Atgofion bore oes yn Abergwaun / Memories of old Fishguard
An interview with Mr Denzil Watts on 14 – 3 – 2011 about the history of Fishguard. This is a translation of the interview which was conducted in Welsh.
Mr Watts was born in a house on the lower right hand side of the Wallis, 91 years ago. He recalls this area of Fishguard as being busy with many thriving businesses. A few doors up from his home, Mr Watts recalls that Shan used to run a drapery shop and would deliver goods locally using a pony and trap. Next door down from his home, Mr Watts recalls Mr William Patterson and his father ran a clog making business from a workshop in their back garden. They would receive a delivery of timber quite regularly and the young lads of Wallis would enjoy seeing the large tree trunks being unloaded from the horse drawn cart. Willie Patterson would saw the timber into smaller pieces and the lads would roll them down the bank, past the grazing horse, to the workshop. In this workshop, clogs were made for all the residents of the area.
The ‘popworks’ was a very busy location, with bottles being washed and carts moving back and for all day long. A narrow lane ran between the gardens and the fields in the ‘Parc – y – shwt’ area at this time. There was no talk of a ‘car park’ then!
Between the Watts household and Shan’s Drapery in the Wallis, was the home of the Power family. They ran a fish and chip establishment in the narrow part of Hamilton Street, (opposite Suzanne’s Hairdressers), Next door, at Sycamore House, the Symmonds family ran a Tearoom and Guest House. Where a Chinese Take Away has been in business for several years there used to be ‘Hamilton Bakery’ run by the Harries family. Next door, closer to the back entrance to the Market, were the premises of Mr F Male, baker. Many people would loiter here, swapping local news and stories, among them – Tom Furlong, local character. He lived in a zinc building, down ‘Magic Lane’, between the old ‘Decorating Centre’ and No 3 Main Street. His home was not a very comfortable abode. Local lads would annoy him by throwing stones onto the roof at odd times, creating a tremendous clatter. This would put old Tom in a terrible rage. At other times he would entertain the lads with stories of old Fishguard. He once tried his hand at making jelly, and asked Male the baker for instructions. Male suggested he should break the squares apart, pour on boiling water and bring the jelly to the bakehouse for an hour in the oven!
Two large wooden gates led into the back entrance of the market. A German gentleman called Reinhardt, (an ex P.O.W.) had the responsibility of opening and closing these daily. The slaughter house was positioned to the right hand side inside the gates. Each Sunday evening, the pens were full of animals, ready to be slaughtered on Monday morning. As a small lad, Mr Watts would be kept awake at night by the sound of them. The butchers name was Mr Len Davies.
Mr Watts remembers this area of the market complex being used as a boxing and wrestling venue. Certainly, William Garnon (Bulldog Bill) was responsible for arranging several bouts. Tommy Farr was among the competitors. The Temperance Hall was also used for a similar purpose at this time.
Another event that Mr Watts recalls vividly is the night when he awoke to see flames rising from the Cambrian Inn, near his home. He awoke his father, who ran to offer help, with many other locals, to quench the flames. Unfortunately two lives were lost in the fire – a young lad and his grandmother.
On October the 8th, annually, as part of Fishguard Fair, a horse fair was held at Cambrian Square, behind the market. Selling would start at about 6.30 or 7.30 and before the end of the evening, about 200 animals would have changed hands. All the activity was great entertainment for the Wallis children.
Mr Watts recalls two sisters called Dolly and Winnie Keytes living at the Wallis. Their father was a ticket collector for GWR at Goodwick. Every morning, he would walk to Fishguard Square, with every hair in it’s place, looking as smart as a king. The Wallis children would show him particular respect as they knew that his job involved his travelling to London and back. He would have a pint of beer in London, and another in the station opposite Swansea station. It was said that if Keytes had not finished his pint, the train would wait for him!
Mr Watts started school when he was about 5 years old. At the start, he was a pupil at the Council School, where Mr O D Jones was Headmaster. After the first week, ‘O D’ called at his home and stated that ‘Denzil bach’ had made a satisfactory beginning to his education, but that he was now required to attend for full weeks, not just the mornings. ‘O D’ left, and Denzil’s mother started to quiz the little boy. He had been from home each day during the previous week, but had obviously not been spending the afternoons at his desk. Where had he been? Well, it transpired that he had no liking for school in the afternoons, and had taken to wondering the paths and playing in the area known as ‘Plain Dealings’, overlooking Lower Town. This area, at the time, was far less wooded and quite different to it’s appearance today. So, young Denzil then decided that, if he really must spend whole days at school, he would rather attend the National School, near his home. Rees Bach was the headmaster. There were two young brothers, at the time, who never set foot in the school building, and only worked in the school garden, all year. Several children were educated in this way – no book work, just gardening.
Young Denzil would have his hair cut at the shop called ‘Morgan’s Shafo’, at the corner of Penslade. He was put to sit on a tall chair with a large white cloth wrapped tightly around his neck, covering all his clothes. On a Saturday morning, all the ‘old boys’ would collect at the shop to swap news and discuss matters of the day. It was not an uncommon occurrence for the lad in the tall chair to be seated for two hours, while more important discussions whizzed about his ears!
Further along the terrace at Penslade was the home of ‘Felix the Oil’. He would deliver oil in a horse and cart to all the local houses. Many people would retell the tale of when, on an icy winter day, Felix’ horse slid down the Slade hill on its backside while delivering oil. Similar to ‘Plain Dealings’, the Slade was largely clear of trees and scrub at the time, and all the paths to Lower Town or Saddle Point were well trodden. There was a blacksmith’s forge where the Medical Surgery stands today, and a farm where the Bettabuys car park is now. Mr Watts recalls the films at the Temperance Hall before the advent of the ‘Talkies’. The pianist who accompanied the old silent films was a daughter of the family who ran The Farmers Arms. He does not recall watching ‘Magic Lantern’ shows.
Mr Watts recalls the Church Hall as being a new building and it was much in demand for use by local societies. ‘Siop y Bobol’, run by William James and his family was at the top of magic Lane – where there was later ‘ The Decorating Centre’. This was a ladies outfitters, and the girls who worked at ‘Siop y Bobol’ were always keen to share a joke and to play tricks. They had a neat trick which meant that they always appeared smarter than other ladies at a wedding or funeral. A hat or bag which had been selected to complete an outfit was suspended in a paper bag, through a window at the back of the building, to the churchyard below. The bag was retrieved after work, the label removed, and the garment worn for the event. The next day, the price tag was reattached and replaced in the paper bag. The bag was lifted back through the window and the garment put back on display without any hint of it’s having been used!
Having left school, Mr Watts worked for two years at J J Morgan, Fishguard Saw Mills. Excellent carpenters were employed at those busy workshop. A Llanelli man, Trevor Evans was the foreman. Dannie Thomas from Lower Town was another of the employees. Mr Watts and the others had great fun in listening to these two pulling each others legs and generally entertaining the staff.
Mr Watts joined the RAF during WWII and he spent time as a P.O.W. He lost a brother in law during the war when Churchill ordered a raid on Nuremburg. Norton James was a brother to Mrs Orissa Watts, Denzil’s wife.
Mr Watts remembers well Mr Ron Thomas who wrote a very useful booklet on the history of Fishguard, called ‘Fishguard Reminiscences’. Ron had a brother called Jackie Thomas who was a chemist and had a dispensary between Bethel Chapel and the Temperance Hall.