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Friday, 31 December 2010

From the Beginning

It all started for me in the infirmary, Saint Tydfils Hospital, Merthyr Tudful/Tydfil, South Wales, Cymru/Wales, on August 3, 1951, from where after roughly 10 days I was moved to No. 30 Trevethick Street, the house of a  Mrs Lydia Pugh, where miss Sylvia Pugh aged 8 also resided, as did at this time Mr Fred Walters, Mrs Phyllis May Walters and Master Maldwyn Kenneth Walters aged 4; whilst there I slept in one of the drawers of a chest of the same, there being not a lot of room. During the just under two years that I lived there I began to learn that Phyllis & Fred were mammy & daddy, that Maldwyn was my brother Havard, a name I'd picked up on hearing and misinterpreting the name of his infant school headmistress, Sylvia was my cousin, and Lydia my maternal grandmother, also that Uncle Elfyn, Aunty Cassie and cousins Marion & Denise lived four doors down at No. 26, there was another Marion one door up at No. 32; Apparently because of the lack of space 'daddy' went to see a certain Mr Tal Lloyd, who was to gain renown 17 years later for his Election loss to S.O. Davies; from thence there was a move to No.9 Heol Bryn Man, Gellideg, a brand new council estate on the Swansea Road. We and the Richards's were the first families in the street, I used to sit at the window sucking on the lead paint of the window sill ledge watching the bulldozers and the houses on the other side of the street being built, including that of Frank & Joyce Harrington and their son Francis. My first friends in life were: Frances & Michael Vaughan, Shwnny (Sioni), Dai, Pat & Christine were their elder siblings and Philip came along later; Gareth Richards, Stewart was his elder brother; John Woods who lived on Heol Tai Mawr; Francis Harrington when the family moved in, and my cousin Howard Davies followed by his younger brother Malcolm who lived on Georgetown Square between Joseph Parry's cottage and the skinyard, the skinyard or tanyard stank. I used to go to sleep in a cot with a rag doll, which I used to undress to see what was underneath, and a golliwog, sharing the bedroom with my brother Havard, or Maldwyn. Francis Harrington used to have a red tricycle with a boot, mine didn't, and a train set upstairs in the box room, he had little grey flannel trousers, I wanted the same and got, and because he had birthday parties so did I, mine stopped when we moved away. My favourite toy was a little peddle horse which for some reason my parents took away from me, I still don't know why, perhaps because a road passed in front of the house; one day a child came down the road on the back of a similar one with his father which I took to be mine, I ran after him and tried to grab it back. In the house we had a little dark cubby hole where my brother and I used to turn a film to watch Micky Mouse and friends cahorting about on the wall. We all had great fun playing in the sand of the construction site which was the shops and I remember one day falling out with Frances Vaughan with the result that she scrammed my face. Frances died very young, being found unconscious in her bedroom. As there weren't any shops, the Harp Inn at the top of the road served to buy crisps and chocolate, while the Walls van came around the streets selling ice-cream in the summer. Just below the houses the Tâf Fechan ran under Cefn Viaduct, this was our swimming pool until one year there was a polio scare. My first swimming costume was a girl's cut down to fit me, my second that lasted years wasn't a proper one and embarassed me no matter how often or hard I pleaded, I was always being big headed or never satisfied, yet I  had to do with the lowest common denominator, when it always seemed to me that they got it right for my brother.  From the street I could see a castle in the distant woodland that I would admire from afar, where my mother would take me for walks in the pram and later I would play on the cannons, there was a museum showing off Merthyr's industrial greatness in its prime; an art gallery, and behind these a grammar school to which I always dreamt of going and did. When we left the house to go shopping or to visit my grandmother, for I only had one, and no grandfather, I couldn't leave the house without my harness or reins, I've never seen another child wearing them. On my visits to my gran I made friends with: Christopher Jones; Martin Weaver; George, Susan & Leslie Quirk;  Joyce, Eileen & Ronald were their older siblings and Colin & Hadrian yet to be born; Billie Doe was older; David Purcell/Roberts; Malcolm Evans & Alan Watkins; Raymond and David Adler yet to be born; Valerie Brace; Frank Price and his cousin Joanna. I remember going up to the top of Trevethick Street with my mother on the way to Penydarren and wondering where the Earth was going to end. My cousin Howard went to Georgetown Infants aged four, as did everyone else my age, I wanted to go as well but by the time I went I was a year behind everybody else, I wanted to go on the bus with all the other children but my mother insisted on coming along, I don't remember anything except standing in assembly a row and year behind my cousin Howard, and going down the steps to a gate and looking out, and it was here I met my cousin Susan Woods; then I was five, moving to 20 North Street Penydarren, and to this day I have always considered Heol Bryn Man my home; we moved into a mouse ridden old house lacking in all the modern facilities we had in Gellideg, no hot water, no inside toilet and no bath, it was traumatic for a five year old who'd already suffered the loss of his favourite toy, and my toy pedal car was immobilized so I couldn't go on the road, it's no wonder that I started wetting myself. My mother gave me the choice of schools, Penydarren, which was down the road or Queens Rd. where all my Trevethick Street friends went, but further away behind my grannie's street over the back of an ironwork's tip between Penyard and Twynyrodyn; I chose Queens Rd. and my mother made arrangements with Sandra Owens from across the road to take me and bring me back. I joined my friends in the second year and met Paul Jenkins; Mark Powell; Elisabeth Protheroe; Vincent Price; Lilian Richards & Carole Anne Harris. Carole was the best reader in the class, but I like to think that I caught up with her before going on to Penydarren Juniors. I don't remember being a strong reader previously, although I had an interest in books due to my father reading childrens classics to my brother that I caught on to, I mainly remember the Hans Christian Andersen stories, then one day my parents questioned me on the pronunciation of a word that seemed to trigger something in my brain, from then on I became a prolific reader and an under age member of the Carnegie Central Municipal library in town, my happiest time as a child was looking through the treasure trove of books in the childrens' library, I spent so much time there with good memories that on returning there as an adult I couldn't get over how small it was. Another place I seemed to habitually go was the Hollies Clinic for poultices and somesuch, often I used to run around and got to know the faces and the smells, but for the life of me I can't remember why because as a child I was never ill, except for a bout of mumps and I had warts for a short time; same thing, I remember often going to young Dr. Thomas's nearby, both in the town centre. I wonder if Carole remembers this? One day I was one of the last to leave the school, not before going into the cloak room to collect my coat, it wasn't there so I picked up a similar one to wear home, although it was patently a girls coat with the buttons arranged differently, I could see by a sewn in label that it belonged to Carole, so we took it to her house in Darren view and swapped hers for mine, the following day they were laughing at me because in their mind I was the one got them mixed up, but it was you Carole who had earlier left with mine. I don't remember much about the school except that there were two Mrs Davies's; that I wet myself and had to go to the staff room to dry out; there was a sand pit we never played in, catkins in the grounds, and that it had a flat roof; that in jumping over a bush I badly cut my knee, after it started to heal I picked the sore which all my schoolmates took for stitches and counted them in the toilets; Paul Jenkins broke his arm; slapping someone on the back in assembly making a great noise and being moved to the girls line as punishment; going with Mark Powell after school to the Brunswick pub down the steps past the synagogue into town which his parents ran instead of going home with Sandra, thereby causing my parents unnecessary worry, Mark showed me a photo of his brother Andy in Abermorlais school with my brother, I drank with him13 years later in the Lamb, and the Anchor but never ever met up with Mark again after leaving infant school, although I'd see him around town occasionally; I don't remember how it worked itself out, my parents not having a telephone; laughing at one of my classmates because he didn't believe in God; Peter (Snobby) Horrel's nose was always running, walking down to Rudman's corner shop with a girl who was wearing a tartan skirt attached with a big pin, I was later told that we were in school together in Cyfarthfa but I never found out who she was; and learning the days of the week in Welsh as well as phrases such as 'Bara 'Menyn' and 'Bara Chaws' (Bread & Butter and Bread & Cheese). My brother who had regained his name Maldwyn by this time, as I've stated, was a pupil in Abermorlais Juniors, or Primary School, and that is where most of my friends went after Queens Rd, except for the ones who went to Twynyrodyn, and Paul Jenkins, Valerie Brace, if she was in Queens Rd.; Lilian Richards; Carole Anne Harris & myself who went to Penydarren. Abermorlais was known to have a higher success rate than Penydarren at 11 plus, with even the Bs passing, in Penydarren not all the As passed, nobody in the Bs. For some reason we all went into the Bs, with Paul early on being transferred to the A stream. I learnt to write properly, the multiplication tables to 12 x 12, the months of the year in Welsh, we had our own little library which contained Beatrix Potter's Brer Rabbit stories, and were regularly given reading tests which were their guide to our abilities more so than mental arithmetic. I was put on the top table and before the end of the year Carole and myself were transferred to the As ready to start 2A with our new friends. In our first year we'd had various teachers, I mainly remember a Mrs Raspbridge who taught me a lot, otherwise it was noticeable that outside the A stream there wasn't a high standard of teaching because the children weren't expected to go far in life and the teachers and the headmaster were mainly Labour Party hacks. We were very fortunate that in years two & three we had two of the best in Miss Anita James & Mr Kenneth Adams Morgan, neither of whom were members of the Labour Party, they must have been good because they were both given headships relatively young, when normally 'members' were the first to be moved on. There was a Miss Lynwen Rhydderch , our resident 'Welsh' teacher who taught us songs in the Welsh Language and got us to sign up to membership of  'Urdd Gobaith Cymru', the Welsh League of Youth, not surprising perhaps that having a name like that she should be so taken with the culture; one day she invited me on a coach trip to the Urdd camp in Llangrannog on the Cardiganshire coast, when I asked my mother permission she refused, leading to a ticking off on the monday because waiting for me made them late starting off. Surprisingly, she wasn't the person giving us our regular Welsh lessons, it was an elderly lady from Penydarren and I hated every second of it, I have always reacted more to the teacher than the subject.  Our teacher in year four was a pipe smoking  Mr Davies M.A., can't say I remember much about him, an easy going sort of person, perhaps I preferred them stricter with direction, always neede a bit of direction, my mother used to leave me in bed in the mornings, I was always going to school with the excuse that I'd slept late, bringing giggles from my classmates, she didn't see the need for education, our 'caste' left school at fifteen, it was for others to get on and be looked up to, it wasn't our place, too much reading gave one ideas, which is what I had, and it was bad for the brain. My memories include three for Linda Treharne; a little disagreement with Gillian Connor; her singing voice which beat Carole every time in the annual school eisteddfod; and being regularly told off by the teacher for forever asking to go to the toilet after coming in to class from playtime; Carole had the voice of an angel, but perhaps didn't have the strength & resonace of Linda's to carry across the school hall. If there was any trouble out in the school yard it was put down by Frank Price, usually it was started by a boy by the name of Graham Price, not the future rugby international from Pontypool,  a bit of a trouble maker who came in to his own later on in Vaynor & Penderyn; there wasn't much point in messing with Frank; another good hard boy was Derek James, Degaz or Degsy. At the end of year 4 and the 11 plus results we all got split up with Derek leading his team to Castle and Frank to County. I mentioned earlier that I related more to the teacher than the subject: I wasn't any good at Maths under Mr Barberini, under Mr Warrender I was top in all the tests, geometry & algebra; with Mrs Goodall I was average to not good in History, with young Miss ? I was in the top three; I was good in French when taught by Mr Davies, not good when taught by Mrs Thomas; I was always bad in Science because I was always taught by Tommy Test Tube, in my opinion the worst teacher in the school for putting his subject across. On moving house to Penydarren my new close friends were: Geoffrey Palmer, my next door neighbour; Vivian Jones, Geoff's cousin who later became Dunlop and lived 3 doors up, and Robert Lloyd down the bottom of the street at No. 8. Most of my playing was in Trevethick St. with happily many sorties still to Heol Bryn Man because Uncle Tommy, Aunty Lydia with cousins Howard & Malcolm had moved up there, that reattached my link with the Vaughans and John Woods, gave me new friends, friends of my cousins were my friends, namely Bernard Popp and Narrow; reinforced my link with Francis Harrington, which hadn't been broken due to his having an aunt and gran in North Street where I lived. I also went often to a family of friends round the back of Nantygwenith St. when visiting Aunty Mary in Georgetown, but I lost touch with them many moons ago and don't even remember their names. My playing areas were vaste, on the peripheries there were adventure playrounds of waste, slag & quarries ; we have much grassed over dross but unsurpassable natural aesthetics, Merthyr is surrounded by countryside, and as we broaden out there are some of the most scenic views in Cymru/Wales. On the other hand, anything built by man has either been knocked down or is in a decrepit state and is falling down. I wouldn't have wanted to be brought up anywhere else though, I could play on at least 7 different football pitches within walking distance; 4 different tennis courts; two municipal parks; there were 7 cinemas; innumerable tips, which to us were hills to climb and slide on; the clean tributaries where we could go swimming which lead to the dirty Taff; railway tunnels; long walks following the rivers & railways & canal, and dangerous ones avoiding mineshafts; the highest hills in South Wales, Pen y Fan, Corn Du & Cribyn; one weekend myself and a few of the Trevethick St. boys went up to Penyfan & the Neuadd Reservoirs to enjoy the wilderness without a living soul near us, tickling trout from the stream and cooking it over the camping gaz, although we had axes to cut wood; Chris & I had never done this before, but Martin was the all action experienced outward bounds boy, so imagine our surprise when a car pulled up on the Roman track at the top of the hill and Martin's parents got out bringing him food. We had trips to the seaside, Barry Island at Whitsun and Porthcawl in the summer; my brother took me to the ABC Minors, full of adventure films and prizes for birthdays, so some children used to go up every week to claim them. My parents took us to the public swimming baths in Gwaunfarren, where, because my brother used to constantly splash and tease me I was timorous of going in deep, preferring to stay on my feet, and in order to encourage me my parents got me a plastic life belt, with a duck's head! I didn't learn to swim until Cyfarthfa School when our P.E. master, a hard rugby man by the name of Dan Jones made me jump in to sink or swim. Not many of us went on summer holidays, except for excursions, the running joke was; Q: Where did you spend your holidays? A: Remainya. Every summer Uncle Harry, my father's brother who was in the army in Burma and never came back to home to Cymru/Wales to live; Aunty Mary; cousins Dorothy & Glyn would catch the train to Cardiff General, change to Merthyr, get out at John St., catch our only traditional black hackney cab to disembark at No. 26 Trevethick St., Aunty Cassie's, she was the family catalyst who kept in touch with everyone; often I would join them to visit the family, go to the seaside or a restaurant in Caerdydd/Cardiff. One day we were all sitting in an Italian restaurant near St. John's church next to the Old Arcade when on nearly finishing my soup I tilted my plate towards myself and lifted the spoon & soup to my mouth, whereby working class cousin Glyn from Lancaster laughingly berated me for not having followed etiquette by which I should have tilted the soup plate away, not having been taught that in Merthyr, however, now living in Brittany, I feel more comfortable with everyone doing it my way. My father worked in a toy factory that every year organized a christmas party for their employees children, which was something to look forward to, but why did my parents on that one day of the year have to smother my hair with vaseline? Many of my friends went fishing, especially Martin Weaver, so I went to the local sports shop, told my mother the price and didn't get it, therefore I couldn't join in with cousin Glyn when he brought his rod with him from Lancaster to go fishing in the Goetre Pond, which has since been cleared for house building, a large part of the Cyfarthfa Park perimeter walk was cleared for a road to those houses. When my friends went fishing I changed friends. Trevethick St. was built on the remains of the old Penydarren Ironworks, it ran lengthways following Trevithick's track that carried the world's first steam locomotive to run on rails in 1804; there my brother taught me to ride Martin Weaver's bicycle when I was seven, finally getting one put together by my father at ten, and a proper one at eleven for passing my 11 plus. We played behind the gardens, sometimes walking along a narrow pathway high in the side of the tip, one day I slipped, fell narrowly missing the iron spikes of the garden railings, and certain death by inches, after that my father barred the way so we had to go right back to the top of the street to get onto it again. Carole Anne's house was on the top of the tip behind my gran's and in the weeks leading up to Guy Fawkes there was war between all the surrounding streets whilst collecting for the respective bonfires. Back to school and the 11 plus examinations, it was tremendously nerve racking as I waited for the results declaring that I'd passed and was on my way to Cyfarthfa Castle Grammar School because I'm a 'W', Walters, one of the last names to be called out. If I hadn't gone to Cyfarthfa all my dreams would have been shattered. C.C.G.S. on the blazer pocket surrounding Saint Tydfil. 'Castell Cyfarthfa, Caer i Ddysg a Hêdd'. In the junior school it was basically my reading ability and what I read, together with my common sense that got me passing exams, I never did any homework, my ideas would have to radically change in the new school, things were obviously expected of me because they put me in the fast stream with all the top scholars, it was the proudest moment of my life, but alas, I was soon filtered out, I didn't belong to the same culture. In Penydarren, Susan Regan & Richard Gray were top of the class, but such was the academic level here, percentage wise they didn't reach the same heights. For some reason we had to wait a year before we could play rugby, I remember my first time with a rugby ball in hand, our sports master coaching us on the top field next to the Bryn Cae Owen pond, but in later years he'd stay in the staff room for a smoke, before which he'd throw us a ball, tell us to keep out of the gym and off the football pitch! I never joined in or felt part of anything, which wasn't my initial aim, I wanted to be head boy, reading the service in assembly, not to be; I wasn't in a team, didn't take part in any extra-curricular activities, never met my class mates outside of school, except for Trevethick St., in short, I never moved on; when I joined the local rugby club, my mother told me I was too big for my boots, when a rugby shirt became too tight and I wanted it changed my father called me big headed, and they kept me in short trousers until some of my friends started to go out drinking, refusing to replace them because my mother knew a woman whose son was wearing them, which reminds me of the duck headed life belt & the girl's swimsuit, when I finally did get my long terylene trousers I had to wear them to the beach, to town on a saturday night and to school. I have a photo taken in Barry where I went with Glyn & Dorothy and I'm wearing my school trousers. At a factory christmas party I got the wrong present because my father had given the organizers a younger age, with good intentions so that I could continue going, but without discussing it with me, no that would be adult and I was only a child, making a fool of me again and again in front of my peers when I could witness my class mates being groomed for adulthood. I started going around town in my early teens with Blair Evans & Byron Jones, we'd go to the cinema, down to the new Caedraw flats to play in the lifts and generally hang around, this is how I met Susan James, so important later on in the Loco, & her best friend waiting for their bus home down the valley.There used to be a huge, impressive market hall in Merthyr, which they knocked down to make place for town centre redevelopment, with a new precinct and bus station; at the time the buses stopped around the market building. I'd bump into Paul Lewis, and Gerald Rees who later worked at Ebbw Vale, I remember being offered a violet sweet by Jean Beynon outside the town hall and once or twice we'd call in Adam's café, but we weren't dressed to join in with the trendsetters. It was somewher around this time that I took to helping Peter Mendez sell his Football Echos on his regular stand outside the Theatre Royal cinema on a saturday night, another time I was wandering around the town centre with the Trevethick St. boys when we encountered a gang from Georgetown, my friends ran off, and I was beaten up, twice, returning home with a black eye. Although I didn't join in with things in school, in Trevethick Street we formed a football team, never joining a league but going around playing friendlies. David Roberts was a friend in the street, I liked his sister Carole, they moved to Caerffili/Caerphilly and he left me his stilts, I did go down once or twice to visit them. In Penydarren David Showers moved into Urban St. he was a prize winning athlete and had a younger cousin Derek, who growing up was a prolific scorer in his school teams and later played for Cardiff & Cymru/Wales. Dai and I used to run around the tracks in Gwaunfarren and do a bit of shot putting, he came from the bottom of Dowlais and was always returning there to see his old mates and family from Walter St. so his mates became my mates: Noel Davies from County and the O'Brian brothers; one summer I helped them deliver shoes from the cobblers on Pant road,  we'd get off with the girls in Urban St. Richard & Sheila Gray's sister was particularly nice; with neighbours Geoffrey & Vivian we'd make arrangements with the opposite sex up in Pant where we'd go on our pushbikes. Our bikes took us on many journeys, usually limited to Brecon. I became friends with Alan Pembridge and his lovely wife Wendy Miller, going up to their house at least once a week, until the sad moment there was a fatal car crash with Eric Williams driving and his front passenger Marlene Morgan allright, but Alan & Wendy in the back killed outright. Cousin Denise got married to Ronnie Muscles and I was always following them around their houses; one day I was leaving Ronnie Senior and Adeline's house in the Mush, Gellifaelog, and it was cold or wet or both and Ronnie Jr. gave me his leather jacket to wear home and his set of chest expanders to train, that was a proud moment for a 14 year old because Ronnie was the leader of the pack, and I looked up to him for his strength and speed. Friends at the time in school were: Colin Treharne; Stewart McIntyre; Stuart Bartz, the four of us sat in a row at the back of Vincent Lee's English class getting up to things that made girls like Pat Harris & Elaine Bracey look under under the desks towards us; Paul Lewis; Godfrey Lewis, no relation; Geoffrey Matthews; Robert Harris; Richard Powell; Ewan Park and his cousin David Walker, friends from Penydarren, David played violin in the National youth Orchestra of Wales, Ewan moved away to the English south coast but came home every Christmas with his new girlfriends, we'd meet in Tiffany's or/and I'd sign him in to the rugby club, so I was shocked when I heard in Paris a few years ago that he'd passed on. I took to missing lessons, going out through the toilet windows, through the woods, Huckleberry Finn & Tom Sawyer style, up the river or hitch hiking to Brecon mainly, but also to Abergavenny and even to Hereford Cathedral and always back by 4 o'clock to catch the school bus home, Lynnette Chidgey in the Anchor one night told me that wherever she went on the bunking trail she would see 'Bun'  daubed on walls ahead of her; this lasted a couple of years until I once again took up the thread of school life, joining in, albeit on a lower level, making new friends, particularly at this time ; David James; Graham Adler; Anthony (Bonehead) Watkins; strengthened my friendship with David (Dai Fat) Davies, we went back a long way; David (Little Dai) Davies, I think he's winning medals as a Territorial Officer; Philip Adams; Selwyn Regan, Peter (Greg) Griffiths; Peter Lewis, Paul's brother and most of all Maxie Howerd, to the extent that he used to often come to Brittany and stay with us. Bonehead began to get numbness in his back and lose his sense of feel, I don't know what became of him; Peter was a throwback because he was one of my original first year friends with Anthony (Antos) Jones, the three little ones of 2D, which was intrinsically 1D but we didn't have 1s, we had; 2; 3 ;lower 4; upper 4; 5 & 6. Philip Adams used to live in the grounds of Guest Keen Sports & Social Club, we used to play each other on its tennis courts, later Philip, Selwyn Regan, Peter Griffiths & myself used to meet up every tuesday evening to play snooker on the club's tables, a beatiful building built as a memorial library to John Guest, M.P., iron master, founder of the Guest, Keen & Nettlefolds conglommerate, and who's wife Lady Charlotte Guest translated the Mabinogion into English, we were watched over by an elderly gentleman who used to keep them up to standard, a Mr Churchill. I remember only one time going to a school Christmas party, some of us calling into the Rose & Crown in the Quar, before walking to the school and seeing Elaine Bracey's well lacquered beehive hair style. Nearing the end I even took to supervising the younger pupils in games down the gym, but I never made prefect. Maxie could see that I was uncomfortable and inward looking so he had an idea to get me out by inviting me to the Loco where he had a regular weekend rendezvous with: Mike Jones (Meic Merthyr in Caerdydd); Gareth Davies; Kelvin O'Neill; Neil Quinlan; Stuart Pound; Peter the Lamb & Gary from the pet shop, also Mike's cousin Malcolm and his school mate Wyn Richards who went on to become a champion bowler and 'ENGLISH!!! international, from that day I joined them, one year spending a summer holiday together in a Guest House by the sea in Blackpool, the Landlord and Landlady baked (or bought) me a cake for my birthday, Mike and I took advantage of the nearness and hitched to Lancaster to see my Aunty Mary, Dot's mother and Gareth's grandmother, we met two girls in the house next door from Cwmbran, and I also met a girl from Northern Ireland by the name of Elisabeth Shepherd. Before going I ordered a made to measure suit in Burton's Merthyr to be delivered, when it arrived I opened the packet, tried it on, they could have measured a prize bull, it didn't fit. For about a year before I met the boys I used to take my father's darts down to the room set aside in the Morlais every friday to get out of the house, but didn't go any further because I was under age and didn't want to push it, I remember Lilian Richards's sister working behind the bar, and smart she was. Wyn was the person who initiated me into the rugby internationals, and I initiated Maxie, Wyn went to college in Portsmouth, one weekend in August I visited him at the flat he shared with his girlfriend Marion, she never liked his friends' influence on him, anyway I celebrated my birthday at an all night beach party on Haylings Island, it was magnificent., there I spent the best days of my late teens. Susan James was the daughter of the house, Esme & Bill her parents at the bar. Susan had her loyal group of friends with whom we intermingled, listened to Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, played cards till sunrise in Tony's flat on the bottom of Twyn with Cynthia McDonald's sister in law (Tony's sister), her dark haired friend and boys from down the valley, there was a test of strength whereby we had to grab a chair leg at its base then lift it off the floor, sounds easy, but only Bill the landlord, a brickie friend of Susan, and myself were able to do it. Susan's lot and myself went to the Bath Festival, but I got picked up 'en route' near Newport after being stuck in the wind & rain, everyone was squashed in the back of a Ford Transit, I remember going to a pub in Shepton Mallet with Cynthia's sister in law & friend, and drinking bottles of Whitbread Forest Brown; Peter Lewis took me to the Lamb between hours and introduced me to his father John the landlord and his sister Cheryl, but it was Maxie who took me there drinking, where I was introduced to the patriotic element: Harri Webb; Ivor Davies; Ronnie the Brigadier; Neil the Colonel and perhaps Cayo after they heard me arguing with him about Owain Glyndwr. The Imp was where it all came together, and where I spent the best years of my early twenties, but it must have been my teens as well because I used to finish up there on a saturday night to go up the road dancing in the old Palace Cinema, Palace Ballroom, Adams Beach and then Sands, before I was 21 I was dancing in Tiffanys. Anyway used to queuing outside Sands, who used to hire the local 'hard nuts' to keep control, one night as we were waiting outside a not very bright person came outside declaring that he was the 8th hardest boy in Merthyr to which Degaz grabbed hold of him beat him up on the spot and walked off. another time 'the leader of the pack' Ronnie Muscles was in there when a rumour went around that there were strangers there from Swansea, Ronnie got a punch in the face that knocked him on the floor, as I was looking at him I could see a huge grin forming and I knew he was going to enjoy the next few moments. Another story I have concerning my young self is that I was chatting and drinking with Cynthia's sister in law and her dark haired friend near the stage when two boys from Ebbw Vale started larking about, then one of them pushed past me; I felt that I had to save face, prove myself and show off to the girls, so I grabbed hold of this boy who was bigger than myself,  hammered into him, punching non-stop until he fell, his friend kept his distance then picked him up and helped him leave. It was at the Imp that I met Susan McCarthy; Cynthia, unknown to me she was my former class mate; Valmai & Diane Parle, it somehow became my base and many is the time that I stayed behind being taught Politics by mine host 'Skip'. There used to be trips down to Top Rank Caerdydd/Cardiff organized by the Spina Bifida charity to which we used to go but as they weren't often I began running my own, to Top Rank, Cardiff, Top Rank Abertawe/Swansea and to Mecca, Bristol. I can picture Diane in the aisle singing 'we're all going to Cardiff on a Morlais bus'. At one time in Top Rank I was dancing with Valmai when the compere asked anyone with a hole in a sock to go up on the stage, not being very sophisticated I found a hole, when in fact every boy there had two holes.; another example was in a restaurant in Swansea, we ordered steak & chips, the waitress asked how did we want them, Georgie Quirk looked up at her bewildered and replied "on a plate". On a trip to Bristol we called in to a nightclub on Whiteladies Road with strippers and a game of roulette, I played and got worried when I started losing because I had the bus money, fortunately for me I came out on top and a good night was had by all at the ballroom, only for me to wander off and get lost; luckily at about 3 o'clock in the morning in the middle of Bristol the coach rolling slowly with everyone on the lookout, eventually came across me nonchalantly walking along, picked me up and drove us all home. There must have been an overlap between the Loco & the Imp, but in my memories they rest distinctive; in between we drank in the Vulcan, nothing to say for it except that it was popular, we were young, the beer was rubbish. Merthyr High Street is about two miles long, and arriving at the age of 17 or 18 there was: The Penydarren End; The Nelson; The Owain Glyndwr; The Morlais; The Imp (Tiger); Ye Olde Express; The Anchor; The Vulcan; The Brunswick; The Belle Vue; Narrow Gauge; Red Cow; The Lamb; The Kings; The Great Western; The Eagle; The Loco; a normal saturday, and that was after some of the pubs on Castle Street had been knocked down. After school I got a summer job at Lines Brothers, Triang Toys with Johnnie Webber & Peter Churchill, then Kelvin O' Neill, one of the boys, got me an interview at Ebbw Vale Steelworks with John Gaydon who employed me at the Central Engineering Offices, meeting up again with schoolfriends Philip Adams; Stewart Mcintyre & Godfrey Lewis, who by this time was Brian, which makes it pretty unfair when years later he brought his college friends into the Anchor and introducing them to me; I asked them if they were all friends of Brian, they laughed, and he never spoke to me again, how was I to know? It was at the works that I met Kevin Viney and Hedley McCarthy, not forgetting Roy Beynon our union rep amongst many others. John Gaydon was secretary of the town rugby Club high in the echelons of the sport in Wales with Arthur Lewis becoming captain of the National team. Many of the players were employed at the works and Denzil Williams a record breaking forward was often to be seen in the office picking up or handing over items relative to the club, mostly, as far as I could see, raffle tickets; one day about twenty years later I found myself standing next to him in the Parc des Princes where I reminded him of it, he wasn't in a good mood because his ticket number hadn't guaranteed him a place. even going on holidays together to Blackpool, where I took advantage of its nearness to Lancaster to hitch hike with Meic up to No. 10 Green St. to see my aunty Mary, Dot White's mother and Gareth Walters's grandmother; but one by one they dropped out with our lives evolving differently, 'till there were Gareth & Mike who stayed on the political side and Maxie on the non-political. Whilst still in school I met Kelvin's cousin Lynne Davies, nothing came of it, but I took her to a New Year's dance in Sands, walked her home, and every now and then I'd go to see her at her parents home just up the road in the 'Mush', all the time keeping a personal diary, one day my mother surprised and astonished me by recounting my writings to my family, that was it with both parents, we were the children, they could do what they liked so long as we were in their house, if or when I happened to say that something belonged to me they would reply that as far as they were concerned if it was bought by them it was theirs, I wasn't too happy when they gave away my/their Arthur Mee encyclopaedias to my cousin Beth. In 1970 there was a lot of excitement going on in the town, the Labour M.P. S.O. Davies had been thrown out because of his age, well into his 80s, but no known date of birth, he had represented the town since 1934, and was Mayor in 1945, so this did not go down well withe the populace. The 'Party' chose a leading Trades Union leader, Alderman Tal Lloyd, father of my friend Kerry, it was seen as a sad moment and a sure thing for the Alderman. The intrepid SO stood as an independent, won nearly 17,000 votes, Tal Lloyd; 9,234, E. Jones, Con; 3,169, and Chris Rees, Plaid Cymru, 3,076; it was my first vote, and it went to Chris. I was fortunate enough to have been present at the result inside the town hall. Two years later S.O. was dead, leading to a by-election where there was even more excitement with American style cavalcades. Emrys Roberts, on the left wing, republican side of the party, which for years had been at odds with Gwynfor Evans the Party President, had arrived as the Plaid Cymru candidate on the back of close results in the Rhondda and Caerphilly. The Labour Party, shaken by what was going on around them chose an outsider, a very young Edward (Ted) Rowlands), already a junior minister, who had just lost his seat in Cardiff North; both he and his wife Janice were Welsh speakers. For weeks there was a carnival atmosphere, and on the day it was : Ted Rowlands, 15,562; Emrys Roberts, 11,852; with the Conservative, Communist, and Liberal way behind. After everything had calmed down Maxie & myself went off hitch hiking around Belgium, The Netherlands, and Germany landing at Oostende. I was in a bar in Amsterdam and happened to be watching the television when the news came on about the terrorist attack on the Munich Olympics, it was Sept. 5 1972. When I returned home I seemed to gradually drift away from my old friends except for Maxie, Meic & Gareth but developed a never ending host of new ones, and became a sort of disciple to a hero of a new generation of Merthyr voters in a newly shaken up and re-organized constituency Plaid Cymru which was to launch the political careers of Dafydd Wigley, Gareth Foster & Bleddyn Hancock, and eventually lead to the Party taking control of the Town Hall a few years later. I was brought up Labour; Red Flag, Red Dragon; but the Dragon in the sixties had disappeared from Merthyr it had become an anti Welsh microcosm; we knew where not to tread, until Ted turned up and later Bill Morgan it was run by the McNamaras, the Mahoneys, the Donovans, the Reddys, and right on the top were our own Albert John (hope I won't lose a friend here) & Tal Lloyd; any mention of Cymru/Wales was anathema to them; I went through three Trades Unions; help your fellow man, solidarity to the working class, so long as it follows Moscow's rule and the workers aren't too Welsh, nowhere and at no time in either local politics or local Trades Unionism was Wales ever mentioned, except by the ousted MP many years previously causing him 3 times to be ostracised by his party, he was the last of a long line of Independents including R.C. Wallhead going back to Keir Hardie to whom Cymru/Wales meant something, before he eventually lost the plot and was finally asked to stand down. When I was still twenty one years old in 1973, I stood for Mid-Glamorgan County Council against Terry Mahoney, the future Chair(man) of the Authority, on my leaflets was written 'Bernard Walters,  B.S.C.' referring to my work place 'British Steel Corporation'  it wasn't meant to mislead people into thinking that I was a Batchelor of Science, but anyway I came second out of three with a respectable 800 votes, the third candidate being Gerard Kiley the journalist; around this time I met Peter Davies. The patriotic element mentioned above had become a constant in  my life and in relation to which, I had met or was to meet within the year: Richard Hicks; Marc Phillips (at school), Geoff Thomas (school); Brian Thomas; David Williams; Terry Rees;  Cherry lewis; William Clee; Gareth Westacott; Emrys & Margaret Roberts; Dafydd Wigley; Gareth & Linda Foster; Malcolm Llewelyn; Hywel Davies; Glyn Owen; Bleddyn Hancock;Wynford Griffiths; Gwyn & Anne Griffiths; Trevor & Lilian Jenkins (Flooks); Lindsay Whittle; Syd Morgan; Alun Roberts; Dafydd Williams. I was Secretary of the Penydarren Branch of Plaid Cymru with Richard Hicks my right hand man, Membership & Social Secretary for the Constituency, my horizons were broadening. Because of my Language activities I used to meet Welsh teachers who because they moved in from outside used to share flats; the first lot were opposite the General Hospital in Garth Villas and were Ann Jones, Eldred Evans and friends, the second lot moved in to the new precinct and these were Ann Preston from Blaenau Ffestiniog, Eleri and friends, after Tiffanys opened and after a hard night's dancing, because of their proximity and my sense of friendship and feeling of warmth towards them, I used to wake them up by occasionally calling there after 1 o'clock in the morning, I later found out in the painful way Eleri introduced me to her boyfriend who was a striker for Bangor City that it was never appreciated and that the friendship was hardly mutual, although later on I met her at an Eisteddfod where she approached me, I couldn't respond and walked away due to the hurt I felt. I often used to go to Cherry's house in Bargoed from where we would sometimes go to Cardiff, e.g. one day we had a rendezvous at the Mitre, Llandâf, where I remember walking past Llandâf Fields with Rhodri Williams, meeting up with the others including Vaughan Roderick, before spending the night at Vaughan's parents' house in Rhiwbeina on the floor in sleeping bags, which in the morning his mother aired out on the clothes line, although most of the time in those days I'd sleep in Al Tal's flat in Llandâf North, later on it became Ian Perriman's house in the Roath area; or it might be a fund raising effort, somewhere in the valleys, very often it was for canvassing, I was meeting more and more people but I was leaving behind my other friends who weren't involved in politics. Canvassing partners in Merthyr included Eurfyl ap Gwilym, Dr. Harri Pritchard Jones and Charles Cravos. Sometimes when we needed money Dafydd Wigley would ask his wife if she was free at certain times so we would have an Elinor Bennett Christmas harp concert, frequented by Philip Madoc. Very often our life saver was a young man down in Glynneath; I'd give a ring to his house and we'd end up with a Max Boyce concert, until one day I gave him a call and there was an agent on the other end, things weren't the same after that. One day we were at a 'do' in Corbett's Club, Caerffili/Caerphilly where I heard my favourite rendition of 'Unwaith Eto 'Nghymru Annwyl' sung by a girl called Linda ? from Abertawe/Swansea. Another time we went to the Rhondda where Glyn James (sadly just died) was guest of honour, and given his reputation I expected something light hearted, but I was surprised when it seemed to go on forever in monotone; a few days later we had a function in Gary Thomas's place at the bottom of town 'The Brandy Bridge' where I was on the top table with Emrys Roberts, Robert Howells and our guest of honour, the actor, Meredith Edwards; I mentioned the do in the Rhondda and how Glyn James to my surprise went on and on; well, I'd put my foot in it because Meredith surpassed Glyn, I was already acquainted with Peter Edwards, Meredith's son, due to his being a teacher at Cyfarthfa before moving on to the BBC as a stage manager's assistant's assistant. I had the honour of being shown around a nascent Dowlais Rugby Club in a side room of the Bruce Hotel, another time I was invited to a charity evening in the Dowlais Catholic Hall where I ate my meal next to the President of Cathods, a British film actor of the 60s, name of Keiron Moore. I think it was 1973 that the Conference was held in Rhyl; Mici Plwm, and Hywel Gwynfryn dressed all in white were running a disco for us on the pier, I was staying in a hotel across the road where I met a Scottish maid, after I'd got back home I was out one night drinking, with this girl on my mind, so after stop tap, I went home, got a coat and started walking up the hill in Dowlais towards the Heads of the Valley road with the intention of hitch hiking overnight to Rhyl through Abergavenny and Leominster, it wasn't easy and when I got there she didn't show much interest. I didn't have a driving license so I used to do a lot of hitch hiking paticularly overnight to the rugby internationals, one day I was waving a big Red Dragon flag on the way to Scotland but drivers were signaling to me that Wales was the other way. I must be fair to Ivor Davies, he took me to many places in his Audi and would never allow me to contribute to the petrol, because, as he said, he was going there anyway. In 1973 or 74 I held a banner at the head of a Rally in Newtown, at the end of which we retired to a local hotel where I was drinking at the bar when I heard two distinctive voices coming from two distinctive characters; the one being Monsignore John Owen, and the other someone who was to become one of my greatest friends, Mr. Gareth ap Siôn, originally from Pontypridd, but for many years since, Caerdydd, Gareth's a real character, a former Welsh junior chess champion,who at one time stood for the Blaid in Caerdydd/Cardiff; he loves his curries and for some reason he is sometimes from afar taken for a Pakistani, as with the prisoners in Cardiff Gaol ordering him home on his going into the Rhymney across the road. One time we were all in Merthyr celebrating the historic takeover of Merthyr Borough Council by Plaid Cymru, it was raining and Gareth went for a pee, a little too near the police station where he was espied by a couple of officers, as they were putting him in the car, he shouted out "you can't arrest me we've just taken over", he spent a very comfortable night in a cell with breakfast served, the rest of us had gone home except for a boy called Hywel Williams from Pwllheli who sat outside on a bench all night in the rain in solidarity, I remember he had part of a finger missing. One time, Malcolm Llewelyn and myself together with two or three others were invited to a new Welsh learners television programme where they asked us more or less prepared questions in panel form to which we gave our answers, with a few minutes to go the co-ordinator shot me a new question that caught me out, but fortunately when I watched it at home it didn't show. At moments I was at a loose end I'd go down to Siop y Triban in Wyndham Arcade, Peter Meazey was the proprietor, and a 17 year old Siwsan George from Treherbet was serving at the counter, later on they formed Mabsant with Stewart Brown, or I'd go down to the Plaid offices to see if I could give them a hand; Dafydd (Dai Banjo) Williams was the General Secretary, there was an elderly lady who'd been there years, Robert Griffiths was doing research, Gwerfyl Arthur was secretary, helped by Marie?the wife of the headmaster of Rhydfelen; a likely job was to telephone a speech to the television that was going to be addressed that evening. A few years on, Malcolm Llewelyn, my brother & myself heard about a man in Aberdare called Iago Roberts who was setting up autonomous self learning Welsh groups withe the name 'Sefydliad Cymru'; we went to see him at his home, where he advised us how to set one up in Merthyr, and Chris Priest set one up in Casnewydd/Newport. I went around the chapel vestries and pub lounges looking for suitable classrooms, and it was to Peter Meazey I went to buy the recommended text books 'Cymraeg Llafar'. I was also local organizer for Cymdeithas yr Iaith having taken over from Meic Merthyr Jones. It was he who organized the summer school in Aberfan, must have been in 1973 because, Glynis Williams from Treorc'hy/Treorci, Helen Greenwood, Gwenith, &  Marion took time off to help me canvass in Penydarren where I was standing for Council. We had a game of football on Aberfan Fields, I played in goal and shouldered off a man who goes by the name of Ffred Ffrancis. Another man who was to become one of my greatest friends is Rhobert ap Steffan, I met him and his girlfriend Marilyn Walters in the London Welsh Rugby Club on the day of an International, I was introduced to him by the person I call my mentor, Ivor Davies from Dowlais,  later on Rhobert, or Castro as we all know him, taught at Bishop Hedley in Merthyr before moving down to the other 'Moel Siabod' in Llangadog. Ivor's brother Maldwyn was owner of the main bingo hall at the time, The Theatre Royal, and with the money earned ran Merthyr football club, where I met and drank with John Charles while he was manager there, I in turn introduced him to Ioan Roberts who was a journalist with Y Cymro, we were friends through the rounds of Plaid Cymru & Eisteddfodau; his wife regularly won prizes at the Eisteddfod for her singing, he introduced me to Huw Jones at a hotel in Bangor during, I think, the Eisteddfod yr Urdd, Porthaethwy. I had a movement I called 'Mudiad Adloniant Merthyr' and with Malcolm Llewelyn and my brother Maldwyn we ran a mobile Welsh disco called Disco'r Dewin; I organized a concert in Aberfan with Mynediad am Ddim where a woman pleaded with me to get Emyr's autograph, which I did, took it back from the changing/dressing rooms, gave it the child and he read "To Byn...". I met Ryan Davies at a concert, also in Aberfan, where he explained to me the origins of 'Ar Hyd y Nos'. Whilst all this activism and social life was going on I lost my job in Ebbw Vale, leaving an office to become a semi-skilled machine operator in Moss Gears, Merthyr, working side by side with David Meredith's father, during this time we worked through the 3 day week. After the factory I became a 'Man from the Pru' and joined up again with my friend Gareth Davies. During these years I would not miss: an Eisteddfod Cenedlaethol; Eisteddfod yr Urdd; Ysgol Basg C-y-I-G; Plaid Cymru Summer School; Cilmeri, and Plaid Cymru Cynhadledd Cenedlaethol/National Conference. My new friends at this time were: Siân; Howzy and his crowd; Llinos Davies; Mair and their friends;Ioan Roberts; Chris Priest from Casnewydd/Newport; Ap Siôn; Al (Tal) Williams; Dai Shep from Dolgellau; Vaughan Roderick; Pete Meazey; Glynis Williams; Siwsan George; Ian Perriman; Rhobert (Castro) ap Steffan; The Nelson crowd of Rod Barrar; Derek Stockley; Anthony Jewell & Aubrey Evans. (Plaid Cymru/Cymdeithas yr Iaith/Sefydliad Cymru/Llangrannog/Eisteddfodau). All of a sudden, with a few exceptions,  my friendships built up and cultivated over the years through school, the streets & the pubs had been displaced you don't lose friends, you only lose touch with them, and there was now a new lot in my life. In 1975 I was supposed to meet Marc Kerrain in Merthyr on our way to the Cricieth Eisteddfod, but because he was late we went on, leaving Meic behind to welcome him and we all met up again outside the Brynkir Arms, later on Breton musicians were playing in the garden and I was drinking sitting with my back to the window, next to Vaughan Roderick using a copy of a Welsh Nation explaining the finer points of how to précis interviews in written journalism. Castro (Rhobert ap Steffan) and his mates were making waves in a pub across the road, something about who was or wasn't circumcized. Marc's elder brother was the famous 'I 'ave no money' mad Breton of Dafydd (Goronwy)Jones's 'Dyddiadur y Dyn Dwad' which has already been mentioned. In the Aberteifi/Cardigan Eisteddfod Harri Webb wrote for me "There was a young fellow called Byn who thought the Eisteddfod was fun,  in Cardigan Town he was drinking it down, 'cos Plaid Cymru in Merthyr had won". At this Eisteddfod I'd been invited to sleep at the village bakers in Pencae, Llanarth by Gwawr Hughes, who I'd met at Llangrannog Urdd Camp Welsh lessons, sadly left us in sad circumstances whilst at University in Bangor, and Siân Tesni, daughter of the house; during one evening the girls decided on a peaceful protest, to which I was invited to sit in the back of the van, Siân's sister Heulwen Thomas asked to come with us but it was decided she was too young; we drove around the winding country roads, stopping every now and then for a few minutes before carrying on; they were doing their bit to "peintio'r byd yn gwyrdd" by the morning there were many more signs painted green in the Cardiganshire countryside. In order to get back to the Eisteddfod Aled Eurig picked us up in his car. There was a concert organized by Cymdeithas yr Iaith starring Edward H Dafis, I couldn't get in because it was full, however I met a friend who got me in on security; we were told by Wynfford James to watch out that excited girls wouldn't come storming screaming down to the stage at the appearance of Edward H; coming from the valleys and never having heard of them I took this with a pinch of salt, but fair enough there they were running to the stage, where the security men got together hand in hand forming a human chain to prevent the screaming girls getting closer, unbelievable. During one Conference I was sitting there enjoying myself in the hotel singing 'Flower of Scotland' with a band of young kilted Scots before it became officially accepted as their National Anthem when the barman declared the bar closed; Dafydd Wigley gave me his key number so I could stay on till the early hours, when on trying to leave everything was locked, I eventually cracked a pane on leaving by the front window; Phil & Dorothy Richards from Aberdare became good friends at the Conference; one day Dr. Phil Williams drove Cherry & myself to Llandrindod Wells for a one day special conference with Owen John Thomas in the passenger seat, Phil was a close friend and poliical colleague to Cherry's father Les, a highly respected member of the party from Bargoed who gave his name to our Les cards for calculating support at the polls. Not having been a great success in the insurance world I found myself out of work again, when one day I received a note from Margaret Roberts informing me that Joseph Parry's old place of worship, Bethesda Chapel, was being saved (ironic pun) and they needed volunteers to clean it all out for restoration as a community centre, I was only too happy to help out, later on John Barnard Jenkins found a job there as a counsellor and I'd pop down from Brecon Rd. at lunch times to have a chat, it was only a couple of hundred yards, others there became colleagues on Merthyr Works Council, which was mainly a forum for the local Communist Party. I was having a quiet drink in Merthyr Rugby Club when someone introduced me to the foreman of a subsidized work scheme on the College site, he asked me if I could paint, didn't wait for an answer, so the following morning I got myself a job as a painter on Mid-Glam Council with a 6 month contract, never having lifted a brush in my life, two weeks later the man who employed me got the sack whilst I carried on painting until the end of the contract before joining Merthyr Council at the Brecon Road yard. Every morning we would all turn up, stand in the yard, and depending who was or wasn't at work we would be designated our respective tradesmen; there I worked on the roofs with a roofer/tiler; I was a fitter's mate with my friend John Price from Dowlais, that was my best job; the most frustrating was being a brickie's mate up in the Gurnos, everyday we'd be building the same wall which was pushed down every night. I was also Shop Steward, so at the end of every month I'd get a small envelope which was a bonus to my regular wage. After a while I moved to the Dowlais Yard as Storeman, one of my easiest jobs, which was supposed to be for life until the man I replaced came back. The men would come in to the store to collect what they needed to clean up the town, sign the book and leave, from then on I'd answer the phone and intermittently fill the J.C.B.s and lorries with diesel, blue for one and red for another, saturday mornings I'd be paid time and a half for basically opening and shutting the door once, waiting for midday, locking up before walking to my parents house across'The Bont' football pitch. When the unexpected happened and the original storeman came back from long term sick they put me on the ash lorries, nothing funny about going around the Gurnos Estate, one of the largest in Europe, at 5 miles an hour lifting rain sodden zinc ash bins from every house up to the shoulders and into the back of the lorry. Another day they gave me a brush and sent me with another man to clean out the under passes, his reaction was that now no-one could see us we didn't have to work. Their special one bonus day off a year was coming up on the date there was a Cymdeithas yr Iaith Easter School in West Wales, I can't remember where now, anyway I took it upon myself to organize a trip to Abertawe/Swansea, left everybody outside a pub in the town centre and caught the train, at the end of the night a Cymdeithas member, trainee solicitor by the name of Alison John got me back as the pubs were closing just in time to catch the coach home. I used to run a lot of trips, Vaughan knowing this called me to organize a coach to Caerfyrddin/Carmarthen to celebrate the anniversary of that famous night when history came alive and was re-threaded at that town in 1966 when Wales elected a Member to the London Parliament, I remember there were two girls on that coach, daughters of a famous producer who still haven't paid. On that subject I organized a dance in Merthyr with the new Supergroup 'Injaroc', amongst others the members of which were; Caryl Parry Jones, Endaf Emlyn and Cleif Harpwood, at midday I took them for a curry in Hal Al's which was slightly greasy, wrong time of day, I had to change halls, there were two in the centre, because not enough people could understand the need for rock music through the medium of Welsh, but in the smaller hall the atmosphere was all I could hope for, with a mention later on in 'Y Cymro' that it counted amongst their best gigs, unfortunately not enough money was collected to fully pay the group. At other times I used to run trips to Glansevin mediaeval banquets where Meinir Lloyd would hold court with her harp, and I've forgotten the name of her singing friend who went to a Welsh school near Llanelli and who later on I met scarred in Top Rank Caerdydd during a rugby international, where she told me it was the result of a car accident. At other times Gareth Westacott would give me a ring giving me the date of dances at Coleg y Drindod, Caerfyrddin to which I'd organize a coach, and every now and again we'd go to dances at the James family memorial hall in Pontrhydfendigaid. After a weekend in Llangrannog, where amongst others I met Gwynneth Rixon, who related to me the story of her being banned from a cycle race somewhere in England because she had put the postage stamp, therefore the Queen's head upside down on the envelope containing the application form, I was very disappointed on coming back to Merthyr where I stopped off at the Vulcan for a pint when someone came in informing me that it was Skip's last day in the Imp, I left my pint, rushed straight up there, and when I arrived he refused to let me in and wouldn't listen to me; it was getting late so he most probably thought that I was taking advantage; I didn't know that he was finishing and I haven't seen him since that night. After Malcolm Llewelyn and I set up Sefydliad Cymru in the vestries & lounges, I got together a trunk full of books in Welsh and about Cymru/Wales which I used to lend out, I don't know what happened to the trunk, I hope people are still learning from them; I got them together by starting off at Dowlais Top, one of the last linguistically strong areas of Merthyr and explained what I was trying to do, some people donated, sometimes the books were too valuable such as one which was a beautiful translation of John Bunyan's 'Pilgrims Progress'. This leads me on at last to Nancy & Austin in the Crown at the bottom end of Merthyr High Street, we used their lounge for lessons, she a Welsh speaker from I think the Pontneddfechan area, so the Language was encouraged at the bar, not only that at the end of an evening in town we could always get a welcome and a late drink by surreptitiously tapping on the front window, whenever I encountered  Welsh speaking newcomers to Merthyr I would take them to The Crown, although one day I met Ffred Ffrancis in the High St. prospecting for customers and I took him to the Loco for a pint, at the time it was run by Dafydd Gittins from Aberhonddu/Brecon and his partner Maldwyn Morgan. Because of my involvement in local politics in Merthyr I often used to get into discussions with local characters, one such being Eddie Thomas, the boxing champion & trainer of boxing champions, I used to love listening to his tales of his younger days and stories of the old town; one day we were standing at the bar of the Castle Hotel, when he told me he was going into the restaurant to eat with a crowd of friends including the Chief Constable, and to my surprise he invited me in; don't forget I was still in my early twenties and in awe of these people. Another thing was my interest in the Welsh Language, which got me into conversations with the older people whose Welsh is the Gwenhwyseg dialect and different to other parts of Cymru/Wales, but as I was picking up this remnant of the Glamorgan/Gwent speech I moved to Brittany. I often used to chat with the editor of the Merthyr Express at lunch time in the Belle Vue pub down the street from the offices; his chief reporter and photographer were the couple Robert Haines & Melanie Doel, Robert is an old friend, who has moved away and just published an album of photos depicting the characters of his youth, which they are in the process of filming, while Melanie moved on to the BBC. I had the great honour of the both of them flying over to Brittany to cover my wedding for the paper. At Dowlais Yard, with no interest in the job any longer I applied for a vacancy, still with the Council, at Rhydycar Sports & Leisure Centre, where I'd organized the Injaroc concert; I became a Shop Steward again, defending the rights and arranging holiday rotas of the cleaners & ancillary staff; the name of my boss has slipped my mind, but I remember him telling me that he went to Millfield with Gareth Edwards, he, famous for the " What did you think of the match Gareth? Great, Great" commentaries, amongst other things, similar to Howard Winstone's  "Ask Eddie". The under managers were John Stokes &  Philip Davies, and one of the supervisors was Football League First Division referee, Gerald Morgan. I was working with my cousin Sylvia's husband Granville Jones, and the job entailed setting up and preparing for sports, concerts and exhibitions, working behind the bar, particularly for Christmas, generally seeing that everything was in working order and kept tidy. Have you ever thought of the work that goes into wiping the squash ball marks off the walls? that and collecting rain sodden ash bins mentioned earlier are the two worst jobs that I've had the misfortune to undertake, luckily I had a willing partner in the person of Roy Jehu. One day some of my Cardiff friends came up to Merthyr, we finished the evening with a curry in Hal Al's where they told me they were off to Brittany and that there was room for one more. I claimed my two weeks summer holidays, came with them, met Elise, returned home after the fortnight, the following day we were followed by a band of Bretons, including Elise, en route to the Caernarfon National Eisteddfod. My holidays over I went down to my place of employment to ask my boss for a week's extension, to which he replied in the affirmative. We all went up to Caernarfon, spent a week there, at the end of which Elise and her Bretons went home, and I went back to work. Two months later Elise turned up on my doorstep wanting me to come back to Brittany with her, and that's the start of another story. (To be continually amended).


From the Beginning

It all started for me in the infirmary, Saint Tydfils Hospital, Merthyr Tudful/Tydfil, South Wales, Cymru/Wales, on August 3, 1951, from where after roughly 10 days I was moved to No. 30 Trevethick Street, the house of a  Mrs Lydia Pugh, where miss Sylvia Pugh aged 8 also resided, as did at this time Mr Fred Walters, Mrs Phyllis May Walters and Master Maldwyn Kenneth Walters aged 4; whilst there I slept in one of the drawers of a chest of the same, there being not a lot of room. During the just under two years that I lived there I began to learn that Phyllis & Fred were mammy & daddy, that Maldwyn was my brother Havard, a name I'd picked up on hearing and misinterpreting the name of his infant school headmistress, Sylvia was my cousin, and Lydia my maternal grandmother, also that Uncle Elfyn, Aunty Cassie and cousins Marion & Denise lived four doors down at No. 26, there was another Marion one door up at No. 32; Apparently because of the lack of space 'daddy' went to see a certain Mr Tal Lloyd, from thence there was a move to No.9 Heol Bryn Man, Gellideg, a brand new council estate on the Swansea Road. We and the Richards's were the first families in the street, I used to sit at the window sucking on the lead paint of the window sill ledge watching the bulldozers and the houses on the other side of the street being built, including that of Frank & Joyce Harrington and their son Francis. My first friends in life were; Frances & Michael Vaughan; Shwnny (Sioni), Dai, Pat & Christine were their elder siblings and Philip came along later; Gareth Richards; Stewart was his elder brother; John Woods who lived on Heol Tai Mawr; Francis Harrington when the family moved in and my cousin Howard Davies followed by his younger brother Malcolm who lived on Georgetown Square between Joseph Parry's cottage and the skinyard, the skinyard or tanyard stank. I used to go to sleep in a cot with a rag doll, which I used to undress to see what was underneath, and a golliwog, sharing the bedroom with my brother Havard, or Maldwyn. Francis Harrington used to have a red tricycle with a boot, mine didn't, and a train set upstairs in the box room, he had little grey trousers and I wanted the same and got, and because he had birthday parties so did I, they stopped when we moved away. My favourite toy was a little peddle horse which for some reason my parents took away from me, I still don't know why, perhaps because a road passed in front of the house; one day a child came down the road on the back of a similar one with his father which I took to be mine, I ran after him and tried to grab it back. In the house we had a little dark cubby hole where my brother and I used to turn a film to watch Micky Mouse and friends cahorting about on the wall. We all had great fun playing in the sand of the construction site which was the shops and I remember one day falling out with Frances Vaughan with the result that she scrammed my face; Frances died very young, being found unconscious in her bedroom. As there weren't any shops, the Harp Inn at the top of the road served to buy crisps and chocolate, while the Walls van came around the streets selling ice-cream in the summer. Just below the houses the Tâf Fechan ran under Cefn Viaduct, this was our swimming pool until one year there was a polio scare.My first swimming costume was a girl's cut down to fit me, my second that lasted years wasn't a proper one and embarassed me no matter how often or hard I pleaded, I was always being big headed or never satisfied, yet I  had to do with the lowest common denominator, when it always seemed to me that they got it right for my brother.  From the street I could see a castle in the distant woodland that I would admire from afar, where my mother would take me for walks in the pram and later I would play on the cannons. When we left the house to go shopping or to visit my grandmother, for I only had one, and no grandfather, I couldn't leave the house without my harness or reins, I've never seen another child wearing them. On my visits to my gran I made friends with; Christopher Jones; Martin Weaver; George, Susan & Leslie Quirk;  Joyce, Eileen & Ronald were their older siblings and Colin & Hadrian yet to be born; Billie Doe was older; Malcolm Evans & Alan Watkins; Raymond and David Adler yet to be born; Valerie Brace; Frank Price and his cousin Joanna. I remember going up to the top of Trevethick Street with my mother on the way to Penydarren and wondering when it was going to end. My cousin Howard went to Georgetown Infants aged four, as did everyone else my age, I wanted to go as well but by the time I went I was a year behind everybody else, I wanted to go on the bus with all the other children but my mother insisted on coming along, I don't remember anything except standing in assembly a row and year behind my cousin Howard, and going down the steps to a gate and looking out, and it was here I met my cousin Susan Woods: then I was five, moving to 20 North Street Penydarren, and to this day I have always considered Heol Bryn Man my home, we moved into a mouse ridden old house lacking in all the modern facilities we had in Gellideg, no hot water, no inside toilet and no bath, it was traumatic for a five year old who'd already suffered the loss of his favourite toy, and my toy pedal car was immobilized so I couldn't go on the road, it's no wonder that I started wetting myself. My mother gave me the choice of schools, Penydarren, which was down the road or Queens Rd. where all my Trevethick Street friends went but further away behind my grannie's street over the back of an ironwork's tip between Penyard and Twynyrodyn; I chose Queens Rd. and my mother made arrangements with Sandra Owens from across the road to take me and bring me back, I joined my friends in the second year and met Paul Jenkins; Mark Powell; Elisabeth Protheroe; Vincent Price; Lilian Richards & Carole Anne Harris; Cynthia, were you in Queens Rd.? Carole was the best reader in the class, but I like to think that I caught up with her before going on to Penydarren Juniors. I don't remember being a strong reader previously, although I had an interest in books due to my father reading childrens classics to my brother that I caught on to, I mainly remember the Hans Christian Andersen stories, then one day my parents questioned me on the pronunciation of a word that seemed to trigger something in my brain, from then on I became a prolific reader and an under age member of the Carnegie Central Municipal library in town, my happiest time as a child was looking through the treasure trove of books in the childrens' library, I spent so much time there with good memories that on returning there as an adult I couldn't get over how small it was. Another place I seemed to habitually go was the Hollies Clinic for poultices and somesuch, often I used to run around and got to know the faces and the smells, but for the life of me I can't remember why because as a child I was never ill, except for a bout of mumps and I had warts for a short time; same thing, I remember often going to young Dr. Thomas's nearby, both in the town centre. I wonder if Carole remembers an instance that she and Lilian got wrong, with the result they ended up laughing at me; one day I was one of the last to leave the school, not before going into the cloak room to collect my coat, it wasn't there so I picked up a similar one to wear home, although it was patently a girls coat with the buttons arranged differently, I could see by a sewn in label that it belonged to Carole, so we took it to her house in Darren view and swapped hers for mine, the following day they were laughing at me because in their mind I was the one got them mixed up, but it was you Carole who had earlier left with mine. I don't remember much about the school except that there were two Mrs Davies's; that I wet myself and had to go to the staff room to dry out; there was a sand pit we never played in, catkins in the grounds, and that it had a flat roof; that in jumping over a bush I badly cut my knee, after it started to heal I picked the sore which all my schoolmates took for stitches and counted them in the toilets; Paul Jenkins broke his arm; slapping someone on the back in assembly making a great noise and being moved to the girls line as punishment; going with Mark Powell after school to the Brunswick pub down the steps past the synagogue into town which his parents ran instead of going home with Sandra, thereby unnecessarily worrying my parents, I don't remember how it worked itself out, my parents not having a telephone; laughing at one of my classmates because he didn't believe in God; Peter (Snobby) Horrel's nose was always running, walking down to Rudman's corner shop with a girl who was wearing a tartan skirt attached with a big pin, and learning the days of the week in Welsh as well as phrases such as 'Bara 'Menyn' and 'Bara Chaws' (Bread & Butter and Bread & Cheese). My brother who had regained his name Maldwyn by this time was a pupil in Abermorlais Juniors, or Primary School, and that is where most of my friends went after Queens Rd, except for the ones who went to Twynyrodyn, and Paul Jenkins, Valerie Brace, if she was in Queens Rd.; Lilian Richards; Carole Anne Harris; Cynthia if she was in Queens Rd. & myself who went to Penydarren. Abermorlais was known to have a higher success rate than Penydarren at 11 plus, with even the Bs passing, in Penydarren not all the As passed, nobody in the Bs. For some reason we all went into the Bs, with Paul early on being transferred to the A stream. I learnt to write properly, the multiplication tables to 12 x 12, the months of the year in Welsh, we had our own little library which contained Beatrix Potter's Brer Rabbit stories, and were regularly given reading tests which were their guide to our abilities more so than mental arithmetic. I was put on the top table and before the end of the year Carole and myself were transferred to the As ready to start 2A with our new friends. In our first year we had various teachers, I mainly remember a Mrs Raspbridge who taught me a lot, I have always reacted more to the teacher than the subject, otherwise it was noticeable that outside the A stream there was not a high standard of teaching because the children weren't expected to go far in life and the teachers and the headmaster were mainly Labour Party hacks. We were very fortunate in that in years two & three we had two of the best in Miss Anita James & Mr Kenneth Adams Morgan, neither of whom were members of the Labour Party, they must have been good because they were both given headships relatively young, when normally 'members' were the first to be moved on. There was a Miss Lynwen Rhydderch , our resident 'Welsh' teacher who taught us songs in the Welsh Language and got us to sign up as members of 'Urdd Gobaith Cymru', the Welsh League of Youth, not surprising perhaps that someone with a name like that should be so involved, although it wasn't her coming in for half hour a day? to teach us Welsh, it was an elderly lady and I hated every second of it. One day she invited me on a coach trip to the Urdd camp in Llangrannog on the Cardiganshire coast, when I asked my mother permission she refused, leading to a ticking off on the monday because waiting for me made them late starting off. Our teacher in year four was a pipe smoking  Mr Davies M.A., can't say I remember much about him, an easy going sort of person, perhaps I preferred them stricter with direction, always neede a bit of direction, my mother used to leave me in bed in the mornings, I was always going to school with the excuse that I'd slept late, she didn't see the need for education, our 'caste' left school at fifteen, it was for others to get on and be looked up to, it wasn't our place, too much reading gave one ideas, which is what I had, and it was bad for the brain. My memories include three for Linda Treharne; a little disagreement with Gillian Connor; her singing voice which beat Carole every time in the annual school eisteddfod; and being regularly told off by the teacher for forever asking to go to the toilet after coming in to class from playtime; Carole had the voice of an angel, but perhaps didn't have the strength & resonace of Linda's to carry across the school hall. If there was any trouble out in the school yard it was put down by Frank Price, usually it was started by a boy by the name of Graham Price, not the future rugby international from Pontypool,  a bit of a trouble maker who came in to his own later on in Vaynor & Penderyn; there wasn't much point in messing with Frank; another good hard boy was Derek James, Degas or Degsy. At the end of year 4 and the 11 plus results we all got split up with Derek leading his team to Castle and Frank his to County. Susan Regan and Richard Grey were always top in marks, both went to Cyfarthfa, although such was the quality that neither were in the top classes. I mentioned earlier that I related more to the teacher than the subject: I wasn't any good at Maths under Mr Barberini, under Mr Warrender I was top in all the tests, geometry & algebra; with Mrs Goodall I was average to not good in History, with young Miss ? I was in the top three; I was good in French when taught by Mr Davies, not good when taught by Mrs Thomas; I was always bad in Science because I was always taught by Tommy Test Tube, in my opinion the worst teacher in the school for putting his subject across. On moving to Penydarren my new close friends were; Geoffrey Palmer, my next door neighbour; Vivian Jones, Geoff's cousin who later became Dunlop and lived 3 doors up, and Robert Lloyd down the bottom of the street at No. 8. Most of my playing was in Trevethick St. with happily many sorties still to Heol Bryn Man because Uncle Tommy, Aunty Lydia with cousins Howard & Malcolm had moved up there, that reattached my link with the Vaughans and John Woods, gave me new friends, friends of my cousins were my friends, namely Bernard Popp and Narrow; reinforced my link with Francis Harrington, which hadn't been broken due to his having an aunt and gran in North Street where I lived. I also went often to a family of friends round the back of Nantygwenith St. when visiting Aunty Mary in Georgetown, but I lost touch with them many moons ago and don't even remember their names. My playing areas were vaste, Merthyr is surrounded by countryside, in the centre it's slag & waste; we have to rely on grassed over dross or natural aesthetics because anything of value built by man has either been Knocked down or is in a decrepit state and falling down, but as we broaden out there are some of the most scenic views in Cymru/Wales. I wouldn't have wanted to be brought up anywhere else. I could play on at least 7 different football pitches within walking distance; 4 different tennis courts; two parks; there were 7 cinemas; innumerable tips, which to us were hills to climb and slide on; the clean tributaries where we could go swimming which lead to the dirty Taff; railway tunnels; long walks following the rivers & railways, and dangerous ones avoiding mineshafts; the highest hills in South Wales, Pen y Fan, Corn Du & Cribyn; one weekend myself and a few of the Trevethick St. boys went up to Penyfan & the Neuadd Reservoirs to enjoy the wilderness without a living soul near us, tickling trout from the stream and cooking it over the camping gaz, although we had axes to cut wood; Chris & I had never done this before, but Martin was the all action experienced outward bounds guy, so imagine our surprise when a car pulled up on the Roman track at the top of the hill and Martin's parents got out bringing him food. We had trips to the seaside, Barry Island at Whitsun and Porthcawl in the summer; my brother took me to the ABC Minors, full of adventure films and prizes for birthdays, so some children used to go up every week to claim them. My parents took us to the public swimming baths in Gwaunfarren, where, because my brother used to constantly splash and tease me I was timorous of going in deep, preferring to stay on my feet, and in order to encourage me my parents got me a plastic life belt, with a duck's head! I didn't learn to swim until Cyfarthfa School when our P.E. master, a hard rugby man by the name of Dan Jones made me jump in to sink or swim; Not many of us went on summer holidays, except for excursions, the running joke was; Q: Where did you spend your holidays? A: Remainya.Every summer Uncle Harry, my father's brother who was in the army in Burma and never came back to home to Cymru/Wales to live; Aunty Mary; cousins Dorothy & Glyn would catch the train to Cardiff General, change to Merthyr, John St. to catch our only black sedan taxi to disembark at No. 26 Trevethick St. Aunty Cassie's, she the family coordinator who kept in touch with everyone; often I would join them to visit the family, go to the seaside or a restaurant in Caerdydd/Cardiff. One day we were all sitting in an Italian restaurant near St. John's church next to the Old Arcade when on nearly finishing my soup I tilted my plate towards me and lifted the spoon & soup to my mouth, whereby working class cousin Glyn from Lancaster laughingly berated me for not having followed etiquette by which I should have tilted the soup plate away from me, not having been taught that in Merthyr, however, now living in Brittany, I feel more comfortable with everyone doing it my way. My father worked in a toy factory that every year organized a christmas party for their employees children, which was something to look forward to, but why did my parents on that one day of the year hve to smother my hair with vaseline? Many of my friends went fishing, especially Martin Weaver, so I went to the local sports shop, told my mother the price and didn't get it, therefore I couldn't join in with cousin Glyn when he brought his rod with him from Lancaster to go fishing in the Goetre Pond, which has since been cleared for house building, a large part of the Cyfarthfa Park perimeter walk was cleared for a road to those houses. When my friends went fishing I found new ones. Trevethick St. was built on the remains of the old Penydarren Ironworks, it ran lengthways following Trevithick's track that carried the world's first steam locomotive to run on rails in 1804; there my brother taught me to ride Martin Weaver's bicycle when I was seven, finally getting one put together by my father at ten, and a proper one at eleven for passing my 11 plus. We played behind the gardens, sometimes walking along a narrow pathway high in the side of the tip, one day I slipped, fell narrowly missing the iron spikes of the garden railings, and certain death by inches, after that my father barred the way so we had to go right back to the top of the street to get onto it again. Carole's house was on the top of the tip behind my gran's and in the weeks leading up to Guy Fawkes there was war between all the surrounding streets whilst collecting for the respective bonfire. Back to school and the 11 plus examinations, it was tremendously nerve racking as I waited for the results declaring that I'd passed and was on my way to Cyfarthfa Castle Grammar School because I'm a 'W' Walters, one of the last names to be called out. If I hadn't gone to Cyfarthfa all my dreams would have been shattered. C.C.G.S. on the blazer pocket surrounding Saint Tydfil. 'Castell Cyfarthfa, Caer i Ddysg a Hêdd'. In the junior school it was basically my reading ability and what I read, together with my common sense that got me passing exams, I never did any homework, my ideas would have to radically change in the new school, things were obviously expected of me because they put me in the fast stream with all the top scholars, it was the proudest moment of my life, but alas, I was soon filtered out, I didn't belong to the same culture. In Penydarren, Susan Regan & Richard Gray always had top marks but such was the academic level here, percentage wise they didn't reach the same heights. For some reason we had to wait a year before we could play rugby, I remember in our first year with a rugby ball in hand our sports master coaching us on the top field next to the Bryn Cae Owen pond, but in later years he'd stay in the staff room for a smoke, before which he'd throw us a ball, telling us to keep out of the gym and off the football pitch! I never joined in or felt part of anything, which wasn't my initial aim, I wanted to be head boy, reading the service in assembly, not to be, I wasn't in a team, didn't take part in any extra-curricular activities, never met my class mates outside of school, except for Trevethick St., in short, I never moved on; when I joined the local rugby club, my mother told me I was too big for my boots, when a rugby shirt became too tight and I wanted it changed my father called me big headed, and they kept me in short trousers until some of my friends started to go out drinking, refusing to replace them because my mother knew a woman whose son was wearing them, which reminds me of the duck headed life belt, the girl's swimsuit, when I finally did get my long terylene trousers I had to wear them to the beach, to town on a saturday night and to school. At a factory christmas party I got the wrong present because my father had given the organizers a younger age, with good intentions so that I could continue going, but without discussing it with me, no that would be adult and I was only a child, making a fool of me again and again in front of my peers when I could witness my class mates being groomed for adulthood. I started going around town in my early teens with Blair Evans & Byron Jones, we'd go to the cinema, down to the new Caedraw flats to play in the lifts and generally hang around, this is how I met Susan James, I'd bump into Paul Lewis and Gerald Rees, who later worked at Ebbw Vale, I remember being offered a violet sweet by Jane Beynon outside the town hall and once or twice we'd call in Adam's café, but we weren't dressed to join in with the trendsetters. It was somewher around this time that I took to helping Peter Mendez sell his Football Echos on his regular stand outside the Theatre Royal cinema on a saturday night, another time I was wandering around the town centre with the Trevethick St. boys when we encountered a gang from Georgetown, my friends ran off, and I was beaten up, twice, returning home with a black eye. Although I didn't join in with things in school, in Trevethick Street we formed a football team, never joining a league but going around playing friendlies. David Roberts was my best friend for a while in the street, I liked his sister Carole, but they moved to Caerffili/Caerphilly and he left me his stilts, I did go down once or twice to visit them. In Penydarren David Showers moved into Urban St. he was a prize winning athlete and had a little cousin Derek, who was a prolific scorer in his school teams and later played for Cardiff & Cymru/Wales; Dai and I used to run around the tracks in Gwaunfarren and do a bit of shot putting, he came from the bottom of Dowlais and was always returning there to see his old mates and family from Walter St. so his mates became my mates: Noel Davies from County and the O'Brian brothers, one summer I helped them deliver shoes from the cobblers on Pant road, or we'd get off with the girls in Urban St. Richard & Sheila Gray's sister was particularly nice; with neighbours Geoffrey & Vivian we'd make arrangements with the opposite sex up in Pant where we'd go on our pushbikes. Our bikes took us on many journeys, usually limited to Brecon. I became friends with Alan Pembridge and his lovely wife Wendy Miller, going up to their house at least once a week, until the sad moment there was a fatal car crash with Eric Williams driving and his front passenger Marlene Morgan allright, but Alan & Wendy in the back killed outright. Cousin Denise got married to Ronnie Muscles and I was always following them around their houses; one day I was leaving Ronnie Senior and Adeline's house in the Mush, Gellifaelog, and it was cold or wet or both and Ronnie Jr. gave me his leather jacket to wear home and his set of chest expanders to train, that was a proud moment for a 14 year old because Ronnie was the leader of the pack, and I looked up to him for his strength and speed. Shouldn't say this, partly because it's the wrong section, but one day a few years later, we were in Sands and it was circulating that there were strangers from Swansea in the hall, a fight started, Ronnie got hit in the face and fell down, whereupon a great smile came over his face knowing what he was about to enjoy. Friends at the time in school were: Colin Treharne; Stewart McIntyre; Stuart Bartz, the four of us sat in a row at the back of Vincent Lee's English class getting up to things that made girls like Pat Harris & Elaine Bracey look under under the desks towards us; Paul Lewis; Godfrey Lewis, no relation; Geoffrey Matthews; Robert Harris; Richard Powell; Ewan Park and his cousin David Walker, friends from Penydarren, David played violin in the National youth Orchestra of Wales, Ewan moved away to the English south coast but came home every Christmas with his new girlfriends, we'd meet in Tiffany's or/and I'd sign him in to the rugby club, so I was shocked when I heard in Paris a few years ago that he'd passed on. Anthony started to lose his sense of feeling, I don't know what became of him. I took to missing lessons, going out through the toilet windows, through the woods, Huckleberry Finn & Tom Sawyer style, up the river or hitch hiking to Brecon mainly, but also to Abergavenny and even to Hereford Cathedral and always back by 4 o'clock to catch the school bus home, this lasted a couple of years until I once again took up the thread of school life, joining in, albeit on a lower level, making new friends, particularly at this time ; David James; Graham Adler; Anthony (Bonehead) Watkins; strengthened my friendship with David (Dai Fat) Davies, we went back a long way; David (Little Dai) Davies, I think he's winning medals as a Territorial Officer; Philip Adams; Selwyn Regan, Peter (Greg) Griffiths; Peter Lewis, Paul's brother and most of all Maxie Howerd, to the extent that he used to often come to Brittany and stay with us. Anthony began to get numbness in his back and lose his sense of feel, I don't know what became of him; Peter was a throwback because he was one of my original first year friends with Anthony (Antos) Jones, the three little ones of 2D, which was intrinsically 1D but we didn't have 1s, we had; 2; 3 ;lower 4; upper 4; 5 & 6. Philip Adams used to live in the grounds of Guest Keen Sports & Social Club, we used to play each other on the tennis courts, later Philip, Selwyn Regan, Peter Griffiths & myself used to meet up every tuesday evening to play snooker on the club's tables, a beatiful building built as a memorial library to John Guest, M.P. ; iron master, founder of the conglommerate Guest, Keen & Nettlefolds, and who's wife Lady Charlotte Guest translated the Mabinogion into English, we werewatched over by an elderly gentleman who used to keep them up to standard, a Mr Churchill I think. I even took to supervising the younger pupils in games down the gym, but I never made prefect. It was Maxie Howard from school who took me to the Loco to meet the boys; Mike Jones (Meic Merthyr in Caerdydd), Gareth Davies, Kelvin O'Neill, Neil Quinlan, Stuart Pound, Peter the Lamb, & Gary from the pet shop, also Mike's cousin Malcolm and his school mate Wyn Richards, who went on to become a champion bowler and 'ENGLISH!!! international; Wyn was the person who initiated me into the rugby internationals, and I initiated Maxie. Wyn went to college in Portsmouth, one weekend in August I visited him at the flat he shared with his girlfriend Marion, she never liked his friends influence on him, anyway I celebrated my birthday at an all night beach party on Haylings Island, it was magnificent. Back to the boys; we were to meet every friday night in the lounge, there I spent the best days of my late teens. Susan James was the daughter of the house with her group of friends with whom we intermingled  ( I met Susan & her best friend when I and my friends used to go wandering around the town centre in our early teens and they waited for their bus home down the valley, behind the huge market hall now knocked down), listened to Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, played cards till sunrise in Tony's flat on the bottom of Twyn with Cynthia McDonald's sister in law (Tony's sister), her dark haired friend and boys from down the valley, there was a test of strength whereby we had to grab a chair leg at its base then lift it off the floor, sounds easy, but only Bill, the landlord, a brickie friend of Susan, and myself were able to do it. Susan's lot and myself went to the Bath Festival, but I got picked up 'en route' near Newport after being stuck in the wind & rain, everyone was squashed in the back of a Ford Transit; Peter took me to the Lamb between hours and introduced me to his father John the landlord and his sister Cheryl, but it was Maxie who took me there drinking, where I was introduced to the patriotic element; Harri Webb, Ivor Davies, Ronnie the Brigadier, Neil the Colonel and perhaps Cayo, after they heard me arguing with him about Owain Glyndwr. The Imp was where it all came together, and where I spent the best years of my early twenties, met Susan McCarthy, Valmai & Diane Parle, (I don't know whether Diane remembers my running buses to Top Rank or not), it somehow became my base and many is the time that I stayed behind being taught Politics by mine host 'Skip'. There used to be trips down to Top Rank Caerdydd/Cardiff organized by the Spina Bifida charity to which we used to go but as they weren't often I began running my own, to Top Rank, Cardiff, Top Rank Abertawe/Swansea and to Mecca, Bristol. At one time in Cardiff I was dancing with Valmai when the compere asked whether anyone with a hole in a sock to go up on the stage, not being very sophisticated I found a hole, when in fact every boy there had two holes.; another exaple was in a restaurant in Swansea, we ordered steak & chips, the waitress asked how did we want them, Georgie Quirk looked up at her bewildered and replied "on a plate". On a trip to Bristol we called in to a nightclub with strippers and a game of roulette on Whiteladies road, I played and got worried when I started losing because I had the bus money, fortunately for me I came out on top and a good night was had by all at the ballroom, only for me to wander off and get lost; luckily at about 3 o'clock in the morning in the middle of Bristol the coach rolling slowly with everyone on the lookout eventually came across me nonchalantly walking along, picked me up and drove home. There must have been an overlap between the Loco & the Imp, but in my memories they rest distinctive; in between we drank in the Vulcan, nothing to say for it except that it was popular, we were young, the beer was rubbish. Merthyr High Street is about two miles long, and arriving at the age of 17 or 18 there was: The Penydarren End; The Nelson; The Owain Glyndwr; The Morlais; The Imp (Tiger); Ye Olde Express; The Anchor; The Vulcan; The Brunswick; The Belle Vue; Narrow Gauge; Red Cow; The Lamb; The Kings; The Great Western; The Eagle; The Loco; a normal saturday, and that was after some of the pubs on Castle Street had been knocked down. After school I got a summer job at Lines Brothers, Triang Toys with Johnnie Webber & Peter Churchill, then Kelvin O' Neill, one of the boys, got me an interview at Ebbw Vale Steelworks with John Gaydon who employed me at the Central Engineering Offices, meeting up again with schoolfriends Philip Adams; Stewart Mcintyre & Godfrey Lewis, who by this time was Brian, which makes it pretty unfair when years later he brought his college friends into the Anchor and introducing them to me; I asked them if they were all friends of Brian, they laughed, and he never spoke to me again, how was I to know? It was at the works that I met Kevin Viney and Hedley McCarthy, not forgetting Roy Beynon our union rep amongst many others. John Gaydon was secretary of the town rugby Club high in the echelons of the sport in Wales with Arthur Lewis becoming captain of the National team. Many of the players were employed at the works and Denzil Williams a record breaking forward was often to be seen in the office picking up or handing over items relative to the club, mostly, as far as I could see, raffle tickets; one day about twenty years later I found myself standing next to him in the Parc des Princes where I reminded him of it, he wasn't in a good mood because his ticket number hadn't guaranteed him a place. Each passage has it's moments to which I relate differently; I remember Babs Evans, Carole Anne, Lynette Chidgey, Marilyn Morgan, Marion John, Sarah (Sally) Watkins & Susan Westcott from school; Sue James & Cynthia McDonald's sister in law were the Loco;   Susan McCarthy, Valerie & Diane Parle, they were the Imp; the boys transcended most, even going on holidays together to Blackpool, where I took advantage of its nearness to Lancaster to hitch hike with Meic up to No. 10 Green St. to see my aunty Mary, Dot White's mother and Gareth Walters's grandmother; but one by one they dropped out with our lives evolving differently, 'till there were Gareth & Mike who stayed on the political side and Maxie on the non-political. Whilst still in school I met Kelvin's cousin Lynne Davies, nothing came of it, but I took her to a New Year's dance in Sands, walked her home, and every now and then I'd go to see her at her parents home just up the road in the 'Mush', all the time keeping a personal diary, one day my mother surprised and astonished me by recounting my writings to my family, that was it with both parents, we were the children, they could do what they liked so long as we were in their hose, if or when I happento say that something belonged to me they would reply that as far as they were concerned if it was bought by them it was theirs, I wasn't too happy when they gave away my/their Arthur Mee encyclopaedias to my cousin Beth. In 1970 there was a lot of excitement going on in the town, the Labour M.P. S.O. Davies had been thrown out because of his age, well into his 80s, but no known date of birth, he had represented the town since 1934, and was Mayor in 1945, so this did not go down well withe the populace. The 'Party' chose a leading Trades Union leader, Alderman Tal Lloyd, father of my friend Kerry, it was seen as a sad moment and a sure thing for the Alderman. The intrepid SO stood as an independent, won nearly 17,000 votes, Tal Lloyd; 9,234, E. Jones, Con; 3,169, and Chris Rees, Plaid Cymru, 3,076; it was my first vote, and it went to Chris. I was fortunate enough to have been present at the result inside the town hall. Two years later S.O. was dead, leading to a by-election where there was even more excitement with American style cavalcades. Emrys Roberts, on the left wing, republican side of the party, which for years had been at odds with Gwynfor Evans the Party President, had arrived as the Plaid Cymru candidate on the back of close results in the Rhondda and Caerphilly. The Labour Party, shaken by what was going on around them chose an outsider, a very young Edward (Ted) Rowlands), already a junior minister, who had just lost his seat in Cardiff North; both he and his wife Janice were Welsh speakers. For weeks there was a carnival atmosphere, and on the day it was : Ted Rowlands, 15,562; Emrys Roberts, 11,852; with the Conservative, Communist, and Liberal way behind. After everything had calmed down Maxie & myself went off hitch hiking around Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany landing at Oostende. I was in a bar in Amsterdam and happened to be watching the television when the news came on about the terrorist attack on the Munich Olympics, it was Sept. 5 1972. When I returned home I seemed to gradually drift away from my old friends except for Maxie, Meic & Gareth but developed a never ending host of new ones, and became a sort of disciple to a hero of a new generation of Merthyr voters in a newly shaken up and re-organized constituency Plaid Cymru which was to launch the political careers of Dafydd Wigley, Gareth Foster & Bleddyn Hancock, and eventually led to the Party taking control of the Town Hall a few years later. I was brought up Labour; Red Flag, Red Dragon; but the Dragon in the sixties had disappeared from Merthyr it had become an anti Welsh microcosm; we knew where not to tread, until Ted turned up and later Bill Morgan; it was run by the McNamaras, the Mahoneys, the Donovans, the Reddys, and right on the top were our own Albert John (hope I won't lose a friend here) & Tal Lloyd; any mention of Cymru/Wales was anathema to them; I went through three Trades Unions; help your fellow man, solidarity to the working class, so long as it follows Moscow's rule and the workers aren't too Welsh, nowhere and at no time in either local politics or local Trades Unionism was Wales ever mentioned, except by the ousted MP many years previously causing him 3 times to be ostracised by his party, he was the last of a long line of Independents including R.C. Wallhead going back to Keir Hardie to whom Cymru/Wales meant something, before he eventually lost the plot and was finally asked to stand down. When I was still twenty one years old in 1973, I stood for Mid-Glamorgan County Council against Terry Mahoney, the future Chair(man) of the Authority, on my leaflets was written 'Bernard Walters,  B.S.C.' referring to my work place 'British Steel Corporation'  it wasn't meant to mislead people into thinking that I was a Batchelor of Science, but anyway I came second out of three with a respectable 800 votes, the third candidate being Gerard Kiley the journalist; around this time I met Peter Davies. The patriotic element mentioned above had become a constant in  my life and in relation to which, I had met or was to meet within the year: Richard Hicks; Marc Phillips (at school), Geoff Thomas (school); Brian Thomas; David Williams; Terry Rees;  Cherry lewis; Gareth Westacott; Emrys & Margaret Roberts; Dafydd Wigley; Gareth & Linda Foster; Malcolm Llewelyn; Hywel Davies; Glyn Owen; Bleddyn Hancock;Wynford Griffiths; Gwyn & Anne Griffiths; Trevor & Lilian Jenkins (Flooks); Lindsay Whittle; Syd Morgan; Alun Roberts; Dafydd Williams; Vaughan Roderick & Peter Meazey.

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Born Aug 3 1951, Merthyr Tydfil, Cymru/Wales.Moved to Brittany Sept. 1979.I run a rustic Bar in a village of fewer than 800h.Real ale& best whisk(e)ys.At the moment I'm occupied with photos, flowers and music. For more information look up my site & blog: http://crwtynrhifnaw.blogspot.com my story: http://taffawrnantmorlais.blogspot.com my photos:http://picasaweb.google.com/BynWalters    my photos: http://patrimoinebreton/blogspot.com    a.n.other: http://mymiscellaneous-bynbrynman.blogspot.com

 

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