Of Wooden Ships And Iron Men

Of Wooden Ships And Iron Men

As part of the work that Tony Hodge does as a volunteer on the Digitisation Project in Barry Library to upload historical photographs and the like to the “Peoples Collection Wales” website, he came across the following account complete with photographs and the pen and ink sketch of the Bristol Channel pilot cutters. They were in an envelope addressed to the Barry Borough Librarian with a 3p Christmas stamp which has been identified as being issued in 1971. It is introduced as:

“This is part of Jack Davey’s life story as told to me aboard the “Result”, a square tops’l schooner, in 1926”. It had been sent by R D Evans, Hillhead, Falmerston Road, Mount Pleasant, Newhaven, Sussex. (NB the history of the HMS Result, which was built in 1893 and continued in service until 1967, is fully documented on the National Historic Ships UK website and is worthy of its own article.)

“Barry Roads for Orders”. What memories such a cry invokes. The first time I heard it was on the Barque “Friends” one hundred and five days out of Valparaiso, it was the first year Barry Signal Station was opened. Previously we had made either Queenstown or Falmouth for orders, and then picked up our pilot. On this trip we were bound to Barry for orders. With the sleet driving down from nor’east, Simon Bartlett’s cutter the “Dawn” with the letters BY on the mains’l was a most welcome sight, as she lay hove to off the Fastnet.

The picture made by the sailing cutters at sea was truly wonderful, particularly after a long voyage, when they seemed to make home that much nearer. The arrival of the pilot on board with fresh news, after being out of touch with the outside world for so long a period, had to be experienced to be believed.

The history of the Bristol Channel Pilots and their cutters is lost in the dust of antiquity together with many of the early records of ships and shipping which had been written, but we know that a pilot named Ray took Cabot’s “Matthew” down the Bristol Channel in the sixteenth century, and that the Ray family, father to son, father to son, have been pilots ever since.

What wonderful sailing craft these cutters were, and what a wonderful breed of men sailed them.

Until 1914, when amalgamation took place, the system was competitive, each pilot owning and sailing his own cutter and going westward “seeking”. That often meant sailing as far as the Fastnet Rock off the west coast of Ireland, or up St George’s Channel and the Irish Sea to Liverpool, or around Land’s End and into the Straights of Dover, looking for ships that required a pilot to take them to Barry or even Bristol.

Two years after I left the “Olivebank” I took a job with Simon Bartlett on the “Dawn” as a deck hand. The following is an account of a typical trip “seeking”.

The cutter was generally sailed out by the pilot, pilot boatman and an apprentice, the boatman and the apprentice doing the work and the pilot would take the tiller if he felt like doing a little sailing. After the pilot had been put aboard the incoming ship the cutter was sailed home by the apprentice and boatman.

As the Bristol Channel has the second highest rise and fall of tide in the world – the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia has the highest – and few havens of shelter once Barry or Ilfracombe were left behind, this was seldom a fine weather trip.

It was a case of “ride it out” and although the cutters were built of wood you had to be an iron man to sail them year after year summer and winter. How true the saying: “From Padstow Bay to Lundy Light is a watery grave both day and night”.

Now back to the trip, which I think will interest you, it has been copied from the log book.

4am. Breeze freshening.

5am. Log 120 miles. Breeze strong still freshening

7.45am Block Split. Peak halyard chaffed and stranded. Hove to and had gaff on deck. Cut out and renewed block and spliced afresh the purchase. Had a bit of fun in the lumpy sea, especially when we hauled up again. The sea is oppressively lonely.

10am. Have gone about on the starboard tack going west by north with 75 miles to Cape Clear. Wind freshening , sky heavy and overcast. Took another roll in the mains’l.

10.30am Hauled fores’l slightly to wind’ard so as not to shake her up too much with this hard driving.

12 noon. Reaching shead (north by east) slowing. Breeze strong. Down to storm jib. Double reefed fores’l and seven rolls in the main.

12.45pm Sighted a Clan Line and made up under her lee.

2.25pm Pilot put aboard and then made for home. When Old Head of Kinsale (ie in County Cork, Ireland) was on the beam, homeward bound bearing east ¾ south.

When I arrived home after this trip I read in the “Western Mail” that the gale had caused severe damage around the coast stripping roofs of buildings, uprooting trees and causing ships to seek shelter.

After five years with the pilots I went back to the deep sea again



Welsh Traditions


In this short series we’ll take a step back in time to remind ourselves of some of the interesting traditions which took place in Wales in the past. We’ll begin with a look at what in Welsh are called ‘Merched y Gerddi’ – literally translated, ‘The Garden Girls’.

During the 18th and 19th Centuries, it was the tradition for young girls and women to travel annually from impoverished rural Wales to London – to look for work in the market-gardens and parks of the city. They would travel in late spring or early summer, remain in London all summer – and travel back to Wales before winter set in. It was poverty and the lack of work that caused this exodus – and the name given to these girls and women was ‘Merched y Gerddi’.


A simple verse written by poet Daniel Ddu o Geredigion, mentioning this tradition, has survived.

O na bawn i fel colomen

Ar Sant Paul yng nghanol Llunden

I gael gweled merched Cymru

Ar eu gliniau’n chwynnu’r gerddi.

Oh that I were a pigeon

On St Paul’s in the centre of London –

To see the girls from Wales

On their knees weeding the gardens.

The majority of these women came from Ceredigion, although others from various parts of Wales would join them on their journey through Breconshire – Powys today – towards England. The tradition was centred on the town of Tregaron – which was also one of the main centres for the drovers – who drove their animals to the markets of London. It is possible that the drovers helped the women find work in the parks and gardens.

Of course, the romance and excitement of the journey to London appealed to the young women – and their hope was that they would meet and marry a wealthy young man whilst they were in London! But it was not only young women who undertook this annual tradition. Widows and married women also travelled – so long as they had someone at home to care for their children.

There was no transport to take them to London of course, so they had to walk all the way – following the drovers’ tracks. It is said that many of them walked barefoot in order to keep their clogs in good condition for wearing in London. They would sleep in the open air or in a barn – and many would gather fruit like bilberries or whinberries to sell along the way – thus putting a few pennies in their pockets. Others would knit stockings as they walked – and sell the finished articles.

After finding work in London, the women would have to work hard – and not many of them were able to afford to stay in lodgings of any kind – so they slept in warehouses and such buildings – with only straw and sacking to keep them warm. They lived on fruit and vegetables from the market-gardens where they worked – and no doubt this was often better than the paupers food they ate back home in Wales. Most of them worked up to 14 hours a day, 7 days a week – and only a few of them had a day off on Sunday. Those who did liked to go to the fair at Lambeth Marsh to buy a few goods and to listen to the ballad singers spreading the latest news through their songs. This is how Lambeth Marsh grew to be a well-known place in which the Welsh congregate.

By the middle of September, the work in the gardens and parks had dried up and it was time for the women to return to Wales. Once again, they had to walk – but now they had a little money in their pockets. Their pay in London was between 1 and 2 shillings a day (5-10 pence today) – and this was far more than they could earn back home in Wales.

This tradition had all but died out by the middle of the 19th century – as, by then, the population of London had increased to such an extent that far more people were looking for work. Also, the famine in Ireland had forced many Irish men and women to move to London to look for work. Fortunately, by this time conditions were improving in Wales – with new industries being developed in the South Wales valleys. At last, there was now more work for the men and women of Wales in their own country.

Up until then, life was hard – especially in rural Wales. I wonder how many of our readers had heard of this tradition – and how many people were aware that possibly one of their ‘foremothers’ had been forced to take part in this annual trek to London to earn a little extra money. We cannot begin to appreciate the hardship of the time – and should count our blessings today!

Ann M. Jones



David Davies – My Part In Preserving His Heritage

David Davies – My Part In Preserving His Heritage

The previous three editions of What’s On have contained articles by Ann Jones and Stephen K Jones about David Davies, Top Sawyer and Entrepreneur of Llandinam, Montgomeryshire.

It is now my turn to add personal recollections about this great man and his many achievements.

My story goes back to the late 1970s when I was employed by the then Penarth based consulting engineers Wallace Evans and Partners. This firm undertook many commissions for highway improvements and by-passes throughout mid and west Wales. These included a cluster of three projects in and around Llandinam that were being undertaken contemporaneously. I was posted to Llandinam to be the Resident Engineer to oversee the construction of these.

We learned from Ann’s article in What’s On that when David Davies initially moved on from farm and timber sawing his first project, in 1846, as a contractor was to construct the abutments for a new cast iron bridge spanning the River Severn at Llandinam. Included in that contract was the construction of a revetment wall some 3 or 4 metres high between the river and the road above. Whilst the work that David Davies did was perfectly adequate for the time, that road became the main trunk road between south and north Wales, ie the A470.

Increasingly heavy traffic was taking its toll on the integrity of the revetment, to the extent that the possibility of its imminent collapse forced the need to construct a new mass concrete retaining wall which was faced on the river side with the original revetment masonry.

Our reconstruction project became the subject of a national tabloid inspired controversy. The original contract envisaged that the retaining wall would be topped with a substantial metal parapet which was reported as being a motorway style crash barrier and totally unsuited for a rural village setting. Before our works commenced, there had been a low wall upon which local lads would sit to woo and canoodle with their lasses. Shock horror that such an amenity would be no more. The Sun newspaper mounted a campaign demanding that the erstwhile “Love Wall” be reinstated. After some while and deliberation by the then Welsh Office, it duly was!

The second project was a junction improvement in the village which required the construction of a tall reinforced concrete retaining wall to support the graveyard of St Llonio’s church. It is in this graveyard that David Davies is buried and it would have been embarrassing for him to have come crashing down into works being undertaken by latterday jonnies.

The third job was the removal of “Black Bridge” and a realignment of the A470 trunk road near Llandinam. The bridge carried the road somewhat dangerously with two double bends over the line of the then closed Llanidloes to Newtown railway. That railway was yet another David Davies contract constructed in 1855. As well as removing the bridge, the opportunity was taken to widen and improve the alignment of the A470. To achieve this land adjacent old road which was owned by the Davies family had to be acquired. This brought us into contact with the current Lord Davies who at that time lived in Plas Dinam. He is a Chartered Engineer, who as well as running a local construction company was also, and still is, heavily involved in many national enterprises such as the promotion of the Wales Millenium Centre, the Welsh National Opera and many development projects in mid Wales.

Plas Dinam had been bought by David Davies in 1884 but now the present Davies family have “down sized” and they manage the building as a Country House Hotel and Wedding Venue. Interestingly, for a short period during the war Gordonstoun School was relocated from Scotland to Plas Dinam to ensure the safety of the schoolboys. The house also housed an Agricultural College for a period after the war.

To close, a few words about Broneirion. This 20 bedroom Italianate Grade II listed building, which stands on the west bank of the River Severn in Llandinam, was built for David Davies in 1864. In 1946 Broneirion became the Welsh Training Centre for the Girlguiding Association and between 1992 and 1995 Girlguiding Cymru purchased the properties and grounds at a very advantageous price and have used them since as the HQ for Girlguiding in Wales. Sadly, in 2023, the Guides could no longer afford the upkeep of the property and therefore it was put up for sale. It could be yours, with lots of land and ancillary buildings, for a cool two and a quarter million (which has recently been reduced from three million pounds).

Tony Hodge

Explore Your Creativity


Explore Your Creativity

Wenvoe Art and Well-being group is an opportunity to explore your creativity in a warm supportive environment with experienced professional artist Glyn Pooley. Creating art can be a wonderful, uplifting experience. Sharing time with others in this process offers the additional benefits of improving health and well-being.

Local based, celebrated artist Glyn Pooley has taught many people to reveal their creativity through painting for over 30 years. Whether you are a complete beginner or an amateur artist wanting to explore more advanced techniques and media, come along and learn in a warm, supportive, fun environment!

Classes are held every Wednesday from 2 pm-4 pm, at Wenvoe Community Centre. 22 Hour/10 Week Course – £90. Summer Term 2024 starts April 17th- June 19th

For further details or to reserve your place, please contact Glyn.

Email: glyn@glynpooley.com

Tel: 07596759574 www.glynpooley.com





The Big Plastic Count



For one week in March, thousands of people around the country are going to count their household plastic waste and submit the data to the UK’s biggest investigation into household plastic waste.
The evidence will put pressure on the UK government to push for an ambitious Global Plastics Treaty to end the age of plastic for good.
The plastics problem is still with us. Together we can convince the government to act.
Sign up to take part. https://act.gp/3FlJ5lA



Update from Councillor Russell Godfrey

Update from your Vale of Glamorgan Councillor Russell Godfrey

On the 20th January we had the induction session at the outdoor exercise equipment at Station Road Playing Fields, which was attended by our MP Alun Cairns and many members of the Wenvoe Community. A good and informative time was had by all. Just to remind you tennis rackets and tennis balls are available for loan from the Wenvoe Library.

The new fencing around the Tennis Courts should be completed by the beginning of March.

On the Weekend of 3rd & 4th February, 8 drain covers were stolen along Old Port Road (38 across the Vale) these have now been replaced by the VOG.

We also appear to be experiencing an increase in Fly Tipping in the area. Can I please ask that if you see any suspicious activity, that you try to get a vehicle registration number (if applicable) and report it to either the Police or if applicable the VOG Council or myself.

The installation of the Toucan Crossing at the Walston Castle is now well under way. I have also been informed that the new Care Home on Port Road is planning to open in March.

I would also like to welcome the new owners to our Village Shop and to say farewell to Anwar and his family (although I believe they are continuing to live in the village).

If you have any issues/suggestions please do not hesitate to contact me or pop along to one of my monthly surgeries. On the third Saturday of every Month between 10am & 11am

Email: regodfrey@valeofglamorgan.gov.uk

Tel: 07927 588924

Russell Godfrey Councillor

Elected Member – Wenvoe Ward


Annual Oxfam Music Appeal


As regular readers of What’s On you may remember (you may not!) that I am a volunteer in the Oxfam shop in Penarth. My role is to price up everything music related. Last year was very busy with some great donations. Vinyl records made up 75/80% of the total music sales followed by CDs as the next best sellers. Thank you to everyone in the village who contacted me with donations. It is very much appreciated.

We are always looking for donations of all music related items – that includes vinyl records (singles, and LPs), CDs, sheet music, pre-recorded cassettes/ tapes, non-electrical musical instruments (in working order or broken) and music books. We are interested in music from any genre – rock, pop, classical, folk, jazz etc. We aim to obtain the best possible prices on donations. We also stock DVDs.

If you do not have anything to donate you could consider supporting Oxfam by popping in the shop if you are in Penarth – we stock a range of second hand goods as well as new fairtrade tea, coffee and crafts. You could even consider volunteering. There is presently a good team of volunteers but a number of volunteers retired during covid and we are still not up to full strength. Volunteers price up books, bric a brac and clothing, as well as serving in the shop. Sometimes a volunteer ‘specialist’ is required and I am aware for instance a philatelist willing to price up stamps is sorely needed.

If you have anything you would like to donate feel free to contact me nigelrbillingham@yahoo.co.uk or alternatively if you would like to arrange a pick up or speak to someone about volunteering please contact Caroline/Joe at the shop. Tel 02920706358.

Thank you.

Nigel Billingham (Oxfam Music Volunteer)


Exercise Equipment


Have you made a New Year’s resolution to get your-self fit, lose weight, keep active etc in 2024? Thinking of joining a gym? Why not try the new exercise equipment provided for you in the Station Road playing field.

Around 15 different pieces of apparatus

Fresh air and pleasant views all around.

Free to use when you wish

and finish with a jog back home for a shower.

Induction session Saturday 20th January 11.00

to 12.00 and free water bottle to the first 90 people.




Scout Trek Cart


It was great to see the Scout trek cart back in use outside the Church Hall advertising the recently held Village Show.

When we reformed the village scout group back in the mid 1970s we had nothing. There was nothing around belonging to any previous group so we hunted down anything we considered could be of use to running the group. One day while in a Barry wood yard I spied an old red painted fire cart, probably used to carry fire hoses, sand buckets, pumps etc to the scene of any outbreak of fire helping to contain the blaze while awaiting the arrival of professionals. The cart was no longer in use. A discussion with the owner resulted in the village scout troop possessing a trek cart; minor repairs were completed and a fresh coat of paint was applied. It was a much loved item when I was a scout.

Around our annual camp sites the cart proved extremely useful for moving tents and boxes etc. One year some of the scouts pulled the trek cart from the village out to New Wallace farm with their camping gear for a weekend camp. Around the village we used it as a mobile cooking platform when we went around selling freshly baked Welsh Cakes in aid of a Red Nose day appeal. Wonderful to see it back in use.




Advent Windows 2023


A St. Mary’s Church Initiative for the Whole Community

Following three previous successful years, we are inviting you to take part in lighting up your windows this Advent 2023.

During the last 3 years, lighting up the windows has encouraged us to wrap up warm and to view the different portrayals of Advent and Christmas. Each presentation has been very individual including Santa, Angels, Snowmen, Kings, and many more. People have used their imagination in what materials they have included. One Window last year was made of all recycled items, and another made totally of Christmas baubles. Some have been very artistic, building on their previous experience, whilst others have been made by children for the first time.

This community fun event will run from 1st – 24th December, with the final window at St. Mary’s Church. There is no entry fee, it’s not a competition and adults and children are welcome.

How it works:

We need a minimum of 24 participants to decorate their windows. Each entry will be allocated a date when they will light up their window for the first time and to continue lighting up each day until 24th December. For those of us viewing the windows this will mean every day from 1st December a new window will be lit up to go and see, so that by 24th December there will be 24 windows in total to view. The windows will be lit from 5.00pm – 9.00pm each evening.

The windows can be designed and constructed from any media including lights, mobiles, cut outs etc. They can be as simple or technical as your artistic tendencies take you. They can be internal or external displays as long as they involve decorating your window. All the displays should relate to Advent / Christmas and can be humorous, artistic or topical.

Each house participating will be asked to:

  • display a given number corresponding to the date their window is ‘opened’ to differentiate it from other residents who will have their own Christmas decorations.
  • keep their window a surprise as far as is possible before the designated revealing evening


If you want to participate you need to:

  • live in a house that has a window (upstairs or down) that can clearly be seen from the street without people coming onto your property
  • be happy to keep the window illuminated each evening after it is ‘revealed’ until December 24th


We are aware that many people give their time and money to support a host of different charities. If you would like to put a charity box outside your house you would be most welcome. Just make sure you empty the box each evening.

For more information ring:

Glenys and Mike Tucker: 07922 109721, or

Jude and Nige Billingham: on 07516 112897

Please let Jude Billingham know by October 27th if you would like to decorate your window. You will need to supply your name, address, email address, telephone number, and any preference when you would like to light up your Window. Contact via email (judebillingham@yahoo.co.uk), by telephone (07516 112897), or text.

Please be aware that in agreeing to participate you are also agreeing to have your address identified on the windows map that will be made available so people can look for your window. No names or email will be shared without your permission.

This is a St. Mary’s initiative for the whole community


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