A Grand Spell of Sunshine - The Life and Legacy of Francis FrithA Grand Spell of Sunshine - The Life and Legacy of Francis Frith

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Wartime Evacuation In 1944

A Memory of Tairgwaith.

I was placed in an orphanage on 13th October 1943 together with my elder brother Brian.  My father had died on the infamous Siam (Thailand) Railway as a forced labour navvy. He was a regular soldier and had already been rescued from the beaches of Dunkirk - May 1940.  By early part of 1944 my younger brother Peter also joined us at Spurgeon's Orpanage a home for Mother or Fatherless Children - a home founded by Dr Charles Haddon Spurgeon in Victorian times he was an early prototype (and probably more generous) of Billy Graham.  We never saw each other during that time.

It was spring-time in 1944 that the decision was made to evacuate all the boys to South Wales and, I believe, all the girls to Yorkshire.  We set off during the afternoon for Reading where we stayed overnight in the local cattlemarket hall and next day caught a train to either Swansea or maybe Neath. I really do not know.  We were then taken by bus up the valley via Pontadawe to a place around Gwain-cae-Gurwen from where we were distributed amongst the good people from the area.  It was by now fairly late in the day and I was taken to an out of the way place call Tairgwaith.  My elder brother Brian was off with a local preacher to Brynamman and younger brother Peter to a Mrs Evans of Cwmgors.  

I went to stay at what was then the local Miners Welfare Club.  The people who were my guardians there were very kind to me and gave me a life I have always remembered.  I went to the local primary school along with other children from Spurgeons and to this day I have in my mind a picture of the school.  I wish there were real picture snapshots from those days.  I spent my 7th birthday at the Miners Welfare (I call it this because I know no better description).  Some while later, probably late 1944 or early 1945, the club steward or whatever his description was moved on with his wife and I had to move out.  I was taken by a Mrs. Williams who I believe lived in Brook Terrace.  The only way I can describe this is that it was on the lower end of the terrace going down the village in the direction of Gwain-Cae-Gurwen.  The place is so much like the picture I have seen on a web site which was Contributed by Mrs.Winifred Jean Chart of Alltwen, January 2004. ( http://www.tytwp.plus.com/Waun/Tairgwaith.html  )

I do not remember much from that time until we left the village of Tairgwaith and returned by train from Swansea to Reigate in Surrey. The Orphanage had become safe at the end of the war.

As recently as 1998 /9 I arrived outside the Welfare Club at the top of Tairgwaith.  I had previously sat outside with my family some 15 years or more before this, not having the courage to actually go inside.  This place at Tairgwaith had been MY HOME for several months in 1944 and will, I think,  always be my spiritual home.  I loved it there and have on occasion attempted to just turn up again.

On my arrival at the Club I entered and everyone present went silent at the sight of this stranger - it was late in the evening.  I hope that should I venture that way again before my dying day I shall feel more welcome.  I have had a heart attack this year and suffer other heart problems but my dearest wish will always be to visit Tairgwaith again.

If you have read this then all I can say is Thankyou ,Take Care and God Bless.

With thanks to Michael Lowdon for this memory of Tairgwaith

Added 04 August 2008


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