Boot Black on the Grate

Cups that were without floral pattern but on the side the cup in proud letters G.W.R a non complimentary tea set by kind permission of G.W.R. Also one would read yesterdays news between the tea ring cup stains on the beautiful new daily news paper cloth of yesterday news print. Typical of the many poor families a Breakfast on a Sunday morning.

Salted Cod fish that had been soaked and skinned before a boil up with spuds. Aptly was named Toerag. Served with potatoes or tatter’s and a fresh knob of margarine mixed in pretense of being like butter.

Only it’s taste was not like butter

But the salt in the Stork or Echo margarine blended in harmony with the spuds. One was able or could drink a gallon of water. After eating a meal this low cost breakfast of abundant salted Cod fish. Far cry from today if ever saw the luxury of the view of a shop with a festoon of hanging saltfish which was so common in those times. Now rationed by price and over fished the poor dear Cod Fish.

The chore for the eldest was to cut up the news paper for the toilet into handy squares and hang on a butchers hook. To hang in the toilet for toilet paper for the week. While the Father black-leaded the grate. Coconut matting floor covering was swept or shaken outside amid a cloud of dust and a high ho silver. Hanging on the wall was a fortune by today’s prices prints of famous paintings.

Wind up gramophone and sideboard that would make a collector go cross eyed – Mother would often nag the old fellow constantly with tongue pie because he sold the bloody sideboard for ten bob to his driver

Pewter and china all from mothers side from her relations. Sadly chattels crockery were diminished by breakage’s over the years from the addition of the tribal kids increase.

Poor Father had only to hang is trousers on the bed.

Mother was up The stick or bung again

Joan Morgan Corner Shop

The Prince of Wales Investiture – Joan Morgan corner Shop

Joan Morgan’s 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.

The Piano Player

Playing like a man with no arms
Frank Jacobs playing the piano

The scene depicted here goes back in time during the period the last war. The Victoria close to the George street Bridge. Granville Square area corner. It has now been pulled down and only the ghosts of the past of men who supped Hancock’s or Lloyds beer and sang the night away to the tune of the old Joanna.

Played By Frank Jacobs who had been born with no arms and played the piano.

Frank lived at Maesglas Road not far from the author. The Jacobs family home was struck by a lightening thunder bolt, which blew off roof tiles and chimney-stack. Frank overcame this disablement for those days not much disablement help was available. Frank often played at the Victoria on a weekend nights. Frank never complained and was a good trooper. Frank Jacobs did appear on the Empire music hall I believe.

Only the painting and memory of this scene of my youth remain.

Recalling how I went one evening with several lads we were very much under age for drinking.One mate in a whisper said Frank would play soon. I Witnessed Frank hooking a pint pot onto his big toe.
He drank his portion and then commenced playing. Plonking the ivories of the piano with great gusto.What a night this became of simple singsong. Enjoyable to hear and live through I treasure those time past.

I dedicate these pages and images to Frank Jacobs Memory.

In my harmless innocuous childhood day’s my playmate and girl friend was Frank’s young sister.

Oil on Canvas 36 x 24

Donated To the Red Cross for Land mine victims. Auctioned by Jefrey Archer.

Also exhibited at St David’s Hall tenth anniversary exhibition



Ebbw Junction Train Yards

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.

A Dizzy Third Class Diver.


A Dizzy Third Class Diver.

The dive at the Gower.
I often dived most times alone at low water from this rocky Shore – Snorkel or dive on air. Diving under the rough water to explore the Wreck of the old potato ship. Often I would hook out a crab or maybe it hooked on to me. Lobsters often came my way – So much so my wife who came to watch from the rocky lava shore. Under the impression lobsters and crabs were waiting for me to dive retrieve. Like Shopping at Tesco’s. Go down and bring me a lobby. My dog Shamus would often swim and try to help me from the water edge.

In the hunt for Lobsters

St Ann’s Head Pembroke
Cray Fish don’t come and give themselves up they have to be grabbed by the antenna and watch for the back flap of the tail all most like a mermaid. Five pound plus of Cray Caught by hand near the wreck of the Barominto. St Ann’s Head the water is treacherous in the tidal rip often a Seal would swim around to try out his luck to in a quest to take my prize Cray. Dolphin did also swim around us as we dived. It came Gliding through the water in an effortless gentle flap of tail. A Dolphin friend with a glinting eye and trace of smile. An end of a Diving day of this area of the Coast of West Wales beneath the light house. St Ann’s Head Pembroke. Circa the departure time of lone yacht women Mills Walkers sailed out from Dale Pembroke.
A lovely Crayfish

The Overton Mere Gower
Shamus waits for his master to struggle out of the water on the steep rocky shore.
With bag full of lobsters

A full bag of Lobster and crabs. The weight hinders my exit from the rough sea. Lashing Lava rocky shore of a wild Gower coast

Returning on snorkel after a beach dive and swim out to ship wreck to hunt for edible crab and lobster.

The Nit Nurse Inspection

The nit Nurse at Work
The inspection for NITS

When the local shop sold the fine toothed debugging combs. Arranged in tidy rows on card held on by an elastic cord. In colours black or grey. Black being the preferred colour for you could pick out the wriggling creature. The added excitement of cracking the varmint between the thumbnail and the comb. The task of combing over the laid out old Argus newspaper often fell to the father. Probably having not had a lot out of life and the sound of the crack. When the crawling quarry was caught could be compared with that excitement of a day at the races. Or the local fox hunt.

Parents combed their children’s golden locks. To seek out and destroy any nits or crawling foreign crab like creatures.Comments were often you caught them from sitting next to some one in that school. Or stay away from so and so they got nits. And one would hear the saying if one had a nap hand oh! I caught it off a lavatory seat. All in all anything changes witches were burnt once.
Some one must be blamed. Poverty bad living conditions you take your choice.

Man does like hunting.

Go to visit the any zoo look at the way the chimp enjoys hunting on one another for nits. The nit nurse. When in her sudden appearance nurse paid a visit to the school? To seek out and render those children. With any signs of infestation of nits. Searching fingers through ones hair her hands clad in rubber gloves. The terrifying fears of a note to parents or segregation wait in the corner.

Made for a hasty retreat when given the all clear.

Pure relief.

The Old Bull Caerleon

The Old Bull Pub Caerleon

You are looking at the village square with the view towards Jenkins the Iron Mongers. and also depicted is the Post office with its traditional red painted cast iron post box. The village still nestles in its past traditional old world or ravaged by the whiz kid over zealous young adventurous rip apart property development brigade. The Bull stands out as a traditional water hole for the travel sick tourist. Intent on sight seeing of Roman artefacts and remains. Ken Davies rides his vegetable cart in Roman or Celtic the last charioteer of Caerleon on USK. Faithfull horse Vicky towing the loaded cart on Kens round of vegetables sold to public at point of contact. Sadly the Scene is in time past. Kens Faithful horse friend Vicky passed away. The sadness of this traumatic endured time from the loss of his horse. Ken not long after sadly passed away and with sadness one can reflect that nothing is forever. Old age is remembering the past.

Ones old age is the is looking back on the never to be recaptured youth of ones yesteryear. One can never go back in time in body only in the memory of your own mind. Live then for today. Buy your beer at the bull and to hell with tomorrows hangover.

The Royal Albert Maindee

The regulars at the bar

The Royal Albert Maindee.With its prompt serving and friendly barmaids. Terry Williams and pleasant crowd of good ale drinkers supping instead of jabbing needles in parts that are not reached by a good pint of beer.Tony Titcomb the then landlord was of the breed of good and friendly landlords of this era. Which made for packed bars in these drinking water holes. No drugs or smoking bans prices cheaper than drugs. Making for anyone depressed could drown ones troubles in beer not drugs. One could rely on seeing a certain persons or character at ones local water hole as sure as day followed night. Jet Morgan beam me up Lemy. If I had a wish to be able to be transported back to the past.

If I were God chancellor

I would reduce the hop made fairy liquid and make it so much cheaper to get oiled up for a pound or two. Getting slightly intoxicated could be a lot more benefit than the permanent effects of hard tack drugs.

A Hangover doesn’t last forever.

Of course one must be sensible there is a difference in scratching ones arse and tearing it to pieces. Open longer hours in it self is not a good thing for our culture. Open for limited time with cheap ale buy one another a round or two of drinks and head for home with a guts poking out like a barrel. Makes for our friendly past way of life that existed before some meddling super whiz kid with a peak cap and silk underpants. With a wish to advise us how to eat oranges. He Joins a party receives his appointed power by creeping and pushing and spinning his ideas.

Whit Sunday Treat

Once upon a time we all went to church on Sunday several weeks before the whit religious Sunday. This became a sort of go to church on Sunday and get your mark to qualify for the treat. Which was a little stamp on the card that was presented to one when they attended Sunday school. The good lady Sunday school teacher taught about the good ways of the lord. And stamped the card to enable you to attend the walk in your Sunday best. Ones parents bought a fresh new suit of clothes of Jacket waist coat and short trousers. Paid for over the preceding months on another weekly installment card from the local Packman. The Packman called on his regular round. Displaying his samples of nice new woven of two by two twill cloth. In cut squares of cloth in book like form.

The walking Sunday best was delivered with all excitement of the forthcoming walk from Church. Many fathers and mothers and eager watchers lined the road. Watching their offspring’s in all of the antics of a few broody hen or father crowing cockerel. The girls decked out in pretty frocks and boys in fresh new smelling cloth. After this parade kids mothers and one and all loaded the makeshift horse and hay carts. To be transported to the field of the farmer who gave permission for use for a day. And Refreshments of teacakes and nice fresh brewed lions labelled tea. Well sweetened and milked in china cups and saucers. The scent of wood burning smoking boilers adding to the beauty of it all. Many sports of sack egg and spoon races were played in eager competition.

Whit Sunday Treat for Church Attenders

A Memorable day of the picture you now are looking at. Duffryn field Tredegar Estate.The author worked on the Tredegar Estate Farm for Mr Cullimore. In the early part of the war years I would walk to work down past this now field of now houses. My Memories of thistle cutting and cow dung spreading at four pence a heap. worked along with a young lady who was one of the Wynn family. Who lived in the first cottage of on the Lighthouse road. Serving in the land army. Young girl and boy would toil in pleasure in the sun soaked fields. My early age of thirteen I would take in the friend ship of all who worked at farm. Sadly no tale ends without some later tragic event. Joan Cullimore the boss mans daughter later shot her husband and then her self. Mr Cullimore was a good man also a JP and treated me very well. But on discovery of my art of making a good cup of tea insisted that I made the tea for the harvest tea time break. While we all worked the long hot double British summer rime evenings gathering in the hay. Plenty of nice Ham and gibbons and salad and afterwards home made cider to puddle the brain to work longer. Alas the docks new road now runs over this once Cullimore farm house and the orchard of apples that produced this cider nectar for past residents of this first house on this country lane. Gone into the past are the white gate once at the top of the light house road. Standing now at present time a roundabout and speeding cars and turning wheels. with no thought of folk of past that once trod this pathway of a once peaceful and pleasant country area.

The remembered days of yesteryear.

Those invading thoughts that bring back nostalgia memories of times of places and deeds never to be experienced in the body and flesh again. Mog going over in his mind of a trip to the Bristol Channel seaside Town of Weston Super Mare. With its pier jutting out into the sea. The hot sun beating down on the thick planks of wood placed on the support steel frame beneath them. Making up the walkway of the Pier. The Safety railing each sides and painted a Bright white. Patches of peeling paint work here and there. The planks were bolted to the steelwork of the Victorian era constructed pier The heads of the bolts polished by so much traffic of holiday-maker’s footsteps across them. The sea swirling down below when viewed by Mog between the gaps of the planks.

He walked Slowly along the Pier, watching the various activities of holidaymakers. They were operating the many slot machines and spyglasses. And one feature of one type that one wound the handle and flicked a pack of cards and images of what the butler saw. The image moved as it flicked each separate card. Considered Update State of art technology for that period in time. Some Holidaymakers and day-trippers were eating sandwiches and had a flask of tea. Sitting on the seat – each seat spaced at intervals along the pier.

Seats made with Victorian familiar cast iron frames and stretcher oak battens spaced across the frames. Curved to take the shape of the body in a relaxed position. All occupied and facing to the glowing Sun.The sun-rays reddening a few bald head and faces. Lobster pot red colour day seemed to be order of the day. Mog’s boyhood memories of a trip on the old pleasure boat.

The small events in life of days gone by that gave simple but ultimate pleasure. To feel the cool breeze of salt filled air when the paddled craft reached the open water of the Bristol Channel.

Mog was a private of the local battalion of the boy’s Brigade the 14th company. Based at a little hut at the out skirts of Maesglas. Corrugated steel sheeted constructed village hall type of building. Its wire covered windows, and painted a dirty green color. It looked something on the lines of one of the buildings from the Australian outback. The paint on the corrugated sheeting on the out most facing bits was peeling and rusted in parts. Where the man in charge, Mr Wilson gave the boys drill to form fours from two ranks to four. Advised and taught the boys to shine ones shoes and clean ones teeth and be a good and tidy boy. And those boards resounded to the feet of many a boy drilling and preparing,the dusty cloud rising from the joints of the bare boards as the feet of the squad stamped their movements.

Mog longingly waiting for the day and looking forward to going to the annual camp at Kewstoke, near Weston. Encouraged on by the older boys who had gone before, and often told tales of fun and adventure It was summer 1938 and off to camp. Mog’s young mind was in a spin.

Getting ready to be packed off by his Mum who was all hot and bothered. And acting like a broody hen had even bought a bright new tin of Cherry Blossom black boot polish. And Mog had his shoes polished to perfection. A small case was produced from somewhere and his toothbrush and gear stowed in the case. The white shoulder band and pouch was laundered and ironed and black leather belt polished. The buckle shining and the ever familiar” Be Prepared “motto standing out from the brass buckle. Various assortments of headgear were being worn by the different based other Companies.

Glengary and round top Headgear. The number of the company badges on their hats. Badges all gleaming from the preparation and effort to have a smart clean looking turn out.

Lads of all ages carrying their cases, the feeling as one embarks on to the Weston boat. Mums and Dads waving and lining the riverbanks also looking over the river bridge. Some running out on to the little platform that went out from the side of Jay’s the furnisher shop, on the other side of the bridge. Waving, crying, and screaming, the last good byes echoing.

Boat hawsers are cast off. The steamer gets under way. The Steamer in almost silent ghost like trail of Wash. The paddles speeding the boat down stream. Its smoke bellowing in a trail and fading. Fading like the slowly dying sound of the shouts and cries. Churning the brown waters of the Usk. With the starting to ebb, ebbing tide. The final last reach of open water of gunpowder point as the steamer heads to the open channel. The water now calmed at the Transporter bridge since time and tide wait for no man. Minutes have now ticked by since the lone bugler had sounded his farewell to his Mum.

The Echoing notes of the call in a transparent sound drifting over the water. Living near by in one of the many streets, close to the Usk. His mother had heard the sound of the bugle blown by her Son on his way to camp. She had tried to hang on to the fading notes but too no avail the speeding boat has taken all aboard further away out of ear shot. Happy times under canvas at Kewstoke fun games and great weather with plenty of sausage and mash. The trip and march from Weston to just a little village of Kewstoke, bugles and drums beating, and folks lining the way waving a welcome greeting. Thoughts lingering still fresh in Moc’s mind a memory of Camping in the field of nice fresh green grass. Even thoughts of so compelled by the call of nature to use the sack enclosed latrines with its deep dug trench at the bottom added lime to deter flies and hasten decay of deposited body waste. One had to do a balancing act and sit on the twin poles that were made to span the length of trench seemed first to be exciting but until fear took over after many days of use by young lads from the many companies soon filled it up. Perhaps it was the thought or the fear of falling in that trench so handicapped sailing close to the wind with ones trousers down. The sight and stench soon deterred ones visit unless in dire need.

Moc and some friends made a trip to a local church on the hill and all signed their names in the visitor’s book. From a small shop Mog bought two three penny a box liquorice all-sorts made by Bassets. A gift for his parents it was like parting with a small fortune but he wanted something to take home for them. It was ironic that these peaceful times, later he would reflect on some of the older boy were destined to die in the War when serving as Pilots and Merchant seaman. The day’s soon sped by and the experience of that youthful time came to an end. It was over so quick as if the whole world had turned faster to deny ones treasured days of innocence and enjoyment. Camping and sleeping under canvas with so many lads to each and every bell tent. With the added aroma of wind of a different kind more of cabbage nature along with Brilliant wet clothing and tooth paste, brasso and boot polish wafting constantly to one nostrils.

Alas time to depart and off to make the return trip via the landing stage at Weston. The paddle steamer heaving with the slight swell of the incoming rising tide its all aboard and quiet chatter of youthful tongues. Hawsers cast off and under way steaming up the sun drenched brown swirling waters of the Bristol Channel. And onward up the winding brown mud banks of a narrow river Usk. The paddle Steamer soon slows its speed to a drift pace near Newport bridge. its bow gently touches into the mud bank opposite landing stage. Finally the manoeuvering Paddle steamer slowly drifts across the river aided by the flowing movement of incoming Tide. Its flow upstream takes the steamer around into the landing stage at Newport Bridge east side at Rodney Parade landing berth.

From a cloudless sky a summer sun beats down on the crowded decks of lads eager to get ashore. Mothers plucking their offspring from the trailing line of youth, carrying their cases. The Boys Brigade uniforms were now slightly soiled but on the boy’s sun tanned faces smiles of recognition of ones own family welcoming them as each and every boy they left the gangway from the floating pontoon down below at waters edge. Mog’s tanned face lit up in a smile as his mum grabbed case and helped him up the clattering wooden ramp of the landing stage gangway.

So happy he became for it was a very hot day and was glad to get home and have a nice cup of tea.

[CR.] VM1999.