Rememberances of Old Fochriw
by Islwyn Saunders
Born at 26 Greenfield St Pontlottyn, Mid Glamorgan to David and Ceridwen Saunders at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday 4 June 1920 weighing 12 pounds 8 ounces, named Islwyn.
On 11 February 1922 a sister Gwladys was born. She was a very sickly baby and had most of the baby illnesses and died on 26 April 1923.
Another sister was born on 29 October 1924 and she was called Glenys.
Why these names were given is a mystery, for tracing the family tree back over 200 years these names do not appear.
My earliest memory was being shown Gwladys in a white coffin which was supported on an open wooden clothes horse in the front room, also, standing on the doorstep with my mother watching the funeral moving off. Gwladys is buried at Pentwyn Cemetry, Fochriw.
I remember that we had an Airdale dog before Glenys was born but it was thought that a dog and a baby confined in the same room was dangerous, so the dog was given away.
Before I was old enough to go to school my father started to teach me to play the piano. I managed to play some nursery rhymes to his satisfaction.
Infant school started at 5 years of age. The school was almost at the top of the street so it was not far to travel. I was taken to school on the first day but after that I had to go on my own.
It was safe in those days for children to be about on their own. When being taught to write we did our practices on slates.
The slates were the size of a page of an exercise book with a wooden frame around so that they were not broken. Writing was with slate pencils. I don’t think that we used paper and pencil until the second year.
I had a cousin Margaret May who was a month older than me and she lived in Deri and during the August school holidays we both went to our grandparents in Fochriw for our holidays. Each only 2 miles from home.
When in the infant’s school I was taken ill with Menengitis. The only thing I remember of it was waking up in a darkened room and my mother and the Doctor coming in with a large Easter egg.
As a result of this illness I could not play the piano any more since my co-ordination seemed to have gone. I still have difficulty with any keyboard. I also developed a very bad stammer which lasted for many years. When in my late teens, my mother knew when I was not feeling well since my stammer got worse.
At the age of seven I moved to the main school on Fochriw Road. The infant’s school was mixed, but the main school was boys in one half and girls in the other.
The school had a large assembly hall so we all sat there on the floor for singing and prayers and the headmaster’s speech of the day.
At the age of eight the family had to move to Fochriw so I had to start at another school.