Michaelston-y-Fedw Community

Growing up in Michaelston-y-Fedw

We moved to Michaelstone in 1960 when dad went to work for Donald Kelly at Ty-Hir farm. We lived in the school house, which went with dads job. Mum worked as the school cleaner, along with cleaning the vicarage and the church for Rev.Jones, and doing part-time work on the farm. Not much time for a social life!

The farm was dairy and arable, and at harvest time dad usually found himself working from very early, starting with the milking, to very late to get the harvest in.

My sister and I started at the school in the Autumn term. She went straight into the juniors, or the 'big ones' as they were known, while I started in the 'little ones', the infants. The teachers were Mrs.Bullen, from Machen, for the juniors, and Mrs.Bryant, a reputedly fearsome lady, for the juniors.

By the time I moved up to the juniors, Mrs. Bryant had been replaced by Miss O'Sullivan, an entirely different proposition. She was one of those teachers who made learnng a pleasure, and therefore very easy.

Looking at the pictures of last year's fete, the building has changed a bit in the past 40 years. The front door of the school used to be at the right hand end of the verandah, while the front, where the doors are now, was windows. The front door of the house was opposite the school door. Where it is now must give the house a huge hall, as it goes into what we used to call the 'middle room', because it was between the living room and the kitchen.

The school didn't have the luxury of indoor loos then. Calls of nature meant a trek outside to the toilet block. OK in summer, but not something to dawdle over in winter. In the autumn, they tended to fill with leaves. In the spring and summer, we'd be taken on nature walks up the lane opposite the pub and we'd collect various objects for the nature table. Heating was by way of two big coal stoves in each classroom. They were replced by high level electric heaters one summer.

The pub landlady's surname was Head, though I can't remember if it was Miss, Mrs., or 2 Misses. I do recall a large lady, but at that age, 5-9, every grownup was large. There was a big oak tree in the carpark that scared the life out of me in the dark. It looked like a huge monster with dozens of arms all reaching out to get me. Is it still there? A blacksmith had a forge on the other side of the road, a short distance behind the school.

There wasn't much new building in the area. The most recent were the houses built by Pendlebury's for some of their workers, on the right at the top of the road leadng up from Cefn Mably. I used to spend as much of my spare time as possible on the farm with dad, herding the cows, helping with the haymaking and cutting cabbages according to the season. What the health and safety people today would make of an eight year old using a billhook to cut cabbages and driving the tractor, can only be imagined!

Some names I recall from those happy days are Dennis Richards,Michael Allen, Ken Adams, Carol Rees, Ken Peters, Philip and David Tanner, who all lived down in the village. Also Isidro and Mario Solanot, Ceris Flook and Steven Rowlands, who lived in the new houses buit by Pendleburys. From Cefn Mably there were Rhianwen Morgan, her brothers Haydn, John and Alun, Veronica Wiliams, Caterina and Francesco Meringolo, who I think had a younger brother called Lorenzo. Debra Pike and Pat Hazel were also there, though I can't recall where they lived.

Probably one of the biggest diferences between then and now is the amount of freedom we had. The kids could wander off across the fields for hours without a search party being called out or social services being involved. Building dens, trying to fish in the Rhymney with the traditional bent pin, occasionally falling out with each other, we had a great time. Living in Michaelstone is a time I have never forgotten (ask my wife, I've bored her rigid with it for 30 years), and I try to go over for a wander around every few years.