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16 October 2014

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Thank You

By Olwen Clatworthy
September 2005, Abertillery
A digital story from Capture Wales


Olwen recalls the anxious prayers for her father's safe return from the pit as a snow blizzard rages outside her home.

"I am being punted down the River Cam on a beautiful summer's afternoon. Something I've always wanted to do.

Gareth and I sit facing Menna and Eli. I feel the sqeeze of Gareth's hand, watch Menna's vibrant eyes and Elinor's tender little face and I am laid still in thankfulness: thankfulness that times have changed; thankful for the link that small face provides to another child.

I'm behind the door in the curved stone stairway peering through the latch at my mother and aunt's anxious faces, as they wait for my father to return from the afternoon shift. He's two hours late and the blizzard outside is still raging.

Inside my window are two drifts of snow where the newspaper has moved from the cracks. I stand tired, cold and fearful, not daring to sleep. I remember stories of men crushed in narrow seams and people lost on the mountain in swirling snow - then just frozen to death.

I listen to the relentless wind and feel it is taking my breath even inside the house. At this moment, the prayers of a little girl seem so important. So I pray and I watch.

At a quarter past one there is a shuffling sound and a dull bang on the door. Mam and Aunty run to remove the old coats that block the gap at the bottom of the door and pull back the bolt.

There is a rush of snow and wind as Dad comes in, a white frozen giant. They remove the woollen coat and it stands to attention on its own near the door. They take off the frozen gloves, wrap his hands in warm towels and sit him by the fire. Not a word is spoken.

The tired little watcher says thank you and creeps to bed.

I look up at my daughter and granddaughter. Gareth smiles and squeezes my hand a second time - and that thankfulness is there again."

Olwen Clatworthy

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I love telling stories and listening to stories. I have always loved the mountains and life in rural Wales.

What is your story about?
An incident in a mining household. It was an important childhood memory which gave me lots of insights into how life was.

What did you find most rewarding about the workshop?
Being made to feel that things I was passionate about - small things - were important.

Your comments

"Having been an exile serving in the Military for the last 38 years with fond memories of Brynithel, it was lovely to read Kathleen's memories of her dad, Mr Williams. I lived on Penygraig Terrace the same time as Kathleen and remember her and her dad well. As a school-boy saving up for my first new bike, I helped Mr Williams on his round. Up at 5.00 every morning, seven days a week, on the bus-stop to go to school by 08.30, for the princely sum of £1 per week - enjoyed every minute. The bike bought from the bike shop in Abertillery, travelled with me for years to the many places I served in the UK and overseas." Michel Hodges, Brynithel exile.

"Olwen morgan, as i knew her, and her mam and dad, her brother, idris and auntie bron. i knew that part of her world. i was the milkman ron williams' daughter, and many a time, in all weather, he always did his best to get up the old church as it was called then. i remember skidding our way up in the snow, and skidding all the way down, digging our way through if we had to. my dad always managed to get up to the old church. nowdays we dont have such bad weather. we have a lot to be thankfull for as the days gone by are not so hard as they used to be." Kathleen Johnson (nee) Williams, Brynithel.

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