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 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.
Arthur Machen was born in Caerleon in a house just opposite the Old Bull Inn. His house is next door to the Priory Hotel from the back he would have seen the great amphitheatre at Caerleon. I’ve walked past his house many times on my way to the Hanbury where another literary giant Tennyson whiled away many a pleasant hour scratching out poems on the back of a beer map – and where there is a window where you can also pass the time over a nice pint. I must also confess to a spent too much time in the Old Bull where from a window you can see directly towards his house. The landscape around Caerleon, the old Roman ruins and its long mediaeval history had a profound impact on him – and appears in many of his works.
He was born on 3 March 1863 so this year is 150th anniversary of his birth which will be celebrated by the Caerleon Arts Society (see link below). I painted this picture many years ago and tried to include many of the aspects of this complex and fascinating man.
1986 Link Magazine A.A.D.W. REVIEW from times past 1986 by artist Roy Powell Teacher and scholar working in Brecon.
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.
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.