Our holiday this year has been arranged around two old postcards that were written by my grandmother Elizabeth Williams in 1954 to my mother. She was born in 1887, in a small village in the middle of Carmarthen called Trefeurig. It was a rural area, not many houses, lots of miners lived and worked in the area. Her father Richard Williams who was born in 1860 was one of those miners, he died at a relatively young age of 30 in 1890. At the time her mother had a young baby of 9 months (called Richard), two young sons of 4years old (Luther) and a 2 year old (Thomas) and her daughter Elizabeth – my grandmother.
Richard’s parents were Thomas and Margaret Williams. Thomas was born in about 1813. He married Margaret Williams, who was about 3 years younger than he was, and in total had 5 children. 4 sons, and 1 daughter. This is where our history becomes very confusing. The children were called Elizabeth (19), John (16) Thomas (8) Methusalem (8) and finally Richard the youngest at 1 year old – my great grandfather- Elizabeth’s father. Names were handed down in families hence the same names appearing in two generations of family.
Generally around that time children came along on a very regular basis due to the lack of birth control, normally one a year. So it is probably likely there were some still births in this and many other families, who have not be registered on the census records of 1861 that these details have come from.
The post cards I have kept for many years were written to my mum and dad in 1954. They are of two places that my grandmother had visited on her trip to west wales. It doesn’t say where she was staying, but as this place is so very near to the place her family originated from, it was highly likely that she was staying with some family.
She tells her daughter and her son-in law (my mam and dad) about the places she has visited.
‘having a lovely time out each afternoon, pity dad bach isn’t with me. I have all the places on a paper. went to Aberystwyth yesterday 10in the morning. Called at ^^^^^^ bungalow 9 of them there, very nice. a scorching afternoon after the rain, and returned Newquay we intend going to Tenby tomorrow. St Dogmails is a lovely place you get town and country here. Sat will soon be here now hope you are both feeling good.Let us know what time to expect you home on sat. hope you have good digs I will not write again now. Kindest regards from Elfyn and Mena. fondest love mam xx and in the margin .our church marked with a spot (dogmael) ‘
I have had these postcards in my possession since my grandmother died in 1978 when she was about 92. I’ve never taken that much notice of what they were, they were just two sepia postcards, that she had written. 4 years ago I started researching my family tree, and they became a big part of the jigsaw. She said that she was with Elfyn (her son) and his wife Mena. I had found that they lived near to his place. And in fact Elfyn had died the year I was born in 1960, in this area. On the card she makes reference to dad bach, her husband, or in those days the husband was known as dad. He had died just before this card was written.
So why am I telling you all this? Well – we decided that our holiday would be a great opportunity to visit this village where the post cards were from. We researched a local hotel, booked the break, and this story is built around the postcards.
The Cliff Hotel overlooks Poppit Sands in Cardigan. The Teify Estuary leads out to the Irish sea, Poppit Sands is on one side, and the Cliff Hotel is on the other side There is a coast guard station there, a café that does the most amazing Bara Bryth. a selection of Holiday homes, and a YHA (Youth Hostel Association) place to stay. We drove round the estuary, and parked the car in the little car park. We had a coffee in the café, and then walked onto the beach. The wide expanse of golden sand, peppered with little flecks of black and tiny pebbles and discarded cockle shells. Although it was a damp day, it certainly didn’t deter the dog walkers, dogs don’t mind the rain or the wet as they jumped in and out of the waves.
My heart soared, as I thought that this was a beach that my grandmother (or nain as she was known to her grand children) had walked on. Of course I’d been to many places with her as I grew up with her and she lived with us until she passed away when I was 18. I could imagine her with her son, and daughter in law travelling around in a little car, looking at the same view I was looking at. Maybe sitting in the same sea side café, and if I know my nain, eating the same cake I was eating, she had a sweet tooth! Probably where I get it from. Of course I’d been to many places with her, she had lived with our family from when I was 8 so I grew up with her until she passed away when I was 18.
I’d like to think that she went there to gain some comfort from family, having recently been widowed. And although back in the mining communities of the early part of the last century, you appreciate that death was a part of their lives – mining accidents, and child mortality being a more regular occurrence than today – I don’t think they were so hardened to it that they were void of sadness and distress.
We then went to St Dogmaels. A quaint village perched on the mountain side. Winding streets with little houses brightly coloured cling to the mountain, and tumbled down the hill. The 60 year old picture on the post card looked nothing like the village of today, and it was difficult to find out anything that appeared on the card, so we went to the ruins of the Abbey with a little heritage centre that has a lovely café inside.
I kept this post card in my hand trying to find any reference to anything we had seen. Then when I looked for the umpteenth time, it was like a light bulb moment. There on the post card in the middle were the ruins. I had never seen them like this before – I thought they were houses. It all fell into place, and although the village on the card didn’t look like the village in 2016, the trees were more overgrown, and there of course were newer properties in the sight line I could see the village of 1955.
What an amazing day, I look some pictures of the houses in the village, as a reminder of our trip. We walked through the car park to the banks of the estuary, we saw a heron trying to catch some lunch for himself, a young man getting ready for the St Dogmaels market which is held on a Tuesday, where sellers and buyers travel from near and far.
I will go back, and visit this magical and historical place again.