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16 October 2014

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By Jackie Davies
30 November 2007, South East Wales
A digital story from Rhondda Lives!

"Almost any smell will transport me back somewhere. I was looking at some television archive and all that I could see was a train with the smoke billowing from the funnel going across the screen, and straight away I could smell it. The smoke smell I was familiar with because I lived in Llwynypia and you had to cross over the railway line, you know, you could be walking over the bridge and the train would be going underneath and then you'd be enveloped then by all this sulphurous smoke which absolutely stank, but was kind of quite, I don't know, kind of quite magical in a way.

The stables used to be just on the left where they kept the horses from the colliery and that, and I could smell the straw and all the kind of horsy smells and things coming from there.

But when I was a child, these coal deliveries would come. Wherever you went there was always coal, and in fact I still bear the scars on my knee, not because I'd gone scrabbling through a mine but because I used to walk over a coal tip to get to my school, and I fell one day and I had a couple of bad cuts on my leg but I wouldn't allow my mother and father to clean them out properly. So now I've got blue scars on my left leg, which I've got to say I wear quite proudly despite the fact I only fell over. I wasn't earning a living or anything. But when you talk to old colliers, old miners, it wasn't each man for himself as it would be if a ship was going down, but it was each man for the next man, because every man had to look after his Butty, because from what I've seen, only from archive and listening to other people speaking, it was probably one of the most difficult jobs, certainly the dirtiest job that a human being has ever had to do. But I think because they worked in such difficult circumstances, the closeness that they had with one another down there, because they were closer than brothers really. I myself, one of the saddest things I ever seen on television was the men in Maerdy marching back to work, because I just thought it was so sad, it was just so sad, it was like as if they were beaten. That part of the whole background to the mining industry I loathe.

I don't miss the coal or the mining time. What I do miss is seeing people going to work in the numbers that they used to go, it's very sad because it was our industry however dark and awful it was. Wherever I go and people say, where are you from? I say Rhondda. I think it's wonderful to be from the Rhondda and to live in the Rhondda."

Jackie Davies
Your comments

"Your story evoked many memories and prompted me to check my own knee and the blue scar remains! In our opinion you definately should write a book, perhaps we could help. Regarding John Evans' comment -you're much better looking, more articulate and you were born a Williams NOT a Davies. Thanks for invite, thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon. Keep up the good work." Babs & Mags Flower/Cardiff - ex Clydach.

"This story brought back vivid memories of my early life in Wales.I have a big blue scar on my leg from the day when my older brother jumped on the back of my tricycle and shoved me down a hill. We shot down the hill at high speed, failed to negotiate the bend at the bottom, and crashed into a corner of the bridge.I cut my leg badly, the tricycle was a total wreck, and my brother was lying in the road out cold.I was 4 years of age and he was 11. We both got a good smack from dad, who had spent at least a week's drinking money on this old and rusty tricycle as my 4th birthday present. Looking back it's a wonder I survived, a week later my big sister threatened to hit me with a hammer; as she waved it at me the head flew off and clouted me. I saw stars and a huge lump came up. Mam didn't seem convinced when we told her I had fallen down the stairs We lived at the top of Clydach Vale in very poor circumstances due to my father's war wounds preventing him from going down the mines again. The grateful government gave him a war pension of 7/6p per week to house, clothe, and feed 5 of us. He got work at the aircraft works at Filton, and in 1952 we all moved to live at Henbury, on the outskirts of Bristol. A different world, living next door to a mixed arable and dairy farm. I was 10. It took me a long time to get used to green fields and trees instead of coal and derelict mine buildings as a playground!" David Phillips Bristol.

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