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Bang! Bang! announced the three-year old, and I knew what question to anticipate. It came. "Why has that man got a gun? What is he doing with it?" A picture which I had just unearthed was pushed into my hand and the expected request ensued - "Tell me about him." and glad I was to refresh my memory. I replied, "This man with the gun was a farmer and I think he must have been shooting some of the birds which would keep coming into his fields where the corn was growing; he had put scarecrows in his fields hoping to frighten them away, but those birds would keep coming to eat the corn in spite of all he would do to prevent them. There the farmer is with his mother (that's the old lady with the little shawl on her shoulders) with his sister and his brother and they all lived together in an old farmhouse, high up on the side of a steep hill, and because it was a steep hill they called their home 'The Rhiw', because that name means 'steep'.
I used to go to that farmhouse, with my Auntie, when I was a little girl. Long before the actual day came I used to get so excited I nearly became sick, but the day the holiday really started that was quite, quite wonderful. To start with, I had to be awakened early and because it was dark the gas jet in my bedroom had to be lit with a taper. I usually awoke with daylight showing through my window so that, to me, was excitement number one. The light came from a semi-circular flame, dark blue but with a frilly golden edge. Coming down for breakfast, there I would see my outdoor clothing and a new hat would be waiting for me. I knew to expect it for I had heard some whispering going on one day before, but I pretended I didn't know anything about it because I knew it was to be a surprise. My Auntie was a milliner. She had a shop and she knew how to make bows and there would be a gorgeous ribbon bow on my hat. The time would arrive when my aunt, who only lived next door, would come in and ask, "Are you ready? The cab has come," and amongst all the wonderful things that were to happen to me that day I think getting into Mr. Travis's cab was the highlight.

My parents would kiss me and'stand at the gate waving goodbye and Auntie and I would sit straight up on the back seat and Mr. Travis's cab would go bowling along to Exchange Station, Manchester. The inside of the cab was heavily upholstered in black leather which was studded with leather buttons and I thought the leather strap for opening and shutting the window in the cab door was a wonderful thing and I did want my Auntie to use it so I could see how it worked. I would sit there inhaling the scent of the musty leather upholstery and I thought that smell was wonderful, too.

There would be all the busy happenings on the railway station and we had to make quite sure over and over again that the porter had put our luggage into the guard's van. When the guard blew his whistle and waved his green flag, and the train-driver set off with us, clouds of steam would arise as the engine puffed out of the station. Auntie would tell me what important buildings to look for as we went through Chester but when we had passed through Llangollen and saw fishermen actually standing in the river, wearing waders, I was very, very surprised, for I had never seen anything like that before. I was frightened, though, when the traim went past Bala Lake. You see I was sitting near a window in the corner of the railway carriage and I was only little and my head wasn't as high as my Auntie's so I couldn't see any railway track, just the water in the lake, and I thought the train would fall into the lake with me and my Auntie as well; but it didn't and so we didn't either.

Every new experience as the holiday advanced was another adventure. We left the train at a little station called Dollwen and were met by one of the brothers. Then we had to take a long walk across some fields and lovely wild flowers were everywhere and so very high they were. Evan (the brother) called the white ones daisies but they were very much like the marguerites we had in our garden at home.

There were lots of birds singing and there was a smell that I liked. It was of burning wood which made me think of bonfires.

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Up to this time, I had had a very quiet and attentive audience so I took courage and decided to pursue my narrative. Reliving my childhood experiences is giving me as much, or possibly more, pleasure than the listening child is getting. As I have grown older I have felt a deep sense of gratitude towards the Richards family at the 'Rhiw' for the happiness which, as a child, they spread around me.

I continued with my story, describing our welcome to this homestead in terms which the little one appreciated and which she could already understand from her own introduction to the Welsh landscape through holidaying with her parents and her brother. In this mechanical age when so many dangers abound for the child visitor to the farmyard I should like to think there are still people capable of giving the lasting joy which I have retained throughout my life as a result of meeting those kindly and understanding people.

Lots of memories crowd round me so in order to avoid mental indigestion on the part of the children I am recording more of the incidents connected with my childhood trips to Montgomeryshire enabling them to be read at leisure at some future date. Whilst I cannot expect them to have the fun of haymaking to the same extent as I had, with its interludes for refreshments, which were glorified picnics to me, and with rides on the top of the loads of hay at the end of the day, still I know that friendships are cemented in so many different ways and the ingredients of happiness are always available, although nowadays they become more obscured by man-made restrictions prescribed with such deliberation for the protection of the individual.

I suppose a modern effort to reconstitute fun in a hayfield would have to include a transistor radio with which the song of the lark just cannot compete. But, thank God, children are still being born with vivid imaginations. There are children still clamouring for stories to be told to them and there are still many adults not averse to brushing away the cobwebs from their own memories in order to make their own contributions to childish delights.

At home I was growing up in a district which, although a town, had not at that time lost all of its rural atmosphere but to be transferred to a rich countryside such as the Rhiw was able to offer was a revelation to me and I was learning fast. To fall into a gorse bush was a hazard I soon learned to avoid but when I fondled a beautiful tortoiseshell kitten which, in its attempt to escape from my too tight embrace, dived underneath into an extensive area of low-growing prickly shrubs of that ilk, just before I was taken for a country walk, I have to admit that my pleasure during the whole of the ramble was marred by my sense of guilt, for I was thinking of the sorry state the kitten could get into. In my ignorance I actually thought it could get lost. Imagine my relief, on my return, to find puss was there on the doorstep washing herself as though she had never left her familiar spot. There was Diamond, the carthorse. Rides on his back, rides in his cart and learning how to feed him off my hand and not to be frightened in the attempt soon became a pleasant routine. Joining with the farm workers to take the sheep to be dipped, that I found was very slow work for we hadn't to exceed two miles per hour and I wanted to skip along. Feeding the pigs I didn't enjoy at first, their swill was so revolting, but I loved the piglets and soon found myself dropping contributions into their mother's trough.

Two families of geese would occasionally cross the farmyard at the same time, preceded by their respective ganders. There would be much squawking when they met, but they appeared to know how to behave themselves and, with their heads held high, they would go off in the direction of their leaders' bidding. Some very noisy interludes happened when a gander decided to explore a neighbouring field by pushing aside the flexible lower branches of a thicket. Along with his geese, who had willingly followed him to the lush grass on the other side, after a juicy repast they were all ready to return the same way. A disappointment, however, awaited them. The branches, so accommodating on the outward journey, simply refused to bend from the other side and the agitated, noisy grumblings were soon heard and understood by the farmer who sent out a man to rescue them.


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The noise those geese made brought neighbours at a distance out of their farmhouses to see what was going on. As each goose was caught it objected loudly to being pushed through a hole which had been newly-made for it in the hedge. Being on a hillside, it provided good viewing for the neighbourhood, but I wasn't to know, then, that in the country what we were then seeing could be considered pretty ordinary behaviour. At the time I thought it was rather shocking on the part of those geese for at home Mother had been most careful to instil into us not to be noisy in our play outside and not to annoy our neighbours - in fact she used to say, "Come inside, you'll raise the neighbourhood." And those geese had done just that.

I was to be introduced to some more of the mischief the animals could get into. For instance, one Sunday evening, we were returning from church. We had been to two earlier services during that day and it had necessitated a fairly long walk in both directions. We found that Daisy Bell must have tossed another of the herd into a neighbouring farmer's meadow and so the two brothers had to spend a lot of time getting the cows settled together in their own pasture again. It made us late getting back to the farm and we all had to eat our supper in silence because Mrs. Richards seemed to be cross with all of us. Finally it was explained to me that Daisy Bell should not have done that trick on the Sabbath Day. I spent a lot of time thinking about where that evening had gone wrong but I never hit on a satisfactory explanation.

The sister, Susie, was the link in the friendship between 'The Rhiw' and 'The View'. Susie Richards came into domestic service in Oldham. She found a Wesleyan Chapel in Failsworth; through the membership there she was introduced to my grandfather's society class and from that time a lasting friendship was established with the occupants of 'The View'.

By the time of my first visit to the farm Susie had already returned to her home. Her two brothers, Joseph and Evan, had charge over the farmworkers and administration generally. Susie was responsible for the poultry and the dairy and the domestic side of things whilst their mother occupied a strong position as the head. She was definitely in charge, treated with great respect by her family but she had, I thought, rather a caustic tongue and I moved around in awe of her.

Those three children had never.married but others of her family had done so and as I grew older and was invited for further visits I was able to meet them and their children. Thereby the friendships developed. Frequent visits to the well up the lane were great experiences for a child used to tap water. To see snails decorating the walls of the well, and below the water level too, needed some explanation. That I received thankfully, for I had an idea they must be very dirty things and I was relieved when it was explained to me that the presence of the snails was an indication of the purity of the water.

I was taken down at twilight to a trout stream and saw bats swooping down and across the water and I was told stories about their habitats and their activities and I had not seen any creatures like these before, not even in my picture books. Evan used to bring me four-leaved clovers and show me fairy rings and we would go rooting in the hedgerows to find the wild strawberry plants. At the same time I would be introduced to the names of the wild flowers which were there in profusion. The campions, ragged robin, meadow sweet, germander speedwell, honeysuckle, the scarlet pimpernel, bistort and plants which had flowered in the spring but were then only identifiable by their leaves. In the hedges, when we were looking where the hazel nuts might be found in the autumn, we would come across the odd gooseberry bush which must have been seeded by the birds. That was quite a find, as also were the bulrushes which we found on marshy land.

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I was, however, familiar with bulrushes, having been told of the finding of the baby Moses by Pharoah's daughter and, too, my mother was partial to a grassy corner in our home, which was a mixed blessing when the bulrushes burst, scattering their silken threads over the upholstered furniture.

But the farmhouse to me was a real joy. Going through the doorway one entered a large low-ceilinged living room, the floor made of cobble-stones, with an old-fashioned ingle-nook with seats on each side of a huge fireplace; over the fire swung a black kettle on its rattling iron fitments. The front window was set rather high allowing a wooden seat to be built up against the wall, in front of which ran a long wooden table. In the corner, not far from the top of the table, were three steps leading into a room which was the guest-room and which was referred to as, 'the Chamber'. At the extremity of this living room, where it was very dark indeed, there was a door which led into the dairy. From this I was allowed to have a glass of rich creamy milk each evening for supper and, oh joy, it was warm straight from that evening's milking. It was the kitchen which gave me added delight. Susie made her own bread and her own butter. A large oven went far into the wall; in this oven tree branches were burned and, at the required heat, the ashes were swept out, large lumps of dough thrown into the heated oven and the dough left inside until it was baked into lovely crusty loaves.

There was something else in the kitchen which was unfamiliar to me and I couldn't puzzle it out but one day I went in and the cover was off and there was Susie turning a handle in the way Mother did with her mangling machine at home. But it seemed to be more like a barrel she was turning and then I was told butter was being made inside it. This was interesting news for me and I got so excited seeing the action of the machine that I thought I would help Susie and I immediately put my hand out and, before I really knew what I was doing, I had caught one of the pegs that was sticking out as it went past me. However, it came out of its socket and through the hole came a stream of the flakes of butter which were just beginning to form and I was covered with`buttermilk andĀ·little pieces of butter as well. No one said they were cross with me but everybody had to be told what l had done and I felt very ashamed of myself and it was awful when they all kept laughing at me.

From 'the Rhiw', in their appropriate seasons, would be sent to us at home the harvest of their hedgerows, of their garden and of their farm. The outstanding annual gift was the box of Snowdrops. Included in their Christmas greetings would be a tiny matchbox filled with short-stemmed snowdrop buds, announced as the harbingers of spring. After that we had to wait. No one could predict what the weather would be towards February. But in due course they came; packed in a large bootbox would be crammed a mass of snowdrops, long-stemmed and wide open, frequently accompanied by a description of the wintry conditions which had prevented their being gathered until the thaw arrived. In our home feverish activity would follow their receipt. A large dark green glass rosebowl was always brought into commission. After being filled with the flowers it was given a prominent position in our front window. Mother would refer to a list of friends which she had in readiness and to which last minute additions would have to be made where bereavements or illnesses had recently been brought to her notice. Bunches of flowers would be arranged and the distribution commenced in real earnest with my sister and I being sent around the neighbourhood.

The reactions from the recipients were varied hut always happy. Some, receiving their gift for the first-time, had to hear something about their background. Others, who had received flowers before, would tell us they had been wondering whether the.snowdrops would be arriving that year and various theories would have been advanced to explain the delay. I remember one lady saying she had been watching our front window for a long time but as there had been no sign of the flowers she just mildly wondered what had happened and she waited.


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This alertness was not confined to any one individual. With the keenness of the eye of a bird the neighbourhood would be alerted and it often happened whilst we ourselves were out on our mission that people would pop into our home, with the freedom which was common in my early days, and would call out, "I see the snowdrops have arrived, Mrs. Goodyear." The result of these calls would be noted by my sister and myself as we returned with our mission accomplished, for we would see pedestrians carrying bunches of snowdrops which indicated a lavish distribution from the home base. I often wondered would any be left for us but, like the widow's cruse of oil, that green glass rosebowl would, on our return, appear packed to overflowing, plenty left - lovely and pure - reminding me of the donors and of the host of incidents which had made 'The Rhiw' a wonderland for children.

On the death of an old family friend, her daughter gave my mother a page extracted from the deceased's diary. From an excerpt, given below, one can see reference is made to my sister and to the snowdrops from the Rhiw.
.... Foggy Day. Lily Goodyear and her sister called with the first snowdrops last night. Would not intrude on company. The flowers are lovely and I feel proud to have such proof of a very lovely thought for me. Am indebted for many such to Lily throughout the year. Snowdrops are to me a symbol of modesty and purity also a promise of things to come (Then shall the earth bring forth her increase and God shall give us His blessing). The little snowdrop is God's own messenger....

As I grew older I was able to visit 'the Rhiw' again and renew my acquaintance with the familiar spots which had given me such pleasure earlier. Also a new set of circumstances surrounded the visit. I was accompanied by Susie the second. Niece of her uncles and aunt at the farm and, herself occupying in Manchester a domestic situation, I was to be her companion on the outward journey as she returned to her home in Montgomeryshire for a holiday. Now I was to meet members of the next generation.

This all happened at the old established August Bank holiday which then we considered immovable and I was to be introduced to lots of families returning from South Wales in order to join their older people who were to share a family Bank holiday together. Young mothers held their babies in a manner with which I was totally unfamiliar. Round their own bodies they wrapped their shawls, and their little ones were anchored at the front with both ends of the shawl tucked in, making the whole operation to look snug and secure. Whilst I had gone to Llanidloes station ostensibly to meet cousins of Susie II, residents of South Wales, I did not expect to find the nucleus of a brass band amongst the passengers on that train. Sure enough, members of the band, though located in the South, they too were returning to their native heath and, on arrival, up and down with their instruments they paced the main street giving an air of Carnival, which I thoroughly appreciated. Now I had young friends of my own age and this was a great opportunity to compare notes about our respective schools.


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These Richards children, from South Wales, liked the countryside as much as I did and we shared our national songs and devoured the berries off the bushes in the garden. We ate rose petals too, which had never appeared in my diet before, and the tops of the hawthorn. We were treated to an additional pleasure. A granary had been built since my first visit to 'the Rhiw' and, as all their buildings were on a slope, it was possible to adapt the new structure with the main purpose served upstairs by mounting a short flight of steps to the grain warehouse and leaving a considerable space underneath with the front exposed. These dear people, anticipating our visit, had put in rustic items to aid our activities and included a sturdy swing suspended from the rafters. We did full justice to all the amenities which had been provided for us. In addition to these new friendships, I was entertained by the parents of Susie II. Their house was a revelation to me and we had a great time together because there was a family of seven children.

Their father was a railway employee and they lived in the station-master's house adjoining a railway station where only one passing train halted per day. The waiting rooms were utilised as additional accommodation for this large family and to have the freedom of a whole station and its surrounding land for cultivation as a market garden with playground facilities really was something and l liked it, especially when trains thundered through the station. These new acquaintances told me lots of stories about their life on this country station. One I have never forgotten centred round an experience of one of the girls when playing their only musical instrument, which was a small harmonium and this was located in one of the station waiting rooms. She was playing 'Impudence' and up popped a shiny green head on the other side of the instrument. She screamed; the grass snake slithered off but she dreaded a repetition. which I certainly would have done, also.

Another never to be forgotten procedure was the morning journey to school of four of these children. In the first place they were able to book their own ticket to Newtown. This I thought was a great innovation, and I say 'ticket' advisedly, the reason being on account of their father's employment, those four children could travel at a quarter of the normal fare and off they set on the only train available per day, accompanied by their bicycles which they needed for the return journey, and the total cost of the ticket for four children and four cycles amounted to tuppence.

Failsworth View 1840

'Robert a'th' View' - Chapter list