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- 05 July 2005
At the tender age of eight, my husband, Ray, found himself suddenly precipitated from his home in a council house in Birkenhead into the depths of central Wales, where Welsh was the main language spoken.
He was first billeted in Machynlleth with an old bushy-bearded farmer, who reminded him of the biblical charachter Methuselah. He well remembered the bristly beard, because he had to kiss him good-night at bedtime! It turned out that 'Methuselah' supplemented his income by sheep-rustling (a common practise in those parts). On a dark evening he would take Ray out to the fields saying "Come on boy-o, you help round up them sheep and drive them into the back of the van".
When Ray's mum came to visit her darling boy she was very alarmed to hear of what he was up to and lost no time in getting the billeting officer to move him.
The second billet was in the small village of Cemmaes with a younger couple, Mr & Mrs Davis, who had one lad of their own a few years younger than Ray. This was an entirely Welsh speaking community where only the school Headmaster spoke any English. So there was nothing for it but for Ray to learn Welsh. He soon became the English prodigy who delighted the congregation in the Chapel by reciting the psalm in Welsh.
He felt so home-sick at times that he even contemplated jumping from the bridge onto a passing train, the only thing that held him back was that he didn't know which direction was 'home'.
Mr Davis did a little salmon poaching in the River Dovey, and used Ray as 'look out boy'. So if Ray saw Dai, his brother-in-law who was a game keeper on the river, coming along the tow path he was to give Mr Davis the 'whistle'. Immediately the fishing-rod was covered in the shingle and Mr. Davis would be sitting nonchalantly smoking his pipe. "Morning Dai, top of the morning to you" he would say, as his brother-in-law passed by.
One winter night the river was in full flood and next morning they found that the privy at the end of the garden was not there. It had been swept away down river. So Mr Davis had to tow it back behind his rowing boat. Such was life in rural Wales in those days.
When at last the worst of the bombing was over, Ray's mum came to fetch him home and was horrified to find her son was chattering away in Welsh and seemed to have forgotten his Englsh. She was so concerned that she took him to a child psycologist to sort him out!
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