An old road with pot holes. As numerous as the shell holes on the Somme. Often filled with water. Dockers and coal trimmers Riding Bicycles with a big shovel balancing on their shoulder. Load oaths and grunts With shallow water splashing would some times be heard. Blending in with the grunts of live stock and pigs in the many pig cots. When under influence and the worse for a drop of amber nectar. Often failed to ride and balance a safe path. After a first stop drink session at the Waterloo hotel. One of the first available water holes near the docks. A splashing and tangled of man and machine in puddle. Now this lone Bridge still stands in defiant idleness of use as other new road takes its place. Comet Stores and speeding traffic. Once in use many soldier men trod its back. Off to France a few came home. Many not. Our war weary returned and soon forgot. Only a bridge.
A picture of life in the late thirties.
A bath in front of a living room fire on a Saturday night. The tin bath carried in to the living room brought in to use form its hanging place of a nail on the wall outside or in the coal house.
Bathrooms had been introduced into confines of the main house. These houses built in the early thirties started to give the comfort so desired of the working class. But alas no added luxury of central heating those times. bathrooms were more like being in an ice house than a sauna. In wintertime it was pure luxury of the added pleasure of warm coal fire blazing in the back ground.
On tin Bath Night
The simple addition of more boiling water to prolong the ecstasy. A fire made up with small coal from the river Ebbw. washed down from the valley mining washeries. Which was made up into small round balls. Which hissed when placed on the fire. But What a fire it made. One would listen to the radio. “In Town tonight” The famous catch words of the playing radio program. Once again we stop London’s Traffic to be in Town Tonight.
The time when every household had a last or was it a lass. And it did not have a skirt on. Father would mend the family shoes. Buy from Woolworth’s the 3d and sixpenny store. A piece of leather
Sprigs to nail on the leather. Sometimes the poorer of families would mend with car tyre rubber. A fine old job it was to cut it. Often one would hear load oaths when the old fellow failed to hit the small nails and hit his protruding thumb. The Nails being held in the lips being hastily discharged in the speed of a spiting cobra. The Mother would make herself absent with out leave departing to the kitchen. Preparing and frying up a bit of bacon and chitterlings to keep him happy. When the job was finished the kids often would be walking like a load of clog dancers with pepper in their drawers. ten foot talk and tap dancing on rubber.
If your old man supped is ale at the Muffler Club. You had your mark and. All the kids went to Barry Island in a Charabanc. A bucket and spade to play with the sand. Mam would go up to buy Barry rock and some chips. We all sat on the sand and thought what a wonderful trip. We made sandcastles galore and had a dip in the sea. Its time to go home when the sun went to sleep. Forever the memory of this wonderful day will remain in our minds it’s memory we keep.
A Glance back to the wash day of past. Laborious boiling, bluing, and then mangle. But not before using the scrubbing board and brush. And slabs of Puritan soap. how different from today flick a switch. Slap a ready a meal in the Microwave oven. Far cry from the stew or scratch meal the woman had to prepare. To feed the old man home from work along with the kids from school. This came after a day of black boiler to stoke. Soap suds and steam. And another thing – Also over her life time. Child bear eight to ten kids. The old man never had a lot out of life and to keep him happy. Bed time meant action on the back.
REVIEW OF PAST EXHIBITION of paintings by VICTOR MORGAN entitled the First Ten Years’ was at Llantarnam Grange Art Center, Cwmbran from the 12th to the 24th of May 1986. With The Support of Welsh Arts Council
Genuine Primitives are few and far between and searching them out is like prospecting for gold. There is never any shortage of pyrites and dross but the thickest seams are to be found among the generations before 1914. we remember that generation for its plain speech and beautiful handwriting. They spent their lives under-achieving in steelworks and signal boxes and few of them found expression in painting in later life. Victor Morgan how ever is of a later generation and there for a rarer phenomenon-born in 1927. He has no objection to his style being referred to as primitive’ despite the inadequacy of this term and it’s patronizing overtones. He belongs to that category of painters whose total absorption in their subject matter is the secret of their unselfconscious forms and the uninhibited and spontaneous nature of their work. They still have a romantic appeal for us, and we think of them somehow as not having tasted of the forbidden fruit of the artistic tree of knowledge and cultivating their own paradise gardens which we can only view from outside. I first caught sight of his work at the mixed show of local painters at Newport Art gallery-an airship of the 1930s drifting over rooftops in Gwent. This picture typifies a common aim among primitive painters in striving to catch things exactly as they were physically and socially I had the great pleasure of visiting his home and found it wall-to-ceiling with a variety of extremely lively pictures. His oeuvre falls into various categories; the pictures from long-past memory are for me the most successful. A striking example is the washing-day scene of the 1940s.He shows the same involvement in the human figure as in the objects which surround them. The formidable boiler belching steam, a tin bath with wash board and coal bunker-stark and earthy but with a pervading joyous color. I should mention other excellent examples such as the paddle steamer (in the notable collection of M.Athanas Pouley of Paris) tied up in the River Usk and several other powerful images of ships. always surrounded with bright and glittering water which brings back one’s first childhood sensations of the sea. Among his earliest work is a copy of the ‘Hay Wain’ which is anything but a beginner’s cliché’ with its delightful sky, full of fascinating improvisations. He has a strong sculptural sense and has produced a number of pieces in welded metal (he is a welder at LLanwern by trade). I found the smaller pieces the most attractive-crabs and other small creatures, heavy to hold and like all good sculpture, equally interesting which ever they are tilted. Another facet of his varied work reveals his social conscience. These works are crowded with caricatured and reminiscent at times of work of George Grosz: One might be Apprehensive here that Victor might be becoming a little ‘artistic’ here but he takes the new direction with ease and his sense of form remains untainted. I suppose that we must remember that this cherished Naive quality is a relative term and like everyone else he is evolving towards the less naive to some degree. He is only too willing to explain the complicated symbolism in these paintings: medieval in its complexity. It gives us in visual terms the sayings, beliefs, hopes and fears of ordinary people. In case my remarks themselves seem patronising I shall end by suggesting that we are all primitives to some degree and if we succeed in producing anything of value, its essence is after all the primitive aspect of our work.
1986 Link Magazine A.A.D.W.
The cold bedroom of those far off times of the roaring thirties. The 1930 house had little or no central heating installed in any houses of the working class of that period. Council dwellings far from it maybe had the added luxury of even an inside bath and toilet. In winter one had to brave the conditions of the comparable Icelandic weather to even bath or sit on throne. And Even the coal fired bedroom grate was only used in time of illness of one of the family. The price of coal to the poorer families being rationed by cost. The one living room fire maintained to heat the hot water for washing and bathing. And on a chilly night overcoat be it railway or army became that extra blanket.
Gas mask on the kids and grown ups fitting went on in schools and church halls until we all had these square cases with a smell of rubber and funny little nozzle on the front to let out the air. We all took it in good humour and little did we imagine at that period in time although many of us young children so innocent of war. A time would come for us to be old enough too march away. The change of the world we knew would be gone forever, Similar to the falling leaves of each summer. And fading light of each days end. Come the dawn of a new era. Priced for many with the sacrifice of life and one’s youth. It made men from boys in very short time. Freed girls to women and changed their lives to be equal among men to take a valued part in wartime Britain.
The Prince of Wales Investiture – Joan Morgan corner Shop
Fearing street party for the kids. Plenty Jelly. Plenty Pop. Cakes Galore and Balloons that pop. The disappearance of the Corner shop of times past. Toffee Apples and Ham off the bone. Bacon sliced by hand. New Zealand Butter cut and weighed by the pound. Woodbines by the Fives. A penny worth of lint and packet of pins. Lamp oil and chopped sticks. Now a memory of the past. Along with those good people who once Patronised this water hole Haven of convenience – The Old Corner Shop. The end of an Era! Gone like the snow of winter.
EBBW JUNCTION A ONCE BUSY STEAM LOCO SHEDS
THE painting depicts some of the laborious tasks on the maintenance of the steam loco. The tasks of fire dropping and fire lighting. Coal bunkering and filling up the tanks with water. Preparing and making ready for the mainline operation of the carriage of passenger and freight transport. The age of the steam engine is now over. We look back at an Era of labour-intensive involvement. Long gone are the Engine sheds. Houses and other buildings stand in its place. Only the ghosts of the past of men and machines linger on. Hooting and tooting of engine whistles and workmen’s chatter sound no more. And only a memory remains of a once regular place of work. Will remain in the thoughts of old men.
Many men who worked their lifetime for the great named G.W.R.
Authors Victor his father worked for 42 years on the great Western after a trip to at sea on the Roystan Grange Cica 1919 First World War. Being Based at Pill loco Engine sheds. He worked on the Docks and the main lines to the Valleys bring coal down – He fired for Sid Quinton and later became Driver. Dad drove Sid crazy with his larking about. I had worked on the traffic dept docks during the last war. Then after buying myself from out of the army in 1949 started work at Pill Loco engine sheds. After passing the entry test’s at Swindon – then had to work on the various first progression jobs to becoming a fireman of cleaning engines and boiler washing. One of the fireman told me that Sid was driving down the valleys Wrong way round that is bunker first.
Towing a train of Blackvien coal or Tywpentwas large something of that good burning welsh coal. It was a dark and stormy kind of night. Sid the driver was keeping a sharp look out. Authors father was nick named Mad hike. Climbed round the engine back and popped his head up in Sid’s face. Sid Quinton very near had a heart attack Sid said afterwards if he had happened to have a coal shovel in his hand he would have banged it on the head in panic. Such was the lighter fun side at work in those times. A more tragic observation of authors time while working at the sheds.
While at snap in the rest room I noticed a lone worker who always seemed to sit alone and no on would converse with him. The word “Coventry”! surfaces if the present generation understands this terminology. This worker did not live far from our home at Maesglas. I asked my Father why this fellow worker was shunned and I was told that in the 1926 strike he was a black leg and had climbed over the wall to work while his workmates were on strike. Some time later the fellow was on sick leave and ill. I wondered why no one would get his pay money for him.
Quizzed father about this Reply was F*** the blackleg. This was the hard and fast rule that was carried to the grave on those men who broke the workmates rule. United we stand divided we fall! I expect we would still have a lot of shity underpants around today if those times did return. Returned back to those hard times our fore fathers endured those men who fought in battles in the 1914-19 great War. Also their fight for the conditions at the work place for what you today enjoy with at your freedom. Author can remember one when only a young child.
Drizzly dark winter evening.
Came a knock on the door and Ma answered the door. At the door was one of father’s work mates – who had brought fathers clothes home in a bundle. Ma burst out sobbing and tears. When informed Father had met with a bad accident at work at the Pill loco Sheds. He had fallen off the back of a steam engine one of the 52 class engines. Fallen while trimming the coal stumbled off the coal-bunker down into the inspection pit. A fall of some fifteen-foot or more. Gashing his head badly and was in a coma for many days very lucky even to have survived the fall. However after much time in hospital he came home and had the care of the doctor from the Great Western Railway Company. They did look after the workers in their employment very well for those days.
The Union fees included a Two-penny fee to The Royal Gwent hospital fund. Which was a Charity Hospital this gave the member some privilege for treatment. Which was forerunner to our health service we take for granted today. Also the works Doctor came some time later to pass father fit for work. He came in his open sports racing car. Wearing the posh garb of plus fours and tweedy jacket. Golf clubs in full view in the back of the car.
My Father Returned to work the years pasted by. Then while driving he had a run away train of coal down the Eastern valley he was commended for an action in staying on train and bringing in to a stop. After telling his fireman to jump for it. However many years later he came down the same line which ran across the now top of the east entrance.
Brynglas road tunnels.
The Train was wrong way round and pushing sent the train through the box and smashed and derailed. I asked father what had happened and he said the signalman was taking the waters missing from the box but father would not say about it because the signalman would lose his job and pension. So the blame ended upon the driver in effect. Dad retired early. But I believe such loyalty to work mates would not be so common in today’s rat race society.