Daniel Jones (1896-1954) & Marguerite Norton (1901-79), Coelbren
Daniel Jones (1896-1954) & Marguerite Norton (1901-79), Coelbren
Hugh Moelwyn Hughes
Daniel Elfed Jones was born on 21 September 1896, most probably at home at Coelbren House where his parents Daniel and Anne had lived and started their family since their marriage in 1886. Daniel was their fifth child, although only the third to survive infancy. Five more children would arrive, so Daniel could rightfully say he had a place firmly at the bosom or the heart of his family.
Above: the census image for 1901 shows Daniel & Anne Jones, and their four children at that time.
They are recorded at ‘Coelbren House (part of)’ as the main householder was Anne’s father, Richard Morgan and his wife Gwenllian, who are given a separate census entry. We do know that Coelbren House went through various forms of remodelling to accommodate separate families such as in this case, and even, for a period, separating and letting part of it for a doctor’s surgery.
The census gives Daniel’s age as 6, but it was probably still 5. What is much more interesting is that he is recorded as ‘Dannie’, and this remained so for the rest of his life. It could be said this simply reflects the well-known Welsh love of diminutives and nicknames, but there is probably more logic to it. Parents Daniel & Anne’s first son was named William after Daniel’s father; the second was Richard after Daniel’s grandfather. Third was Daniel/Dannie, named after his father Daniel himself, but very likely called Dannie early on precisely to distinguish him from his dad. Brothers William, Richard and John also went through life known by their diminutives - Will, Dick and Jack - but these terms never found their way on to official documents, only in Dannie’s case. As we sell see later, he may not always have been entirely happy about this version of his name as he signs many of his letters simply ‘Dan’.
By the time of the next census in 1911, Richard Morgan has died; however his widow Gwenllian will survive, remarkably, until 1918 and she is resident with Daniel & Anne Jones, who are now heads of the combined household at Coelbren House.
Dannie is recorded, correctly this time, as 15. This is a very interesting snapshot of this family as all the eight siblings who would survive into adulthood are shown together here in the same house, with their parents. Even though Coelbren House was a larger house than many, it still would have taken some conjuring to fit in two parents, a mother in law in her 80s, and eight sons and daughters ranging from 5 to 23. Needless to say, young Dannie is already recorded as a coal miner, as are his father and all brothers of age. They worked most likely in the Banwen (Onllwyn No. 3) colliery or the larger Onllwyn No. 1 pit.
Remorselessly, war’s tentacles reached up to the remote top of the Neath and Dulais valleys and took Daniel, his friends and cousins, as enlisted (volunteer) soldiers in the autumn of 1915. He was barely 19 years old, although of age to fight, and his extreme youth is apparent in the studio portrait that he, like hundreds of thousands of other young men had taken in the many photographic studios up and down the country, especially in places such as Winchester (near ports of embarkation), where Dannie was billeted prior to sailing from Southampton to France in December 2015. He was in very good time to take part in one of the bloodiest battles of them all - the Battle of the Somme, in the spring of 2016.
In the group portrait – taken at Cartwright Photographers, Ystradgynlais – we see Daniel Jones (left) with one of his many cousins, Jack Jeffreys, (centre), of the same age, who later became a local butcher. The identity of the third soldier is unknown (source: family photographs).
Dannie returned from the vast theatre of war to a much smaller world. In April 1917, the ever-observant Llais Lafur (“Labour Voice”) reported his welcome home (he wrote his last letter home from hospital in Willesden, London on 26 March 1917). The David Jones, Tonycastell, was his cousin (son of Richard Jones & Mary Benjamin). Most of the performers were family. Mary Ann Jeffreys in the next paragraph was one of his many cousins, but Daniel probably wouldn’t have been allowed in the Price’s Arms opposite his home (even if he were old enough). The new landlord, though, was another relation.
Dannie’s next official record concerns his marriage in 1924 to Marguerite Eva Norton. The couple married at Pontardawe, most probably at the register office. Marguerite’s family farmed at Coelbren and were also butchers but had come relatively recently to the village in a complex set of circumstances from Radnorshire and originally Norfolk. All of the couple’s married life was spent in Coelbren and they are recorded there on the 1939 register with two of their children and Marguerite’s mother, Annie Norton.
Like his father, Daniel before him, Dannie died as a result of a mining accident, in Dannie’s case aged only 58. He was in hospital and otherwise wheelchair-bound for a short period before his death.
Above right: Beryl Sullivan and Sam Jones tend Dannie and Marguerite Jones’ grave at Nantyffin. Anne Brooks remembers that…
“Unfortunately the flowers on the grave hide the dates on the grave stone and all you can see is Dannie's name. It was probably taken on one of the annual trips to wash and tidy up the gravestone and put flowers on it which the family did every year just before Easter. They were very keen that the grave looked good for Easter which I presume was a very traditional thing to do. I remember being taken several times to do this and fetching water for the flowers from a place near the chapel while [they] scrubbed the grave stone.”
All photos on this page family photographs and courtesy of A Brooks / G Jones. With thanks to A Brooks for much of the written content.
Above: Dannie Jones, 1915, aged 19.
Below: Marguerite Norton, his wife.
Above: Dannie, Marguerite and Samuel Jones, 1930s.
Dannie Jones and his daughter, Beryl
Dannie and his wife are buried at Nantyffin Chapel, Penycae
Above: burial of Dannie Jones, aged 58, 1954.
The wartime letters of Dannie Jones
Much of Dan’s correspondence to his parents, brothers and sisters survives: from his initial posting to Winchester in the Autumn of 1915, prior to embarkation to France where he remained until invalided back to a hospital in Willesden, London, in March 1917.