History of a Wenvoe Farmer
THE LIFE AND TIMES OF TOWYN WILLIAMS
Local farmer Towyn Williams was born April 2nd 1926 at Ford Farm, Llancarfan, and died August 14th, 2016 at Whitehall Farm, Wenvoe.
I got to know Towyn and his wife Audrey very well when designing alterations to Whitehall farm and from that time I used to regularly call in when walking my dog up Pound Lane. Listening to Towyn revealed a surprising and fascinating picture of the adventurous lives of the Williams family.
Towyn mentioned an article that had previously been produced in the Llancarfan Society magazine written in 2005 by Towyn and his wife Audrey with local historian Phil Watts. It was so interesting that I felt readers of What's On would enjoy reading of Towyn's exploits. This article is largely extracted from 'The story of a (Llancarfan) village lad'
Towyn's father, Tom, was from a farm in the Pontypridd area. With just £10 in his pocket Tom left the farm in 1906 to go to Canada. He went to Bristol, bought his boat ticket (no passport was required) and sailed off to Montreal. From there he took a train to Moose Jaw travelling in a goods wagon with a wood burning stove in the corner on which he and fellow travelers all cooked their food. On arrival at Moose Jaw he still had £4 left in his pocket.
Tom was one of the first Homesteaders in Canada in 1906. After 4 years he owned 340 acres in the middle of the prairie at Reading, Saskatchewan. The significance of 340 acres is it is half a section, a section being a square mile 680 acres.
He ploughed with oxen, took grain by cart to Moose Jaw, a distance of 60 miles, which took a week, and sleeping under the cart at night. The sale of the grain paid for groceries to take back home and seed for the next year.
Towyn’s eldest brother, Bryn, was born 1915 in a 'sod shack' (constructed with turf) on the prairie. The family returned to Wales in 1921 and Bryn worked on the farm at Ford before joining Cardiff City Police Force. During the 1939-45 war he became a pilot serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force. He died when his bomber crashed in 1942.
Towyn's brother Edward was also born on the Canadian Prairie in 1916. He farmed Tynewydd Farm (near the Cwm Cidy, Port Road in Barry) and had a milk round in Barry. He later farmed Home Farm in Michaelston-le-Pit with his father. Edward, a member of Llancarfan Young Farmers, was considered to be a good cattle judge, and represented Wales in a team from the Home Counties, to Australia.
Brother Lyn, born in 1922, farmed at Ford Farm, Llancarfan until 1971 when he moved to a larger farm at Basseleg, near Newport, where he could expand his milking to three times a day.
Sister, Margaret, also born in Canada on the Prairie, died in Llancarfan in 1925 aged 16, buried in the local churchyard.
Towyn's father, Tom, died while on holiday on a cruise ship on the St. Lawrence River in Canada in 1964. Towyn's mother, Olive, died in 1951 and both are buried in Llancarfan Churchyard.
Towyn attended the local primary school in Llancarfan, the teachers were very strict. Miss Connie Griffiths (infants) had the habit of stamping her foot to call the class to order. Miss Morfydd Thomas, from Brynamman near Swansea taught the middle class of 8 and 9 year olds. George Frank Davies, the headmaster, taught the senior class – the scholarship class for secondary education. He was very strict and had a cane in the cupboard behind his desk, but he rarely used it. Hanging over the piano in 'Gaffer' Davies's room was a framed Roll of Honour of those who were killed in the 1914-18 War.
Unannounced visits from the health visitor and the school dentist were a slightly frightening experience for children in those days when children were not used to being ''looked at''.
For several years while Towyn was in Llancarfan School his father supplied milk to the school – half pints for the older children and a third of a pint for the young ones. In those days free milk was paid for by the education authority. Towyn's job was to transport the milk from Ford Farm and to take the empties home using a homemade cart with bicycle wheels which he left at the bottom of the hill while he was in school. There were no school dinners, sandwiches brought from home were ate in the classroom.
At this time there were several homeless characters around Llancarfan who worked for their food and a ' few bob ' for beer in the Fox and Hounds and slept in the barns of the farms he was working at. Most notorious of these was Tom Shanklyn, 'Shanks', who found himself homeless after World War 1. The 1901 Census shows Thomas, aged 10, living with his mother Elizabeth, sister Ann 12, his brother William, both boys shown as cattle boys at local farms.
Tom, a stocky man wounded in his right arm during the war, told stories of working on a farm where they had pigs '6 foot tall – Big Yorks up to my chin' he would say.
One day a local farmer visited Tom at one of his 'abodes' while he was frying bacon. The farmer was offered a rasher which was refused – he didn't like the way Tom's nose was dripping over the pan!
Another homeless 'gent' was Fred Ashton, a tall upright man reputed to have attended Taunton College. A member of the well-known bakery in Cardiff, he ended his life by hanging himself from a branch of a tree on the lane connecting Moulton to Walterston.
Another character was 'Oswald the Watercress Man', who made his living picking and selling watercress in the Llancarfan area. He lived in a shed on the Broad Close Lane and on the door he put 'Meteorological Observatory' He was a good weather man.
Tom Price was one of these local expert craftsmen. Born at the Black Horse public house, on the opposite side of the road near the Fox and Hounds. Although he needed crutches to get around he was able to lay hedges for which he was paid 4 pence (old pennies) a perch (5½ yards) and spread manure by hand. His most treasured possession was a photograph of him laying a hedge for a local farm. He was believed to have been able to drink 12 pints without going to the toilet! They don't make 'em' like that anymore!
(To be continued next month)