The Jones Family: People
Lilian Hedges (née Jones) (1912-2008)
Lilian Hedges, born in Crumlin in 1912, is my paternal grandmother. She lived in the same house in Oxford for 71 years and despite leaving her native Wales at the age of 14, she always spoke with a Welsh accent, as strong as if she'd never left there. And in some ways perhaps she didn't; a part of her has always remained in Wales, in the shadow of the mountain around which her childhood revolved.
This part of her life was revealed to me as I listened to her talk about her past, a time of which I'd never heard her speak before.
Edit 1: Hairwash Night and the death of Elias Jones
It was as a result of researching my family tree that my interest in my Welsh heritage was kindled, and in particular, the discovery of my great, my great-great, and my great-great-great grandfathers, the former of which, Elias Jones, despite his dying over 80 years ago still lives on in my grandmother's memory. He's not just a face on a black and white photograph, or a name amongst many in a nineteenth century census; he is a real person, who despite departing this life, lives on, still talking no doubt with a South Wales accent.
My grandmother was one of six children; five girls and one boy, all of whom with the exception of a girl called Florence lived into adulthood and old age. They were: Ruth, Lilian, Doll, Rachel (Ray), Florence (Flossie) and George. Doll, now aged 93 and sadly suffering from Alzheimer's, is the only member apart from my grandmother still living.
My great-grandparents were Elias Jones (1882-192?) and Mary Jane Jones (née Rogers) (1887-1968), and their parents - my great-great grandparents were, Henry Jones (1839-1889) and Rachel Jones (née Jones) (1850-1914), and George Rogers (1864-1944) and Mary Ann Rogers (1864-1941), maiden name yet to be established.
Having discovered as much as I could, I wanted to know what these people were like, what the landscape they inhabited was like, and so, on the 5th December 2007, I recorded a conversation with my grandmother.
Elias Jones (1882-1924)
Mary Janes Rogers (1887-1968)
A small part of the transcipt of the interview can be found below:
"…after Ray [Rachel] we lost one…she was a baby… she was born… sad story really… Mam was very pregnant and a big farmhouse dog… the gate had been left open and pounced on our Mam when she was very pregnant, she screamed and that baby was born screaming and it never came; we had to look after her day and night, she only lived two years which was a blessing… she lived for two years… Mam and Dad, Ruth and me, we couldn’t leave her we had to be with her day and night…"
And what was her name?
We called her Flossy, Florence.
So she would have been born around 1918? End of the First World War?
We’ve never forgotten it. We can remember… pretty little thing she was but never came normal. This dog frightened Mam. We lost her, Mam thought that was the end of it, Ray started school and George came along.
So was your Dad pleased to have a son?
Oh yes, we all was. He was spoiled, I do say it... He was a nice chap.
We always said the mines killed him. Elias Jones.
So he died of a lung problem?
Yes. Through the mines, the coal mines, coal dust.
Do you remember him coughing a lot?
Yes I can remember him coughing, there again, well like our George, we had a good father, he adored…. Because as I say we were four girls one after the other, and I can remember now he would always help our Mam wash our hair on a Friday night… our Ruth would go first, she would wash it and our Dad would dry it and mine next…
So Friday night was hairwash night?
Hairwash night and he always helped… when… I can always remember the doctor in the room when we realised he wasn’t going to come through, he said ‘don’t grieve for him Mrs Jones, you know what he said to me, “if I can’t work for my wife and children I don’t want to stay.”’ And he just passed away.
So was he ill for a long time?
No. He wasn’t a big robust chap but he worked so hard, in the mines, he had two allotments, the back kitchen garden, always working… just worked himself out. Mind, we had a happy home… we had a happy childhood… good parents.
So he worked in Llanhilleth?
Llanhilleth. I can see him now because he went up our garden over the road and the mountain started from there up… and he’d go so far up and he’d turn back and wave to us, and if we went out to play, our Mam would say, “you can go up the mountain to play…” but every now and then our Mam would come out in the garden and we had to wave to her to know that we were alright you know… always remember going up the mountain…
So he would have gone to work quite early in the morning?
Well they did shift work. I mean… we always said we liked it when Dad was on the shift when he came home at six in the morning because you could have nothing unless the fire was going… and he’d light the fire and get our breakfast ready… after a full day’s work, we used to say, “oh, glad it’s dad’s turn tonight, in the morning Mam rather liked her bed, she used to tell us… we used to have to do our own hair, we had to wash our white socks and clean – every night, we had to wash our white socks and clean our white shoes, brush our hair… we had our routine…
It had to be done…
It had to be done…
So you did that every night and Friday night – hairwash.
Hairwash Friday night.
So how often did he work at nights?
He used to go off… from six till ten or eleven then he worked during the night and come home about six in the morning, it was two shifts I know.
And your Mum was at home.
She had to be! Five girls. And of course they did everything. The cooking, jam-making and… hard times but happy times Nick. All worked together.
And you went to school in Hafodyrynys?
No, our little school was in the Hafod. My little church is on the side by there, we had a church and a school and a lovely shop and a pub! That was all in the Hafod.
So what do you call the Hafod?
Hafodyrynys. We were on rectory road, and there was Hafodyrynys. But if you wanted anything a bit special we’d had to go… the butchers I think and the fishmongers would be down into Crumlin. We used to go down a hill into Crumlin… if you wanted a new dress or clothes we’d get on a bus and go into Pontypool!
And how far away was that?
Pontypool was I think about for miles away.
But it seemed a lot more in those days.
Four miles! I had to find out the time of the bus ‘we’re going into Pontypool today.’ Our Mam… but if went into the Hafod or to Crumlin we just walked it you know…. Get what we wanted… and I can always remember… we had a little station in Hafodyrynys... trains ran up to the next village and I think that station was only used once a year… Sunday school trip. We had to meet down on the platform and they took us to Barry Island. So we went there once a year, that was our holiday… just for a day, we looked forward to it, it was marvellous.
Where’s Barry Island?
Barry Island is well known now Den isn’t it. It’s our nearest seaside resort. Once a day [year] we went to Barry Island.
And how many of you were there going in your Sunday School?
Going on the trip? Oh all the kids would come to Sunday School to have a trip to Barry Island. We had a nice Sunday School, our little chapel was always full, then you see, our little chapel… Mam’s… well most… Granny then Grampy come along we… Granny would take the service… she was organising when she couldn’t do the service perhaps once or twice a year a minister would come in from Pontypool to keep us together… so that was once a year we did that, but we went regular to Sunday School, that was very important.
Did you have to go more than once a day?
It was morning and evening. As we got a bit older we could go to the evening one… morning; the younger ones went.
And you had your Sunday best?
Oh… I laugh now… although she had us four girls we had straw hats for Sunday and velour ones for winter… ‘put your straw hat away’… Ruth and I were lucky because we’d had it first and after they got too small for us, Doll and Ray came next… we were like two sets of twins really because I was as big as Ruth and our Ray was the youngest but she was a bigger girl than Doll… our Doll was our only frail one really, I think Mam did have a bit of trouble with her when she was born, but we were just like two sets of twins…
Doll and Ray and then George at the end.
Yes and then George.
Mary Ann and George Rogers. What were they like?
Oh yes I remember Granny and Grampy Rogers. Granny was very with it, very alert and loved the church, but Grampy was a bit illiterate but, he just did everything Granny told him to. He was a good old chap.
So George Rogers… I doubt if you’d remember anything about his parents at all?
No I wouldn’t know them.
Dad was saying one of your Grandmothers was a midwife, is that right?
This was Mam’s Mam.
So that would be Mary Ann was the midwife. So everyone knew who she was?
Yes, only ever saw her in her nurse’s clothes you know. She was granny to everybody
To all in Crumlin?
Yes, all around there. .. of course I should say all families were very religious, church was very important down there, our little church. They would take the services you know, do their singing…
What were the preachers like?
The Preachers? Well I say, Granny used to do our little one in the village, Grandmother, she’d take the service, she might get someone in from Pontypool a real minister perhaps at Christmas time or Easter time… religion is very important to them Nick, I mean their church came first and their Christian way of life was very important. The mines and the church. I can’t say play, well it was play to them, it was important to them for sure.
But although your father was working very hard he had time for his family.
Very hard… lovely family, he always put us first…