Saturday, 29 March 2014


   Memories of life before the last war are now a little dim for me, I was 12 when it started, but some things still stick in my mind - my grandfather was, like my own father, very late to marry and raise children.  He was born in 1830 at the beginning of Victoria's reign and was a good mathematician at  Sydney Sussex  College,  Cambridge (3rd. senior wrangler!) and had to leave his college to marry, as the Fellows had to be batchelors!   He spent most of his time at home sitting in his library chair, working out theorems and composing his sermons, according to his six sons.   But he had the first 'automobile' in the County with the first Caernarvonshire number plate, which was an improvement on horse transport which had been the rule, despite the endless breakdowns of all early cars on very rough unmade-up roads.   It was a well known fact that most  young couples had lived  no more than 20 miles apart, as that was the maximum a horse and carriage could travel in a day!    Most couples met through formal introductions by their families and also at the private dances organised in local country houses, with cards which  the young men signed to claim a dance with their chosen partner!
     During the Great War, my father, the eldest son, bought hay for the army cavalry and got to know Wales, travelling round the farms, and much later in his life he organised a co-operative for the sale of T.B. tested  milk and cheese all for the benefit of the very poor local farmers on the Lleyn peninsula.  
      I used to visit a favourite Great Uncle who christened me Miss Peppermint as I bought him a packet of humbugs for his 90th birthday.   He told me about his journey to Shrewsbury  to his school, in a regular coach and horses post team, way before the trains and cars could take him and said it was very cold sitting on top of the coach with the coachman, and all the luggage behind .  Like his brother-in-law, he had the first car in Merioneth soon after the turn of the century!  It was like a story told by Charles Dickens!     
   My father had quite a few sheep on the poor land that surrounded our home and he sold legs and shoulders of Welsh Lamb to customers all over the country - the joints were packed in rush weave bags which were sewn up and posted away.  I had to buy the bags from old Miss Clarke in Pwllheli, who kept the fish shop, and was a rather fearsome lady, dressed in long black skirts, a sack round her waist and a big BLACK straw hat and a very strong voice which rather alarmed me on my mission.  She had a habit of shouting out my name for all to hear, and the name of our house  and then " how is your daddy then ?"
We were not allowed to buy the chips from the van in the square, or to buy sweets and comics, Rainbow, Dandy, etc., were strictly banned.  So was the picking of flowers on a Sunday, as I found out when I went out to pick them -"not on the Sabbath"!  Despite these minor no-no's we had a wonderful free childhood playing with farm children, especially in the high haystacks and the woodsheds and came to no harm.  My mother dressed me in beautiful blue Welsh tweed coats and skirts made by the local men's tailor which did not allow for waists or bosoms and were very straight!  and she knitted lovely stripey jerseys with buttons on the shoulder which smelt slightly of sheep and were a bit greasy with lanolin.!  We had a very successful small woollen mill nearby at Brynkyr where I loved watching the men and women working the looms, with a deafening noise of clackety-clack and the pretty vegetable-dyed cloth curling out at the end into a roll - and maybe my love of textiles was born there.    All the wool came from local sheep and there was brown from the so-called black sheep as well as the white.  I used to collect it from the thorn bushes and the barbed wire fences to make pillows for my dolls and as soon as I learned to knit, I knitted pairs of garters to hold up my fathers woolly stockings which he wore below his tweed knickerbocker suit trousers, every Christmas.  Although long, they were quick and easy to do as they were all in plain stitch, no purl, which I found more difficult with small fingers;   eight stitches across!  funny how you remember odd things like that !


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