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T O P I C    R E V I E W
pierre Posted - 23/08/2007 : 22:19:30
Bryan Rendell has sent in some memory's of his childhood growing up in Tredegar. Thanks to him for a fascinating insight.



From a very early age I can remember my Tredegar.
In 1936 my parents moved to Pembroke Dock. My father, who was a blacksmith was out of work from Tredegar Iron Works and my mother’s family arranged to rent a little shop in Bufferland for my parents.
When Ebbw Vale Steelworks was being built my father applied for a job and we moved back to Tredegar in early 1939. He bought a house – No. 6 Mafeking Terrace, and it was here that many of my early happy memories are recalled.

I can remember quite clearly my mother saying, when the news was broadcast on the wireless, that Britain was at war with Germany – ‘now we are for it’. She and my father had lived through WW1.
My grandparents lived at No. 30 Mafeking Terrace, my grandfather having the house built by Dai. Bowen in 1902, so I used to live in both houses.

My grandfather worked in the pits and I can remember him coming home black as soot to a bath already prepared by my grandmother. The huge fire was roaring Winter and Summer and quite a lot of the neighbours would be talking to my grandmother whilst my grandfather bathed. When he was clean he would soap up his face and bring out the open razor and strop and shave. I can still hear the rasp of the razor on his face.

I was always intrigued at the blue marks on my grandfather’s hands and head, from cuts on the workface filled up with coal dust. He also had a jagged blue cut on one of his legs. This occurred in Farrington Gurney when he was 14 years of age. He was working in the pits there and got caught in a fall. He was taken home to his grandmother who sewed his leg up with needle and cotton – and we think we are tough today.

I loved my grandfather and used to roll his twist for him. Twist was a black tobacco stick that had to be cut, rolled for a pipe, but underground in the pits the miners chewed it to keep the dust from getting into their lungs.

My grandfather kept chickens at the top of the garden and I used to collect the eggs on a daily basis. On special occasions he would kill a bird and we would sit down to a special meal.
My father worked long hours from 1939 onwards and my mother and I saw very little of him during the war years. Many times he would be asleep in the chair, until a knock at the door came telling him that he was needed urgently back in work as some part of the machinery had broken down.

He went to work very early in the morning and didn’t come home until very late. In foggy weather men had to walk in front of the bus with a newspaper so that the dimmed lights from the grills on the headlights could show them the way. In Winter when the buses weren’t running he had to walk to and fro work. He tried to do his bit for Tredegar and became an Air Raid Warden. I think he found it very difficult shouting at houses to ‘Put that light out’
Winters in those far off days were very cruel, yet we had some fun as well. I can remember sledging down the ‘Big Hill’ and Sgt. Evans grabbing our sledges.

I can remember the toilets at the top of the garden and all the water being frozen right throughout the house. Luckily one house wouldn’t have the pipes frozen and we queued up with our buckets and pails outside.

I can also recall the ‘Knocker Uppers’ – men employed by the pits to wake up their employees. They would come around at about 4.30 am tapping the windows to wake up the men. I also remember the Gas Lighter. Every evening he would come around lighting the gas lights on the street corners. They then introduced a wind – up mechanical lighter, but he still had to rest his ladder against the arm of the lamp each week to wind up the device.

There were few cars around in those early days – only horse and carts. Tommy Harris used to deliver the coal; Tom Jones the milk and Joey Manning the vegetables and fruit. Jones the Milk was usually accompanied by one of his sons -Trevor or young Tom. The milk was splashed out with a ladle, from the churn, directly into the jug. The boys came around at the weekend to collect the money. The old Rag and Bone man used to come around regularly, sharpening knives and repairing umbrellas. He had a flat cart and a poor horse that looked as if it had seen better days.

The coal was tipped outside your front door and had to be carried through the house to the coal shed, big lumps first and finally the small coal. Sometimes tramps from Tredegar’s Workhouse would offer to bring the coal in for sixpence. Some of the tramps had fallen on hard times and were OK, but others were quite nasty.

We walked to school each day. There was no taking us there and bringing us home. In the Infants I can remember the Headmistress – Miss Fowler. A lady as I recall not to be trifled with. She wore a black dress and was very strict.

In 1939 we were all kitted out with gas masks, which were in cardboard boxes. We had to carry them with us all the time. When the sirens went in school time we had to assemble and be marched down the road to people’s houses, until the ‘All Clear’ was sounded.

Education still had to go on and examinations had to be taken for entry into The Grammar School. Here, initially the boys and girls were segregated. The Boys and Girls even having their own entrances to the school. There was a big wall built across the play yard – boys one side and girls the other. Mr. Tidswell, an ex. Army Major ruled us with iron discipline, many times he shouted at us ‘I’ll have your guts for garters’ – I think we feared Miss Mainwaring more than him. She was five foot nothing, but she put the fear of God up us all.
In those days schools gave plenty of homework and I can remember doing my homework listening to ‘Dick Barton, Special Agent’. He must have had a good influence on me because I usually got good marks.
In the school holidays ‘our gang’ played on the Black Tips by No. pit. The remains of No. 9 was still there in those days and we used to clamber all over the winding wheel house and Gordon Bridgeman even used to clamber onto the winding wheel. One false move and he would have fallen down the open shaft.

When it was really warm we used to pay a visit to Ty-Trist hot water pond and frolic there in the nude. Unknown to us Constable Mullins would creep up and confiscate our clothes. To get our clothes back he would give us a kick up the backside and tell us if we were caught again he would tell our parents. Our parents would have been humiliated having their sons brought home in disgrace, so for months afterwards we kept away from Ty-Trist.

A great treat for me was for my father to take me down to the iron works to see an uncle – Uriah Rendall. Uriah as was his father before him, an engine driver in the works. I was so excited to pull levers to drop sand onto the rails and move the controls.

Another summer occupation was fishing with our hands in the river. Sometimes we ran foul of Inspector Reed, who would march us to the door of the Police Station and give us a good ticking off.
Sundays were special. We were washed and brushed – up and sent to Sunday School. As the Whitson Parades got nearer we used to change Sunday Schools because we were told that various establishments did better teas. On the day of the Parades we marched proudly through the town.

We used to walk miles over the mountains. As long as we came home for tea our parents didn’t seem to worry – if my grand daughters are late for any reason I’m worried sick. How times have changed.
During the war the Germans bombed Swansea and the oil terminals, for over a week the sky was red at night from the burning oil. During the raids you could see the tracer bullets flying skyward. One dark night a British aircraft lost it’s way and circled Tredegar time and time again, dropping flares until suddenly there was a huge bang. It had flown into the mountain above Reid Hall.

Tredegar once saw a Dog Fight. A Spitfire and a German fighter did battle over the town and mountain. The German was shot down and parachuted out near Trefil. The German pilot was brought to Tredegar Police Station. He must have been terrified seeing such a huge crowd which had gathered.

When the war ended in 1945 Tredegar went wild. Nearly every street held a party and there were bazooka marching bands and each street tried to out do each other. In our street – Kimberley Terrace – Billie Hayman who had just been demobbed, dressed up as a woman and it was a sight to behold.

Time passed until we had the awful weather of 1947. By this time my parents had bought another house in Kimberley Terrace. It snowed continuously until the snow was up to the bedroom window sills. The miners couldn’t get to work so they tunnelled away clearing the snow from the pavements and making an opening onto the road. Trains were stuck and when they eventually got through all supplies had to be collected from the railway station. Our sledges came in very useful then.

After sitting my G.C.E’s I did my National Service. I was stationed in Gloucestershire and came home each weekend. This changed when I was posted to Cornwall. When at home ‘our gang’ used to walk up to Tafannabach. Ivor Williams who used to work for Charles Electrical ran a Fourpenny Hop, and a half of scrumpy in the local pub used to make us feel like supermen. After the RAF service I went to Caerleon and trained to be a School Teacher. After marriage we settled in my grand mother’s house. Our first daughter was born in St. James, but as in all jobs you have to move to get promotion, so in 1960 I moved to Bristol and further moves followed.

I don’t visit Tredagar as much as I should. All my relatives are now in Cefn Golau. Once or twice a year I take my daughters and grandchildren to put flowers on their graves. Unfortunately life moves on, but my heart and thoughts are always on my home town, where I had a marvellous childhood.

Bryan Rendell

25   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
ShelleyW Posted - 18/05/2020 : 21:09:35
Yes Bilbaily Phylis and the Cherokees were a well know Valleys group in the 60s 70s.I can remember Saturday nights in the Ironsides Club dancing to them.Always remember them playing running bear and after a few snowballs would be doing all the sounds and actions to this song.o to be 18 again.
milkman Posted - 18/05/2020 : 19:20:38
Only showing off I know!!!
I was at a Hunt Ball in the St Pierre near Chepstow.
There was a band witha lead singer who somehow seemed familiar.
I happened to be dancing with my wife and mentioned this to her.
Then, of a sudden, it came back to me - It was a fredegar chap whose nickname at school was "Bonehead".
I said this to her and she immediately recalled him.
We went and spoke to him in the interval. I think his name was actually Jones and he lived jus below the COOP at south end of tip.
He was avery good singer. Wonder is he still around
billbaily Posted - 18/05/2020 : 12:45:44
Was there a band called Phyllis and the Cherokees heard someone mentioning this name a long time back if I remember correctly.
Himalayan Scout Posted - 18/05/2020 : 11:47:30
Thank you (theclock) for that interesting piece of information about the "Perfectionaires". I was not aware at the time it was Bryn Yemm from Abergavenny, who of course was destined to become well known as a performer throughout Wales and an ambassador for our country.
theclock Posted - 18/05/2020 : 11:06:00
Lead singer with the Perfectinaires was Bryn Yemm they supported Jimmy Justice in Beaufort Ballroom mid-sixties.
Himalayan Scout Posted - 17/05/2020 : 20:58:56
I also spent some time staying with relatives in Western Avenue between 1962/64. When as an apprentice in the training laboratory at Llanwern steelworks, I found it easier to travel in from Chepstow than from Tredegar.
Some names which spring to mind from my time there were a lovely looking girl named Donna Cobberly and a chap called Ricky Pepper.
I also recall the "Leeming brothers" Robin and Ken.
The highlight of the week was to go down the town on a Saturday evening dancing to the sounds of a group called the "Perfectionaires" playing Beatles songs.Great times.
JulesDrup Posted - 17/05/2020 : 18:33:54
Hi Bryan
We moved to Chepstow in the winter of 1961/2 and left in February 1964. Other people I remember on Western Avenue were Nigel Williams, Shona Wilson, Joan and Bill Morgan and Glyndwr and Maureen (Cant remember the surname). The last two couples were also from Tredegar. The Alexander family lived next door to us and unfortunately Mr. Alexander passed away at a very young age.
I went to the infant school and at 7 went to the 'black and white school', which is what they called the juniors. When any of us were going to Tredegar to visit we used to say we were going home. Something I still say to this day.
ike Posted - 07/05/2020 : 00:48:32
Hello Smythes, Glad to hear that Eugene is fit and well. He won't know me as Ike ,but Gwilym, assistant Mechanical Engineer.It is wonderful news that he's done so well.last November on a cruise I shared a table with person who had links with Strangeways prison.
Give Eugene my regards. I did think he was younger than 88.

Smythes Posted - 06/05/2020 : 20:57:00
Hello Ike. Yes Eugene did work for the N C B in the capacity you describe and yes he was an amateur boxer. Hd and his wife Shirley left Tredegar in the late fifties. They originally moved to Swansea where they both worked in the Prescold factory. The business folded and they moved to Luton where he worked in Vauxhall factory for a few short years. He joined HM prison Service and moved to Gloucester. Must have been sometime in mid seventies was transferred north and is currently living in Standish near Wigan. I will tell Eugene that you remembered him from N C B days. Will he know you as Ike?
milkman Posted - 06/05/2020 : 20:43:49
Hi Butch, You were lucky to have been taken to the circle to see Monty.
I was a bit older so didnt see him, but my wife did (that bit younger than me) Have a good one
butch Posted - 06/05/2020 : 20:36:17
Hi Milkman, I was born in July 1942, my only memory of the celebration around the clock, was when Georgetown school marched us up to to the clock when Field Marshall Montgomery, stood and thanked the people of Tredegar, and particularly the young men who sacrificed their lives to the war effort. I was stood outside the Tredegar Arms, F.M.Montgomery was facing down Morgan Street, and probably addressing the dignitaries on the balcony of the Town Hall.
ike Posted - 06/05/2020 : 15:40:08
Hi Smythes,
Did Eugene Clarke work at the N.C.B general offices as secretary to the Group Electrical Engineer? I believe at the time he did some amateur boxing. Lost touch with him back in 1960.

milkman Posted - 06/05/2020 : 11:40:01
A somewhat humorous one to wrap this up-
In June 1986 o was working with some German colleagues when one received a phone call which he took, laughing out loud.
The call was from Paris.
A friend of his working there rang to say that they had a days holiday. The French celebrate D-Day as a National holiday. So even though he was a german he had to take a days holiday.
He had found this amusing as did my German friend.
Have a good one- milkman
Bryan Rendell Posted - 03/05/2020 : 12:12:33
Not only was I there with my friends and the rest of Tredegar but what about the street parties afterwards.
It was quite a while before the troops - Army, Navy and Airforce men and women returned and when they did OH BOY !!!!!!!
In Bedwelly House there was a display of the Battle of Tredegar Hill against the Japanese. Don't know if its still there.
Gatherings around The Clock was always popular at Christmas and New Year also. It was a time we took the micky out of young policemen - until Sergeant Evans arrived and we all cowered away like terrified dogs.
As milkman has said we lived in a blacked out Tredegar and when Skewen Oil Refineries were bombed the sky was lit up with the flames and tracer bullets.
Another time Tredegar was it up was when a Plane had lost its way and circled Tredegar dropping flares for quite some time. Sadly the aircraft flew into the mountain above the Rhyd.
milkman Posted - 03/05/2020 : 11:55:37
As we celebrate the VE day anniversary I am sure that Bryan, Butch and several others were in the Circle to celebrate.
Bearing in mind that there had been no street lights since 1939 the clack, bandstand were brilliantly lit up. There were lights all along Morgan St and through to Bedwellty House.
I remember the singing iin the Circle- all those Vera songs- We'll meet again, White Cliffs- not to mention the Afrika Corps song: Lilli Marlene.
There was a hill in Burma known as Tredegar Hill where the SWBs fought the Japanese. I doubt if it is now called that
We have certainly seen a bit
Smythes Posted - 02/05/2020 : 18:54:39
Hello Milkman. Yes You are correct. Eugene worked many years in the Prison Service. His last post was as a Governor at Strangeways prison in Manchester. He was in post at the time of the Prison riot. He is still living in Standish near Wigan with his wife Shirley. Eugene will be 88 in July.
milkman Posted - 02/05/2020 : 15:56:11
Hey Smythes, I think I knew Eugene.
If I am right he worked in Prison service and lived in Standish nr Wigan.
If that is right- As they say- It is a small world
cupcake Posted - 02/05/2020 : 04:26:39
Thank you Shelley ,i can remember going there and the walls were covered with all pretty fans

ShelleyW Posted - 01/05/2020 : 22:31:02
Yes Cupcake it was the Savi family from Rhymney they moved there from the Glyn cafe castle st early 70s I think.
cupcake Posted - 01/05/2020 : 22:10:14
Do any of our members know who first owned The Europa Cafe and any photos please ? Thank you

Bob Posted - 01/05/2020 : 20:23:11
I must agree with Shelly. I have always enjoyed the old tales from the old timers but, sadly, understand why we don't get them so often nowadays.
Bryan Rendell Posted - 01/05/2020 : 20:13:34
Milkman has hit the nail on the head – we are getting too old. I’m 87 .
My memory is reasonable but the old bones and muscles need a lot of TLC and repair.
As you may have read in other pieces I’ve put on the web site my family history is quite a mix up. My grandfather and his brothers came from Farrington Gurney to work in the local pits and Iron Works during the Industrial Revolution. My grandfather worked in No 9 pit.
My garndmother’s parents came from Cricklade, Wilt and and initially lived in Blaina. Moving to Ttredegar to work in the various pits in the area.
My grandfather on his marriage to my grandmother had Dai Bowen build him 30 Mafeking Tce for £100. They had three children and only my father survived. He served his apprenticeship as a Blacksmith in Tredegar Iron Works and when it was closing he worked as a colliery blacksmith at Ty Trist. In 1933 the year I was born he, my mother and myself moved to Pembroke Dock to run a small shop owned by my mother’s brother in law. I was too young to have many memories of my time there, but over the years I have built up a story of my time all those years ago
My grandfather on my mothers side was also a blacksmith working in the Royal Dockyards in Pembroke Dock and Malta. He died very young leaving a wife and six children.
Well here I am in Chepstow a mixture of Welsh and English, but to me I’M WELSH – through and through.
Since I worked in Lydney and lived in Chepstow I’ve found out that the Red and White bus company was started in Lydney, by John Watts who bought army lorries to take the miners to work.
During the war the Lydney Tinplate works closed and the workers were transferred to Ebbw Vale.
Richard Thomas owned Lydbrook and Lydney Tinplate works being Richard Thomas and Baldwin.
A famous actress Debra Carr was born in Lydney.

Too tired to do any ,more at the moment
Smythes Posted - 01/05/2020 : 14:51:55
Well Milkman and Bryan. Keep up the great work of handing down your stories of growing up in our great town of Tredegar.
I’m pretty sure that looking back on some of your posts you must be of a similar age to my older brothers. Eugene Clark and Terry Clark both now in their eighties.
milkman Posted - 01/05/2020 : 14:32:53
I have to break the news gently but many forum members have been of an advanced age, particularly if they gave news about the 40s and 50s. Some have now lost the means of communicating with the forum.
Glad to note that Bryan, Butch and I still can.
Smythes Posted - 30/04/2020 : 19:58:56
I was thinking exactly the same Shelley. Where have all the characters that contributed so much to this forum gone. So much history of our town being lost.

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