Emrys Jones 1931-2018

Father's 80th Birthday

This blog features writing and thoughts by Emrys Jones who wrote under the pen-name “Emrys Cambrensis” or Emrys of Wales.

Emrys passed away in January 2018 at the age of 86.

His writing is maintained here – as he himself would have said “We don’t die, we just become stories”.

His introduction to the site below:

These whimsical adventures are told in the oral style of the storyteller of old. No apologies are made for the lack of grammatical literary composition. They are based on realism and legend. We recommend you read them aloud with adequate dramatic emphasis in places. Please enjoy. When you visit Wales, the land of mystery and magic, look out for the little dragons as they will be looking out for you.

WHEN I WAS YOUNG —- THE BROMBIL

As a young boy I loved the adventure and feeling of exploration offered by the Brombil

The Brombil ,a valley North of the coastal plain of Margam, stretching from Wern farm to the reservoir at the top.

It had its own babbling brook which after heavy rains turned into a torrent of white waters on its steepest course between Brombil Farm and Wern Farm. Using the branches of the trees that edged this stretch we would cross the stream as a test of bravery.
As boys we enjoyed the natural beauty and fun it provided, it was frequented as much in those days by adults, families and courting couples. On the warm days of summer people had their favourite picnic sites, spending the whole day sprawled in the geogaphy of its natural beauty.

But as boys saw it as a more as a dynamic landscape, building dams, tickling trout, climbing trees and swimming in the reservoir.
Once a year the stream was invaded by thousands of eels, much to our dislike, there was something alien about them, unlike the birds that lived in the valley, from the common thrush, linnets to kingfishers.

Another feature that I haven’t mentioned is the old coal drift mine. It’s entrance is still visible about half way up the valley and its dram road that contours to the right alongside the mountain at times gone by supplied its mined coal to the copper works at Margam.

Although it is much overgrown with nature taking back its own, through fewer people frequenting the area, it is still one of my favourite places

Meanwhile it is said that “nature is a book written by God”

WHEN I WAS YOUNG——MORFA WETLANDS

In my pre teen ears, one of my favourite adventures/ past times/ treks was to Morfa Pond. An area of water, bordered by reeds, bulrushes and inhabited by swans, mallards, coots, moorhens, other migratory birds. Along with small fish, tiddlers and during season frog spawn and tadpoles.                                                                                                                                                     

Now gone forever, covered and devoured by the concrete and steelwork of the Abbey Works

The Morfa Wetlands extended from Morfa Fawr to Taibach, comprising water laden marshes, dykes ponds and streams. It was an area of outstanding natural beauty, lying between the green hills of Margam and the mountainous sand dunes of the Morfa beaches.

The trek from home took us past the now gone Tollgate that before the advent of the A48 main road collected dues from travellers. Our journey continued over a stone humpback bridge over the main railway lines( Paddington to Fishguard). Here we would stop  to watch the express trains roar past having our heads over the bridge parapet to feel the smoke,getting our faces coal smoke dirty. Sometimes before the arrival of the trains, scramble down the embankment to put small coins, half pennies on the line. After the trains enjoy the new shape of the coins. Simple fun at that age but a good laugh.

After crossing the bridge we would join a path made of ash, slag and pebbles along side Morfa Pond. The path  was lined by tall reeds and bulrushes which we would snap off and pretend were spears. It would take us to the lower end of the pond where armed with our nets and jam jars with string handles we would spend our time  collecting toddlers or in season frog spawn and tadpoles

Much to the dismay of our mothers on returning home we would display our jam jar catches on the kitchen window sills and through ignorance they would all in time die.

It was always an adventure, a laugh and if nothing else, we learnt and stayed healthy

If I could do it today I would without hesitation bu it no longer exists.

Remember, our trespasses are forgiven as we forgive those that trespass against us

WHEN I WAS YOUNG—– EASTERN SCHOOL FOR BOYS

Soon after my 8th Birthday, without prompting I decided it was time to leave Groes and go to Eastern School in Taibach.

I made the mile walk to Eastern School, full of nerves I entered the gates,found the Headmasters office, after taking my details was taken to my first lesson in Class 4.Not knowing a soul , having to survive  a much larger playground full of bigger boys with their more hectic and physical behaviour I was always glad to get back to the sanctuary of the classroom.

After A year I left Class 4. and started the frightening tenure of Class5 taught by the notorious Mr Meredith Jones who ruled with a policy of pain punishment. For any bad behaviour or scholastic failing you would receive raps across your knuckles with the sharp end of a 12 inch ruler, he judged its severity by the cries of pain.

It was Scolarship year, now referred to as ‘Eleven Plus’ when the the top 120 in the borough were selected for Grammar Schools. To his credit he had the best pass rate of all the schools in the Borough. After the exam we were moved to Class 6 and Mr Skyrm and await the results.

I was lucky, the first in the family to hear that I had passed and would be starting in The County School the next September.

WHEN I WAS YOUNG—–CONTINUED

The highlights of the school year when I was at Groes were Christmas and St.Davids Day. St Davids was an spectacle with the girls wearing daffodils, Welsh traditional costumes, complete with tall black bonnets. The boys came wearing leeks, and bearing  homemade shields and wooden swords.   That morning all the women would be n their doorsteps admiring  the parade  its way to school. It was always half  day in school on Patron Saints Day

Christmas was an event. The schoo Christmas Party was held in Margam Abbey church hall. Sponsored and paid for by te estate for the children of its workers, but a the pupils who attended Groes School were welcomed. In the hall large trestle tables were laid out with sandwiches of potted salmon,cucumber and egg , jellies blancmanges, custards, Chritmas cake and bottles galore of lemonade dandelion and burdock, timer. On the stage was the largest Chritmas tree we had ever seen surrounded by gift wrapped boxes. After gorging ourselves to excess our names were called out in turn to receive from Capt. Fletchers wife what we’re always substantial presents like dolls, nurses outfits ,wind up vehicles cap guns,etc. We were well drilled in behaviour, the boys bowed, the girls curtsied and we  all said “thank you Lady Fletcher”  To end the party she would wish us all a Merry Christms And we would sing “For she’s a jolly good fellow”.

Christmas at home was always special,starting with letters of wish lists up the chimney and complete belief In Father Christmas. On the day we would be awake at some ungodly hour, hoping He had come ,first the opening of our stockings, to find a tangerine in silver paper ,a torch , a comb, chocolates and perhaps a gasoline. The a mad dash downstairs to see what we had got. I can remember at different times having a toy fort with an array of lead soldiers,another time  a huge Meccano set,were always well cared for

.One Christmas I can remember my older brother Elfed getting as air pistol and seeing  Dad at the bottom of the garden bent over chopping wood,ever the rebel, he could n’t resist ands shot a dart hitting him in the bottom. It did n’t really penetrate his thick tweed trousers and wool long johns. It did produce a help, much  laughter and confistication of the pistol for few days.

Every year we  had chicken or goose,Chriztmas pudding for dinner then retire to the front room with loads ofvistors,Will Curtis at the piano and a continual sing song. After  sandwiches, trifle, mince pies and cake it was bed tired but more than satisfied

Meanwhile,those who walk with the wise be come wise

                                                                                                                         

WHEN I WAS YOUNG. Continued

As mentioned in my last blog I started school in Groes Infants, age 4/5 years. The school had three classes. Class 1 was taught by Miss Thomas, Cass 2 was taught by Miss Smith and Class 3 by the Headmaster, Mr Vaughan.                                                                                                                                               

The two much prized pupil  posts were Ink Monitor ,who was responsible for the filling of the ink wells in each desk from a large earthenware bottle. But the most desired job was Milk Monitor, who each morning had to collect from the school gates the crates of the class milk bottles then distribute them with straws to his fellow pupils.

Playtime was always exciting, being adjacent to the woods. Next to the play yard was an old large Elderberry tree, very suitable for climbing and performing acrobatics on. Boys would hang by their legs from the branches, no trouble with short trousers. Whilst the girls would do the same with their skirts tucked into their knickers

All three classes would assemble together many times during the week to practice their times tables,supervised by the Headmaster, Mr Vaughan. When we would chant in harmony the 2 times up to the 12 times table. We learnt our tables parrot fashion and no pupil left that school not knowing the alphabet or his times tables.

Mr Vaughan, the Headmaster always carried a cane, this was age of corporal punishment measured by the severity of pain. The school was thus well disciplined and good behaviour was practiced by most of the pupils.

And this is where I was schooled up to the age of 8 years when I moved up to the Eastern School in Taibach.

Meanwhile it is said that ” a wise man can see more in the bottom of a well than a fool can see from the top of a mountain”

THE VILLAGE OF GROES.                                                                  

To satisfy family feeling, tradition and of course Acts of Parliament, I started school, aged. 4/5 years. There was no selection or choice of school, just turning up at your nearest local primary school . My nearest school was in the village of Groes.

This week I am talking about this village only and will my schooling next week.

The village of Groes no longer exists. Sadly and criminally knocked down for thr the construction of the the M4 motorway, planners at that time said there was no other route. Although recently an alternative roadway has been built from Margam bypassing Port Talbot to the Souh of the town. All to late to save Groes from the bulldozers.

The village housed the Margam Estate workers. The centre of the village was a conglomerate of allotments with terraced houses on its sides. They were stone built with hard earth floors. Houses and allotment gardens were proudly cared for.

In addition to the school there was the well known Round Chapel, which with the lane that led to the Brombil along side it forming the boundary to the village. The whole not just being feudal but an admired architectural site

It has been difficult putting into words th loveliness of this village and next week we will remember my schooling, meanwhile, ” I get annoyed when  I think about how we we are depleting our planet. Nature is so giving we must learn not to take so much or at least to give something back.”