Pentrechwyth in the 1890's
Pentrechwyth in the 1890’s
The next village to Pentrechwyth was Bonymaen, not much of a population at this time, it consisted of one Pub one chapel, and a big building which we called the Truant School. The pub was kept by a man named Mr. Preece who had a funny eye. He was quite a genial man and very kind to boys especially if you ran an errand for him. He could tell a good story in Welsh or English (there was not much English spoken at this time). There were not many rows in his pub as soon as any arguments started, he would order them out. There were occasions when some men came up over the hill from Port Tennant, a very rough type and always out for a fight, there was a family in Bonymaen at that time named Harris about 5 sons all rugby footballers and one of them Tom (could use his dukes as we say) these men always came up with the intention of having a row with Tom. He was a proper sport a good runner, footballer and I said could use his dukes. He used to visit all the pubs for a chat, and was a staunch teetotler. He condemned the drink, he trained many runners, was football coach to junior and senior teams, what a treat for us boys to see Tom having a dab. These ruffians would start the row which ended up in a scrap. Now if the man was drunk, Tom would laugh and walk away, he never took an advantage of some one in drink in fact he was sorry for them, but put one of these big tough dockers against him, (he was a big man himself) then you see the feathers fly as we used to say when our Tom was bashing his apponent nearly to death. It was another case for the hand truck and policeman who would arrive in about an hours time after the fight, he would with his pals have a great send off (from the village boys cheering).
The landlord had it all planned and some-times these port tenant men came up and knowing, there was no card playing allowed in the Bonymaen Inn, would call in their beer in the big kitchen, (as it was called,) and take a pack of cards out of their pocket then start playing. That was enough for the landlord who always said, he would not have the (‘Devil’ playthings) in his house, so he ordered them to stop playing just to make an argument they took no notice of him, I will stop them he said. Now the big kitchen where they were playing had a big old fashioned grate, a huge fireplace the bar on the other side of the building was a very small affair, which was not so popular with the locals who liked to have a chat over a pint of home brewed, (the Bonymaen brewed their own beer) were mostly colliers and hard working men. The pub was a very low roofed house, with this huge chimney built of stone, and for anyone a bit agile could climb it quite easily. The landlord had it all planned and got a man from the bar to go out with him, leaving his servant in charge. They cut a big clod of earth and placed it across the chimney flue, then quite casually walked into the kitchen where they were still playing cards with a bucket of small coal and threw it on the fire and walked out, a few coughs to start, then sneezing and then the shout the house is on fire and out they went as fast as they could go. The passage was now full of smoke, made them decide not to go back there to help with the putting out of the fire, so they moved off. Immediately the man took the clod of turf from the chimney flue, the house was cleared of smoke, and the kitchen was full of locals once again, to hear the landlord relating how he got them out and what he would had done to them if he was forty years younger.
Another character from Bonymaen was the minister of Adulam Baptist chapel a Mr. Harris he was always called Harris Adulam. He was minister there for nearly fifty years. He knew every family in the district and had a very good Congregation. He was a noted Welsh Preacher one who could get the “Hwyl” in the Pulpit and with the voice he had he was really frightening and could stick it for hours without any notes relating to the theme of his sermon. He was a “Member of the Guardians”, who gave out Parish Relief for the aged & infirm, and widows with young children, who often enough were made by fatal accidents to their husbands at work either in colliery or works, no compensation or financial aid of any kind. (either work or starve) and when appearing for assistance with Harris Adulam chairman on the Bench he was very fair, in listening to the applicant giving the financial position of herself and the children, really in need and thinking of her childrens clothes as well as their stomachs. The bench then would make a grant of Half a crown for herself and one and six for her four children each.
He used to walk about twice a week on the side of Kilvey Hill, and preaching at the top of his voice, standing facing the village with the same gestures as he would use in the Pulpit. But what he excelled in was funerals. If he was officiating at his own burial ground, of a non-member he would be quite normal, but when a ‘big shot’, deacon or a well known personality, he was ‘Harris Adulam’ in the chapel, singing hymns Welsh and praying, and preaching for two hours then about an hour at the grave-side, with more hymns and prayers until he looked completely exhausted.
One good joke about him, he was preaching on a Sunday evening in Adulam when his false teeth shot out into the deacons seat . They were immediately handed back to him, and after the service, he told a deacon to try and catch them if they fell out again as they were very expensive. The deacon, told him not to go near the grave-side, when he was officiating, as it would be very embarrassing for him to have to go down to the grave to recover them. He had very good points in his visitation of the sick, no creed worried him anyone in hospital would be visited by him, and a poorly paid minister had a lot of walking to do. The salaries of these ministers at the time were only about £2.10.0 to £3.0.0 per week and their Manse. They with a family had a very lean time, trying to dress well etc, to keep up their dignity with their wife & children who had to attend every service.