Philip’s War Part Three

Down on the Farm

If there was a downside to our life at Penlynn Farm, it was Tommy Roberts; apparently Tommy had served in the First World War and had been wounded. These days he worked at the slate quarry in Llamberis. Each Thursday Tommy would catch the 4.30pm bus from the quarry back to Penlynn. He would get off at the bus stop and run like mad across the bridge. Mrs Roberts would have his best clothes laid out for him, he’d have a quick wash, get changed and then rush out to get the bus to Caernarfon. Once in Caernarfon he would collect his war pension from the main post office and then promptly spend it all in the local drinking dens. He would catch the last bus home and roll in as drunk as a lord; every time, for some reason, there would be a violent row, the language would turn the air blue. All we could do was huddle together hoping against hope that no harm would come to Mrs Roberts. The next day he would be back to normal and act as if nothing had happened.

After a few weeks we heard some awful news; a teacher from our school had called to tell Mrs Roberts that arrangements had been made for us to attend the local school. The freedom that we’d experienced, the huge adventure that confronted us everyday was now to be taken away, and the news came as a big shock!

A couple of days later we reported to the local school, it was like going back in time, we could hardly believe it: we were expected to write with slate pencils onto sheets of slate, even to us, coming from a poor background in Liverpool, this seemed like going back to the dark ages. Welsh was also the first language in the school which made us feel even more like outcasts but all we could do was to knuckle down and try our best.

A man arrived at the school to fit us out with raincoats and clogs. He had large boxes of different sized items; one by one we started trying them on. The coats were made of a thick canvas material; they had a double row of buttons across the chest and a large wrap around belt. Looking at the others, I saw six short Philip Marlowe type detectives and although I had yet to see myself in a mirror, I was convinced that I had taken of the persona of the great Humphrey Bogart.

The clogs tended to spoil the Hollywood glamour look as they were quite heavy and cumbersome, I just couldn’t see Boggy walking around Casablanca in a pair of these; we were instructed by the man to take our clogs to the local cobblers to have new irons fitted every few weeks. Whatever we really looked like in our new outfit, one thing was for sure, nobody else looked like us, everybody knew who we were, you might as well of stamped the words ‘evacuee’ on our forehead.

We were eventually moved to another school in the village of Dineolin. Each morning we would have to walk over the mountain to get to the protestant church where the school was held As we were Catholics, a special mass was set up for us in the local snooker hall at Dineolin to compensate for our C of E Education; this meant yet another walk across the mountain on Sundays but this time it would be walking on an empty stomach as you had to fast before taking Holy Communion. There was however, some good news for those of us who took Holy Communion; we would be invited back to the local doctors for a full breakfast – eggs, bacon, black pudding, fried potatoes, and all served up by his pretty young maid. Suddenly, we all became born again Christians, welcomed into the fold by the good Doctor Marron and his hearty breakfasts.

Philip’s War Part Four