Childhood in Rhiw 1930's

By

Gwilym Hughes,

On the fourth of February 1932 in a small cottage nestled on the hilltop at Rhiw a little boy was born, the bonniest baby there ever was according to my mother. Three years later the family moved from Conion Ucha to Ty Rhos a farm about a mile down the road towards Pencaerau. Mother was a housekeeper for John Jones Ty Rhos and my father farmed at his home in Conion with my grandmother and her sister. John Jones was an expert with horses, and he would break in and train the young horses at Bodwyddog which is a neighboring farm to Ty Rhos. I remember seeing him coming into the yard at Bodwyddog with two young horses on a tight rein, just in case they bolted. He didn’t have his own horse, but he’d often borrow a horse from Cadwgan o’r Daniel Rowlands at Rhiwlas. I can recall being with him whilst he ploughed the field in front of our house with the horses.

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"Ty Ucha, on the right"

In 1939 after John Jones died we moved house again this time to Ty Ucha a small cottage on Rhiw overlooking Hell’s Mouth. It was nearer to school and to my friends. At that time there were about fifty pupils in school, some coming as far away as Galltraeth, Pencaerau and from the headland at Hell’s mouth and of course everyone walked to school in those days. The headmaster was an expert in many fields musician, artist, mathematician and he was also quite a carpenter and there was a workbench and a cupboard full of tools and we lads used to enjoy woodwork, whilst Miss Hughes would teach the girls cookery. Hardly anyone failed their scholarship under the tuition of "The old School" as we used to call him and he introduced us to poetry and the works of famous welsh poets like R Williams Parry, Eifion Wyn, Crwys and T Gwyn Jones and through this early introduction a passion for poetry grew within me and set me on the path to becoming a poet myself from the simple beginnings of a rhyme that lead me eventually to the "englyn "and to the mystical world of the cynganheddion a form of poetry Known only to the Welsh.

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Rhiw school 1938

The old School was a keen gardener and would allow us boys to grow and tend vegetables in his garden at Ty ‘r Ysgol. At that time there was a lot of manure to be found on the roads and we’d be sent out in pairs with a wheelbarrow and spade to collect the manure. The reason for the manure being on the roadside was that in those days everyone kept a cow for milking and the cows would be brought from pasture back to the cottages to be milked. One afternoon Eurwyn Trip and I had the task of collecting the manure we told the old school that we had seen some on the road leading to Rhiw church. However we walked the whole of the lane , but found not a drop ( so to speak!!) We began to get worried that if we returned to school with an empty barrow we’d be caught out and punished for flunking off school, but all was not lost and we went up to grandmother’s at Conion and duly filled the wheelbarrow and returned to school, where no one was the wiser, well apart from Eurwyn and I !!!

One of the best days for us children was the "Day of the Big Gun", this was the day on which the Coastguards would have their practise meeting, few children stayed at school that afternoon. Daniel Rowlands who was in charge of the crew, would fire the maroon to call every member out What a sight it was two horses would arrive from Penarfynydd and would be put in harness on to the four wheeled wagon, it shone like silver and was navy and red with gold lettering on it all the life saving apparatus would be stored neatly inside. Then the wagon and horses would proceed down to Penarfynydd to a field bordering the mountain, where in a far corner there was a mast ( which represented a stricken vessel), the ropes were attached to the mast having been shot out of the "Big Gun" everyone had their task in hand and Owen Owen, Bryn y Fran who was one of the Ship’s crew was winched down the wire rope and to the safety of the shore( remember this all took place in a field) whereupon he was laid down, head to one side and one of the crew proceeded to give him artificial respiration and remove water from his lungs. So if we learnt nothing at school that afternoon we certainly knew how to administer artificial respiration.

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"Daniel Rowlands"

We used to play with, hoops, whip and top, paper kites, windmills and flutes, you never hear of them these days.

The manganese mines were busy in those days and men from all over the country used to work in them. There were a lot of Cornish men, who were used to working in the tin mines. Many boys left school to work in the mines as did many of the crofters, it was a welcome extra income. I made friends with a Cornish boy whose father was a clerk at the mine and somehow or other he managed to get permission for three of us to be allowed time off school to work in the mines. We were about eleven at the time and our job was to carry equipment for levelling and measuring for the engineers, it was great, time off school and a pound a week to boot!!!! Sometimes we’d be allowed down in the cage and when we reached the bottom of the mine we saw rails and wagons leading off to different levels. The wagons were used to transport the manganese to the surface from where it was transported by lorries to the railway station at Pwllheli and then on to the furnaces at Brymbo.

Quite a few Canadians worked at the mines, they lived in a camp on land owned by the mining company and we used to spend hours there with them we’d have lifts in the lorries and ate as much as we could manage at the cookhouse. More often than not my father would come looking for me as I was always late home as I was enjoying myself, it would always end up with me getting a kick up the backside on the way home!!!!!

After Rhiw school I went to Botwnnog Grammar school but things had changed and the mines had closed and friends had gone their own way and even though I quite liked the school things were not the same and I eventually left at fifteen to become an apprentice carpenter to Humphrey Williams Delfryn Uwchmynydd.

 

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