helpers.
Dean Michael's campaign plan divided the asking phase into five areas, each given a target to achieve. He also suggested raising money from individual donations through a three year pledge. Each team was tasked with raising the following amounts.
Restoration Campaign Flan
With the planning phase completed it was decided to officially launch our major appeal. A large number of parishioners, friends and invited guests attended a launch reception and presentation on Thursday 29th November 2012 at All Saints'. The ambitious plan to restore our ancient and modern Church had at last begun!
In the early part of 2013 money began to flow into Nigel Morgan's Appeal Office in the Upper Churchrooms. Over two thirds of our regular worshippers signed up for the pledge scheme, eventually raising not just £60,000 but over £170,000. The clergy and FCC also contributed over £5,000 more than their £40,000 target.
All the individual donations were treated with the utmost confidence. Only Nigel Morgan [Campaign Manager] knew what each person had given or pledged. The anonymous gifts ranged from £10 from a university student to a cheque for £10,000 brought into the Appeal Office by a generous Church member.
The community team went out to local businesses and their hard work brought in just over half of the £70,000 they were asked to find. The biggest disappointment was that the rich and famous of Mumbles didn't contribute a penny!
Much was expected of our Campaign Managers, who were busily applying for grants to make up the shortfall. This was painstaking work, involving the completion of complicated application forms and thousands of emails and phone calls. While Nigel Morgan did this in the office Dean Michael met with several trustees of major grant making bodies to sell our appeal to them.
Their hard work eventually paid off. We were successful in obtaining major grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund [125,000], Cadw [47,250] and the Garfield Weston Foundation [25,000].
Mumbles Community Council gave grant Of £8,000 for the new upholstered Chairs and a further £3,000 for the Church clock. Other grants came in from the Church in Wales, Gower Society, All churches Trust, Welsh Church Act Trust, Kenneth Hufton Charity, Rank Foundation, Freemasons, Gower Society, Diocese of Swansea & Brecon, Peter Stormonth Darling Trust and the James Pantyfedwen Foundation.
There were weekly meeting between the Vicar and Nigel, monthly meetings of the Campaign Executive and regular meetings of the various teams. There was a lot of coming and going within the office and Church.
Though we had initially hoped to raise a million pounds, which would have given us a pot of over £200,000 for future maintenance, we realised that raising such a vast amount of money during a global economic downturn would be almost impossible. Many of the grant making bodies would only help to fund the work that we really needed to do. But we did raise over £800,000 which enabled us to do what we set out to do.
Church members and grant making bodies had made a very generous response to our appeal for help - which we are so grateful for.
The Delivery Phase - The Restoration Work
The first phase of the actual restoration project was to stabilise the north wall around the Mumbles Lifeboat memorial window. The outer and inner skins of the wall had been moving apart and structural engineers began the painstaking task of drilling into the wall and securing it with dozens of pins. Scaffolding went up [which helped to give an impetus to our fundraising campaign] and the building was out of bounds, except for the daily services [when the contractors went off for their morning coffee break]. The phase was completed within four weeks at a cost of just over £50,000. A new system of wall pinning meant that the stabilisers were not visible at all. The restoration of the Church had begun.
The second phase was by far the major part of the project and involved the re-roofing of the nave and tower, repairs to some of the masonry and the renewal of all the rainwater goods. [the above photograph shows contractor Jason Irvine and Project Manager, Roger Beynon, inspecting the work]. The re-roofing was initially planned to begin in October 2014 but was delayed until April 2015. This was because we had not received a response from our grant application to Cadw. They had indicated that they would only fund a project that had not yet started. So the contractors moved in after Easter, in April 2015. The Church was clad with scaffolding and closed, except for Sunday services and for baptisms, weddings and funerals. Our faithful midweek worshippers decamped to the 'Upper Room', which had been turned into a temporary Chapel.
The work was eventually completed by October 2015 costing in excess of E300,000. The Church was
watertight for the first time in many years!
Work on Phase Three began immediately after we had finished the roof in October 2015. The contractors began the painstaking task of demolishing the old Victorian porch and storing a number of its original features - the door surround, medieval stone heads and the nineteenth century stained glass window. The work also required an archaeological watching brief.
All this was done at one of the busiest times of the Church's year. The temporary main entrance into the building was the north door [by the pulpit] and worshippersand visitors had to negotiate their way around the cordoned off building site. We had to cope with the Remembrance Sunday Service and the hugely popular Advent, Christmas and Schools services, ushering up to five hundred worshippers at a time through the much narrower side door.
Atrocious weather at the beginning of 2016 delayed the work, so did the unearthing of human remains [including some intact skeletons], thought to date from the fifteenth century to the early Victorian era. Though we had budgeted for an archaeological watch the find proved very costly to the project.
The porch was eventually completed by September 2016, just in time for the Music Festival, and at a cost of over a quarter of a million pounds. It now houses toilet and kitchen facilities and is a much more light and welcoming entrance to the Church.
The next phase of the restoration saw the installation of a new state of the art lighting system. The work began in late September 2016 and took eight weeks to complete. It was carried out by Church and Cathedral lighting specialists, Smith's of Gloucester at a cost of £80,000. The system gave us twenty different scene settings for services and concerts and can be controlled by an 'i-pad'.
It was at this time that we had two further setbacks. The central heating boiler died on us and we had to find a further £18,000 to replace it. The village clock in the tower also decided to stop permanently and would cost over £10,000 to repair. Thanks to a very generous response to a special gift day and a grant towards the clock from Mumbles Community Council we were able to install a much more energy efficient boiler and the old clock was sent off to Smith's of Derby to be restored. It is now back telling the time, as it has done for over a hundred and forty years.
With just enough money left we have been able to replace the leaking coping stones above the Lady Chapel arch and renew some of the clerestory windows on the north side of the nave. Contractors are painting the south aisle this month and the magnificent rood screen should be professional cleaned and restored in time for Remembrance Sunday.
So, with the appeal wound up and with a job well done, we can reflect on what has been quite a journey for us. We have completed a once in a generation major restoration of our iconic Church building. It is now watertight, flexible for an even greater variety of community use and remains a wonderful place to gather for Christian worship.
From everyone involved in the appeal; the PCC, Appeal executive, campaign managers, architect, project manager and so many others, we say a huge thank you to all who have shared our vision to restore All Saints' and helped to make it all possible. Diolch o galon - heartfelt thanks!
Undertaker Paul Murray Retires
Paul Murray hung up his morning suit and top hat at the end of last month as he retired after over thirty years of service to the community as undertaker at the village's only Funeral Directors, Pressdee's of Mumbles. Paul is known to countless local families and has been a good friend to us at All Saints' through the years. He has been a familiar figure, walking through the village in front of the funeral cortege and ministering to people in their time of grief. He has brought professionalism, compassion, dignity and care to thousands of bereaved families for well over three decades.
Paul has been one of the busiest and most respected undertakers in the Swansea area. His many years of experience have helped grieving relatives to arrange dignified and appropriate funerals for their loved ones. He has the reputation for going more than the extra mile, above and beyond his job description and has been truly selfless in his care of the bereaved. Many people in the Mumbles area are so very grateful for his help at their time of need.
As a committed churchgoer himself, Paul has been especially helpful to us at All Saints'. He recently oversaw the re-burial of the medieval remains unearthed during the excavation and construction of the new porch. He did this at no cost to the Church, even getting his sons, James and Edward, to dig the grave free of charge! As a long serving member of the Governing Body of the Church in Wales he has campaigned for the Church to have a more open and pragmatic response to funerals and the bereaved.
He hopes, in his retirement, to devote more time to his role at Ty Olwen Hospice, work which he shares with his wife, Helen. He plans to be more involved at St Mary's, Swansea, where he and the family are regular worshippers. He is also looking forward to visits to Mumbles and to joining us occasionally for the Wednesday morning Holy Eucharist at All Saints.
I, in particular, will miss Paul. It has been a privilege to work with him through the years and to come to know him as a good and trusted friend. I too, like so many others, have cause to be grateful for his support at times of personal bereavement.
I also look forward to working with his son, James, who will take over the helm at Pressdee's. He is already well established in the role as 'a chip off the old block!'.
Every blessing to you Paul, may you have a long, fruitful and happy retirement.
3. Farewell to shopkeeper - Ian Boyd!
Ian Boyd has decided to call it a day! After a long, long time in the retail newspaper I tobacconist I confectionery I grocery business, Ian has felt that it is time to hand over the reins and take a well earned retirement, whilst young enough to enjoy his senior years.
Ian's business was the classical village corner shop but defied all contemporary trends in that not only did it survive the opposition of the cut price giants, it thrived! The success of his business was, without any doubt, largely due to the type of man that Ian is. In all the years that I patronised his shop, on a daily basis, I never saw him in an ugly mood. Most customers, like myself, would always loiter for a chat, the latest gossip, a joke and invariably a laugh. Ever ready to do a favour - cash a cheque, help a charity, display free any village notices in his window [and leave them there for a decade or two], he was kindness itself.
How often the shop would be left unmanned, as he "nipped over to Hanover flats because old Mrs. Jones was out of sugar". How often have I looked down from my bedroom window at 7am on a freezing, wet winter's morning to see Ian darting out of his car to deliver a few newspapers in Trinity Close - the newspaper lad having failed to materialise that morning.
Then there was the time, long ago, when my late wife was very ill and I couldn't leave the house. Miraculously all that I needed in groceries, and the like, would be waiting on the doorstep every morning. Ian Boyd's doing.
He was the dedicated professional, his casual attitude betrayed by his consummate professionalism. Years of experience in the retail trade had made him what he was - a fine businessman but one who had a heart of gold with concern for the welfare of those who dealt with him [a rare, rare combination in this day and age!].
In a 'corner shop' which buzzed with activity, he never seemed to run out of the necessities and he never seemed to have a backlog of goods. He always remembered to keep that 'wholemeal loaf' or that 'Telegraph' for his regular customers.
I could go, on and on, as could those many hundreds of customers who have dealt with Ian over the decades. It was a joy to go into his shop every day for the sheer pleasure of having his company for a few minutes.
Thank you so very much Ian Boyd, for all that you have done for us over the years. I know that I speak not only for those of us in Norton but also for the many hundreds of others who came from afar to your 'Corner' shop. You enriched all our lives You will be sorely missed..
So, 'Goodbye! Ian Boyd - Shopkeeper'
But, 'Welcome! Ian Boyd - Private Resident in Norton!'
From all of us, in our hundreds, may you have a long and happy retirement in our midst, here in Norton!
3. 'I Shall Never Forget the Time When'.
The Clinic at Victoria Hall
by Mary Hague [formerly of Mumbles]
I still can't look at the Victoria Hall in Dunns without a frisson of fear, for that was where the schools dental clinic was located when I was a child in the 1940's, and where I had my teeth out. I remember the smelt of the red rubber mask as it was put on your
face... .then afterwards when you went home with a scarf round
your face to preyent 'blast' [whatever that was]. These memories have stayed with me for all these years, but at least I still have my teeth!
When my son, aged 2, came to Blackpill with us, to see my mother, his favourite treat was to go on the bus to Mumbles. He wore his best top, a striped T-shirt from Kemp's, and therefore called his Mumbles jumper when we went. Sadly, no Mumbles Train of course, but the bus was acceptable, and we got off at the square in Oystermouth. As we did so, he would bend down and pat the ground [I drew the line at the Papal Kiss] saying,
'Darling Mumbles!'... before we'd trot off to Lewis News [another favourite destination].
50 years later, he still loves Mumbles and visits every year - without the ritual! Favourite
destinations are now: The Park Inn, the Mumbles Ale House and the Pilot............
The preferences may change, but the love of Mumbles remains constant for us all.
Mary Hague [Hornchurch, Essex, 20181
5. MORFYDD OWEN CENTENARY
The sun was shining on Friday 7 September 2018, but there was a hint of autumn in the wind that rustled the fallen leaves on Plunch Lane, Thistleboon. Passing cars slowed down and their occupants stared at the group of people who had gathered on the roadside to witness a very moving ceremony. At 11am a Gower Society plaque was unveiled on the stone wall outside Craig-y-mOr, commemorating the young musician Morfydd Owen who died in the house 100 years before, on 7 September 1918. Morfydd was only twenty-six years old; a gifted soprano and pianist and a composer of some 250 scores. Her obituary in Y Gorlan [journal of the Welsh Presbyterian chapel] commented: 'Oh, Death! We knew that thou wert blind, but in striking Morfydd thou hast taught us that thou art also deaf'.
Morfydd Owen was born in Treforest, Glamorgan on 1 October 1891 the youngest of four children. Her parents, William and Sarah Owen, were amateur musicians and their daughter's musical abilities were obvious from an early age. She began playing the piano at the age of four and by six was composing her own music. Throughout her childhood and adolescence she performed in chapels and at eisteddfodau and at eighteen won a scholarship to study at University College, Cardiff. Many of her compositions were performed whilst she was there and when she graduated in 1912 she moved to London to study further at the Royal College of Music. That summer she was admitted to the Gorsedd of Bards at the Wrexham Eisteddfod.
In her first year at the Royal College Morfydd won every available prize as well as first prize for singing at the Swansea Eisteddfod. The premiere of her music at London's Queen's Hall in 1913 was followed by other public performances. A great musical future was anticipated.
In London Morfydd's social life centred around two separate and very different groups. At the Welsh Presbyterian chapel in Charing Cross Road - a gathering point for many Welsh people living in London - she formed a close friendship with Lady Ruth Lewis, wife of the Liberal MP for Flintshire. Her career was helped by many concert invitations and commissions. Morfydd's other influential social circle was the London literary intelligentsia which included Ezra Pound, D.H. Lawrence and many Russian emigres. Through friendships with the latter and her work with Lady Lewis for the Welsh Folk-Song Society of London Morfydd developed a great interest in Russian folk song. Sadly, her chance to study the folk music of Russia, Norway and Finland in St Petersburg [for which she received a grant from the University of Wales in 1915] was denied her by the First World War.
Morfydd continued to compose and perform, with concerts in Bath and Oxford, and made her professional debut at London's Aeolian Hall in January 1917. Then, a month later, Morfydd unexpectedly married. Her husband was the Freudian psychoanalyst Ernest Jones (born in Gowerton) - an atheist with a flamboyant lifestyle and thirteen years her senior. The wedding at Marylebone Register Office after only a six week courtship was so sudden that none of her family and friends attended.
Marriage curtailed Morfydd's music; in 1917 she published just two songs. Ernest did not wish his wife to perform in public; expecting her to support his busy professional career at the expense of her own. So that year she only performed at the Eisteddfod and one concert. In addition there were religious tensions arising from her Christian faith and Ernest's atheism. In September, six months after their civil marriage, the couple married again - at the Charing Cross chapel in the presence of her parents.
By 1918 Morfydd's twin brothers were serving in France and on 6 April her mother, Sarah, died suddenly. In August Ernest took Morfydd on holiday to Gower (a place she had not visited) where his father was living at Craig-y-môr, in Plunch Lane, Thistleboon. The couple visited Caswell and Langland and lunched at the Kardomah in Swansea. On 30 August the family (Ernest's sister and her husband lived in Mumbles) gathered at Craig-y-mOr and listened to Morfydd singing. The next day Morfydd was taken ill with pain and a high fever. She had acute appendicitis and needed an immediate operation. Instead of taking her to Swansea Infirmary, Ernest arranged for her to be operated on at the house by a local surgeon with himself acting as anaesthetist. Morfydd went into a coma and a few days later, on 7 September, she died - of delayed chloroform poisoning.
In his autobiography, Ernest Jones said that neither he nor the local doctor had known of a recent discovery that chloroform poisoning was a likelihood with a young patient, with a suppurating wound, and deprived of sugar (due to wartime rationing). Had the anaesthetic been ether the tragedy might not have happened. There was no postmortem. Morfydd was buried four days later in Oystermouth Cemetery - before a death certificate was issued. You can find her grave [a red sandstone column] by following the main cemetery path right to the top and turning left.
Morfydd Owen's death at such a young age was a tragic loss to her family and friends. It also deprived the world of one the most supremely talented and gifted musicians Wales had yet produced. The centenary of her death has been marked by several events including performances of her work at the Gower Festival and the BBC Proms, a lecture by Dr Rhian Davies at Swansea University and the unveiling of two plaques- one at her Treforest birthplace and the other at Craig-y-mOr in Plunch Lane, Thistleboon.
Kate Jones, September 2018
/ thank Gary Gregor of the Gower Society for helping me with this article. Photograph of Blue Plaque, Kate Jones; engraving of the Welsh Presbyterian Church in London, dated 1888; Morfydd Owen in 1915, private collection.
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