"Rhiw Evacuee"

Ben Johnson


My name is Ben Johnson and I live in Merseyside now. During World War 2, I lived in Liverpool. I have a brother David who is two years younger than me. I was about 11 years old at the time and for the first eighteen months or so of the war, I lived at home with my mum and dad and brother David.

Dafydd (David) Gwilym (Foel) and Ben.

Things became really bad in Liverpool at that time. We were being bombed by German Aeroplanes, people were being killed and their homes completely wrecked. My mum and dad were very frightened for our safety, so they decided to have David and me with a lot more children go on evacuation to a safe area. That is how I came to live in Rhiw in the Llyn Peninsula.

I must say we had never been away from home before not even for one night, so this parting from our parents was very traumatic to say the least. You must remember, if you can that travelling in those days sixty years or so ago was not like it is today. To go to Wales seemed like going to the moon. Because it took so long and ordinary working class people did not have motorcars like today.

When we arrived in Rhiw we were taken to the village school where the people who were going to house and look after the evacuees were assembled.

Their job was to speak to us and then choose the children whom they thought would settle in their homes with them.

Mrs Jones, Llyshyfryd

Mrs Jones of Llys Hyfryd chose my brother and me. Mrs Jones who asked us to call her Nain was with her daughter in law who we called Mattie, Mattie lived in her own bungalow and was more fluent in speaking English so it was Auntie Mattie who did the negotiating with us. As far as I can remember there were about 20 or 25 evacuees who came to Rhiw and we didn’t know one another because we came from different schools in Liverpool. We had an English teacher from a Liverpool school whom I didn’t know either but she was very nice, her name was Miss Henderson.

Eventually we started to settle in to life in Rhiw, and believe me what a contrast to life in a big city.

Mrs Jones had four sons Griffith John, Will, Idwal and Emlyn he was in the army and was the only one who was not married.

There was an organ and piano in Llyshyfryd and when Emlyn came home on leave he used to play for us and we would sing along to the music, that was where my love of singing first started,

Emlyn had lovely wavy hair he would put Brylcreem on it looking smart and he would let us have some to put on our hair I used to think it would give me nice wavy hair like Emlyn’s.

Next to Llyshyfryd was a small, corrugated hut where a butcher (Dyn cig) used to come once or twice a week to sell his meat.

David is now known as Dafydd, Auntie Mattie was Griff John’s wife they had two children at the time Gwilym and Mair, Gwilym was about four years younger than me, Mair was about three years of age.

We used to go to Auntie Mattie’s bungalow quite a lot it was on a hill, and, looking down you could see Hell’s Mouth (Porth Neigwl). There was a sort of buoy (bwi) which was anchored in the middle of Porth Neigwl and R.A.F. Blenheim Bombers (aeroplanes) would come and drop bombs on this buoy (bwi) using it for target practice.

There is a run of rocks looking down on Rhiw where we went to play and also to collect blackberries for Nain to make pies with.

We learned to grow potatoes, carrots, onions, etc in our garden, which we really enjoyed, we also had two hens whom we named Jenny and Lizzie those were the names of my mother and her sister at home in Liverpool, we thought it was quite clever to do that.

Rhiw in the 1940's

There wasn’t any electricity or running water in Rhiw, we had paraffin oil lamps for our lights and had to catch the rainwater in big barrels for washing with. For drinking water we went to a well (Ffynnon) with buckets and carried water home and put it in a big store vessel (llestr) with a lid on top.

I used to go to a farm to see the farmer Hugh Jones (Cadwgan) and help him milk his cows and take his horse called (Twm) to the fields and plough the ground. I loved to do that.

We also would drink buttermilk (llaethenwyn), that took some getting used to, but eventually I learned to like it.

In Rhiw we had a village school, a post office and a shop, which was run by Robert Griffith and his wife.

There was also ‘Shop Newydd’ which was run by Mrs Williams, her husband, Mr Williams used to go catching rabbits with his dog and when he came back from his exploits he would have the rabbits he had caught hanging from his walking stick with the stick resting on his shoulder.

On the other side of the village was the Sugar Loaf hill (Pen Clip) we went to play up there as well and helped the farmer set fire to the gorse bushes. A few days later we would go with a sack and collect the wood branches that were left because they were excellent for starting the fire in the grate. We used to go fishing in Porth Neigwl with Griff John and Idwal in their fishing boat, in those days they had to row the boat out into the bay as there wasn’t any engine on it, it was hard going. I was not a good sailor, I was always seasick but Dafydd was fine it didn’t affect him.

There was a bus that used to come from Pwllheli twice a week to take the people to town to do their shopping.

Llyshyfryd is a detached house, one side there was Ty’r Ysgol where Mr Williams the school headmaster lived and on the other side over the hedge lived Mary Tyddyn Morthwyl. Mary was a strange woman who was very strong and looked after her pigs and hens. When we were in the garden and she was feeding her hens she would look over the hedge and in a big loud voice shout ‘Helo Boys Bach’ she would frighten us sometimes when she did that, but eventually we became used to her and settled in to living life in Wales a country I got to know and love.

I do hope I have given you a little bit of insight as to what life was like for two English boys who came to live in your beautiful country. My only regret is that I didn’t stay in Wales and become an adopted Welshman. I have such happy memories of that period in my life that I know I will never forget my ‘Welsh experiences’

These recollections were written by Ben Johnson for a school project on the war that Elin Morris did a few years ago. Elin is the grand daughter of Mrs Ray Jones, Llyshyfryd.



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