P. James Quakers Yard history

Peter James an introduction Quakers Yard History

A series of Stories by Peter James

Peter James was born and brought up in the village of Quakers Yard. In 2003 he decided to write about the people and memories he had of life in the village from 1943 into the new century.

It is a fascinating and interesting collection of stories about the different areas of Quakers Yard, written with true feeling and honesty.

I can’t thank Peter enough for allowing me to add this to the website, it is all his own work and it will not only be of interest to future generations but also educate them into how people lived in the those days.

He wrote this preface to explain his reasons for the work.

MEMORIES OF A CHILDHOOD.

                                          WRITERS PREFACE

The following story is an accurate account of my memories of life, starting in Mill Street, Quakers Yard.

I have tried to recall as much as needs to be of interest to the reader but the general interest would be to those who knew the residents and the area concerned.

The year is now 2003 and it has been difficult trying to recall events that happened many years ago.

Describing some of the characters may twig someone’s memories and perhaps will recall them with fondness.

For those in Quakers Yard that remember back all them years ago let me take you down memory lane.

Quakers Yard has changed a great deal over the years.  Where once green fields lay in abundance, and open spaces were there to walk and explore and to enjoy. These areas have now given way to new housing sites and the population must have at least risen fourfold.

It was for me, a happy and lovely place to live and be brought up in. and its memories would stay with me forever.

If only we could go back, but alas its not to be. The rural way of life together with its communal spirit no longer exists. We know that change must take place but not always to our own satisfaction.  I also believe the older generation might think the same and agree with me.

Gone forever are the days of poverty, but where are the days of good manners, politeness and respect gone? These commodities along with civility cost nothing. How sad to lose them.

I have endeavoured to attempt to bring some nostalgia to the reader, hoping that the characters will trigger their own thoughts and memories of the past.

For me now at the age of 60 I felt it a necessity to put my reminisces down on paper, so that maybe one day the younger element of my family might know how we lived all those years ago.

All the people I have named whether living or dead are real and if there are any who I have left out, I can assure you that it was not intentional. I hope and trust I have not offended anyone with whom I have written about.

Peter James

The story will be in four sections

  1. Mill Street
  2. The Quakers Yard village
  3. Woodlands Avenue
  4. Towards Pen locks 
History of Quakers Yard from 1943-2005 by Peter James

Part One Mill Road

MILL_ROAD_QYedit

Mill Road in the 1940’s

It was during the war of 1943 that the breath of PETER JAMES was born. The war against GERMANY was in its 5th year and quiet prevailed around the little village of QUAKERS YARD, a small district within the Borough of MERTYHR TYDFIL. Number 4 Mill Street was to be the citadel and engine room of everything that was coming during the next 60 years.

Peter was born to DOREEN DEBORAH JAMES {nee Williams} and NOEL JAMES. Peter’s father was serving as a rear- gunner of a Lancaster bomber in the RAF during the 2nd World War; his mother was working at this time in an ammunitions factory at Bridgend. He was the first to be born of three children, the second being ANNETTE and the third RITA. Although both sisters were to be born away from Mill Street, they were to have infinity with their maternal grandparent’s home.

Over the years the tiny house in Mill Street with it’s one up, one down rooms, together with a small kitchen, would not see many alterations in its lifetime, but would still hold loving memories for all that lived there.

The river Bargoed flowed behind the house racing its way to join the river Taff just passed the Glan Taff public house.

The river would swell its banks during heavy rainfall thereby breaching its retaining walls along Mill Street and entering our house through the back door and leaving through the front door. It was only when the water came through both doors at once, did we get really frightened.  The stone floor would sometimes be covered in lino and perhaps some rugs and mats but during the flooding season these would be lifted again and again to dry out.

Just in front of the river wall there laid our haven of peaceful solitude  the outside toilet. Many a good story would be remembered and reminisced, while we contemplated the day doing our business, listening to the flow of the river,  and ready to use the vast amount of torn newspaper that hung behind the door, not forgetting of course to replace what you used later. What sheer luxury when toilet paper could be afforded!

Mill Street was a community of some sixteen houses, with a great big Gasometer sitting alongside the river within the grounds of the Gas Works. Its manager was Albert Flowers and he lived on the premises with his wife Mrs. Flowers (her Christian name eludes me now and it would not have been polite or proper to call her anything BUT Mrs. Flowers in those days!).

quakers_yard_approx_1970

 

At the back of this 1970 picture you can see the gasometer in the Mill Road.(Tony Evans)

Our house was number 4 and was headed by my grandfather ROBERT JOHN WILLIAMS. He was a master plasterer and was born in North Wales in 1888. My grandmother was RACHEL ANN WILLIAMS (nee HILL) from Trelewis.

Bob the plasterer as he was known had 4 children with my Gran, JACK his son and only boy was also a plasterer, he learned the trade form his father. NANCY was the eldest of 3 daughters with DOREEN (my mother) and BRONWEN. All would play a major part in my life and the years to come.

TWO

QUAKERS YARD as explained earlier was a district in Merthyr Tydfil. A lovely, idyllic village surrounded by hills, rivers and woodland, sitting in a dingle. Its name originated from the time of the QUAKERS, a Society of Friends.

Some of the well-known and famous Quaker names such as FELL, PENN, FOX all have streets named after them in the neighbouring village of TREHARRIS.

A resting place, with its single gravestone can be found near the new bridge indicating the Heritage of the Quakers 1688. A wall now surrounds the grave securing its history.

Mill Street started at Bridge House and at my membrane of time it was occupied by the Tanners  now there’s a family. Danny was the head and Dolly was the matriarch, both larger than life, their 3 children were Terry, Barbara and Tony. All were older than me but it was with Tony that I became friendly. Their home was accessible via a footbridge coming off the village road and into their living room. There were rooms downstairs, with a yard very close to the river. During heavy downfalls of rain these rooms would become uninhabitable due to flooding. No wonder they lived upstairs. Adjacent to the Tanner’s home was an old stable where my grandfather would store his ladders and plastering equipment. It was always locked at the end of the day but we knew of a secret way to get into the building and it was a great place for hiding and for us playing rascals.

QUAKERS_YARD_1976 (1)

 

Demolition of Mill Street but Bridge House remained for a short time.

mill_r

 

Bridge House opposite the Quakers Pub

Next to the old stables lives the Pughs, Jack an ex sailor and Barbara (one of the Tanner children) with their two children Barbara and Maria. Barbara junior was the eldest and was my age, Maria was slightly younger. Jack had suffered deafness, probably because of his war years in the Navy and he lost his wife during my life in Mill Street, I can honestly say there were never any rows or quarrels between their family and mine that I can ever remember. During the fifties and sixties Barbara senior would sit for hours on end with my bedridden Grandmother and I will always appreciate her kindness during these years. All the family were good friends and good neighbours.

The Pughs house was number 2 and next to them was Mrs Hooper, I can’t remember much of her but after her came Mrs Portingale. Old Ma Portingale as she was known. Some of her family still live in Quakers Yard at the time of writing (July 2003), but it was only last month that a friend of mine and grandson of Mrs Portingale  Jeffrey  passed away aged 55 I believe. After Old Ma Portingale left number 3, along came Liza Grainger from number 8, some called her the ‘old witch’ but the less said about that the better. Liza was married to Wyndham, a nice but extremely quiet man as I recall. Never had any redress against Wyndham in all the years I had known him, but had plenty of quarrels with his wife, still that’s life. They had a daughter named Pat who was older than me and she became a very good nurse, she married and moved away, down Cardiff way.

THREE  

Number 4 was next  our house ,the house that enthused me because of its memories to write these memoirs. Our front door was always open and I can’t recall if we had a key or not. It remained open or always on the latch. No point in locking the door  because there wasn’t much to burgle anyway. Sad how we have lost that trust we all shared as neighbours years ago. Straight from the door into our living room, with its large black – leaded fireplace, an oven each side of the fire where Gran used to do her cooking, there was a gas stove out the kitchen but the food used to taste better when she used the fireplace. Two small armchairs rested alongside the fireplace and our table took up the centre of the room. We had a piano (which was taboo to anyone who could not play it) this was about the only valuable asset in the house. We also had a sofa and three chairs  that was about it really, the common luxury of a poor working family. No carpets on the floor just plain good old flagstones and a little lino! The back kitchen consisted of a fireplace, an armchair, gas cooker and our water tap. There was an old welsh dresser where we kept the dishes and adjacent was a small scullery where the food was kept, the coolest place to keep anything was on the marble stone or in the earthenware bowl, hooks were suspended from the ceiling for the use of hanging bacon.

Outside the back door was a small yard with the coal shed and lavatory, hanging on the wall would be our Friday night surprise  the tin bath!!! OK in summer but in the wintertime NO JOKE. Most of the time during the winter the taps wouldn’t work because they froze, you couldn’t flush the lavatory because there wasn’t any flush and water had to be carried to the loo. You could not have a cup of tea, wash or do anything that constituted water, simply because our house revolved around one measly tap. Great living.

That was life in all the houses in the street. Even when you were able to have a bath, anyone could walk in the house because you couldn’t lock the door!! What about the washing? Bronwen my auntie would boil everything on the gas cooker before transferring to the old washer outside, then rinsing and mangling on the hand wringer. ‘What about a cup of tea Bron?’ we would ask, ‘bugger off the cookers is full of washing’ would come the reply. The winding stairs took us to a two-bed bedroom, with its small dressing table and washstand. To think  my grandmother brought up 4 children with her husband there. How did she ever manage? Makes one think how lucky and fortunate people are in today’s world. We certainly appreciated life; I can only wonder if people appreciate what they have today. Count your blessings I say.

Will and Tydfil Jones occupied number 5 Mill Street, with their son Idris. Mr Jones worked on top pit when I knew him, a slight, lean man who was both quiet and polite. His wife Tyfil was close friend of my grandmother and would sit for hours and hours in our house. When my Gran became blind Mrs Jones would spend many a long hour reading the latest news from the Echo or Merthyr Express. It was her way of keeping up to speed with the local gossip and news. Tydfil Jones’ father or was it her grandfather was the author of a well known book titled ‘The Maid of Cefn Hedfa’, although I have heard of the title I can’t recall ever reading the book, perhaps it would have been beneficial to research this out. Idris the son was my mother Doreen’s age and at this present time living in Treharris at the ripe old age of 82. He would spend most of his working life employed by the gas works, a small gas oven and gasometer was situated at the end of Mill Street. Again wonderful neighbours ,how I miss them sometimes.

 FOUR

millthree

Someone walking up the Mill Street

Same view Today

Between numbers 5 and 6 was an old garden area separating the houses, which it belonged to I don’t know, but they had lovely gossegog bushes there and was ripe for the taking when there was nobody around.

Lily James lived in number 6 and was always open to visitors. Lodgers came and went. One I can recall recall was nicknamed Dai the Liar and came from Nelson, but her longest lodger was Will Lloyd who stayed with her for many years. Lil had a son, Tommy, again the same age as my mother and he lived in number 8. Lily was a sister to Liza Grainger who I mentioned earlier on. She was a very outspoken, gruff woman who put the wind up me. Boy when I was young, did she frighten me! Their house was the only house in Mill Street that was side on, it was off the road and only accessible down a side path along it’s garden.

Lil’s next-door neighbour at number 7 was one of the characters of Mill Street  his name Mr Sammy Andrews. A small, lean man with white wiry hair, poor and straight to the point, no bullshit with Sam, you either liked him or ignored him. No refinery with him but still quite a loveable rogue. His wife was Florrie Andrews  such a simple woman, kind, considerate and content in her own way. How on earth she put up with Sam when he came home drunk as a skunk is beyond me, but put up with him she did until his dying day. Between the two they had two sons, Douglas and Leonard. Both boys were much older than I, with Doug being the eldest. Both served in the forces and Leonard married a first cousin of mine from Nelson called Thelma Davies. After marrying both Thelma and Leonard moved in with Flo and Sam (or Andy Cap and Flo as they were affectionately known by some of the locals). Doug married Dot a lady from over the Tint I believe and would later move into number 9 Mill Street, until later moving up the valley to Merthyr Vale. A large family were the Andrews’ and a great many of them lived in Mill Street one time or another in various homes, mostly the Chapel House.

Leonard and Thelma would live at number 7 for a few years and then move up to Pentrebach. My cousin Thelma would suffer a long term of ill health, hardly able to walk but she outlived Leonard and is still holding on as I write.

mill_4

Mill Street 1950

Mill Street 2012 the houses are gone

FIVE

We are now at number 8, my first remembrance is that Liza and Wyndham Grainger lived there with Pat but later moved to number 3. Tommy James or Tommy Meredith as he was known to some (now why was that?) Tom was married to Ann who both shared a daughter Susan (my sister Annette’s age). Tommy was an engine driver working on top pit  Treharris Deep Navigation Colliery ever since I had known him. He was my mother’s age and they grew up together. His wife Ann would die much earlier in life than Tom, who was to follow me over to the prefabs in Woodlands Avenue to live when at long last the Mill Street houses were condemned. So would other families in the street  some to Twynygarreg, some up to Bryngerwn in Pentwyn and others to Woodlands Avenue. Not before time some might say and I must agree with them. Out landlady Mrs Jones  Pontypool was a tyrant in her own right. On time to pick up the rent, much after time to carry out the repairs to the dingy squalor we were living in. But still we did not know any different so what’s new? Funny how those memories stay with me. Thank goodness, I hope I shall never forget.

Now where was I? Oh yes number 9; Mrs Williams Ginger was the earliest I can remember living in that house. She was the local fortune-teller and there would be many comings and goings throughout the days and nights.

Her lodger was one Tom Palmer a bachelor who had served in His Majesty’s Forces in India. I can’t remember Tom getting married, but he did to Eileen Maddocks who lived further up the street. Tom was one hell of a boy and he would tell me of his escapades when he was in the army. I was a young lad of fifteen then, working in the same district of Deep Navigation as Mr Palmer  come to think of it  because of his army stories  perhaps he was the one to influence me to going into the forces in the first place. Tom married Eileen Maddocks who is the middle sister of three, I do not remember too much after they were married and I can’t even remember what year they got wed. Whatever, Tom and Eileen went to live in Merthyr and Doug Andrews and Dot moved into number 9, after I presume when Mrs Williams Ginger died.

Continuing up the street with its narrow road way, between numbers 9 and 10, there was again an open piece of ground, to whom it belonged I do not know, perhaps it was land used during the war (to dig for victory? Maybe someone will tell me one day). Nevertheless the next house was the Flat Iron House. This was the most curious house in the street. It was shaped exactly like an old fashioned iron, broad at the one end and tapering out at the other.  It sat with its foundations in the bed of the river Bargoed, with just a smidgen of ground to the tapered end of the house. You entered off the road through the gate and directly to your left was the outside toilet, in front of you was the coal house, the front door into the house was on your right hand side and immediately as you stepped through the front door you were in the one and only downstairs room. There was only enough space for a table and chairs and as I recall when Bronwen (my auntie) lived there, a small sideboard, it was a very tiny room and oh so funnily shaped. But my grandfather and I would sit up there for hours after my uncle Ron (England)  Bronwen’s husband, purchased one of the first televisions in the street. This was in 1953, especially for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth. What an invention, what a sheer opulent luxury! Mr and Mrs Bray and their daughter Sheila lived there and would later move with their English relations up to Trelewis. For a short period of time the Maidments (belonging to the Brays) stayed at number 10 and I became friendly with the children named Michael and Carol. There was only one small bedroom and looking back it was rather a dismal place to live!

Across the river from the Flat Iron House, was the gasometer and gas works. The manager Albert Flowers lived on the premises, in a rather nice house and the only entrance to the property was across an iron bridge. There were various buildings situated around the grounds for monitoring gas output etc but it was the gas ovens that frightened me. I heard numerous stories of people taking their unwanted pets to be put down. Humane? I don’t know. But still it’s not a happy memory. Mr. and Mrs. Flowers were lovely people very polite and well mannered. Idris our next-door neighbour worked up there with Colin? Mickey Pritchard and Sid Hale, whether they worked together at the same time I can’t recall. I only know that Albert Flowers would promise me a job when I came of age. Never took him up on that pledge, went to work in the pit instead. Of course they would pull the gasometer down in years to come and new technology would take over, the last people living in the gas works house that I can remember was Emlyn Jones, his wife Susan, Sid and Mrs. Hale (father and mother of Susan).

Top of Mill Road 2010
SIX

That concluded the houses on the river side of Mill Street and if you continued up Mill Road you came to Melin Caiach and further up again Pont Squire. Mill Road ended at the junction of the old surgery and Bargoed Road. This junction joined the main road to Treharris and Trelewis, but the Mill Road lined with its avenue of trees only lit by gas light would become the monkey walk or lovers lane every Sunday night for many a year.  A gathering promenade of boys and girls, would come from all around on Sunday night to walk the length of Mill Road and back again  perhaps hoping to meet their future partners.

Just off the junction off Bargoed Road, on the top end of the Mill Road was a pathway leading up to the Pandy. A small brook meandered through the little glen up towards the Pandy itself. Outlets of spring water containing iron oxide would join the little brook before it entered the river Bargoed and made the water into a reddish colour, this we named ‘The Red River’. The Pandy was a disused quarry with old workings that was now covered by water and it had a crane of some sort protruding out of the water.

This was the place to swim in the hot summers we seemed to have then. The jutting crane became an ideal platform to dive in the water. All extremely dangerous of course, but nevertheless people took the risks, there were reports of people drowning but I can’t remember any names.

The Pandy would be filled in and landscaped in the after years, but we would spend hour upon hours fishing and swimming around the area.

I believe Jarrolds owned the ground, but today the walkways and paths appear to be either overgrown or disused. This was our adventure ground when we were children.

Tickling trout from the little brook, having picnics of bread and jam and tap water, how the rich lived eh! We would build dams to a secret pond to swim in and once the dam held sufficient water, deep enough to cover up to our backsides, we would pretend to be Tarzan or someone. Boy was that water cold!

Leaving the Pandy we would make our way back down Mill road, some friends would leave to go home via a path up to Pentwyn and Edwards Terrace, whilst the rest would continue down Mill Street and the village of Quakers Yard. We would pass Westons fields at the bottom lamp (the last gas lamp on the Mill Road) and wonder if it would be nice and sunny tomorrow. We often waded in the river Bargoed at Westons field and collected Duff from the riverbed. This we would hew out in tin baths and buckets and leave on the side to dry out. After a few days we would contact Mr Lewton in Treharris or Smacker as he was known, who would pay us for our efforts. Very enterprising boys were the Mill Street Boys’!

Mill_2

 

A young Lady of Mill Road

mill_one

Another Mill Road lady

SEVEN

The very next house on Mill Street on the right hand side and just below the gas works bridge lived the Maddocks family. George the father was the finest draughts player I have ever seen. He was reputed to be ex Welsh Champion and it was rumoured that he would play many people at the same time and would stroll from table to table in the Quakers pub and demolish the lot of them. Mrs Maddocks, a small shortsighted lady was the foundation of the home. Her sons Willy, Horace, Bobby and Brian cherished the ground she trod on. I can’t recall another son who drown in the river Bargoed. She had three daughters Elsie, Eileen and Joan. These were my mother’s and my aunt’s age and they all grew up together. The Madocks family was rough and ready but always there to lend a hand. A happy family, all liked betting the horses. You would always see Will on the corner of the Quakers pub waiting to hand over the family bet to Cyril Knight, the bookies runner. It was of course illegal to bet horses in those days. Horace and Bobby would never marry and died confirmed bachelors  whilst Brian the youngest and a little older than myself would later marry. Brian has also died, Joan his wife lives in Edward Street Treharris, they would have a son together named Darren.

Will Maddocks was a character well known in the area and the village of Quakers Yard. A wee bit eccentric, but kind in his own way. You would often see Will playing football up on the Waun field, all dressed up in his suit, tie and overcoat. An avid fan of soccer he would have a kick around every Sunday, dressed as he was. All the Maddocks’ that were living in Mill Street at the time of rehousing would move up to Wingfield Terrace.

This would be Bob, Horace, Will and Brian. All are now dead. The three sisters would have married years prior and moved away from the area. Eileen to Merthyr, Joan over the Rhondda and Elsie to Merthyr. All in all, each and every one lovely people. This house and its foundations (as all the houses in Mill Street) can still be spotted backing into the woods, with its ghosts and memories of everyone who can remember the community.

Directly facing the Maddocks’ home, lived the Thomas’. Reece and Renee the mother and father and their three children, Bobby the eldest, Billy in the middle and Joyce being the youngest. Billy was around my age although I think he is slightly older. There was a family relationship along the line somewhere, I believe on my Grandmother’s side, but we all classed ourselves as cousins. Billy and I would grow up together with the other children in the street. Funny, but how destiny would run parallel with Billy, myself and Des Andrews (who I shall be writing about next) in that we all done service in the Army. Perhaps it was all the make believe games we used to play that fashioned our destiny? Billy’s house had the biggest gardens in the street, an orchard of apple, pear and plum trees and it was in these trees that we would make our fantasy aeroplanes pretending to shoot all the German planes from the skies. Hours would be spent in the orchard, but we didn’t half get a rollicking when the fruit was in its harvest, we had to stop the war then! I can recall sleeping over at the Thomas’ (or Twmpies as the family were affectionately called) many times with Billy, Bobby and myself in the same bed. How we used to do the Sunday papers for Dai Echo, in Treharris and all around Edwardsville. How we used to celebrate on penny week (we would get extra tips on one Sunday in the month). How we would sit glued to the wireless on a Sunday night, listening to Journeys in Space, oh, how childhood memories can stay with you! The Thomas’ would move up to Twynygarreg from Mill Street and are still in the same house as I write, although Reece has passed on, Renee is in poor health and must be at least 82 years of age and Bobby is still unwed and living with his mother. Billy had a marvellous career in the Army and served for more than 22 years, he is currently living and working in Barry. Good for him, shame we never kept in touch, I haven’t seen him for many a good year. Still we grow old together with our memories. Joyce married Gordon Dower and is living in Edwards Terrace, the family home of Gordon and Dudley Dower who went to school with me.

EIGHT

The Chapel House was the next house to the Thomas’  next to the graveyard!! Was it haunted I ask myself? In the mind of a child perhaps it was. I only know I would run past that place at night and even now I feel goose bumps running over my body.

The house and home would see many families coming and going at the Chapel House, but it was the Andrews’ that hold the fondest memories for me. There was Tom Andrews the father and Beryl Andrews the mother, remember Sammy? He lived at number 7; he was the brother of Tom. Mr Andrews Tom that is was bedridden and I can honestly say I never remember him out of bed. Between the parents they had Desmond the eldest son and my close friend, Janet was my sister Annette’s age, then there was John, Raymond and Malcolm, Terence would come along later being born in Treharris, Cilhaul that is. A large family that would struggle through the years in Mill Street, but would go their separate ways in years to come. Desmond and I along with Billy Twmpy would play and survive during the fifties; it is with Desmond that I can sympathise with. During the years of his father’s illnesses and a large family to support, it was he that took on the burden as breadwinner. Looking after his siblings with help from his sister Janet, perhaps childhood passed him by in a way. I shall always have a high regard for Desmond and can appreciate the work and dedication he put into his family. Even when they moved to Cilhaul, they were all so very young but survive they did and I have fond memories of visiting their home in Cilhaul. All have gone their separate ways now and whether they keep in touch, who knows? I certainly see Des now and then in Merthyr and we talk over the old times. Desmond to his credit does tremendous work for charity, walking mile upon mile despite the fact he has had heart by pass surgery. A young man robbed of his childhood perhaps? Still a good man in his own right, at the age of 60, after several broken marriages still is doing good work looking after the needy. Well done my friend!

Raymond Davies lived in the Chapel House next, he would be nick named Flash. Ray today is aged 64 and I know precisely his age because I work with him at Remploy in Merthyr Tydfil. I do not recall when he first moved into Mill Street, but I believe he moved to Twynygarreg when he was about 16 that must have been around 1957 or 1958? Ray would have gone to school with several of the older boys in Mill Street, namely Brian Maddocks, Bobby Thomas and Brian Williams  my cousin whom I’ve not written about yet.

After Ray left Mill Street along came a character nick named Jack Spot (Bill Durbin was his proper name I believe) Now Bill to me was the ultimate Teddy Boy, with his drain piped trouser, long teddy jacket, suede shoes and lace tie. What a sight, but it was all the trend in those days and us youngsters would only aspire to dress the same.  I was a bit dubious of Bill Durbin but he never bothered me so less said about him the better. Onwards: –

NINE

Leaving the pathway from the Chapel House you passed the graveyard  sometimes running and sometimes walking (in the daylight of course. There was then a block of coal houses for number 14 and 15. The back entrance was normally used to enter number 14, which was my Uncle and Aunts house. John Edward Williams married my mother’s sister Nancy Williams (no change of surname there!) John was North Walian whereas Nancy was a local girl. They had three children  Marion the eldest, then Desmond and last but not least Brian. Brian being the youngest of the three was about three years older than me.

The entrance to my cousin’s house, which was one of the two houses in the Mill Road, that was adjacent to the graveyard, with its retaining wall running alongside the back door. You had to pass the coal house and turn to your right and directly in front of you was the toilet or DUB as we used to call it. There was many a time when you caught someone unaware with the toilet door open, so the safest thing to do was whistle out loud when you went visiting, this was of course, to stop any embarrassment for all concerned!

My uncle John (Johnny North to his friends) and my auntie Nancy my mother’s sister had three children Marion, Desmond and Brian. All older than me our Brian being the youngest and about three years older than I was. Marion would be the big sister to me in those early days and would help bring us children up. Marion would be the one to wash and scrub me, look through my hair with a tooth comb (what was she always looking for?) and see that I didn’t get into much bother. John and his two sons would work in the pit in Treharris, get married and go their separate ways from the Mill Road. Tragedy would strike them all in years to come. My aunty Nancy would be taken ill with sunstroke whilst at Barry Island, one of our yearly outings and sadly pass away. I would be robbed of an aunt that I never knew too well. Desmond would receive an accident on the way home one night and would die prematurely; Brian would suffer from MS in his late thirties and die from the illness. Johnny North would live to a ripe old age and die under the care of his daughter Marion, who would also lose a daughter in the prime of her life. Two sons and a mother would be robbed of a full life and I wonder, how different our lives would be, if they had fulfilled their rightful term of life?

The little house with its back door would be used as the main entrance and on entering you would find a small pantry to your right, with an adjacent small kitchen. There was then the living room, with the fireplace being the central focus. There were of course various items of furniture, all very cramped but it was the gramophone that would take my eye. Very posh to have one of them.

Most of the records were from the label ‘His Masters Voice’ and I would sit for many an hour listening to the INK SPOTS.

To the right of the fireplace came the door way to the bedrooms, only two, but compared to our house at number 4, it doubled the sleeping space. I slept in the bedroom on many occasion but I can’t ever remember sleeping in the small bedroom, come to think of it I can’t remember ever going into that other room. It was pretty scary sleeping up there with the grave yard so close to you and all the stories that were told of ghosts etc. would play on my imagination during the night hours.

TEN

As explained before, Marion would look after me during those young years and I have been told that I needed a lot of looking after being a bit of a tearaway, but I always thought I was such a perfect child! I can well remember Marion marrying Frankie Grans, a lovely man of Spanish heritage, from the Dowlais area and most of the street was invited to the wedding up in Penydarren. Marion would live in Gas Row and the reception was held in the Catholic Hall on the Bont Field. It was a great wedding but the problems started when the snow started falling. We were all stranded up in Dowlais and accommodation had to be found for the night. Most of us slept in the houses of friends of Marion and Frank. You can imagine what a marvellous adventure us kids were having being away from home. I would stay at Marion and Frank’s home as much as I could possible get away with. Mitching from school I would jump on the Merthyr bus and make my way up to Marion’s, only to put worry on my mother’s shoulders wondering where I had gone. Not many phones in them days. Marion would see the worry that I might be causing back home and would feed me up and send me back home on the bus, with a promise for me to visit them officially. Marion and Frank would have four children together, Kelvin being the eldest, then twin girls Angela and Larraine, with Dawn being the youngest of the four. It was with deep sadness that we lost Larraine through illness last year. So sadly missed but always remembered.

Most of my family memories would revolve around my cousins at number 14, unfortunately I was moved from Mill Street to live with my parents in Nelson and a gap would appear in the community of life. I loved and cherished living with my grandparents at number 4. Nevertheless NO-ONE could stop me running away from Nelson and returning to the home I adored. Each opportunity I could afford, I was on my way back over Pentwyn Road, back down to the village and to my family and friends. Strange but how the seed of life tends to call you back from whence you came!

I suppose I became independent at the age of 15, when I started in the pit in Treharris and decided to move in with Gran and Gransha.

I believe now, that working underground for the NCB entitled me to manhood, I felt I could stand-alone. The pride of a Welsh miner, hewing out a living for his family was paramount. How proud I felt when my Granny said I could stay with her at number 4. Silly sentiments and dreams I suppose but reality would have it that after 3 years in the pit, I would decide to join the Army. How I would admire the men who worked all their lives underground, clogging their lungs with coal dust, bringing premature death to their early lives, bringing sadness and misery to their families, all because of the price of coal. At the very date and time of life 2003 of writing, at long last the Government within this country has decided to compensate their efforts and sacrifices! WAS IT WORTH IT? Thank God the Labour Government thinks so!

ELEVEN

Number 15 Mill Street comes next. The semi detached cottage, next to my cousin’s house. This belonged to the Hale family, Johnny and Dolly Hale (as Mrs Hale was always called by her husband) but always Mrs Hale to me. They had three children 2 boys and a girl, Ronnie, Bertie and Cynthia. Both boys were around my age with Ron

being slightly older than I was. We would all grow up together and be known as the Mill Street Gang together with the other kids in the street. Many adventures we would have together but the time came and families would move away into different areas to live and ties of childhood friendship would be broken for ever, although within our deepest memories and psyche, one can not break away from the bond of the good times and bad that we shared as children. I have not seen Bertie or Cynthia for years and don’t even know where they are living. I still bump into Ronnie in Treharris where he is living with Marilyn, his wife of many years and sometimes we reminisce of our past memories. Ronnie would suffer chest illness when we were growing up and would spend a great deal of time recuperating in Builth Wells. He got over that ok and succumbed to an accident whilst working underground that has left him with a disability to his foot, both his parents have now passed away.

Opposite the semi detached houses of 14 and 15, one would look across the empty piece of ground towards the home of Bob Bridges and his family. They had three girls (as I can remember) Sylvia, Connie and Frances, this was a family I believed stood aloof from the rest of the street, why, I don’t know? They lived directly opposite my house and although the father Bob was a builder of sorts, I don’t think he got on well with my grandfather. Still I can’t recall ever having any disagreement with any of the family and I can’t remember having much of an acquaintance with any of them, except politely passing and expressing what a nice day it was.

Correction from the Bridges Family

just to correct some facts about my father and his family. we lived at 16 mill road my sisters were Lynn Connie and Frances my brother John and myself Alex. My father was a master builder and worked on building plumbing and roofing in the Treharris area until his death in 1977. He came from a poor family and originally lived with his 6 brothers (Charles mayor of Merthyr and deputy lieutenant of Glamorgan J.P. and stood for parliament but stood down for George Thomas who became speaker) Arthur Bert Llewellyn Alex Fred and their sister May. they lived across the river up from woodlands school. On marrying my mother Enid they moved to mill road and finally to Susannah place.

Charles AS Bridges

TWELVE

One memory is when we celebrated The Festival of Britain and had a fancy dress party in the street (still got the photos!)

There was a walled space of open ground from the Bridge’s home to the Quakers pub. The back of the public house could be seen from the bedrooms in my gran’s house and every Friday night I would listen to the noise, singing and laughter coming from the Buff Lodge. Now what was going on there I thought?

I might just about find out one day in the future, and indeed I did  I have been a Buff since 1968, not practising, but I had my answer.

Well that just about wraps up the families and the houses in Mill Street, although Brian and Glenis Owen would occupy the Bridge’s home, Brian and his wife, to their credit are still the one and only residents in Mill Street and he has gone through hell and high water (and I mean that literally) to keep residence there. They would have two daughters Jenny and Rosemary, dear and good friends to our family of the past.

At number 15 Mill Street when the Hales moved out, I believe Terry and Doreen Tanner moved in, Terry’s mother and father lived in Bridge House. Doreen his wife was from the village of Bedlinog, both were very keen cyclists and had a tandem, we would see them on lots of occasions packing up for the day or weekend and cycling off somewhere, until that is the children came along. First Roger, then Robert, Anthony, then Jeanette and Nigel. Terry would pass on prematurely; another Mill Street resident robbed of full life hood. Doreen and several of the children would move away to Jersey, Doreen would also suffer ill health. Robert is living in Bryngerwn, a few houses from me. I think the Tanners were the last family to occupy number 15.

 

 

Mill Road Today houses long gone

Part 2 The Quakers Yard Village by Peter James

THE VILLAGE

The_road_above_

Leaving Mill Street, with its small little cottages and its narrow road, it is difficult to think how many families were born and bred there, how on coal days when the lorries used to tip their loads of house coal on the road, all members would help one another fill their coal houses, carrying their heavy burdens through the house to the outside coal shed. You had to work fast because you might block the road off. I still walk the Mill Road and stare at the empty plots that have been and were the very foundation of happiness, sadness, birth and death and realise that all these memories commenced 60 years ago. My God! How time passes one by! The Quakers pub still remains active and standing alongside the Mill Road, although its appearance has altered over the years. The last active outer building belonging to the Quakers pub alongside Mill Street was used as a betting office and one of it’s managers was Danny Tanner from the Bridge House. Of course this was when the legality of betting was made possible. Lets now turn the corner of Mill Street and look at the village of Quakers Yard.

Turning to your left, from the Mill Road, you enter the small village area of Quakers Yard. Directly to your right the village shop is still operating although it has undergone many changes. In my childhood days it was the very focus for all trading facilities; it was a grocer shop, greengrocers, bakery and best of all our sweet shop. One could buy all the rations for the week provided of course you had a ration book.

The business was owned and managed by Gwyn Jones and his sister Mae  both unwed as I can remember. Gwyn had a bake house around the corner from the main building with lots of ovens and this is where the villagers would bring their Christmas turkeys, chicken and geese for cooking. That’s if you could afford the fowls in the first place! There was always a wonderful smell of cooking coming from the bake house at this very special time of year and you knew someone was going to get lucky at the Christmas dinner table. We always had our bread freshly baked from Jones’, not much sliced in those days, just tin loaves, cobs and batches, even to this day whenever I pass a bakery anywhere, the memories come flooding back, nothing quite like the smell of freshly baked bread! I would go shopping for my Gran nearly every day, although I was a bit timid of Miss Jones. She seemed to have a schoolmistress air about her and you had to be very polite when asking for the day’s groceries. I put up with her stern attitude just to have my treat for the day, either a packet of swizzles or a tube of horlicks tablets or perhaps a sherbet dip! My reward for going shopping, but I wouldn’t have anything when we went on the book. The bake house has long gone but the building has been used and converted many times for various purposes.

Next to the shop was a detached house, lived in by the Tanners, belonging to the Bridge House Tanner’s across the road from them. Mr. Eddie Tanner and his wife had three children, Valerie, Danny and Delrain? Val was a lot older than me and once married moved to either South Africa or Australia. Danny (the artexer) is living in Fir Tree Drive and the youngest Delrain I believe lives in Merthyr Vale. Both the parents have now gone on but I can remember them as a friendly family, well respected. Next door to their house was a piece of land we used to call the Pop Stores. This was a demolished building far before my time, but it was the ideal place to build our bonfires every year (this area is now where the bus stop is and the Tanner’s home is long gone and no remains of the foundations are visible). Two months before November 5th we would collect tyres, boxes and papers throughout the village and gather old trees and timber from the woods and strive to have the best bonfire in the surrounding area.

On completion of the bonfire it would be guarded day and night to keep raiders away. There was always fierce competition between the Village boys’ and the Pentwyn boys’  nobody was going to take our bonfire away or light it early!

From the Pop Stores there were two houses that came next and access to these were up some steps. I can recall Mrs. Tilly Tanner living in one (more of the Tanner’s Family) she always wore a very long ponytail, she had a gruff sort of voice but unfortunately that was to be my only memory of her. There was an old gentleman living in the house next door to Tilly’s, who we little rascals used to call ‘Old Fanny Edwards’ but the least said about that the better. I believe this house would be taken over by a gentleman from the huts in Treharris by the name of Mostyn, who became friendly with Will Maddocks from the Mill Road.

To the side of these two houses and in a dingle were another two houses, called the Gardens one was occupied by Jack Jones and his family (or Jack the Rat as he was affectionately known). Jack and his wife had three daughters, Margaret, Gillian and Elizabeth. Margaret was my age, Gill being slightly younger and Elizabeth was the youngest. Gill would marry one of the local boys Alan Williams or Dibber (as he become known) and Margaret would marry a Bedlinog boy and a good friend of mine Bernard Thomas they emigrated to Australia when Bernard has obtained his mining certificates to manage coal mines and on their last visit home appeared to have done very nicely  Good for them! Elizabeth lives in Edwardsville.  Their house would be renovated after ‘Jack the Rat’ died and although now much larger, it is nothing like the property from my childhood days.

Next door to them were the Oakley’s but I can only recall David and even then he moved away during our early childhood. This house was then taken over by the Styles or was it the Reids? With Ken the father and Molly the mother, they had several children between them but it was Jeanette and Kim I can identify with. I certainly know that many a party was held in their house during the Christmas and New Year periods, perhaps it was because Mrs. Styles was a Scot? Both parents have passed away and I haven’t seen any of the children in decades. You had to go down steps into the houses in the Gardens and those were the last houses on the right hand side before you came to the Glan Taff pub.

Leaving the Glan Taff and making your way back into the village, just opposite the Gardens, if you look closely at the retaining wall to your right, you might make out some details and just about see some markings of two very small cottages that lay beneath the road to Pentwyn. The last people to live there were Fred and Audrey Baber, now living in Treharris.

qyf4ed

Opposite the Gardens are some steps that take you up onto the road leading to Pentwyn. The houses there together with the Post Office and two other houses are now known as Dan y Twyn, there was another house, which sat alone at the end of the houses in Dan y Twyn, it stood directly in the basin of the Gutty stream, which ran underground, beneath the road on its journey to the River Taff, just behind the Glan Taff pub. This house was the home of the Stone family, who later became the Locks, John and Brian were the two sons of Mrs. Lock (or Stone), both older than I was, I  Believe John went into the Royal Navy for some years, the last I heard of Brian he was in the public house business, managing pubs and clubs. I know he managed the Aberfan Community Centre and later moved on to Penydarren. The house no longer stands and I think Jimmy Dowden was the last person to live there.

Directly opposite the Lock’s house was the home of Mr. Morgan and his son Stewart Morgan. The latter still lives in Quakers Yard in Fir Tree Drive. The foundations of this house still show and it was the building that lay above the cottages that I mentioned earlier, on the way to the Glan Taff Inn.

During my early years the Post Office was managed by Mrs. Bailey and later by her daughter Mrs. Matthews, Mrs. Matthews’ husband was a good photographer as far as I can remember. They had a daughter Pat and two boys Robert and John. Robert and I became good friends and would play for hours on end by ourselves up the Waun field, pretending to be the great footballers of our time. We would then play up the cow’s field, playing cricket, bowling over upon over and winning our cricket caps (in our dreams!) Fantasy Island?  Perhaps, but hours of entertainment. I remember well that Mrs. Bailey must have been the oldest living resident in Quakers Yard at one time and received a telegram from the Queen to celebrate her 100th birthday.

Next to the Post Office was the home of the Owens’ two brothers, I can remember Bryn Owens was apparently responsible for inventing a safety apparatus for use in the pits. Don’t ask me – I can’t remember what! He was a very intelligent man but sadly his body was found in the whirlpool of the River Taff during his later years, a real gentleman. I haven’t much memory of who used to live next door to the Owens’ but Leighton and Maureen Bethell would purchase the house in years to come. Sadly Leighton would die prematurely. I think Gwyn Curtis lived in Dan y Twyn before moving up to Windsor Place.

Let’s go back down into the village to the Quakers pub and restart our journey alongside the Quakers. The pub must be one of the oldest buildings in the Quakers Yard and was a central meeting place for all the community at one time or another. The Buffs as I explained earlier would meet and hold their lodge there. All the charabanc trips took place from there, under the organization of one Doran Cooper, he always appeared to me as ancient, with his long white beard and stooping back.

Someone from the era of Charles Dickens was the way I might describe him. He would organize and collect money for all our trips to Barton Fair, to the pantomime to the once a year seaside jaunts and any other trip that would come his way. He lived in Fair View and his role of organizer would be taken over by Jim Jones, also of Fair View, when Doran passed away. How I enjoyed and looked forward to our journeys away from the village and how we would all gather at the Quakers pub before setting off.

One of my best money making schemes which I would relish, was when a wedding would be held at the Quakers pub and all the children would queue outside waiting for the best man to throw pennies to us, then the scramble would start. Came away with a pretty penny in them days!

The earliest landlord I can remember in the pub was George Stock and his wife. He seemed to be a very stern man and would send me packing when I was caught looking through the windows, wondering if my grandfather and my uncle Jack would be there. I can’t remember if he was still there when I became the age to indulge in the demon brew.

There have been many landlords throughout the years, but my best memories are of Dai Reed and his wife Joyce. Dai had an artificial leg but that didn’t stop him getting about! There was also Dai Farr and his family from Bedlinog, who moved to the Old Vic pub later on in life. Other landlords have come and gone but I am an old Glan Taff boy!

There is a small house, which is adjoined to the Quakers, building but I cannot begin to actually know who owns this? I always thought it belonged to the pub but so many people and businesses have been run from there that I believe it must stand alone. It’s been a home for many a family, a fish shop, and newsagents and now who knows what?

Rusty Miller was the first I can recall living there with his wife Beryl. Another family to live at these premises was Dick Belshire. Then an Irish man by the name of Cummings had a business there, various people had business’ there over the years but I believe the property has gone into the hands of Paul’s fish shop, next door. Rusty’s family, the Millers lived next door, which is now as explained Paul’s (the fish shop) but lets look at the Miller family.

Reg and Mrs. Miller had all sons (as far as I know). There was Vic, then Rusty, next was Billy, then Ivor and last my old mate Bernard. Reg ruled the nest with a rod of steel and frightened the living day light out of me. Many a day I would call around to see Bernard but was politely told to GO AWAY. He would confide in me years later and say he wouldn’t be able to go because he had done something wrong and had received punishment from his father’s belt. Reg was a large man and had a very large belt! All miners had great broad belts in them days and I didn’t fancy having one of them slapped around my arse. All the sons with the exception of Ivor, moved away to Melksham and the last time I saw Bernard was in his pub on one of our Buff visits. Ivor lives up Fir Tree Drive and is the husband of Joan Wills a Quakers Yard girl. I will remember all the boys especially Bernard, Ivor and Rusty, they all loved motorbikes and I had a go once on Bernard’s BSA Bantam, it was only a 125cc but big enough for him, although Ivor and Rusty had much bigger more powerful bikes. Ivor became and is a very good mechanic.

Next door to the Millers lived Mr. Joe Price and his wife. Mr. Price suffered with his chest because of working in stone dust and it was a pity to see him, some days he was hardly able to breathe. His wife was a white haired, gaunt looking woman, very thin with a pointed face and all my friends believed their house was haunted. No joking  no one would play around there! They lived next door to the Co-op and the building although still occupied has been turned into flats. The Co-op was managed in my day by Phil Jones and was the business to invest with. You received dividend payments every so often and you could even have stuff on tick just pass your book and everything would be ok until payday. Many people worked and served in the Co-operative and even I was given a job delivering goods on the co-op bike with its large wicker basket on the front, until that is, the day I rode the bike into the wall. Well! It was a monster to ride. No more Saturday deliveries for me and no more tips to tied me over! Still the Co-op was a good and friendly institution and seen to the needs of many a family in those days.

Around the corner from the shop lived Mr. and Mrs. Richards, with their daughter Linda. Next to them was the Chewins family, whose home was around the corner down the gully from the co-op. this area around the gully had a large building believed to be a garage and behind it was an orchard. To the left of the garage was the Chewins’ home. Opposite the garage, to the right was an old chapel owned by Reg Miller, where we would sneak in and play during rainy days  only because Bernard Miller was with us, we wouldn’t dare venture there without him. Between the garage and the old chapel was a gate, going into the grounds of Gwyn Jones who owned the bakery. This property would then back on to the houses in Mill Street.

Mr. Bert Chewins and his wife had several children, all of who are older than I am. There were Arthur, Beryl, Raymond and Joyce, if there were more  I can’t remember. Arthur married a lady called Marian and went to live in Thornwood, Treharris, Beryl married Sam but is sadly no longer alive, although her husband is living in Bryngerwyn, Joyce married Peter Button but yet again his life would be taken from him in his early years. Joyce would be left to bring up her daughters alone in Fir Tree Drive.

It is difficult to picture this area to the side of the Co-op as it used to be but I am sure that some photos must exist of the old chapel etc.

To the left of the old chapel area, we now embark on two little cottages that start the beginning of the Gutty. These cottages are still in tact and fully occupied, although they were rented properties years ago under (I believe) the estate of Mrs. Jones, Pontypool. My earliest recollection of people living there was when I was a boy, was of the old man George Stevens, his daughter or son? Lived next door and this again I might be getting confused (were some children named Stevens and some named Thomas? Perhaps the mother married twice) anyway there was Malcolm or Max as we knew him by, then Kay his sister and then Morton my mate. All the family would move away during my young years to go and live in Doncaster. There might have been some more children but I can’t recall them. Kay would lose the sight of an eye through a firework when we were young and Max would seek a career with an organization working for Christian Aid in Africa. He comes back to Wales periodically and is still working out in Africa I believe. Morton I have not seen since my teens. I have heard that his mother comes down occasionally to visit old friends, but can only guess at this time of writing, whether she is alive or not?

Other people to live in these cottages would be Tom and Sally Rees, Arthur and Jean Bishop, Mrs. Lock, her husband Danny and their daughter Mary, Keith Williams and family (who is the brother to) Dillwyn Williams who still lives in the cottages. Dillwyn’s daughter in law, a young widow also lives in the cottages. Other families have probably lived there but the memories have passed me by.

After the two cottages we make our way up to the Bailey. Years ago where the hairdressers is now, there lived Mrs. Maggie Thomas (one of the Twmpies) from Mill Street, with Vic and Betty Andrews and their children Tony and Madeleine. After the last residents left this house, it became a betting office, giving work to various residents of Quakers Yard. Opposite this house we have the houses on the Bailey. Now were there three houses there or two? Anyway they became the property of John Evans or Tenby as he was called by some of the older inhabitants.

These houses laid adjacent to the Post Office, with small gardens in front of the houses, looking down on the road and village. John Evans’ widow still lives there but I believe the houses have been converted into one.

I remember Doris Pritchard (nee Williams) used to live there, with her sister before

she got married. Both Doris and her husband Eddie have passed on now.

Directly below the Bailey (where the hairdresser is now) were two shops. One the village sweet shop, the other the village barbers. Mr. and Mrs. Howells were the first people I can remember there and I believe Mr. Howells used to be employed by the Brays  a sweet manufacturer in Merthyr. I can well remember going there with my ration book for sweets that is if the money was available. I think they had a daughter named Lynno. This was a very small shop but the array of offers that they had, made ones mouth water and the sweet shop remained untouched for many a year.

After the Howells’ came Clem Morgan who was the brother of Stewart Morgan and son of Caddie Morgan, just up the hill from the shop. Clem was also the winder in Treharris pit. Others came and went and I believe John Evans took over the property.

Les the Barber had his business next door to the sweet shop and would proudly display his trophy of Welsh Hairdresser of the Year, Les was a proud man who lived in Top Locks, Abercynon and would journey over each day to his chores in the hair cutting trade. He was a staunch Buff and would campaign for a many a year fundraising and organizing membership of the Buff so that a new club could be built over Woodlands. This was realized in 1962 but would eventually give in after two fires and a decline in membership in the late nineties. Sadly Quakers Yard is now without a social club.

The village was quite a busy place in those days all those years ago but it wasn’t until night-time that we rascals would come out to play!

Each night during the winter all the local boys would meet up around the bonfire site, courageously guarding our hard work and hoping that no raid from the Pentwyn gang would take place. Our tyres would be piled high and all the boxes and paper would be placed nice and dry away from the rain. Whilst we left one or two in charge the rest of us would play either ‘kick a tin’ or hide and seek. Never felt the cold in those days and we would stay out until we heard the screams of some one’s parents for them to come in. Home we would go covered in dirt and snobby noses, only hoping that a raid wouldn’t take place and set our bonfire alight.

A couple of older boys who had started smoking would clamber up the gas light by the Co-op and light their fags, all keeping their eyes open for Sgt Groves or one of the village policemen, namely Arthur Jones or Fred Jenkins.

Strange how there is no respect for the police these days! But it’s not surprising, there is very little respect shown in all aspects of life these days!

Into the house for a good scrub, some nice hot stew for supper and then off to sleep, to start another day. No worries, no problems, wasn’t life just great?  The bonfire better still be standing tomorrow morning!

The area where the bonfire would stand is now a waiting area, with some pleasant seats (although they have been wrecked) and there is a plaque with an outline and description of the village of Quakers Yard, with a photo of Jimmy Wilde, one of our greatest fighters ever.

He would come to earn his trade over the fair field, when Scarretts Fair would visit every Whitsun time and what an eventful time that was to look forward to. But the Borough of Merthyr has produced many a great fighter and boxer in my lifetime with Eddie Thomas, Howard Winstone and Johnny Owen only to name a few and lets not forget Dai Dower just down the road in Abercynon, all good craftsmen trained in the art of self-defence. It must have been something they put in the water, or was it sheer pride and passion of being Welsh that produced these valley’s boxers. As youngsters we would be inspired by these fighters and I can well remember boxers of other stature within the locality, such as Danny Andrews and his son Terry, Marlow James, Keith Picton and the like but it was the Bon that I can associate with.

There used to be an old British Legion Club behind the Bon in Perrott Street Treharris that we used as a boxing club and I was taught how to handle the gloves with a trainer called Billy Reece from the factory (Melin Caiach), his son who’s name was also Billy could have been a really good boxer along with another good lad by the name of Ossie Jackson. Many of us would spend an evening learning the old skills and come home sweating but fully satisfied that you had taken a punch in the face and didn’t even complain. It takes a lot of guts to step into the ring and face an opponent, whom you know nothing about and I like to believe it made something of a man of me. It would certainly hold me in good stead during my Army days, when every one was expected to represent their Company in boxing competitions. After my experiences in the Bon back home, I really relished the idea of boxing in the Army and indeed I did represent my Company on a few occasions. . After the Bon boxing club was to finish, some of our lads would go to Trelewis Club and I believe that it was many years later that the Royal set up a club. Sad there’s not much around these days and the training grounds for anyone hoping to make a career in the fight game seems to have disappeared. Great to see that the Borough has commemorated statues to Eddie, Howard and Johnny, but where is the expertise and establishments to give kids’ an outlook on life?

The last building in the village must be mentioned and that is the Glan Taff, still standing and taking the trade, although interior decor has been very much altered. Landlords have come and gone but the old walls are still there, despite the fact that they started to crumble into the river, not so long ago, well some relatively new walls should I say. The extension that was built and is now demolished, used to be an outside toilet and storage of barrels area when Enoch Warren was there. Always been my local the Glan and years ago it was the place to meet up and plan our escapades for the weekend. The cellar at one time was used for the Woodlands Babes football team, with our home ground up on the Waun Field. I well remember Tom Bailey running the side and many a good game was had on the Waun. After the game, back down to the Glan for a quick shower and change for the night, although I was a little to young to play for Woodlands, we did start up a team from the village but all had to dye our white shirts  yellow. You can well imagine that this did not go down well with some of the mothers! Still I did manage to have a job dubbing boots for a lot of the bigger boys  for a price of course!

Part 3 Woodlands Avenue by Peter James

      WOODLANDS AVENUE.

Our journey now takes us into Woodlands Avenue, which now houses around 60 homes, which were erected in 1975 and replaced the prefabricated houses that were built after the last war. The prefabs as they were affectionately known bring back lots of cherished memories during my childhood days, as well as my early days when I moved from Mill Road in 1969. The prefabs were made from asbestos and came in sections. They consisted of two bedrooms with lots of storage space, a bathroom, a small closet style toilet, hallway, living room and fitted kitchen that a gas refrigerator and was comfortable enough for a small family. God knows, it was paradise moving there, compared to our cottage home in Mill Road, gracious me, an indoor toilet, who heard of such a thing? Pure luxury!

The prefabs were built on the old farm ground of Roderick’s Farm and ran parallel with the bank of the River Taff ending in a circular area at the top of the estate and on to the old council field, which ran alongside the old tram road. It would be on this field that a lot of our childhood games would be played including cricket and football, although we didn’t have much room to play a decent game, nevertheless it was sufficient for us to amuse ourselves and keep ourselves out of trouble.

On the opposite side of the riverbank was a large flat rock area called the Ducking (which originated from a Quakers Baptism stone) and it was here that all the youngsters would be initiated into the craft of swimming or if you couldn’t swim it wouldn’t be long before you learned, because someone would be sure to throw you in to the murky waters and it was everyone for themselves. The long hot summers would always find someone or another playing in the Ducking and a long day would be spent there with a fire burning on the rock and cooking potatoes and anything else we could get from our homes. Our wet bodies would be covered in a film of dust, from the coal deposits that swept down from the pits and we were dirtier going home than we were when we went swimming, but the river cooled us down and we would spend hours upon hours there. A lot of happy times we had there but today I doubt youngsters even know the place.

Although during my early child hood days when I lived on the Mill Road, I would visit the prefabs to call on my friends and wind the day away there. There was John Brown, Alan Williams, Colin Evans, Roy Combs, Alan Edwards, only to name a few but we all got on well together and would join forces with other friends from the Crescent, Fairview and of course the village lads. A game of football was always high on our play list and if the council field wasn’t looking to clever, we would make our way down to the fair field at the bottom of Woodlands Crescent.

In rainy weather we would clamber over the wall into the school grounds and play in the lofted shelter of the schoolyard. I know as children we weren’t angels but we respected other peoples’ property and I can not remember us getting into any destructive bother or trouble, but we were all terrified of the local police then and it appears to me that the roles have been totally reversed, because today the youngsters do not care or respect the law and seeing a policeman seems to throw the gauntlet down for some youngsters. If Fred Evans or Arthur Jones, the local Bobbies caught us doing anything wrong, we would get a clip around the ear hole and be sent home but today well heaven knows what happens. Funny how attitudes change with the passing

of time and not for the better a lot of it!

One of the most pleasant walks you can have is sauntering up the Tram Road, under the avenue of Beech and Oak trees, Sycamore, Hawthorne, Elder and Elms with the river running alongside. Come autumn and the hazelnuts were out, together with an abundance of blackberries ready for the picking. Squirrels would be gathering their pantries ready for the coming winter and everything would be fine with the world. Oh happy days! But today walking up the Tram Road, you would probably see rubbish, old furniture items and burnt out cars scattering the landscape. Why can’t people appreciate what nature has give us? Why spoil the countryside with their discarded filth?

As children we would walk down the Tram Road from Edwardsville baths (after we learned to swim in the Taff) eating our freshly baked bread from the bake house and it’s funny, how to me, bread never tasted as good as it did during those times. Mind you after swimming in Edwardsville baths you needed something warm to eat because it was always freezing cold in the water up there. Today one cannot appreciate how an outdoor pool compares to an indoor pool.

 

It was also great to travel by train and walking from Edwardsville station, which was quite busy in those days, alighting from the train, we would cross the railway line and walk across the field on to the Tram Road and back home in to the village. Alas the age of the train is now dying a death, with only one track left, but it was a bustling station with a higher and lower level and it was our starting point for many a journey to the seaside and elsewhere.

It would be from here that I would start my journey to Aberaman Coal Mining School, getting off at Cwmbach Halt to start my training for underground work at Treharris Pit in 1958. My initiation in to mining would come on the way to Cwmbach when you had to travel under the mountain and this was where all the lights would be put out by the older trainees and rather a painful five minutes would have to be endured and your initiation in to manhood would begin.

Bang comes a smash to the head with your new helmet on and perhaps a sharp kick to the shins with someone’s working boots and no idea who did it but it was part of life, after which you gave out what you received. Most of my friends from Quakers Yard and Treharris went through the same such experiences until we went on to our respective pits, either at Treharris, Merthyr Vale or Taff Merthyr. All gone now but not forgotten by a silent minority.

The Tram Road is a lovely walk and brought to fame by Trevithick’s railroad, which began its journey high up in Cyfartha Iron Works. The amount of engineering to bring a railway through the vast terrain is a wonder in itself. Bridging the Taff with its viaducts and cutting through hard rock face gorges is truly astounding but how many people suffered the turmoil and the pain during those early years. Many people would lose their lives, all in the interest of industrialization but I guess that’s life, just remember the facts next time when one takes a walk up or down the Tram Road. Enjoy the beauty and tranquility of the walk and try to reflect on the achievements that common man put into practice and try to imagine what the countryside along the riverbank would have been like in days gone by.

The Tram Road from the viaducts down to the village of Quakers Yard is bisected at Woodlands Cottages by the road to Sunny Bank and rejoining the Tram Road just past Tollgate House. Directly on your right is the now demolished site of the old Buff Club, twice damaged by fire and waiting for I expect someone to build houses on the site! Shame really that the club finished but from it’s opening in 1962 it produced some good times and I can well remember Tom Jones (or Tommy Scott as he was called then) performing there. It remained the home of the RAOB until its closure and would see many a celebratory occasion taking place there. The club was a social gathering for the community and the once a year outings would bring a lot of joy and excitement to many a child in days gone by. The Society of Buffaloes brought many a membership to the residents of Quakers Yard and I remember with fondness the likes of; Les Evans (The Barber), Doran Cooper, Les Evans (The Buses), George Harris, Bob Pullman, Bryn Williams, Fred Tilly, Ivor Walker, Ron Shankland, Harry Miles, Frank Williams, Dai Andrews, Johnny Owens (Sox), Tom (Twice) Thomas, Matt Evans, Will Hawkins, Fred Reilly, Jack the Rat, Mickey Pritchard, Jeff Marshall, Dai Griffiths, Emlyn Griffiths, Bill Greenaway, Bob Morris, Bomber Brown, Evan Davies, Reg Morgan, Ron Davies, Ron Price and lots and lots of other brothers too vast in name who were in the Order, but time has caught up with most of them and the memories of them now, can only be brought to mind in photographs.

Other Brothers both relatively new to the Order and the rest are still attending the Lodge and are now using the original RAOB Lodge held in the Quakers Yard Public House and it was here in 1962 that the exodus took place, from the Quakers to the new consecrated ground at the RAOB Club. The fellowship of Buffaloes is and always will be a good and worthwhile fraternal order of friends, who shall seek to care for each brother whether in sickness or health, during hard and troubled times and brings together a brotherhood of friendship. Over the years many Quakers Yard people have joined the order and although I have been a Buff since 1967 regretfully I do not attend now, I shall always be a brother of the Order. The brethren of the Order are also committed to looking after the widows and children of the Brothers who may have sadly passed away and have given monetary aid should it be requested. All in all as stated previously, a good and worthwhile fraternity and perhaps a shame that not many young men are joining the Order in this day and age, but other Brothers such as Barry Tandy, Gerald Farr, Ray Andrews, Adrian Hill and others are I believe still carrying on the duties of the brotherhood.

Part four

TOWARDS PENLOCKS

Leaving Tram Road passing the Tollgate House, we pass the two houses on the hill, which has the address of 1 and 2 Woodlands Cottages, but are separated from the other four cottages across the road.

Up the hill now to Fair View where other friends of mine lived, the Owens family with Johnny (Sox) and Stella, the Jones’  Jim, his wife and sons Len, Bryn and Jack and their sisters Doreen, Glenys, Lily and others.

Doran Cooper who used to put the wind up me with his long beard and his stooping back; The England’s, The Leigh’s, Leonard and Charlie Rees, Bob Evans and my old butty Pancho Brown. John Jenkins and family; Donald Pendry and the Jenkins family; or Mardys as they were affectionately called, with the patriarch Will at the helm and many more whom my memory cannot recall at this moment in writing.

Fred the policeman also lived up there and what a good cop he was and gained the respect of all who knew him.

Further up now to Sunny Bank and Goitre Coed with the Dowdens, the Donaghues, Reg Morgan and family, Peter Harrison and the Morgan boys Bryn John and Gareth, the Curtis’, Mrs. Mordecai and Bruce Evans the farm, I used to do a lot of casual work for Bruce when I was young, delivering the milk, picking potatoes and feeding the cattle etc and although the reward was not very high you could always rely on a first class dinner, cooked by Bruce’s mother Mrs. Evans and believe me when you finished that dinner you could not move let alone work

DOWN THE TRAM ROAD

From the Toll Gate House we make our way down the Tram Road, passing Woodlands Crescent down towards, what as children we used to call the Flat. This was a small field just above the Taff and alongside the Vic Bridge,  where we would play football and generally mess around and then perhaps make our way down the sheep path to the ‘islands’. Now there’s a place for exploration. This was where the land laid flat against the river side and when the river was in flood it would be submerged in water but when the river dropped these islands would return to life and it would be here that we would explore, seeing what goodies the tides had brought and trapped in them. We would recover many a lost football, old tyres and timber, all items of jetsam and flotsam and make use of these to the best of our ability and many a day and night would be spent on the islands, sitting around camp fires in our newly made dens.

To all intent and purpose this was our castaway island and low and behold anyone who trespassed onto our hide away. Make believe fighting would take place with hand made swords and spears made from peashooters. We would feast upon potatoes baked until black on the campfire, finishing off with nuts and blackberries that were in abundance.

Ah! Could life get any better than this? Sweet dreams of childhood!

The islands were also a hideaway for the older men, who would play cards (brag) every Sunday away from the eyes of the police and one of us younger lads would be posted look out and at the end of the session would be rewarded by a collected whip around by the card school. Heaven help us though if there were police to be seen and we didn’t give the alarm. The Sunday card schools were around in many areas in those days and dependant on who was playing, depicted the area, from the Islands to the Darren Woods, from under the Vic Bridge to the Mill Road Woods but I guess where ever they played the local police knew every location and once raided it was every one for them selves. I never got caught once but that’s the art and craft of the Mill Street Urchins.

From the flat the Tram Road would continue on its journey over the Vic Bridge, passing the orchards, where when in season the trees would hang limp, laden with apples, pears and plums and would bring an anguish of jealousy from us youngsters. If only we had the time we would be across the old pipe over the river and up and over the wall in to the orchards but this was a dangerous escapade to play and fear of being caught was paramount in our minds. Wait for another time, after dusk perhaps?

The journey would now take us further down the Tram Road towards the ‘Pond’, with its little community of houses, which are no longer there because of the demolition work carried out to make way for a new road with its fly over. This small community stood tall in an earlier life, bringing richness into each and everyone’s lives, living as a close community where everyone shared their common interests, where people suffered and rejoiced together. Gone now are the days when doors to their homes were left open and there was always a warm welcome awaiting all and sundry. These days even neighbours don’t talk and remain strangers living side by side for years. Sad we have lost that community spirit that once was universal in life.

One of my main recreational comforts was the Church Hall that stood alongside the ‘Pond’ and which I can fondly remember was named ‘The Wendy’ and it was here that many a cold night was spent enjoying ourselves, watching the magic lantern films of Laurel and Hardy and other classic movies that Mr. Reynolds the Bonn used to show. We would also dress up some nights when a dance was being held and this place became a huge favourite amongst the teen generations.

Where are the youth clubs of today gone? Far safer to all huddle together in our community hall, than walk the streets getting up to mischief. Youth clubs were in every area and district in years gone by, but in today’s standing you would be really fortunate to even locate one. This is where society has surely gone wrong, by its sheer neglect to cater for the needs of its teenagers. Fond memories will always linger on my mind, of the days and nights spent at the Wendy, with the boys and girls from the Graig, the Village, Pentwyn and Bryngerwyn all coming together and having fun.

Built and created as the church hall, the building was little more than a corrugated shack but the interior was pleasant enough, running alongside the Mabon Brook with its sharp descending steps off the main road, directly across from the Carpenters Arms but today it is totally buried, with the main roadway running across its filled in ground. It’s difficult to imagine that underneath the road, there once flourished our beloved church hall. Over looking the church hall and sitting proudly on the hillside was the cemetery of St Cynons, with the Church of St Cynons lying adjacent, but this has now been demolished. One of my memories was seeing the truants from Edwardsville Truant School, dressed in their uniformed, institutional dress, marching down the Tram Road on a Sunday, to the service in St Cynons and it sometimes put fear in to me, not wanting to be part of that institution. Poor lads!

The Carpenters Arms, which has also been demolished years ago, also has a lot of memories, although I only spent limited time there before it closed down. This was the pub that brought a lot of the limelight to its clients, with its darts team of such people as Harold Morris, Gerry Arthur, Bill Day, The Maddocks Boys Bob and Horace and many more that proudly brought a much sought after trophy, ‘ The News of the World Cup’ to Quakers Yard. Quality produced perhaps by a fabulous darts team that gained a lot of respect from the valleys during my early years.

Just off from the Carpenters there were a few houses, I can remember some friends living there, Clive Griffiths was one but these homes have also been long demolished.

Travelling up the Nelson Road, you would take a left hand turn into Mabon Road, with its little bridge traversing over the Mabon Brook alongside the much famous ‘Fiddlers Elbow’. Two cottages or Mabon Cottages as they were named spring to mind with their residents Charlie and Mary Fields and I believe Mr. Riley lived in the other one (I may be wrong here, but my memory is going slightly!) Mary Fields was a cousin to my grandmother and it was here that I would be ordered by my grandmother to visit, with any news pertaining to the family to be relayed. John and David Fields the two sons and I believe Eunice the daughter were the offspring, both John and Dai would become excellent singers and a great entertaining duo in their later years. All gone now but they were all much older than me. They were Lovely people.

Proceeding up the hill from Fiddlers Elbow, we come to the houses of the Deintyr and one house in particular was the birthplace of Jimmy Wilde.

Born in Quakers Yard 15th May 1892, this small pale looking man with such courage and such lightening hands, would become the worlds greatest fighter  in my opinion. He started off his career, fighting in the local boxing booths around the fair grounds and at only 108lbs, would take on all comers, big and small. During his career he would have between 500 to a 1000 fights and would become World Flyweight Champion by beating Young Zulu Kid form the USA in 1916. Truly Quakers Yards’ greatest personality and perhaps the world’s greatest fighter and to think he lived in out vicinity, although he moved to Tylorstown when he was a child, his history still lives in within the Merthyr valley.

The road along the Deintyr or Top Road as we used to call it, carries along to Zoar Terrace with its little cottages, which I am glad to say are still standing. These together with the houses on Leigh Terrace, Caerphilly Road, Beddoe Terrace, White Hart Cottages, Brynheulog and Rock Houses and the remainder is the Graig, where a lot of my friends lived, friends we would meet up with at the Wendy after school was out.

William Ryall and his siblings, together with Gary Stevens and his siblings and others would all join forces with their respected age groups and form the community that was Quakers Yard.

As far as I can remember there were a few shops down the Graig, with Arnolds being the major store and one that as a child, I would have to journey down to each Friday from the Mill Road, to collect the rations for my Aunty Bronwen. The Wintles’ had a butcher’s shop that was handed down through the family, with Jim Wintle being the last owner I believe. Jim is still alive and living opposite his old shop, in a cottage just below the chapel grounds.

One of the most colourful men that lived down the Graig was Tommy Randell, a cornet player in the brass band, which has since died out. When I came home on leave during my service in the Army during the sixties, Tom would always look forward to me coming home, knowing of course that I would bring a small bottle of something for him  he was such a character!

From the Deintyr and the Graig you progress across Victoria Terrace, onto the junction of Bryngerwn Cottages and Bryngerwn Avenue, the latter being an estate which was built around 1948 to answer the housing shortage and where a lot of my school friends lived. The Cottages in those days, we used to call White City, why? Heaven knows! Memories of Miss Williams the school teacher, the Morris’, Dai Gogg, the Davies’, the Lewis’, Jack Male and his family and one of the remaining residents still there, Mostyn White.

The houses of the Avenue backed onto the Waun Field and it would be here that

generations would play and teach their children and maybe even their grandchildren, to play football. Most of us played football up the Waun field in those days and a lot of the boys who went to the grammar school at Edwardsville became excellent footballers, the two I can mention are, Bruce Evans and Jeff Barrass, who would win welsh schoolboy caps’. Other good footballers would be Michael Walker, Robert Price and Lawrence Quinn and although these are slightly older than me, I often wonder if the grammar school taught them something that the other schools failed to teach. Nevertheless all good footballers just to name a few and of course there was always the Woodlands Babes under Tom Bailey. It was from these inspired footballers, that the village boys and I produced a team and each had to dye a white shirt to get uniformity into a recognized team. Needless to say that most of us could not afford football boots and either played in daps or hob nailed boots and having a kick from the latter meant a sore couple of days. Mind you it was a feat in itself to kick the ball in those days, especially when the ball was wet it weighed a ton!

The field has always been there as far back as I can remember and that goes back to at least 1949. It was a grand leisure focal point in years gone by, with the local fair changing location from the Tram Road field onto the football pitch. A circus would appear each year and the field was always open to a festival of jazz bands, which were great in number through the valleys in the late fifties and early sixties. Quakers Yard had an excellent jazz band, with locals coming from around the area to fill the places (I think they were called ‘The Toy Soldiers’). The community spirit was alive and healthy those days, pity it has now lapsed, with the only credit now going out to people of the area who fight for and maintain the local OAP Hut adjacent to the field. I believe that it is imperative to maintain a village hall or the like, where people can meet and discuss their local issues and share leisure and communal life together, so fair play to all involved with the OAP Hut, they work hard to maintain a standard that is slowly disappearing from our communities.

The houses in Bryngerwn Avenue were home to a lot of my friends that I grew up with, but alas time has taken its toll and many have passed away but lots of memories still linger in my mind. There were Les, Ivor and Helen Griffiths, Brian Jones (Logi), the Jones boys Nicky, Elvett, Dennis, Frank, Karl and their sister Ann, The Selways Kenny, Archie, Colin, John and their sister, the Porters, the Rylands, the Prices’, Major Humphreys, the Wilsons’, the Andrews’, the Coxes (two families), Tegga Williams and his family, the Yendles, the Toogoods, the Barrass family, the Wills family, brothers Jim, Roger and Nick Edmunds, the Cowells, Cyril Knight and his family, the Hales, the Luckwells, families of Alan Edwards and Graham Brown and many more.

At Wingfield Terrace were the Rees’, Denny Davies and family, the Bevan’s and later the Dowdens, plus many more over the years.

Leaving the Avenue and making ones way up the Gutty or the road, you would arrive at a cottage, where the Molds used to live but that house is long gone and you will now enter Edwards Terrace, over looking the village and it would be here during the winter months, when all the youngsters would be collecting for the forthcoming bonfire night, that we from the Village would raid the Pentwyn bonfire site and be set upon by the Edwards Terrace Gang. They would gather trees and debris from the surrounding area and erect their bonfire on the Cow’s Field. This field where Miles and Hughes the farmers used to let their cattle graze, had a slope and if the bonfire contained old tyres we would wheel these down, until they landed in the woods but as soon as we were spotted, it was off like the wind, into the Mill Road woods and very rarely we would get caught then. I guess I knew that wood better than a squirrel.

There always seemed to be competition between the Village and Pentwyn Gangs, on who had the biggest and tallest bonfire. Great fun but taken very seriously in those days!

There was the Hughes’, the James’, Keith Edmunds, the Garbetts, the Dodd’s, the Dowers, the Burts, Billy Milk, the Hislops and the Gould’s just to name a few, but again not many remaining. All good lads and friends during the year, except bonfire night!

Further up the road on its way to the top of Pentwyn there lived the Thomas’; with the Shankland house laying alongside the road to the farm, further along the road lived the Galsworthy’s’ at Ty Llwyd Terrace. Although the houses are still standing, a lot of renovation has been done over the years with homeowners changing.

The village of Quakers Yard and surrounding little hamlets that made up the community have long been tainted and have changed naturally beyond belief, but it is the memories of my younger days that still linger on and after 62 years I thought it might be nice to place on record some of the names of the people that lived and made up our community. Most have either died or moved away but a few still remain here and perhaps this record of them may one day give some youngster an insight into what it was like during the forties and fifties and allow them some research point in which to proceed to, in accessing some long lost ancestry to the names that I have written.

What came next was from childhood to manhood but that’s a different story……………………. End.