Memories & Anecdotes - People, Places and Events.
The following is not in chronological order - memories jotted down as they come back to me. Each one a key unlocking another incident or event that shaped my life during the most enjoyable and exciting period of my life growing up in Llanberis area during the Sixties.
No Money, No Cares, No Worries - each day an adventure without time restraints other than lightness and darkness of day and night.
Darkness did not stop me from climbing or walking the hills. Many mountain rescues were undertaken after the pub at night and without using torches except when absolutely necessary. I was smuggled into public houses from the age of eleven when we went climbing in Derbyshire for the weekends. My mother treating me to draught cider as cider can be bought in shops - the non-alcoholic type ( pop ) that is.
One New Year Evening in a pub in Eskdale, run by friends of the Sandstone Climbing Club and during a sudden hush from the Scottish bagpiper and the dancing of 'crossed matchsticks', Peter the Hat offered to buy my mother and I a drink.
" Does your son want a shandy?" ( half beer / half lemonade ) Peter asked.
"NO!" replied mother." Nothing alcoholic, just draught cider ".
Well! The pub erupted in laughter and mother was educated on the alcoholic content of draught cider compared to 'pop' cider bought from shops.
As a young child mixing with men I had to socialise with them on their ground and hence public houses became my social arena from the age of ten. Often smuggled in and hidden under the early duvet jackets worn as part of the climbers uniform, sometimes discovered and ejected, sometimes welcomed with open arms. The Vaynol Arms and The Padarn Lake being like Russian Roulette - sometimes they would let me in, sometimes they would not. The local police used to turn a blind eye and one of the teachers from school ( Pat Braithewaite ) used to ignore me.
At fifteen years of age I could drink alongside SAS soldiers and stand my ground. When I was in Bristol ( Priddy ) with them I remember coming back from the local in the early hours of the morning. Capt. 'B', Stu and another went potholing, Mel crashed out in the doorway trying to open the door and was found the next morning fast asleep with his hand stuck in the letterbox. I made a drink and went to bed non the worse for drink having won an evening of free lager by beating Capt. B at table football and shovehal'penny all night.
As Pete Curtain once said when we used to get locked in the pubs in Derbyshire until dawn, " it does not matter how much you drink, it does not seem to affect you - you never get drunk ".
Keith Peel attended a mountaineering course at Hafod Uchaf with his friend 'Betsy', named because he could not pronounce the name of the nearby village - Bettws y Coed. ( Betoos e coid ). 'Heavens to murgatroyd' was Snagglepuss's favourite saying as it was Keiths. Henceforth he became known as Murgatroyd, a name that stuck from 1963 up to his passing away in 2002.
One of the other course members drove a Messerschmitt bubble car. Keith was seen riding astride the bubble like a horse, often putting his hands over the drivers eyes for added excitement
( see http://www.pcsystems.com/messerschmitt/mess.html for information about these bubble cars. )
Murgy moved up to live with us in Cwm y Wrach late '63.
Mo and Jackie Antoine moved into the derelict Tyn y Ffynon ( By the Well / Spring )
Ginger Cain often gave me lifts in his white Renault (?) van. One of the few rich climbers to have transport. Ginger now runs Mountain Art in Llanberis and is well known among climbers for his excellent style of painting the mountains. As Phil Bagnall once said " You need a lot of paint to paint mountains"! Ginger's Paintings can be seen in many of the West Coast pubs in Scotland and are instantly recognisable. I saw one in New Zealand in 1999 in Arthurs Pass. http://www.mountainart.co.uk/
Cwm y Wrach became a springboard for climbers moving into Llanberis, Murgy, Alan Harris, Alan ( Fevvers ), Barry Webb, Big Dave Elrod, Martin Riley, Pat ( The Potter ) Glaze, Sparrowlegs ( the bespectacled climber seen on the well published layback of Curving Crack - Cloggy ) and many more I cannot remember at the moment. Anthony Howard ( owner of Troll Mountain Equipment ) used to stay with Drupe, Noel Harrison and his friend Steve used to escape Noel's wife and stay in CYW.
Dave ( Fanta ) Spilsbury ( now Wing Commander or similar in the RAF ), Mike ( Percy ) Spring, who broke his back in a car crash while traveling to Llanberis with Tony ( deceased ) Wilmott, Barry Webb, Big Dave Elrod, Bungy, Rustie Baillie ( Rhodesia ), Ken Wilson and his climbing partner Bill ?, Derek Wiggett, Eric Jones and Brian Son of a Goat are some of the people who stayed regularly at Cwm y Wrach.
Everybody had to be nicknamed - generally because there were too many Davids, mostly because nicknames suited them more than their real name. Even their parents in some cases call them by their nicknames.
Dogs - my nickname shortened from General Dogsbody. When my mother was ill and I did many of the chores I became a 'general dogsbody' ( British term? ) Shortened to 'Dogs' and changed to Mad-dogs by members of the SAS apparently. I had no fear ( or very little ) and used to defy death for amusement. Trying to break my neck seeing how fast I could ride down the Pass on my push bike - no brakes, jumping across gaps high above the ground, climbing alone or wandering the back garden of Snowdon alone in all weathers, day or night. Still go up the mountains at night even now.
Other Dogs - Jim Dog ( Jim Perrin ) stayed at the Cromlech Club hut and was let down by Dave ( what's that smell of burning flesh ) Matthews. Jim woke up in the Cromlech hut one morning and found a playing card by his bed. Turned out to be the Queen of spades - a bad omen. Later in that day he did a monster in front of Joe Brown. A great embarrassment to him. He fell off while climbing the Fang at Tremadog and Dave ( hot hands ) Matthews did not hold the rope too well - it severely burned his hands and Jim plummeted, stopping somewhat close to the ground. Jim now lives in Wales, writes books, article and appears sometimes on the local TV station.
Dog-Ears Dave. Another David. He was from Manchester and used to stay at the Cromlech Hut. A hard looking, tough climber - last seen holding his girlfriends little dog outside the Nant Peris post office looking very sweet and embarrassed! ( Sorry Dog-Ears - couldn't resist putting the bit about the pup in! )
Mike Spring was nicknamed 'Percy' because of his posh accent.
Dave Ruby was called 'Claudybauld' at a later date because of his even posher accent!
Big Dave was BIG and hard as nails. It took six large policemen to arrest him in Bethesda. He annihilated a huge slob in the pub in Tremadog only to be ejected by a four foot tall,weed of an old lady! The twenty stone plus ( 280 pounds plus ) blob having to be carried out by half a dozen locals. The cafe over the road from the pub was called 'Busties' because the girl behind the counter had a chest that stuck out as far as her beehive hairstyle stuck up! Wish I'd been as interested in photography then!!!
Dave was at heart a really decent person. His life was destroyed by his parents divorce and an abusive stepfather. One Friday Dave and I were sat below Dinas Cromlech. Climbers were walking under the cliff holding their guidebook, looking up at the cliff and discussing which route to do. Several parties mentioned Holly Buttress. Climb the Holly tree before leaping onto rock... "I wonder what it would be like without the tree" many commented! I had heard this statement on many occasions. That day, Dave and I looked at each other and without saying a word, knew what was in store. At dusk we made our way up the treacherous Cromlech screes with saw and axe. One held the torch while the other climbed up and hacked and sawed away. It was hard work. Many Friday night arrivals shouted up from the road asking if we wanted rescuing - we declined their offers of help and continued. Eventually, we decided to tie Big Daves waistline ( 20 foot of hemp rope that was wound several times around the waist rather than tie the climbing rope directly around the waist. ) to a branch of the tree to pull it down. Duly tied to the tree, Big Dave decided he could not afford to lose his waistline so he tied the other end to a rock. Much hacking and sawing later we decided it was time to become bellringers - so we both pulled on the rope. Creak; followed by the tree lurching out like a rocket propelled though the quiet night air. Twang, snap, "bastard!" just before the tree hit the scree. Daves precious waistline had snapped. The next day Dave and I went up to climb Holly(less ) Buttress, although we never claimed the first ascent because all the "wonderers" had changed their minds and decided they prefered the tree in situ. Just can't please some people!
Brian Son of a Goat, unable to 'fester' during bad weather, took me for a walk over Snowdon in rather atrocious conditions. A mountaineer of several years experience in the UK and Alps could not keep up with me and told everyone back at Cwm y Wrach that I must be the son of a goat. Festering is the art of sitting down drinking coffee / tea ( and smoking - something I hate ) all day without feeling guilty. Doing absolutely nothing and feeling at one with laziness'. Inner peace combined with outer inactivity!
I drifted in and out of festering when I could be bothered!
Benji Winteringham turned up in Llanberis around 1963 with Roderick. Within a week of climbing, Roderick was leading the hardest climbs in the Pass until he fell off trying to put a new route up on Clogwyn y Grochan. He was kept in hospital overnight and gave up climbing. On the way to hospital both Roderick and my mother were making signs and pulling faces at passers by, believing the glass to be one way. When they reached Bangor and were able to look through the clear glass back into the meatwagon, they knew different.
An Irish woman called Anthea turned up in the Pass and was a very good climber - seem to remember her climbing with Benji and giving him a hard time. Her boyfriend could not climb as good as she could and was glad of the rest when someone from our crowd climbed with her.
'Urtling Fred was actually Derek John Davies, a yokel from 'ereford ( Hereford ). He 'urtled 'round corners in his Ford popular, 'urtled to the pub in the evening, 'urtled to Wendy's cafe in the morning for breakfast and socialising before 'urtling up the Pass. I bumped into Fred 6-0-clock one morning when I hitchhiked down to the barracks at 'ereford. Hitchhiking was not too successful the preceding Sunday night. Stu' had to be back in Hereford ready for morning parade so I let him hitch in front of me. I spent most of the night walking down the A49 - and bumped into Fred on his way to work Monday morning. Like Batman, Fred never came to Wales without his climbing partner Robin (?).
John ( Yoho ) Harwood who came to Cwm y Wrach from staying in Youth Hostels ( YHA - Yoho's )
George Homer came down to Llanberis from Liverpool.
from Ginger Cain:
George went to live in Canada and became
of the pioneers of the new ice climbs there. I visited him in Golden,BC
about 7 years ago and the following year he was killed along with his
daughter in a helicopter crash. His wife Dorothy still lives in Golden
with their little boy Dylan.
Don Cowans - John Harwood and I climbed N'Gombo with Don.
Chris and Les Boulton lived in a deserted sheep barn down by Llyn Peris next to the house ( now both demolished ) which Pete Crew owned.
Dave Yyyyates who probably moved to Wales before me was working down Nant Gwynnant and used to drink in the Pen y Gwryd.
Mike Peters and Danny Murphy ( great guy ) took Welsh rock climbing by storm. Legends in Wales and Derbyshire. Danny Murphy was a good friend, one of the greatest men I knew - he committed suicide over a woman in Salford in the mid sixties. A great loss. Danny is famous among other things for the photo of him on Quietus, Stannage, climbing horizontally out to the lip of the overhang.
Phil ( Jesus ) Bagnall, whose appearance with long tightly curled hair and big beard which earned him his nickname. One of the most laid back and humorous people I met. I saw him in Wales a few years back and apart from missing a few curls, he has not changed much at all over the years.
John Lucas lived in the Cromlech Club hut and worked at Criccieth and Bangor. He had a black Morris 1000 van(s) similar to Joe Brown's green one. John was a brilliant driver and his van was seen sideways exiting many corners. In fact, exiting one corner outside Beddgelert and on the way to Tremadog, there is a farm on the corner just before entering the Aberglaslyn Pass. Bob Beasley and I were most amused to see the local farmers feet sticking up briefly above the wall. The farmer saw this black Morris van sideways in the road pointing at him, but under John's total control and dived headfirst over the wall - his wellingtons barely keeping flight with him.
Ali Coburn was a member of the Cromlech Club and was on the first ascent of Winking Crack on Craig Gogarth with Joe Brown. Various other members such as Stu, Barry and Roger who used to travel down from Liverpool on their motorbikes which were always in need of maintenance. One trip back from Wales without lights on their bike ( Vincent 1000 ), Barry the pillion was holding a hand torch which he shone on the road ahead and into the corners. At Ewloe, he spotted a woman in a bus stop and shone the torch on her. Seconds later the pair were sitting on the grass of Ewloe roundabout.
Julie (?) and Jansis Baldock were two women climbers of repute. Julie climbed Tensor and Vector with Joe Brown for the TV.
Tom Hurley, an absolute nutter, a rare character and great man used to drive in a similar manner to John. Tom lived in Warrington, near to where I now live. I first saw him by the Cromlech Boulders, two enormous boulders lying beside the road, in 1962, stark naked in the p'ing rain, getting changed in the middle of the road! He used to race motorbikes in the Isle of Man TT, hang glide, ski and eventually was killed in the Alps when climbing with Ian ( from Lancashire ). He walked along a ledge to go to the toilet and slipped. I believe they have now found his body.
Thanks to one of Toms' childhood friends for the following e-mail - sums him up pretty well!
Just read your account re Tom Hurley. I knew Tom from childhood in Widnes (once in Lancashire but now in Cheshire). He was always a madcap but absolutely delightful to know. He was an only child and I also knew his parents. From what I remember they must have been middle aged when he was born. His father had a bike shop where he sold and repaired bicycles. Also he rode an ancient motorcycle and sidecar - perhaps that's where Tom got his love of speed from. From early childhood Tom was obsessed with anything that was propelled forward at maximum speed. He belonged to the local ATC 310 Squadron when he was a teenager and "attacked" that with the same verve. I was only very young (about 12 years old) when Tom offered to let me have a ride on his motorcycle - from memory an old Norton ES2 (?). Being a weakly girl I couldn't kick up the machine so Tom willingly obliged. He told me how to hold in the clutch lever and then gently (?) put the machine into gear using my toes. That was all very well - I took off at a great rate of knots - faster that the wind I thought. This was most enjoyable until I discovered I didn't know how to stop. The following scene wouldn't have been out of place in a silent comedy - only we had sound - at enormous decibels. As I flew in ever exaggerated figures, from circles to squares to star shapes, desperately panicking as I had visions that I would spend my entire life hurtling around an ATC compound a la Flying Dutchman. Tom was hysterical in case his precious machine was damaged as he screamed instructions on my already deaf ears, hastily followed by the rest of the ATC squad thoroughly enjoying the spectacle. The whole scene ended when I hit the fence. I could go on and on about Tom's exploits re sandracing, driving a van with no windows, no driver's seat etc as he set off to a motorcycle race meeting in the north east of England (it didn't dawn on his that as well as an unworthy road vehicle he also should have an a licence). I was deeply saddened to hear of his death in the Alps but thing of him often. Sometimes people are put on this earth to enrich life. For me Tom was one of those. God bless him I think of him often. Incidentally, I now live in Melbourne Australia and spend my time as a presenter of a UK format radio programme.
My husband Bill - also from Widnes - knew Tom quite well. As a matter of fact Tom once arrived at our home very early in the morning driving a very delapidated van - no windows, no seats, no belts etc. He wanted Bill to drive it to Newcastle upon Tyne. I was very surprised to see him, never having seen him behind the wheel before. "How long have you been driving, Tom" I asked. "About 10 minutes" said Tom. Fearless to the end. Nuff said.
Very best wishes. Ellice Viggers (formerly Tobin) of Widnes.
Tom once fell down a crevasse in the Alps and was rescued by an American who in turn fell into the crevasse while getting Tom out. The American had to be rescued by the Mountain Rescue Team. Tom was not insured and would have had to pay a large FF ( French francs ) sum to be rescued! At Phil Burkes party in Buxton, Tom was stood in the hall grabbing peoples food as they walked by. Ron Fawcett looked most suprised as his piece of cake was removed from his plate and returned with a large chunk missing, Toms teeth marks in the remaining morsels!
The Cromlech Boulders have several places underneath which are suitable for bivouacking in, or as in the case of Denny Moorehouse who started up Clog Climbing Equipment and DMM, for living in or under! Denny lived under the Cromlech Boulders and occasionally The Slot under Dinas Mot for several months at a time enabling him to live cheaply and climb every day. Much of his evenings spent sewing his dilapidated boots together with bits of wire!
On my way to school ( urgghhhh as Bart Simpson says! ) one morning from Blaen y Nant I noticed a strip of green canvas barely off the ground by Clogwyn y Grochan ( Cliff of the Cauldron [ also known as Cliff of the Goats] ).
That evening coming home from school I dashed in with tales of this canvas coffin held down by tent pegs and we all went down to inspect this tent. The proud owner had designed this tent, not for luxury, but for basic needs - him, sleeping bag and rucksack. That is how Canvas Coffin got his nickname. He later died falling into a crevasse in the Alps - but still remembered as the character who enriched my life.
The bus passed Blaen y Nant on Mondays and Wednesdays on its way between Caernarfon and Llanrwst. You missed the bus, you walked or waited a few days. It was nothing to walk over to Capel Curig to buy climbing equipment from Arvons or Brennands or even just to chat to Nobby Clarke who was the quiet unassuming shopkeeper in Brennands. Nobby Clarke was a member of the SAS during the war but was so quiet and unassuming you would never have known unless you were told.
A trip round to Ogwen meant either walking or hitch hiking. One of the great characters to be found at Ogwen was 'Bilko', who apart from looking like Bilko, acted in a naturally similar fashion and much more besides. He entertained many people with his jokes and stories. Asked how he broke his leg on The Ordinary Route on Idwal Slabs, one of the easiest climbs in Wales on gently sloping rock and used as an easy way down, he would tell of a young lady spread-eagled on the crux of Hope. The young chap sat on the ledge below was rather fed up waiting for her to move so Bilko suggested in sign language that he sneak up underneath her and give her a slight prod with his social finger. Unexpectedly, the young man did this deed, the woman moved up rapidly and Bilko fell off laughing.
One night in the Pen y Gwryd there was an attractive young lady ( Liz ) from Manchester wearing a lowish cut blouse with ample cleavage on view. One of the SAS climbers disappeared unnoticed and returned after his 'ops', still unnoticed until the young lady leapt up out of her seat with a tremendous squeal - not of delight! Paddy had visited Major Lockwoods lake over the road and rescued the frog Prince and inserted the slimy beast into her cleavage. Do this nowadays and he would be charged and locked up as a man in modern society. In those days even the young lady laughed and joined in the fun. The frog never turned into a Prince and I believe it refused to wash ever again!! I beleive that Paddy and Liz still communicate after all this time.
Humphries Barn, Gwastadnant, Nant Peris was where some people stayed either in the barn or in the rented caravan in the camping field. Ray Philips from Cardiff and Phil Kershaw from Oldham used to live in the caravan. Phil later marrying the local beauty, Wendy, and moving into Llanberis ( Water Street )
Alan McHardy fell off Carreg Wasted and suffered severe head injuries around 1964.
Geoff Birtles strayed from Derbyshire and visited Cwm y Wrach occasionally as did Bob Dearman.
Lew Brown a tall wiry southerner appeared in the early 60's and last time I met him he was living in Liverpool. I used to climb with Lew on Helsby, Cheshire in the late sixties.
Leo Dickinson turned up in his mothers Morris 1000 and stayed at The Vagabonds hut above Nant Peris with Ron, Brian Molyneux, Billie McGrath, Mike Jones, Pete Minks, Mike Parr and 'Wagstaff'. Leo supplied the climbing magazines with many images of the local climbers. Barnie, Black Ron, Clive Powell, Al Rouse ( died on K2 ), Pete Whitehead, Eddie Plum, Chang and his 'Changmobile' - held together with chewing gum,Rick Knight, Keith Riley, Mo Fletcher, Jeff Tabner Al Day, John and Rick Fairfax, Andy (?) from the Wirral, Ringo, Illie, Pedro, Bearded Bill and his brother Quilp were many of the climbers from the Vagabonds and Tyn Lon ( By the Road ) huts / clubs that used to drink in The Vaynol. Bearded Bill eventually moved to Llanberis from Liverpool. Alan Rouse escaped the sandstone of the Wirral to climb in the Llanberis area, doing many notable ascents on Cloggy - quite often solo. He appeared in many climbing magazine adverts, advertising clothing such as ' Thinsulate ' garments. Alan died on K2.
Graham, Bernie and John Kift visited from Wigan and during Prince Charles Investiture at Caernarfon Castle, we borrowed several flags and bunting and decorated parts of Craig Gogarth for the celebration!
Arthur Dekoozle! Dirty Arther. Died in the Alps with Rick from Llanarmon yn Ial when they were struck by lightening. There just is not enough room on the internet to describe Arther. A real effervescent character - life and soul of where ever he went.
Al Corderoy and Terric Clare appeared on the scene, terric eventually moving into the area in the late 60's.
Cliff Phillips visitted Llanberis regularly and eventually moved into the area. Cliff was well known among the climbers for his soloing exploits. He fell a great distance while solo climbing Black Foot on Dinas Mot, crawled down the scree to his van and drove himself to hospital in Bangor.
Taff Price visited Llanberis from Cardiff and was involved with Rocksport Magazine. During the seventies I saw his picture on the front cover of Sea Angler. The boat that Taff had gone sea fishing on had overturned trying to enter the harbour and Taff was drowned.
Phil Bliss used to visit us at Tan y Dderwen. Mother married Ynys, a lost soul who turned up at Blaen y Nant and was supposed to meet someone at Ynys Ettws - hence Ynys. He climbed on the rock of Gibraltar with Tony Marsden putting up many new routes.
Pen y Pass hotel was run by Commander O'Rourke and his wife. Steve ( with the motorbike ) and Tony worked behind the bar, climbed and lived in the cottages on the South side of the hotel. Scene of many parties. The Seven Brides of Fu Manchu was filmed on location by Pen y Pass, Ken Farr ( who joined the REME ), Steve and Tony being involved as extras. They cut the bit where Tony tripped up in front of the camera.
Eric Landy climbed with me when he came down from Manchester. Rob Holt and Gordon from Oldham. John Taylor from Exeter.
Richard (?) worked in the Pen y Gwryd along with the fat obnoxious manager whose name I forget. He wasn't that bad really and I will replace the fat and obnoxious with his name when I can remember it ( Harper - Sid Harper, I remember now! ). Richard did the first ascent of Spook on Carreg Hylldrem ( The Ugly Crag ).
During the mid sixties, a crowd from Bolton appeared on the scene led by Hank, Janquin Pascall, who was responsible for much of the development in Wilton. Jim Fogg, Denbo and Penk ( Graham Penketh ) were part of the Bolton crowd. Hank was a brilliant climber, Penk was a good friend. A cockney called 'Lob the Gob' was adopted by the Bolton crowd - he was a louder version of Mick Jagger.Ray Evans cycled down from Bolton to live in Llanberis.
One day under Tremadog rocks ( Bwlch y Moch ), John Victory was climbing with Jeff Harding and Chris Hughes. John Victory pulled his handkerchief out of his pocket and we were showered by the coinage from John's pocket. All people could see were Penk's and my feet stuck out of cracks and brambles as we searched for the buried treasure and we enjoyed several free pints in the Tremadog pub before John got to the top. When I moved to Runcorn, I found I lived about a hundred yards from John. Never did get his money back.
Another time when the Bolton boys and Lob the Gob were staying at the barn under Bwlch y Moch on a quiet ( pubs closed on Sundays ) Sunday night we decided to make a dummy ( guy ) with some old clothes and some old hay from the barn. The idea was to throw this off the cliff the following day accompanied with a loud scream for the benefit of the tourists. Waiting at the bottom of the cliff, I was going to switch clothes and emerge from the woods onto the road dusting off my shoulders to the astonishment of the tourists. When complete, we thought we would test the dummy by lying it in the gutter outside and seeing if a car would stop. Headlights appeared; we jumped over the wall; "It's a *** fire engine " someone shouted and there was a mad rush into the darkened barn, everyone diving into the first sleeping bag the came across and feign z's ( sleep ). All except Lob the Gob of course who could not find a sleeping bag without a body already in it. As there was only one woman in the barn, the odds of him pretenting to be a hot blooded male were slim toooo! The engine skidded to a halt, much muttering of mother tongue ( Cymraeg - Welsh ) and the door to the barn burst open and the firemen entered to find a barn full of snoring climbers and Lob the Gob in bright yellow anorak trying to cover himself in straw. After the lecture they took Mo's best trousers, Lob's red neckerchief ( the hair ) and the straw filling off to Portmadog fire station.
When I lived in Blaen y Nant the stream beds were coloured by the varied colour of the stones, their textures and shapes, fish swimming in the river beyond Pont Cromlech and into many of the small tributaries off the main stream. Today the rivers are virtually barren of life and the riverbeds are green or brown, the colourful stones being covered in algae. The water bailiff netted and milked a thirty two pound salmon in the river below Blaen y Nant. How do I know? Because I discovered a salmon in a pool below the house and within ten minutes a salmon between two and three feet long was lying on the slate in the kitchen. As I laid it down, hundreds of pink eggs spurted out on the floor. I scooped these up and dumped them in the river beside the house in the hope that they would hatch. While I was in the kitchen, mother walked in through the front door with the bailiff who had been kind enough to give her a lift home as it was not a Wednesday or Saturday - no buses. As the water pipe from the stream was blocked as per usual, she went out to the stream to fill the kettle, noticing the pink eggs on the riverbed she came in and told the bailiff who went to inspect them. They returned, the bailiff sat down while mother came into the kitchen. Not too far from a heart attack at seeing what was on the slate in the kitchen she hurriedly made the tea and exited the kitchen. I sat and listened to the bailiff telling her all the devious ways poachers catch salmon. Just how much information can be crammed into a teenagers head in such a short time? Murgy boiled the salmon and we all had two inch thick salmon sandwiches for tea. Several visitors to Blaen y Nant joined in with collecting the occasional fish or two. Send a cheque in the post or I shall name names!!
Nowadays I would much prefer to see the salmon swimming in the river than to remove them. Times were hard, money scarce and food was food. We existed on very little money and food left by the weekend visitors.
My only similarity to other boys of my age was the reaction to soap and water. Blaen y Nant had infrequent running water and I used to wash year round in the numbingly cold stream beside the house. Believe it or not, it is quite refreshing and ... and... and er, enjoyable when you get used to it. Mother decided that we needed a tin bath, so she and Ynys went into Caernarfon on the morning bus. About eleven -o-clock the next morning they turned up with a tin bath on their heads having been barred from using Crossville buses as a bath transporter, nobody would stop to pick up an upturned bath in the rain with two thumbs stuck out hitch hiking - so they walked and bivied overnight under the bath in the pouring rain.
I was left very much to my own devices from about twelve / thirteen onwards. With the new tin bath, my devices were more and more further from home!
The Special Air Services - 22 Squadron
My mother was a member of the SIB during the war. She met some soldiers who were climbing in the Pass one fine day, got talking to them about her army days and invited them up to Blaen y Nant. A couple of Landrovers with yellow disks on the front were parked outside. They were part of 'A' Squadron climbing troop and I was invited to help train their members as an experienced climber.
I travelled to various climbing areas with them, often hitch-hiking down to Bradbury Lines. I started off with one troop in Wales and Cornwall. On returning to Hereford from Cornwall I was informed by members of the other troop returning from Wales, that I was to go home as mother had got me a job in the Forestry Commission in Lochgoilhead for the rest of the school holidays. I headed off back to Cornwall followed by Priddy ( Bristol ) the following week.
At fifteen years old, I thought these were just normal soldiers and actually thought them 'wimpish' for being in the army and being ordered about. One of the members was shot and badly wounded in Borneo I believe and refused to call for immediate assistance in case he brought his rescuers into danger. I don't remember ' Geordie' being very comfortable with rock climbing, but his actions in Borneo shows what they were really like. Shep had a scar running nearly the whole length of his back. Lofty and Jock taught me to play chess. Taff the Rope promised me a Kukri - for which I am still waiting!
During one trip to Bosigran in Cornwall, I taught them how to do a classic abseil. This is done by stepping astride the rope, bringing it around the back of the right leg, across the chest and over the left shoulder to be held by the right hand. The left hand holding the rope in front. I abseilled over an overhang and was hanging in space on a double hemp rope that was so stiff, you had to lift the rope over your shoulder in order to descend. It is the most painful way of abseiling and not recommended except in emergency. I remember the look on Jocks face as he looked up - classic abseiling was above and beyond the call of duty!
Later on in life I realised what these soldier are, have the utmost respect for them and have an immense pride with being involved with them, even in such a small way. I was offered the chance to visit the Rockies with them but mother insisted that I should take my 'O' levels instead. I often wonder how my path through life would have been different had I gone to the Rockies instead of 'O' levels and a life in a health destroyng chemical industry.
We were offered Tan y Dderwen for 600 UKpounds , but due to my mother being ill and lack of money, we declined the offer only to find it was sold for 4,000 at auction a month after we left Wales.
The Vaynol Sell-off
Thanks to Ginger Cain for the following:
You could mention the big
Vaynol Estate sale which I think was in 67 or
68 when a lot of us were able to buy our squats at knockdown prices.
Some of the lucky buyers then were myself, Pat & Baz Ingle, Terry
Taylor, Al Harris , Geoff and Brede Arkless. Some of the unlucky ones
who bought ruins and then found they couldn't get planning permission
were George Homer, Derek Price and Mac Mc Naught-Davies. Also unlucky
was Crew who bought Hafodty, the big Quarry managers house in Dinorwic
and then couldn't afford the repairs for the dry rot in it.
There were others also like Cliff Phillips, Chris and Les Boulton, Gerry
Rogan and drifters who worked or skived on others' properties and we all
became known collectively as the Deiniolen Dole Team.
Others got good jobs at outdoor centres like Og. Cot and PyB, Davie
Jones and Dave Alcock did that and were able to move to posher cottages.