Yorrie George – the Gwaun Valley postman
In 2012 I found an old photo in a book I bought from a local charity shop. It showed a smiling man in a peaked cap with a bag over his shoulder, and at the back was written simply ‘Postman 1916-1948. I asked local historian Roy Lewis if he knew who it might be and he straight away said “That’ll be Yorrie George, the Cwm Gwaun postman.” He also told me that Yorrie’s daughter, Yolanda, still lived at the family home on the quay in Lower Town. I wrote to her and arranged to pay a visit. The following is based on what she told me.
Yorrie (short for Yorath) was born in Fishguard in 1891. At the age of 14 he left school and went to sea. It was still the age of sail. He was twice shipwrecked, once off Cape Horn. In 1914, along with many of his contemporaries, he joined the army to fight in World War One. He was sent to France just in time for the Battle of Ypres. He was badly wounded and almost left behind at the triage station but luckily one of his comrades insisted “We must go back for Taff!”
Yorrie had lost his left arm and was invalided out. Nevertheless as soon as he recovered he joined the Post Office and was assigned to the Gwaun valley delivery round. For the next 32 years Yorrie walked 15 miles six days a week, calling at all the isolated farms and cottages tucked away in one of the most remote rural areas in Wales. With only the one arm, he carried all the mail in a bag slung over his shoulder but in the run-up to Christmas he would be festooned with parcels around his neck too. On the way back he emptied the post boxes and brought the letters back to the Post Office. He never missed a day whatever the weather even though in the 1920s he once got frostbite.
Yorrie liked a drink and at Hen Galan he would ‘test’ all the home brews on his round “and if it wasn’t good enough they’d have to make it again” said Yolanda. He also had a lovely singing voice, (tenor) and would perform with a mate who sang bass – and was minus a leg!
Yorrie was a wonderful father said Yolanda and looked after his children while his wife was in hospital. He would entertain them with stories about his shipwreck adventures. When the natives of Cape Horn became a bit threatening he said, he filled his mouth with paraffin and lit it to scare them. “You’re having us on!” said the kids. So he went out the back, took a mouthful of paraffin and (standing right there, Yolanda pointed) he did it again and set the curtains on fire! They always believed him after that.
After he retired someone arranged to interview Yorrie about his story but a few days before the planned visit he had a stroke and was left unable to speak. He died five years later.
Yorrie George: what a life, what a hero!