Mabel Rogers (nee Jones)

THE crowd outside the Police Station in Chester Street, Mold grew and grew.

 

Word had gone around town like wildfire that a German prisoner-of-war had been caught and was being guarded by constables inside.

A young, excited schoolgirl, Mabel Jones, was among the crowd and, although she never got to see the prisoner-of-war, she was to regret joining the heaving throng outside the police station that day.

Mabel, now 84, said: I got in the middle of this huge crowd and everyone was jostling trying to catch a glimpse of this poor German who had been captured.

The problem was I had my pumps, which I wore for PE at school, in my bag and somehow lost one. I got into terrible trouble with my parents when I had to confess I had lost one of my pumps!

The trouble was money was tight in the war years and we didnt have a great deal to begin with so my parents couldnt really afford to replace my lost pumps.

Mabel Jones was born in 1927 the daughter of Alun Jones, who worked as a boiler man in the Gwath Mari coal mine at Nercwys, and Blodwyn Rowlands, a Llanferres school teacher.

The family lived at 3 Tai Gwynion, a row of now demolished cottages close to the junction of the Glyndwr Road and the main road through the Gwernymynydd.

Mabel says her friend, Daisy Millington, lived at 2 Tai Gwynion and was fortunate to have running water while the Jones family had to share one stand pipe with their neighbours who lived at 4 and 5 Tai Gwynion.

She said: It was tough in some ways but they were the happiest days of our lives in truth. I had my two sisters, Margaret Elizabeth, who was always known as Betty, and Doreen. I also had a brother, Arthur Ivor, who has now died. He worked at De Havilland.

Betty went into service at Fron Hall after she finished school and eventually became a nurse at the age of 19. Doreen married her boss who was with the Forestry Commission. He worked at Clocaenog and also planted many of the trees on Moel Famau. Doreen, and her husband, eventually emigrated to Vancouver, Canada.

But life in Gwernymynydd before World War 2 was very different than today according to Mabel.

She said: We didnt get electricity at Tai Gwynion until 1955 when my husband wired the cottages. I remember my mother switching the light on and off like a toy when we first had it.

We used paraffin lamps and I had to go and buy the paraffin from Simon Griffiths little shop just down from the Rainbow. I was buying paraffin when Si, as we called him, collapsed in front of me.

“He always wore stiff starched collars and I couldnt get it undone. I ran to fetch my father but it was too late, Si had passed away.

We didnt have toilets as such, just an outdoor building with what was basically a bucket under a wooden seat. A man who lived down by the school came at night with the soil cart, which was pulled by a horse, and he had the job of emptying the buckets throughout the village.

Like all children growing up in Gwernymynydd Mabel attended the village school, just past the Swan, which is now a private house.

Mabel said: It was cold in winter and we only had a coke boiler to heat the whole school. We used to walk down the hill to school but if it was raining Tom Jones, who ran the garage which is now Eagles and Crawfords coach depot, would come down in a car to pick us up.

The head teacher was called Albert Hughes and he came from Rhydymwyn. He was strict but a good teacher. He had a black book and he put your name in it if you did something naughty. Have your name taken more than once and you were caned.

I got caught copying once and he took my name and gave me a real telling off, I was shaking with fear. The other teachers were Irene Woodward, who was from Mold, and Miss Eva Freda Jones who also lived in Mold and had a sister called Mabel.

Carefree summer holidays were spent playing in and around the village according to Mabel.

She said: “We used to spend hours at a place we called the Lot, which was basically a big field at the back of Simon’s shop. We’d play kick the can, rounders, hide and seek and other games. There was always a big gang of us.

“And at the quarry, at the back of the garage, the workers used to come on bikes and leave them all day by the shed that is still standing there today. In the winter months a worker was sent down to light all the carbon lights on the front of the bikes so the workers could ride home. The trouble was we kids used to go and blow them all out.”

Mabel remembers wagons belonging to the Griffiths brothers that would come and collect the silica stone quarried behind the garage.

She said: “It was transported to Port Sunlight where it was used in the manufacture of soap products. The boss of the quarry was a really tall man called Mr Boneywell.

“I also remember that by the garage a Carrie Davies lived in a cottage, I think one of the cottages that is still there today. The problem was drainage wasn’t so good then and her cottage was forever flooding when it rained hard.

“There were also a couple of cottages on what is now the Rainbow car park. The Rainbow licensee was a Mr Houghlin who had a big parrot, a huge bird that would talk to us.”

Of course, like every other village, town and city life changed for residents of Gwernymynydd once World War Two got underway.

Mabel said: “I was just 11 when war was declared. I’d been to chapel in Mold and walked my friend home. I was told we were now at war and remember running home up the hill toward Gwernymynydd convinced the Germans were right behind me!

“We could see the barrage balloons over the Wirral and the search lights in the skies above Liverpool. You wouldn’t believe how bright those search lights were. Dad worked at Colomendy Camp during the war. There were loads of evacuees there who came to our church hall for services.

“Dad always told mum, if she heard the sirens, to bring the children to the camp so at least, if we had to die, we’d die together. You could hear the German bombers overhead on their way to Liverpool. In fact a German bomber did crash in the area but I can’t remember where.

“And a German bomb was dropped near Nercwys. I remember hearing the whistling sound it made as it came down. It was about that time that I got stuck in the crowd outside the police station in Mold and lost my pumps!”

Mabel added: “I used to deliver the Liverpool Echo for a bit of extra pocket money. The Echo was quite popular then and I remember I had to deliver it to a Mr Gaunt who lived right at the top of the Glyndwr Road.

“And of course as the war progressed we had Italian prisoners-of war working in the village. They used to make baskets out of twigs and hand them out as presents. I was one of the few not to be given one.

“The problem was my dad was really strict and we were never allowed, as teenagers, to talk to them. Sometimes we’d see them when we were waiting for the bus.. They did farm work.”

Mabel left school at 14, which was normal then, and began work in Mold at a corn merchants.

She said: “It was run by a John Williams and was at the top end of Mold near to where Bargain Booze is now. As teenagers we used to come down to Mold in a big gang on a Saturday afternoon or Monday evening for the Savoy Cinema. I always used to try and get the front row seats.

“And we used to go into Chester to the River Park Ballroom. The problem was we had to leave at 10.15pm to get the last bus back to Mold. The fare was one shilling and seven pence. It was great and we’d meet American soldiers, not that we ever told my father as he would never have approved.”

But it wasn’t to be an American soldier that stole Mabel’s heart but a local British Tommy.

Mabel said: “I met my husband, Andy Rogers, in 1948 he’d been in the army right through the war. In fact he was first in and last out as he always said. He was a Desert Rat and fought at El Alamein.

“He had terrible scars on his back from shrapnel wounds but he never got a penny in compensation or any sort of pension for his injuries. He would never talk about what he did in the war but I knew he had fought hard and seen a lot of action.”

After the war ended Andy returned to work as a lorry driver and the couple were married in the chapel close to Tai Gwynion which is now a private house.

Mabel said: Andy was from Treuddyn but we rented a little place called Horseshoe Cottage more or less across from the Rainbow. It was cold and damp and, at £6 a week, very expensive. It was owned by a woman who lived in Birkenhead.

“We eventually moved to Nercwys in 1957 and I have lived here ever since. Andy and I had one son, Graham, who attended Mold Alun High School and went on to become a geologist. Graham is now 55 and working in Kazakhstan.

“He calls me every week and always has ever since my Andy died four years ago. I am extremely proud of Graham and very proud to have had a husband like Andy. Everyone in the area knew Andy and he was so well liked. Nercwys Church, for his funeral, was packed to the rafters.”

Mabel has remained living in Nercwys and is still in contact with Daisy Millington, now Lauver, who she grew up alongside in Tai Gwynion.

Mabel said: I have such fond memories of Gwernymynydd it was such a lovely place to grow up and very different than today. Although Daisy now lives in Arizona we still speak on the telephone quite often and will always keep in touch.

“I remember I used to love going to the Beehive Shop which was down more or less opposite the school, just past the Swan Inn, and of course Mrs Grindley’s little shop, which was a bit further up the hill.

“And, I remember all the men used to gather in the cobblers hut which was more or less opposite where the war memorial used to be as you go up Gwernymynydd hill.

 The cobbler was John Pryce Jones, who himself had a club foot, and the men used to meet in his hut to play cards. We would run past and sneak a look in to see what they were doing! They were such happy, innocent days.


Comments received: 

10/05/2012    In 1941 I was evacuated to Clocaenog and stayed with Mr. & Mrs. David Evans of Ty Capel. He was with the forestry and did a lot of planting  of conifers around there. The trees seem about 60ft. high now on the mountain. He may have known your friends husband ?

My g.g.grandad Peter Williams was born in Nercwys in 1802 and before the war we used to have holidays in an old caravan at the back of Fron Farm. The remains of the van are still there.

There was an Italian POW camp on the road from Clawddnewydd to Ruthin.

I enjoyed your article, thanks,

Alan Williams

willialan@tiscali.co.uk


 

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