Anne Brooks was kind enough to share her evocative memories of childhood trips to Colbren to visit her grandparents.
“Sadly I have no first-hand memories of my Grandpa Jones. I only have a few photos and stories told by other family members. However I do have memories of Gran Jones and family visits to Coelbren.
She was a very strong independent lady who had had to grow up very quickly but she was very kind and generous. We always got a warm welcome and were very well fed by her! She took great interest in what all the grandchildren were up to. A good education was very important to her and she would ask how we were getting on at school and in exams. She was very strong and not afraid of hard work such as lifting heavy sacks or buckets of coal for the fire.
Gran Jones always wore a pinny and kept the house well stocked with fizzy pop and sweets when we were there. She was a great cook, making her meat patties and brawn as well as boiled fruitcake, welsh cakes, apple tart with cloves in and Christmas pudding with a silver sixpence or a threepenny bit in for the lucky finder!
When we visited as children we enjoyed playing in the boggy field the other side of her garden fence where, if I remember correctly, there were usually chickens running about! We would also visit the butchers shop and me and my brothers still remember the occasion when someone in the village saw us and delightedly shouted, “Oh there’s Sammy’s kids!”
My memories of Gran Jones’ house are linked to certain smells! Some of these are the smell of Wright’s coal tar soap, Jeyes fluid and coal fires as well as the smell of the geraniums on the living room window and the Brasso that we used to clean the brass plates, horse brasses and candle sticks!
I remember that although there was an indoor bathroom and toilet there was also an outdoor one. This one was very cold and the toilet paper was not the soft stuff on a roll that we have nowadays but hard little squares of paper that came in a little box!
During our visits to Coelbren we would always go to see aunts, uncles and cousins. As soon as we arrived, whatever the time of day and whatever they had been doing, the kettle would go on, they would boil up some eggs to make sandwiches and we would have a good catch up on family news. We never left without a 50p each! I also remember being taken to visit our Norton cousins on their farms nearby and to my Uncle Will and Auntie Mary’s farm at Pentwyn.
Every year just before Easter my dad would make the trip to Nantyffin to clean up his family gravestone and to put flowers on it ready for Easter Day. While he scrubbed the gravestones and tidies up the plot we would collect water for the flowers from a little stream near the chapel as well as exploring and finding the gravestones of other family members.
A more recent memory of visits to Coelbren and the surrounding area is of going to the Sgwd-yr-Eirawaterfall with my husband and young family and being surprised to find a karate ceremony or waterfall training happening! Boys and young men in karate gear were being encouraged to walk behind and under the falls before jumping into the water to great applause. It was most surreal sight in this beautiful location and my young children were fascinated. Thankfully they didn’t ask to join in!”
Top: Marguerite Norton who became Margaret (Maggie) Jones upon her marriage to Daniel Elfed Jones
Middle: Maggie Jones with Josh and George Long
Bottom: Maggie Jones in her back garden in Coelbren.