Michaelston-y-Fedw Community

Cefn Mably Arms 1940-45

At the start of the war, it did not seem at all odd, my living at the Cefn Mably with 'Grandpa and Auntie Mu' (Harry and Muriel Head) rather than at home with my parents only four or five miles away in Rumney on the outskirts of Cardiff.  I accepted this as being perfectly normal in a World which was anything but normal at the time.  Children were being evacuated out of cities all over the country to protect them from the dangers of enemy bombing, though usually a little further than four or five miles.

My mother was quite severely handicapped because of her deafness,  particularly when the sound of sirens and falling bombs were matters of life and death.  She was pregnant with my brother Gervais and, with father being out almost every evening on Home Guard duty, (he was in a 'reserved occupation' with the Ministry of Food so was not called up) was finding it very difficult to cope.  Children were usually packed off to the family during expectant mothers' "time" in those days.  It's just that I stayed five years!

Life at 'the Cefn' was wonderful.  The building itself was about three hundred years old with walls almost a metre (yard in old money!) thick.  When my grandfather had moved in as a tenant of the brewery (Lloyd & Yorath, Newport) about 1931, they had installed electricity and an extension had been built at the back, extending the cellar and providing a private sitting room.  I was told that when the workmen wanted to knock a hole in the wall for the access door from the public area, it had taken two men three days.  There was, however, no gas, water or drainage.  Every drop of water had to be pumped from the well (usually my job, and an arm-breaking performance it was too) and the toilets consisted of two 'Elsan' cubicles in the garden which were emptied once a week on a Sunday by the odd-job man George Morgan.  He simply dug a hole and buried the contents.   These Elsans (or, to be more accurate, one of them - the original, not the new one which was reserved for family) also doubled as the 'ladies' for the public.  The 'gents' was a sheltered area at the end of the house at the front, and a soak-away.

Rainwater was collected in a large (possibly 300 gallon) tank, which stood about six feet tall on a brick plinth outside the kitchen door. (I remember one very hot summer afternoon stripping off and jumping into this tank off the coal-house roof, even though I couldn't swim, and then, because everyone was having their siesta, spending two frightened hours hanging on to the rim until someone came to rescue me.)

All hot water had to be boiled in the 'copper' - a great cauldron set in brick in the corner of the kitchen over a fire which was never allowed to go out.  Bathing was a weekly exercise, taken in a coffin-shaped tin bath on the kitchen floor.  If filling the bath was back-aching work with a giant ladle and a bucket from the copper, emptying it was even worse, with two people trying to carry the bath outside without spilling the contents and pouring it into a gully which ran down into the field behind.  Each bedroom had a matching china jug and basin on the washstand.  Early morning ablutions were always in cold water regardless of the outside (and often, inside) temperature!

Running the whole length of the back of the building was a corrugated iron veranda which was, in fine weather, used as an extension to the house itself and, in any case, proved useful place for all sorts of activities.  Cases of bottled beer were stored there out of the sun; the dog kennel (there was always a dog, either a black or golden Labrador.  The males were called Barney and the bitches, Penny.) was tucked next to the kitchen and on Mondays Auntie Mu would do the washing out there.  The equipment consisted of a galvanised bath on a trestle with a wash-board - a timber framed corrugated steel board with a holder for the soap at the top.  Clothes were soaped and rubbed vigorously up and down to get them clean.  They were then dunked in another bath containing clean water and finally put through the mangle - a fierce machine with two great rollers pressed together with a type of car spring device which could be tightened by means of a knob on top and the whole thing was operated by a large wheel with a handle at the side.  Washing was a time consuming operation which would take the better part of a whole morning.

The village school was thirty yards away (which explained why I was often late!) as was the church where my friend John Kestle and I were the choir, when one of us wasn't pumping the organ, which was always played by Mrs Kelly, wife of Clem Kelly, who had the farm 200 yards past the vicarage. His brother Bill had the farm opposite the pub.  The church bells were rung by 'old Ted' who worked for Bill.  There were no great ropes to heave - smaller ropes were concealed in a cupboard in the vestry. The peal of bells was always the same - a variation on Westminster Chimes for five minutes, followed by a single bell for five minutes, leading to the start of the service.


Michaelston Church
Michaelstone Church and Clem Kelly's grave
Clem Kelly's Grave
John and I were fascinated by the fact that there was a very well tended grave just inside the churchyard. A family would arrive almost weekly by car (wheredid they get the petrol?) to tend the grave, cutting he lawn and placing fresh flowers.  Next to this was a grave containing a member of the Hess family. 

Rudolf Hess was much in the news in those days because of his inexplicable flight from Germany to Scotland.  Were they related?

The vicar was the reverend David Hopkin-Evans, who moved everywhere at a funereal pace.  The only time I ever saw him run was when he tried and failed to catch the vicarage cat during an air raid.  I still have the book which he gave me on Christmas Eve 1940 - 'Robin Hood and His Merry Men' .

Mrs Kelly played the organ in church every Sunday.

Talking of the vicar and air-raids, whenever the siren sounded during school hours we would all leave the classroom and "walk, children, don't run" 300 yards up the lane to the vicarage, a large rambling house, where the fruit cellar doubled as an air-raid shelter.

Two things occur to me about this arrangement - in the time it took us to get from the class to the shelter the entire country could have been overrun and the fact that the vicar's stock of apples reduced in direct proportion to the number of  air-raids.  The cat never joined us in the shelter but survived the war unhurt.


The teachers (there were only two) who, as well as attempting to get us to the vicarage on time tried to instil a little learning, were Miss Taylor and Miss Baker.  The former was a very severe looking lady (but with a heart of gold) with short mannish hair, rimless glasses and forever in tweeds and brogues.  She was the Headmistress and lived in the school house.     I remember that she kept beagles which, when excited, always ran around in circles.

Miss Baker, on the other hand, was soft and gentle with the complexion of peaches and cream.  She smelled of an intriguing mixture of lavender and chalk - and arrived every morning (so I believe; I wasn't always there in time to see) on a large Dutch style bicycle. She live about half a mile from the school, just over the river bridge the other side of the village, in a tiny thatched cottage in the middle of a field; the house and garden were the stuff of chocolate box tops - all long since disappeared, bulldozed away, together with the hedge-row and her vegetable garden, sacrificed to the appetite of the combine harvester.

Between them, these two ladies taught pupils ranging from 4½ to 15 on a wide range of subjects, which included gardening and citizenship as well as a weekly report and assessment of the progress of the war and other interesting titbits which seem not to be communicated to the current generations!  In history we learned all about the exploits of Drake and Wolfe, Gordon of Khartoum and the Black Hole of Calcutta.  Geography  encompassed  things  like  life  inside  the  Soviet  Union (because the USSR was an ally at the time, presumably) and how wonderful it must be to live on a collective farm!!!

The school itself comprised two rooms; the one in front was the domain of Miss Taylor and the senior pupils.  It had huge windows and a very high ceiling.  When the sun was too strong, great green curtains ('because, children, green is the kindest of all the colours') would be drawn. We all faced Miss Taylor with the sun over our left side 'so that it does not cast a shadow over your writing'.  The fact that 'Miss' was at the end of the room with the fireplace, which was the warmest place in the whole building during the winter, had nothing to do with its layout!

The other side of the half-glazed partition was Miss Baker's room, with a similar layout. Beyond that was the entrance which the children normally used and which led out into the garden through the cloakroom down a short steep set of steps.  Two things come to mind immediately - one is the smell of steaming coats in the wet weather and the other is that it was standing on these steps that life's first great disappointment revealed itself - that a fountain pen consisted of nothing more than a compressible rubber tube and not some magical great engine for sucking up ink. Years later, I was equally appalled to find that ice-cream did not go all the way to the bottom of the cone!

As well as playing host to the school during air-raids, the vicarage was also a favourite playground. Huge laurel bushes made ideal hiding places for ambushes and many a cowboy film was re-enacted there. Tall silver birch trees doubled as the yard arms of sailing ships which became quite interesting in windy weather.  How we managed not to fall or to snap the trees remains a total mystery.  In the corner furthest from the house was an old ruined pigsty.  The contents were fascinating - a few bones of, presumably, previously slaughtered animals and a variety of tools of unknown use.

One of our other favourite places was "Jack the Blacksmiths" smithy, just behind and opposite the school. It was a dark cavern of a place with mysterious implements hanging, half-forgotten on the walls.  To us they looked like instruments of torture, whilst Jack (Mr Munslow to his face) stared at the very fires of hell through begoggled eyes and sparks flew in all directions as he beat the metal into weird and wonderful shapes.  There was nothing he could not make and nothing he could not mend - to us he was Merlin the magician, but to the grown-ups who were able to coax a few more years use out of ancient machinery during war-time shortages, he was a Godsend.  I don't think he ever went short of food, drink or cigarettes!  His son John was about three years older than John Kestle and I and therefore qualified to be idolised.   He was the first person I ever knew to be killed in a road accident when, in 1949, his motorcycle was hit by a bus.

The Munslow family lived across two fields from the road in a small thatched cottage, tucked against the edge of a large wood, which was straight out of Hansel and Gretel.  Life there was, however, not as idyllic as the picture would have you believe.  No electricity, no running water, no drains - just the cottage, one room downstairs and two up.  Quite what the sleeping arrangements were for the parents, a son and a daughter, we neither knew nor cared.  It is very much a case of what you have never had, you never missed.  That's just how life was.

Another family, the Caples, lived in similar circumstances about a mile down the hill towards the Began Road and Cefn Mably Hospital.  This was a magic place, with dogs and chickens roaming inside and outside the house, a duck pond and (to us) an absolutely huge pre-war car in the corner of the garden.  I suppose that, at the outbreak of the war, it had been 'laid up for the duration' due to lack of fuel but it would never see the road again.  It was in turn a tank, a battleship, a bomber, a besieged fort and, if we forgot to close the door at the end of play, a henhouse.    Just down the hill from the Caples' house was a spring, which bubbled out of the ground alongside the road. When we were thirsty we knelt down and drank our fill.  There was absolutely no thought of pollution for it was as pure as could be.

Just inside the imposing entrance to the grounds of Cefn Mably hospital, the drive crossed a substantial stream and under the bridge was a large pool. To us at the time, it seemed about the size of a football pitch.  In reality, it was probably no more than 20 feet across - large enough and deep enough, however, to provide hours of fun with an old inner tube and terror to us non-swimmers if we fell off!  But, timed correctly, one could place the tube where the water ran in and drift lazily across to the point where the stream went on its happy way.  Later, a suitably placed rope dangling from an overhead branch provided a swing from the bank to a point where (hopefully and usually, but not always) it was possible to splash in and touch the bottom.

About two miles away, on the opposite side of the valley to the Cefn, stood Ruperra Castle, at that time used as a prisoner of war camp, staffed by British troops. Grandfather was, of course, on friendly terms with the Camp Commander and we sometimes went to the Officers' Mess for tea on Sundays (at that time, pubs in Wales were closed on Sundays) and the chef would produce white bread and real butter. From time to time steaks would appear and a bottle of whisky or two change hands. 

Altogether it seemed a very beneficial friendship.  The German prisoners were very clever and, having not a lot to occupy their minds, would make a wide range of toys.  To me, listening to the hatred poured out by adults ('the only good German is a dead German') and the news and propaganda on the wireless, these prisoners seemed surprisingly nice, polite and generally very pleasant men. 

Later, one Saturday evening in the late summer of 1943, the castle was totally destroyed by fire. I had been to visit my parents for the day and my father and I watched the flames on our way back to the Cefn, he cycling with me balanced on the cross bar - standard method of travel then.  The cause of the fire was never established - arson or accident - but the flames could be seen intermittently all the way from Rumney and up the lane from the main Newport-Cardiff road.  I remember that it was a particularly dangerous trip that evening.  We were passed by a number of fire engines hurrying to the scene, all with the masked lights which were compulsory during the war.  The poor drivers, especially in rural areas, had very limited vision and it was incumbent upon pedestrians and cyclists to get out of the way!        

(As an aside; I passed through the grounds of Ruperra, Castle in about 1963.  The ruined castle was still there, obviously, but so were some of the war-time nissan huts, outside one of which was a 1943 Bedford army truck with tyres still inflated and a tree growing right through the cab and out through the cupola at the top. There I met David Morgan, son of George, whom I had not seen since our schooldays.)

Italian P.O.Ws were treated entirely differently and, although housed in a Camp, were allowed to work on local farms and used to come into the pub for a drink after the fall of Italy in 1943, still dressed in their P.O.W. uniforms with a bright yellow patch on the back.     Indeed, at least two of them married local girls and never went home.

Several of the Italians worked on Bernard Pendlebury's farm, about half way between the Cefn and Howells Farm.  He and my grandfather were great pals and although seeming to spend a great deal of time in the Cefn, he was an extremely hard worker. Grandfather used to say that Bernard's was the first tractor he ever saw with headlights.

Further down the road to Castleton, near  Howells  farm, was an American Transport Company which had commandeered  Druidstone  House  so  chewing  gum  and chocolate, comics and a wonderful new drink, Coca Cola were also available.

The rivalry between the two groups of soldiers was very keen and there was much ribald comment each night in the pub, though I never saw unpleasantness.  This may, in part, have been due to the fact that Grandfather who, with his waxed moustache and short haircut looked like a refugee from the Kaiser's army, ruled the pub with a rod of iron, literally as well as figuratively for he kept a short length of thick wire rope with a lead weight at the end behind the bar and was not averse to showing it to any potential trouble-makers.

So the opposition was limited to out-singing each other and good-natured banter whenever one side or the other had scored a victory or suffered a defeat (though comments on defeats were always muted. 'There but for the grace of God.........')  The singing kept me enthralled for many hours when I should have been sleeping.  Half way up the enclosed staircase was a large knot-hole through which I had a panoramic view of the bar and 'coffee room' (lounge) where the piano stood.  I cannot remember an evening when it was not put to good use.  Auntie Mu would often be persuaded to sing - amongst her specialities being 'Bless This House', 'Jerusalem' and 'Abide with Me'.

On winter nights I sat and shivered in my dressing gown listening to the music, which accounts for the fact that I often didn't make school the next morning before the bell.  When eventually sleep did overcome me, it was to music not usually associated with lullabies - 'You Are My Sunshine', 'Roll Out The Barrel', 'Don't Fence Me In' 'Coming In On A Wing And A Prayer' and 'She'll Be Coming Round The Mountain'

to name but a few.

The Anglo-American competition at the Cefn was enhanced by the fact that we had two lodgers; Captain (later Major) Jimmy Russell of the United States Army and Captain 'Dodger' Green (I never knew his Christian name) of the Army Pay Corps.  Both gentlemen turned up one Monday morning early in 1942 asking for a room "just for a few days" and stayed for the duration of the war.  I sat, amazed, listening to their yarns and tales of great heroism and suffering.  It didn't occur to me until many years later that all these stories were merely repeated from the articles in the newspapers or camp rumours, for neither of them came nearer to a battlefield than manoeuvres in a South Wales meadow.  That didn't matter at the time; armed with an American forage cap and a pair of British gaiters I made the most of these stories in the school playground.  Captain Green was a beautiful organist and, from time to time, he would give Mrs Kelly a break and play in church on Sunday.

John Kestle's father, on the other hand, was a real hero.  He was in the RAF and away for most of the war, appearing only infrequently on short leave.  Not only could he scare us to death with stories but, on one occasion, actually brought us bananas! This was about 1943 and no-one had seen a banana for more than four years.  Truth to tell, half of them were rotten by the time he got home but the other half were - well, delicious.

I remember we ate one or two sitting on the wall between John's front garden and the road when we saw a courting couple strolling up the lane, arm in arm, oblivious to the rest of the World.  We threw a banana skin in the middle of the road, hoping that they would slip on it in true comic fashion.  When they drew close, the man said 'Mind the banana skin darling' and they stepped around it and carried on.  After some five or six paces, they stopped, exclaimed together 'Banana skin?!' retraced their steps and stood staring at it for quite some moments as if it had dropped from the sky.

One time when Jack Kestle came home on leave, he was in an Austin 'Tilly', a utility vehicle much in favour with the forces before the arrival of the Jeep. Overall, it looked like a car from the front and a pickup from the side, but had no back to the cab and the cargo area was covered with a canvas hood.  He tried to teach John and I to drive - on the road because there was no other traffic - and I must say that apart from steering, clutch control and being able to see where we were going, we did rather well!

The sky, it seemed in those days, was always blue.  John and I would spend the entire summer holidays wandering around the parish exploring, fighting imaginary battles, climbing the vicar's trees, trying to ride unwilling horses and generally getting into mischief. Although we were no angels, whatever went wrong within a five mile radius, we got the blame!!  Occasionally, his sister Betty would be allowed to join in our games but we were really about five years short of interest in girls.

Although the World seemed as though it were going straight to hell, it was a great deal safer for young lads to be let out alone than it is today.  Those were the days of 'double summer time' when the clocks were put forward two hours to help with war work and it did not get dark until almost 11 pm.  With our bikes (I was finally allowed out unaccompanied on mine at the age of eight in March '43) and a packed lunch we would be gone for the entire day and nobody worried.  I remember exploring the forest which surrounded Ruperra Castle.  We were looking for snakes but we found at the top of the hill (Mount Everest!) a dilapidated summer-house which would have had a fine view, had not the trees grown to spoil it.  To our amazement there was a man up there with a camera (also unheard of during the war).  On seeing us, he scurried away. We were convinced he was a spy - and he might well have been with a camera, so close to a P.O.W. camp which was, as already mentioned, to burn down shortly afterwards.  Although we reported the incident, no- one believed us.

Another of our favourite places was Howells' Farm, halfway between us and the main road at Castleton.  We were allowed to wander and play through the farmyard and barns, catching rats and generally having a good time.  If we behaved, we were also allowed to ride the old farm cart whenever it travelled between farm and any of the fields.  In one of those fields stood a huge barn, used to store hay and farm machinery. I remember, one day, John and I were sheltering from a storm there (isn't it wonderful to be just out of reach of the rain and to watch the countryside being lashed by a storm).  We came across a large tub, like a six foot high witches' cauldron, filled with the most evil-smelling liquid.  When we stirred it, a selection of bones revealed themselves and we were convinced that some evil deed had been perpetrated.    In reality, it was probably the left-overs from some  illegal  animal  slaughter,  not reported to the Ministry of Food,  but enjoyed in secret by the Howells family and friends.

Just over the river bridge at Michaelstone, on the way to Ruperra, was a Women's Land Army camp and the girls used to work on many of the surrounding farms.  They were also regulars at the Cefn. The camp consisted of a group of Nissen Huts - some for accommodation with a larger version which was used as the dining room, mess hall and general area.  It was here that there would be occasional film shows.  John and I were often invited and I remember seeing Abbot and Costello films and Johnny Weismuller as Tarzan.

Evelyn, our maid at the Cefn, was a widow who had a sister Stella living in a cottage in Llysworney, a village outside Cowbridge.  Like the Cefn Mably in those days, there was no running water.  Every drop had to be pumped up from the well.  The toilet was an outhouse at the top of the garden, built over a deep pit into which lime was thrown at regular intervals.  Lighting was by oil lamps and in the winter, away from the main room and the open fire, the rest of the house was almost always below freezing.  It took courage to go to bed - or to do anything else, for that matter!

Stella had four sons - Ashley, Harry, Jack and Tom.  Ashley was in the navy and was taken prisoner by the Japanese when his ship, the Prince of Wales, was sunk in the Pacific; Harry and Tom were captured by the Germans at Dunkirk.     Before and after these boys were taken I could hear Evelyn crying in her room and we all listened avidly to the news.  I half expected that we were waiting for them to be mentioned by name.

Jack was left to run the family farm single-handed and I used to spend part of the school summer holiday 'helping' at harvest time.  By the age of nine I was pretty competent with a team of horses and, when fuel permitted, with a tractor.   Stella's husband Johnny was paralysed from the neck down and spent every day lying in a bed in a downstairs room in the cottage.  He used to like to smoke his pipe and Stella would light it for him and leave it balanced on the bed cover near his mouth.  Dangerous, perhaps, but I never heard of an accident.  Immobile he may have been but Johnny knew everything that was happening in the village and for some miles around.  People would call and see him with all the news and gossip and to ask his advice on various matters. 

I distinctly remember a cartoon on the front page of the Daily Express on 1st January 1944.  It showed an American and a British soldier striding across a map of the English Channel from Kent to the Pas de Calais and had the caption 'Leap Year?'

It was during the Easter holidays that year, when I was again visiting Llysworney that some village lads and I went for a cycle ride near the wartime RAF base at St. Athan or Llandow.  We saw a truly amazing sight - in every field for miles around, aircraft and gliders were parked, many with their wings removed, so crowded together that it seemed impossible ever to be able to move them. 

Likewise, a partially completed dual carriageway near Newport (Forge Lane), which had been intended to form part of the Newport by-pass, was closed and used as a military vehicle park with every imaginable type of tank, armoured car, road tanker, field gun and ambulance stretching eight wide, nose to tail for over three miles, all waiting for D Day.  This scene was repeated hundreds of times all across southern Britain. As the day drew nearer, all these vehicles moved in orderly waves towards the south coast ports.    It was a parade to end all parades, hour after hour, day after day. Our arms grew tired of waving to them.

On D-Day itself, the air was thick with thousands of aircraft and the roar of their engines was incessant; it was almost impossible to believe that there were that many aeroplanes in the World.  There was never a sight like it before, nor will there be ever again. Nor can I ever remember such excitement in the papers and on the wireless.  After the invasion, there was a large map of Europe pinned on the school wall and we would follow the  Allied  progress  through  France and Germany with keen interest, shading 'our' part and marking liberated cities with little flags.

National Savings were boosted by 'Salute the Soldier' week in which a picture of a cheery British soldier had a right arm which moved in a clock-wise direction from his elbow so that as more money was received he eventually saluted in thanks.   There was, likewise, 'Raise the Flag' and 'Launch the Plane' for the other two services.

I could never quite work out why German bomber crews were 'cowardly Nazi swine' and our bomber crews were 'the brave lads taking the fight to the enemy'.    It would appear that, even at a relatively young age, there was a certain disbelief in Government propaganda.

Although too young to be allowed to see the images at the time, I remember being told that Movietone News, the newsreel standard in every cinema in those days, showed pictures of what the Allied soldiers had discovered at Belson, Dachau and other concentration camps.  The sights were too awful to bear and many people tried to leave the cinema, only to be met with armed guards on the door and being told to return to their seats and look at the sort of people we had been fighting for the last six years.  The stories of the treatment of  prisoners  of  war held  by  the  Japanese only  came to light  with  the  Japanese  defeat  some months later.

I was half-way up the chestnut tree opposite the cottage in Llysworney on a fine May morning in 1945 when I heard on the wireless through the open window the momentous words     "The war in Europe is over."

The immediate reaction was overwhelming.  People rushed out into the road, shouting, laughing, crying, and greeting each other, wanting to celebrate the end of six long years.     The landlord of the village pub, 'The Calne Arms' threw open the doors all day.  It seemed one hell of a party!   With the end of the war, all three of Stella's sons, Ashley, Harry and Tom came home safely and Stella's family were united once more.  Also came the end to the reason for my being at the Cefn Mably. 

Although I remember asking to go home to my parents in Rumney, there were times when I regretted it and eventually left with very mixed feelings.  The move was, however, made more interesting by the arrival of a new baby brother, Vivian.  About that time too, the Kestle family - Jack and Iris and the children Betty and John moved away to a council house in Marshfield, so that future visits to the Cefn felt a little hollow.

As children do, I settled down quite quickly back with my parents and rejoined my classmates at Rumney Junior School, with whom I had shared only one term in 1939.   A year later I passed the 'scholarship' and gained a place in Howard Gardens High School in Cardiff.  Travel to and from school was often made in pre-war London Red buses with outside stairs, on loan to Cardiff (The Cardiff bus depot had suffered a direct hit during one air-raid and half the fleet had been destroyed.). 

The winter of 1946/47 was one of the most severe ever recorded.  In one night, the entire country was covered in a blanket of snow, which varied from three to fifteen feet. Such was the surprise and such was our inability to deal with this weather that everything stopped - not a car, bus, lorry or train moved for weeks; the shops ran out of what little stock they had; coal could not be delivered to heat houses; the sick could not get to hospital and the dead could not be buried.   Frozen pipes and power cuts meant that water and electricity were also unavailable.  People went hungry.  Friends and neighbours shared what they had, melted snow to drink; burned furniture to keep warm and the sick just died.   The country came nearer to complete collapse than at any time during the war.

To an almost twelve year old, it was a big adventure, of course.   I think it was seven weeks before we could return to school and, in the meantime, we were the main means of communication.   Children (with occasional help from adults) moved everything on toboggans, fuel, milk, groceries - it was a good feeling, being important, grown up and not being told to come into the house out of the cold. 

About this time, I remember doing the weekly shopping for my mother.  I would be dispatched to Duggan & James, the grocers on Top Road in Rumney opposite the Carpenters Arms with a shopping list, a large basket and a ten shilling note (.50p) This amount would buy a week's groceries for four, and a shilling (.05p) would buy as many potatoes as one could struggle home with.  Boys' haircuts were 10d (4p) and gents were one shilling (5p).  I remember on one occasion when the barber charged me a shilling instead of ten-pence, my mother sending me back (round trip 1½ miles) to recover the 2d change!

Partly as a result of this winter I think, the Kestle family decided to emigrate to Australia and I never saw John again (nor his sister Betty, with whom I was by then passionately in love!).  For many years my mother and Mrs Kestle wrote and exchanged news.  With the death of both of them, I am now in touch with Betty and her family, though I don't hear from John.  After his retirement from the Australian Forestry Service, he went native and now he and his wife live on a boat in a bay off the north coast.

Head Family Reunion at Cefn Mably Arms

The Head Family Reunion at The Cefn Mably Arms 2009

The Head Brothers

The Head Brothers

Malcolm Head