Memories of School days
Two heroes to us, boys in school were Dai Joiner and Dai Mock they were pretty good with their fists, and would settle all differences among us boys who were about two years younger, and were very good pupils, the teachers thought quite a good deal of them. They were very attentive in class but once school hours were over, there was nothing two hot or to heavy for them, they got into many scrapes, and sometimes were blamed for something that they were entirely innocent of doing.
There was a boy living near them who was subject to fits, which he mostly had in school, the teacher would get the two Dai’s to carry him home after he had sufficiently recovered. They would carry him on their backs in turns and when getting near his home, he would be asked to be allowed to go home by himself, not to worry his mother, who was a widow and had plenty of other worries besides. This carrying home of the boy used to please the two Dai’s as the teacher most grateful to them, would always tell them, there was no need to come back to school, so the more fits he had the more they were pleased. One day Dai Mock put him off his back and asked him if he was able to walk the rest of the way home, after a bit of grumbling he said he felt a bit better and would be alright, that was the end of carrying him nearly all the way. In fact Dai Joiner thought he could fake having a fit at any time the strange part, he never had many in his home it was mostly at school. If his mother was annoyed she was really afraid to correct him for fear of the result. About this time Madam Patty from ‘Graig y nos’ was to sing at a Concert at the Albert Hall in Swansea and was to be entertained before the Concert, so she was arriving early in afternoon, this meant she would be coming by train to Midland Station St Thomas about three o’clock in the afternoon. We had often seen her going through the Upper Bank Station, in fact the teachers used to take us to the station to see her pass in a beautiful salon we could not see much of her when passing.
Dai Joiner had a brain wave, he got hold of his mate ‘Dai’ and together they decided to see Madam Patti not at Upper Bank but at the Midland Station St Thomas, more out of curiosity, they wanted to see the Horses in the Carriage meeting her with a mounted police escort. They used to put tons of sand on the bridges, not for the horses to slip on these occasions. So the two ‘Dias’ had to make this boy have a fit as soon as the class started after dinner, to give them sufficient time to get to the Midland Station they had walked with the boy to school, and he was simply delighted to have a fit and be carried part of the way home. As soon as class was started the boy had a fit the teacher sent for the two ‘Dai’s to do the usual. They did not carry him very far on this occasion as they wanted to be at the station to see the red carpet, police horses, the carriage some times with four horses to pull the open landau as these carriages were called, a wonderful sight (which will never be seen again) after the carriage the police and all the officials of the railway had departed, the two ‘Dai’s started on their walk home accompanied by the boy who was having fits. This went on for many more outings, and the staff of Cwm Board school never dropped to these (going ons).
After leaving Cwm Board school I went to the Swansea Higher Grade school in Swansea (Dynevor Place) the Head master was a little man named Samuel Roberts. Although small he ruled us with a rod of Iron, we were four attending the school from Pentrechwyth and Bonymaen at the time. Ben Bodycombe who later became Vicar of Paddington, D. J. Williams who became a head in the same school. Tom Rosser who went into the masonry trade and myself, we used to leave Upper Bank station at 8’40, the school then commenced at 9 o clock, we could not get to school for the first lesson, owning to the difficulties we had to contend with, we had to cross two bridges which were nearly always open about this time there was quite a lot of traffic on the river besides a crossing with the closing of gates for the trainloads of coal from the collieries in the Valleys for shipment at the Docks. The North Dock bridge, being opened for the traffic of some big ships besides schooners of all sizes, we had to wait some times for nearly half an hour between the two, we walked into school at all times in the morning and it got at last no one asked how we were late, as they had heard the same excuse so many times, held up by the bridges. The headmaster sent for the four of us one afternoon, and informed us in a very nice way, that a teacher would meet our train the following morning, for us to be on the look out for him. It suited us, this meeting on the following could not have been better, as we knew it was full tide on the river at that hour. Sure enough the teacher was on the platform after having to wait for one bridge to close on his way over, just for luck the first bridge over the river was open to allow small boats going up to one of the Wharfs on Vivians, on White Rock. He the teacher was keenly interested in this, watched the closing and we walked over, only to find the other one to the North Dock open, with a big cargo boat and a few small schooners to go through we kept informing him what these little ships had as cargoes, some of them had potatoes for ‘England’ who was a big importer at that time, and had stores on the strand and employed nearly all women. They used to put the potatoes in bags in the hold of the ship then they were weighed and took by horse wagon to the stores ready to supply the market & shops. Some of the big steamers brought in a cargo of one for some of the Industries and took a cargo out of patent Fuel as there were a number of fuel works on the North Dock. We had all the answers, and he enjoyed this visit, we now showed him all the short cuts to the school, arriving there we went to our class, as it happened we were all the same age and were put into the same class when we started in this school.
We never had to go before the Head after, we knew the teacher had told him of his experience and how he enjoyed this trip as he had to get up much earlier to meet us at the station. We never were questioned again for being late, but about a week later another teacher was on the platform meeting the train. We never expected him to be there as we were on the last occasion. We began to think how were the tides, as there were some days we would not be delayed at all, but we always held back from that first lesson. This teacher was not so interested as the other in ships and bridges, so we started for school much to our delight the crossing gates were closed, a very long coal train was going through, we knew what to expect, another from the Dock with two Engines, going up to the sidings, quite 12 minutes as he timed it. We knew now that the river bridge would not be opened until the traffic passed, so we went over to the next one, and to our great joy, this one was open, quite a few schooners and a couple of big ships going through. We did not enjoy his company very much as he kept looking at his watch every minute. I can remember the watch and I know is was the same as the one I had Ingersoll 5/-. We were left alone after all the time I was there.