A Llandeilo Apprentice
By John Miles Thomas
Published (privately) in 1983
A Llandeilo Apprentice, published in 1983, is a little booklet relating the Llandeilo memories of John Miles Thomas between 1906 and 1911. The apprenticeship of the title was with a local chemist's shop in the days when pharmacies prepared their own drugs and medicines on the premises. Veterinary products could also be bought as readily as farm and garden seeds, or even cement and gunpowder. Paint was mixed on the chemist's premise before being sold to local decorators. A Llandeilo Apprentice tells, too, of a bygone era when couples went ‘sweethearting’ in lover's lane; when travel was by horse-drawn vehicles; and when the local Lord came to church in a coach drawn by four horses, accompanied by a driver, groom and two footmen. And in that world before TV, or even radio, the result of a rugby international at Cardiff would be conveyed to distant Llandeilo by telegram which would then be displayed in a shop window for all to see. All long gone now, of course, and that world a hundred years ago might as well be a distant planet for all the similarities it bears with our world today. The little booklet ends with the author coming back from the First Word War, summed up in just one short sentence:
The war ended at last, but with it had passed away our youth and the world we had known when we were young.
More is said about the waste of war in that one, brief sentence than many a book-length history. That conflict, described when it started as the ‘war to end wars’ proved instead to be just the prelude to another world war twenty years later.
Unusually for a privately published memoir the booklet ran into a second printing just a year later so it must have spoken to Llandeilo's readers in quite a powerful way.
It is often observed that, in old age, memories of childhood and early youth become exceptionally clear and vivid. At the age of eighty-five, in the last year of his life, my father began to describe in great detail to me his early experiences and feelings. I urged him to put pen to paper. Subsequently, a booklet entitled “Looking Back, a Childhood in St. Davids Eighty Years Ago“, was compiled and published after his death, and gave much pleasure to the present inhabitants of St. Davids.
These chapters, describing his years as an apprentice in Llandeilo, may prove of some interest to the people of that town. - Certainly they depict a way of life that has vanished, and may arouse old memories and some nostalgia in a few readers.Olwen Griffiths,
I was born in January 1889, at St. Davids in Pembrokeshire. I attended the National School there until I was twelve, and was a chorister at St. David's Cathedral from the age of nine until I was seventeen. My parents had a hard time making ends meet, and as I was the eldest boy in a large family, I was glad enough to leave school at the age of twelve, and take a job as errand-boy to Mr. David, the chemist at St. Davids. Mr. David was a fine man, an excellent master and a very good chemist. In my five years with him I learned the complicated routine of keeping a shop and stock- rooms clean and tidy, the stock always orderly and in readiness, and later, the control of the grocery side of the business, which, in those days, was considerable.
There had been some talk between Mr. David and some of the Cathedral clergy about my becoming an apprentice chemist to Mr. David, but it was considered that, as I had left school at the age of twelve, I would be unable alone to acquire the necessary educational grounding before embarking on the pharmaceutical course. Accordingly, Mr. David encouraged me to look for a post as a grocery assistant in the advertisement columns of the Western Mail, and, in due course, I obtained one in the chemist shop of Thomas Hughes, at Red House, Llandeilo. In February 1906, soon after my seventeenth birthday, I took the carrier's cart the sixteen miles to Haverfordwest, and thence, the train for Llandeilo. My experience of trains was limited to the annual choir-boys' outings to Tenby or Swansea. I managed the change at Carmarthen with no difficulty, and arrived at Red House on a Saturday afternoon.
I found Mr. Jack Hughes, the proprietor, and his staff very busy selling seeds. I told Mr. Hughes who I was, was given tea and shown the room which I was to occupy. This was a bedroom on the top floor front, which I was to share with Ben Thomas (Benna), whose place at the grocery counter I was to take, while he was to become an apprentice to Mr. Hughes. Another room on the top floor was shared by the two maids, while a third contained a portable bath for our use. There was a bathroom and water closet on the first floor, but we were not allowed to use that.
Thomas Hughes, whose name the shop carried, and who had died in 1905, had been a very successful business man. Following a fire in the 1870s which had destroyed an older building, he had rebuilt Red House and made it into an up-to-date and most attractive building. He had installed a lift in two sections which enabled goods to be lowered into the cellar from the roadside, then moved along rails in the cellar and lifted to the ground floor and first floor stock- rooms. This lift was invaluable for dealing with heavy goods - casks of oil, vinegar, turpentine, benzoline, Stockholm tar, neat's foot oil and even cement, which was only one of the many odd lines which chemists stocked in those days.
Red House was a very large and flourishing business. There was a licence to sell wines and a good stock of these always, and also a licence to sell gunpowder. Ready-made cartridges from Kynocks had only recently been introduced, and many farmers still preferred to make their own cartridges. There was shot of many different weights in little drawers, and powder was sold by the ounce, together with empty cartridges and wads to separate the powder from the shot and to seal the cartridge after the shot had been put in. The gun powder was kept in a locked cupboard and a police inspector came from time to time to see that stocks were kept under lock and key.
Paints and varnishes were kept in the "paint room", and local painters would go into it and mix their own paint, weigh it and pay for it or have it booked. Ready mixed paint was a thing of the future. We had a five hundredweight keg of white lead in oil, and smaller quantities of red-lead in oil. The basis of all paints was ¼ lb. of white lead rubbed down with equal parts of oil and turpentine to make 1 lb. of paint. All shades of pink to red were made by adding more or less red-lead, yellows by adding yellow ochre, and browns by adding brown umber. Venetian red was also used, and lamp- black for black paint. There was an ultramarine blue in oil for all blues and this, mixed with yellow, made all greens. It was very necessary when embarking on any painting job to estimate correctly how much would be needed, since it was not at all easy to match the colour in another batch.
We did huge trade in farm and garden seeds and during spring, were kept hard at it packing these for sale. Those who sell seed today have no idea of the labour involved in packing seeds eighty years ago. The seed was bought in quantity and weighed laboriously into small lots. Each lot was then placed on a small square of paper, and folded very carefully so that none escaped, then sealed with wax and the name and quantity written legibly on the outside. Most packets cost ½ d or 1 d. Hundreds of these packets had to be made, but there was plenty of time to do such things. The shop was open until the church clock struck nine on weekdays, and ten on Saturdays. Most shopping was done after people had done their day's work, and they were inclined to linger and enjoy a little gossip and company.
At Christmas, Miss May Hughes, Jack Hughes' sister, took over the dressing of the windows, and there was a huge display of Tom Smith's crackers, almonds, raisins, nuts and other Christmas goodies. On the first floor was a room which was known as "the Japanese". This was actually a room in the adjoining house, but a door had been made so that it could be reached from the drawing-room. It was filled with Japanese tea-sets and ornaments, very much in fashion then. Mrs. Hughes and Miss May looked after this department and sold mostly to invited customers.
The shop also stocked many veterinary preparations, linseed cake for cattle, and "greaves" for fox-hounds. But the busiest part of our trade was undoubtedly grocery. Llandeilo was a very prosperous market-town in the 1900s, and much of the shop routine was directed to preparing for Market Day, on Saturday. Each day some particular commodities were packed in readiness for Saturday. Thursday morning was always spent in making up the order for Dynevor Castle. This was huge - involving 14 lbs of each sugar, crystallized, lump and demerara, 7 lbs. of rice, 4 lbs. of Patna rice, 2 lbs. of mocha coffee, 2 lbs. of plantation coffee, tapioca, sago, ground almonds, candles, Sunlight soap and Christopher Thomas' bars of soap, boot polishes, brass polishes, currants, raisins, sultanas and so on and on. It took most of the morning to get ready. It was addressed to the housekeeper or to the Hon. Miss Gwenllian Rice.
There were orders too from other big houses, from Mrs. Peel of Danyrallt, from Taliaris, Golden Grove and lesser houses. There was just the beginning of a change occurring. Some large London stores, e.g., Whiteley's and Harrods, had begun to send out lists of high-class groceries and other goods, offering free delivery on orders of £10 or more. This - the very beginning of mail-order trade - slowly diminished the business placed locally and led to the decline of local shops.
I soon became used to the routine of the shop. In the morning at 8.30 I had to sweep the main floor of the shop and dust my side -the grocery side - of the counter. The floors were of bare wood and it was hard to avoid raising the dust in spite of sprinkling with water. Then I had to tidy the shelves and re-arrange the show-stands on the counter. At about nine o'clock Ben and I would be called in to breakfast, after Mrs. Hughes, her sons Jack and Tom, and her daughter, Miss May, had finished theirs. I was astonished at Ben's behaviour on my first morning. Almost before I had begun to eat mine, he had gobbled his breakfast and made off back to the shop. Mrs. Hughes, who still presided at the table, told me to take no notice of Ben, but I was made to feel I should hurry up. The result was that we dispatched all our meals, breakfast, dinner and tea, in the shortest possible time. I recall that at tea-time my cup never left my right hand, while my left held my bread-and-butter or cake till they were gone. Often, Miss May, then about 35, would also sit and watch us go through this performance. Sometimes, Mrs. Hughes and Miss May would be needed elsewhere, and then Ben and I, in the absence of those inhibiting, watchful eyes, would eat twice as much, and take twice as long over it. The shop stocked more than twenty kinds of biscuits, including some of Huntley and Palmers' best varieties. Ben had formed the habit of satisfying his appetite with these before breakfast, and, in view of my experience at the breakfast table, I soon joined him. This pilfering of biscuits, and also nuts and figs, had to be done before breakfast as, later, there was always some member of the family about.
Ben and I saw enough of each other at the shop, and soon found other friends to spend our spare time with. Ben introduced me to the Institute, which formed a meeting-place for shop-assistants and young people in lodgings. There was a reading-room with all the daily and weekly papers, and a good library, and billiards. I badly missed the cliffs and sea-shore of my native St. Davids, but soon fell in love with the beautiful trees of the Towy Valley, and walked for miles up and down the river banks. I struck up a friendship with Lloyd, an apprentice at Cambrian House, a drapery at the top of Carmarthen Street, and together we went for long walks. He, like me, was interested in improving his education, and also spent hours burning the midnight oil. Ben, my colleague at Red House, and I, put in a lot of time studying by candlelight. Curiously, we were given one candle a week, but we bought our own, so that we could work till midnight. Ben had an hour off work every morning to attend the St. Teilo's School in Abbey Terrace, run by a clergyman, the Rev. James. I was taking a Normal Correspondence Course, and found I could get along quite well alone.
I went to church at 11 o'clock every Sunday and to the Welsh class at Sunday School. Our teacher was a farmer, Lewis of Llanfawr. Sometimes John Bowen, the signal-man took the class for him. There were five or six young men of my own age, and fierce arguments arose as to the truth of some passages in the Bible. On one occasion we argued whether the first chapter of Genesis should be accepted as fact. Dan Davies of Bristol House, insisted on sticking to the letter of the text. Others demurred, and suggested that the word "day" should be read to mean "a period of evolution". The vicar, Archdeacon Robert Williams, was called to adjudicate, but he answered in an equivocal way which satisfied neither side. I myself had long before dismissed the story as an interesting myth to explain the mystery of creation.
On Sunday mornings when the Dynevor family were in residence, we would often watch the coach bringing the family to church. The big coach, like an old stage-coach, was drawn by four horses. Brooks, the coachman, was accompanied by a groom on the driving seat, and two smartly-dressed footmen at the rear. The beautifully polished coach was well-sprung, but made a considerable noise on its iron-tyred wheels. It would draw up with a crunching noise on the road outside the church-yard gate, the footmen would jump down and assist the passengers to alight. Then the footmen would re-mount, and the coach would withdraw, to return at the end of the service. The scene had a great deal more drama and dignity than the arrival of a Rolls Royce on a similar errand.
I was surprised to find that most of the servants at the castle were English - the butler, the coachman, the game-keeper, the gardener, the footmen. Only Price, the carpenter, was Welsh. Those were the days when everything possible was done to Anglicise the old Welsh traditions. The new castle itself had been called Newton before reverting to Dynevor Castle, and I was astonished to find even Welsh people in the district still referring to it as "Drenewydd".
Lloyd and I joined the Llandeilo and Llandovery Company of the 1st Volunteer Battalion of the Welch Regiment, and went to camp on Salisbury Plain on two successive summers. We had received rifle practice and some experience of shooting on the range situated on the meadows of the Towy below the old Dynevor Castle. I well remember that these practices took place on Wednesday afternoons. Miss May would give me sandwiches to replace the tea I would miss. They were made of unbuttered bread and bloater paste, and, although I was invariably hungry, I had some difficulty in eating them, I member.
After about eighteen months at Red House, I had mastered the routine fairly well. I was astonished to find that Mrs. Hughes and Miss May had very little idea of fixing prices for goods that varied from season to season; dried fruits and nuts for instance. They would see what price was being asked in other shops, and take this as their price too. I would show them how to take the cost price and add on the desired profit, but they seemed not to be able to do it. It must be remembered, though, that for most everyday goods, prices remained constant for years at a time.
There was an awkward situation at Red House then. Much against his father's wishes, Jack Hughes had volunteered several years earlier for the Boer War, and had gone to South Africa with the Pembrokeshire Yeomanry. Old Mr. Thomas Hughes had taken umbrage at Jack's departure and had advertised for a qualified chemist to take Jack's place. This post was taken by a Mr. D. M. Davies, who was a son of the Down Farm on the Llandovery Road, four miles out of Llandeilo. He had been apprenticed to a Carmarthen chemist, after passing his preliminary examination at Llandovery College. He had spent some years in London and was now glad to return to his own neighbourhood. Old Mr. Hughes died before Jack returned from South Africa, leaving the business in Mrs. Hughes' hands. When Jack returned, his mother naturally wanted him to take over the business. Mr. Davies accordingly left and set up his own business at 41 Rhosmaen Street, next to the Castle Hotel.
After some time, Mrs. Hughes asked me if I would like to stay on and be apprenticed as a chemist to Jack Hughes, after Ben had finished his term. I thought this would be a good opportunity of improving my prospects, and therefore accepted the offer. I could not help noting, however, that Jack Hughes was nothing like as good a chemist as my old master, Mr. David of St. Davids. Here, the apprentice, Ben, was left much to his own devices, while Jack Hughes, after seeing to the ordering, and interviewing travellers, liked to idle about and make his way to the Three Tuns for a drink several times a day. He was also seriously courting an elegant young lady, the daughter of the King's Head Hotel. They were duly married and set up house in George Street. Seven months later, twin sons were born prematurely, and their health and feeding gave much trouble. After the arrival of the twins, Jack Hughes became very short-tempered and irritable. He was doubtless finding it difficult to keep out of debt on his salary of three pounds a week - (all that his mother allowed him as her manager) - and his domestic life was certainly disturbed. I began to think I should have a heavy time of it if I were to spend another three years under his eye. He had not mentioned his mother's request to me to stay on and become an apprentice. One day he came down on me heavily on some trifling matter, saying "You are not the only pebble on the beach, remember". I took this to mean that he had other candidates in mind for an apprentice to follow Ben.
That evening, after closing, I went to Mr. D. M. Davies' shop in Rhosmaen Street, and knocked at the back door. Mr. Davies himself answered the door. I asked him if he wanted an apprentice. He answered at once that he would be very happy to have me, and asked why I wanted to leave Red House. I told him how things stood there, and that I was about to give three months' notice to leave. Mr. Davies was anxious that it should not seem that he had enticed me away from Red House. We therefore arranged that I leave Hughes' in three months' time and should contact Mr. Davies towards the end of that period.
I handed Jack Hughes my letter of notice next morning. It was not much remarked upon, and as time passed, I think it was assumed that I had had second thoughts. Towards the end of three months I contacted Mr. Davies again. He suggested I take a holiday at home for a few weeks. He would insert an advertisement in the Carmarthen Journal that he was ready to accept an apprentice. I was to apply and secure the post. When the day came for my departure, Mrs. Hughes was away on holiday. I had sent my luggage in advance, and it was with a light heart that I wished them goodbye at Red House and made my way to the station.
In those days it was necessary before deciding which day I would go home, to write and ask when the St. Davids carriers, Moriarty or Butler, would next be in Haverfordwest, and to warn them to Wait for the train. I might otherwise be stranded in Haverfordwest for the night. Usually the carrier, after completing his errands and colleting goods destined for St. Davids, would make for home unless warned to expect a passenger off the train. I usually arrived about four o'clock. Old Butler would be on the platform to meet me and we would set off, myself beside the driver with a blanket over my legs. His cart was open, and, if it rained, one just got wet. There were numerous calls en route, to deliver or collect packages, retail gossip or transact business. I was glad to walk ahead to restore my circulation and always walked up the seventeen hills. There was almost nothing on the road, and the horses could find their way very well. Often it was ten o'clock before we reached St. Davids.
I had plenty to do during my enforced holiday, preparing my self for my studies. When my indentures arrived for signing, my father was apprehensive about my ability to carry out my plans, but dear Mr. David, who was a witness to our signatures, soothed father, saying, "John knows very well what he is about". I was proud of his faith in me. My indentures were to run from November 30th, 1908, for three years. I was to be paid five shillings a week for the first year, seven shillings and sixpence for the second, and ten shillings for the third. Mr. Davies' parents had had to pay a £50 premium when he was apprenticed, and he was paid nothing at all, but things had changed since then and were still changing.
TEXT OF MY APPRENTICESHIP INDENTURE
This Indenture Witnesseth that:
John Miles Thomas, Lower Moor, St. Davids in the County of Pembroke, a minor under the age of twenty one years by and with the con sent of his father James Thomas of the same place testified by his executing the5e presents doth put himself Apprentice to David Morgan Davies of 41 Rhosmaen Street in the town of Llandilo in the county of Carmarthen Chemist and Druggist to learn his Art trade or business and with him after the Manner of an Apprentice to serve from the thirtieth day of November one thousand nine hundred and eight until the full End and Term of three years and from thence next following to be fully complete and ended During which Term the said Apprentice his Master faithfully shall serve his secrets keep his lawful commands everywhere gladly do he shall do no damage to his said Master nor see to be done of others but to the best of his power shall prevent or forthwith give warning to his said Master of the same he shall not waste the Goods of his said Master nor lend them unlawfully to any he shall not do any act whereby his said Master may have any loss with his own goods or others during the said Term without Licence of his said Master shall neither buy nor sell nor absent him self from his said Master's service day or night unlawfully But in all things as a faithful Apprentice he shall behave himself towards his said Master and all his during the said Term And the said David Morgan Davies hereby agrees to pay his said Apprentice the sum of fourteen pounds for the first year the sum of seventeen pounds for the second year and the sum of twenty pounds for the third year And the said David Morgan Davies doth hereby covenant that he will teach his said Apprentice in the Art trade or business of Chemist and Druggist which he uses by the best means that he can shall teach and Instruct or cause to be taught and instructed Finding unto the said Apprentice sufficient Meat Drink and Lodging and all other Necessaries during the said Term with the exception of Medical Attendance and Laundry work and for the true performance of all and every the said Covenants and Agreement either of the said Parties bindeth himself unto the other by these presents In Witness whereof the parties above named hereunto set their Hands and Seals the thirtieth day of November in the year of Our Lord One Thousand Nine Hundred and Eight.
Signed Sealed and delivered by the above named
John Miles Thomas and James Thomas
in the presence of
John Miles Thomas
D. M. Davies
Signed sealed and Delivered by the above named
David Morgan Davies in the presence of
Ernest Philip Jenkins
I was happy to return to Llandeilo, where I now had several friends and a sweetheart, of whom more later. In my new home there was plenty to eat and reasonable time to eat it. There was a grocery department here too, and I helped Henry Howells, who was in charge of it, whenever it was necessary. I soon re-organised the work so that all would be in readiness for market-day. I took my full share of the packing of seeds which took so much of our time in spring. But my real work was now on the pharmaceutical side of the business. I was exceedingly keen to learn all I could about each vegetable drug or chemical that I had occasion to use, and I would look up in the Pharmocopaea the characters of these and commit them to memory. I was fortunate to have a master who took great delight in making all his own tinctures, solutions, mixtures, creams, ointment, etc. The only preparations we did not make were tinctures made by percolation and certain standardised tinctures like digitalis and opium. Even these we bought as concentrates from Burroughs Wellcome. Parrish's Food we made directly from the iron and phosphoric acid. I would make a batch of this in a matter of two hours in a morning. Strong nitrate of mercury ointment was another preparation I made. I remember that Mr. Davies told me how at Allen and Hanbury's, the porter who had been twenty five years with the company, would show each bunch of apprentices how to make this ointment, and how it was customary to tip him a gold half-sovereign for the privilege.
A large number of preparations for cattle were made by us also, and all prescriptions for Mr. Jenkins, the veterinary surgeon. He was a rotund, jolly person, but bone-lazy. He had his head-quarters at the Castle Hotel, next door. He would often hide when a farmer needed his assistance, and would only show up when the farmer had in desperation sought Mr. George, the farrier, in his place. Jenkins and George were on friendly terms, and when Mr. George was out of his depth, off the two would go together to the job in hand. Jenkins was unmarried and saw no need to work harder than was necessary. He was a very capable vet and could have amassed a for tune at Llandeilo in those days if he had been so inclined.
As I have mentioned, shops stayed open until nine or ten at night and customers were spread thinly throughout most of the hours of the day. There was thus much slack time when some diversion was welcome. At mid-morning Mr. Davies, Mr. Jenkins, Mr. Jones the printer and Mr. Edwards, Railway Tavern, would stroll along to one of the pubs and drink a glass of beer together. Mr. Davies was back within the half-hour. I never saw any of them the worse for drink, but the desire for a chat and a glass of something was strong.
There was often some practical joke afoot, or a bit of ragging of one or other of the group. There was an old wag called Shoni'r Felin [John the Miller] who used to hang around the pubs and attach himself to any group who would offer him a drink. Old Shoni came to the shop with them one day and would not be shaken off. Mr. Davies motioned one of them to engage him in conversation while he stuffed into the back of Shoni's collar a bit of cotton wool on to which he poured a drop of carbon bisulphide. Then Mr. Davies gave him the price of a drink and told him to go over to the Cawdor Arms. To Shoni's surprise and disgust, they pushed him out of the bar in a hurry, so he went to, the George and Dragon, only to receive the same treatment there. Finally, he tried the Tree Tuns, where Johnny Richards threw him out saying he stank worse than a pig.
On another occasion a trick was played on Dai John Morris, who kept a tobacconist's shop opposite the chemist's in Rhosmaen Street. He was a small, alert, wide-awake little man who liked to be abreast with everything. There was much interest locally in the International Rugby matches at Cardiff Arms Park, for George Davies, Johnny Davies and another brother had figured in first class Rugby in those days. Two of the brothers had been capped for Wales. On this occasion, that of a match between England and Wales, Dai John Morris had been quick to take advantage of a Western Mail offer to send telegrams of the half-time score to anyone willing to pay for the service. Accordingly, at half-time a telegram arrived - Wales 11, England 5. Knots of people gathered to read this, displayed prominently in Dai John's shop-window. Across the road, in the chemist's shop, Mr. D. M. Davies, Jenkins the Vet, Jack Jones the Post Office, Edwards Railway Tavern, and Jones the printer, watched all this, and plotted. About five minutes before the final-score telegram could be expected, I was sent to the Post Office to send a telegram to Dai John Morris, reading "Final score-Wales 11, England 15. True killed". (True was one of the Welsh halves). Soon, along came the telegraph boy delivering the telegram. Dai John read it hurriedly, and placed it in the window, alongside the other. There was soon a crowd of fifty or so gathered, agape with this appalling news. Then, looking more closely, someone read "Handed in at Llandeilo", and the game was up. Dai John, crestfallen, crossed the road to confront the five gleeful faces. On his next visit to Swansea, Dai John took the telegram to show to True, who begged it as a keepsake.
Mr. D. M. Davies was an all-round sportsman and loved a day's fishing or shooting whenever the opportunity arose. By this time I had had several years' experience of life in a chemist's shop and could deal with almost anything that came up, so that Mr. Davies felt free to leave me. Sometimes, after heavy rain had brought flood water into the Cothi and other tributaries of the Towy, Edwards, Railway Tavern, would suggest a day's fishing. It would take D.M. only a quarter of an hour to collect his tackle, and away they would go, to return at dusk with a basketful of fine fish. Next morning I would find one or two brown trout beside my bacon at breakfast. Many of the local gentry would give Mr. Davies tickets to fish their water. Lord Dynevor was one of these, and Mr. Peel, Danyrallt, Llangadog, and Mr. Thomas, Caeglas. Once, Mr. Davies was fishing in the Cennen on a Whit Monday. He was thinking of going home after a fruitless day's fishing when the sewin [sea trout] began to take the bait. In less than an hour he had caught five fine fish. As he prepared to leave, Mr. Thomas, Caeglas, on whose land he was fishing, came along with his rod. He had fished without success all day, so Mr. Davies, feeling a trifle guilty, offered some of his fish to Mr. Thomas. The offer was politely refused, but Mr. Davies never again received a ticket to fish the Cennen.
Mr. D. M. Davies' sister, Mrs. Glasbrook, farmed the Down Farm, on the Llandovery Road. She was a kind lady with an effusive manner. She had issued many invitations to Henry, my young colleague, and me to have tea with her one Sunday afternoon, but had never made a firm date. However, one Good Friday afternoon, she made us promise, without fail, to come to tea. We felt in duty bound to accept this pressing offer and duly walked the four miles to present ourselves at the farm at tea-time. It was a warm afternoon and we were thirsty when we at last knocked at the door, only to be told that Mrs. Glasbrook was not at home. As we trailed back down the lane, we encountered Mr. D. M. Davies and Mr. Glasbrook returning after a day's fishing. They assumed we were returning after being given tea, and it was only after reaching the house that they learned we had been sent away empty. An apology followed, of course, and another invitation. Needless to say, we were not keen to try our luck again.
Mrs. D. M. Davies was a daughter of the Parry's of the Castle Hotel, next door to the shop. She was a good mother to her two little girls, Gwyneth and Ethel, but was evidently unused to the running of a household. Mary, the maid, took on all responsibility of cooking, baking, washing, ironing, etc., leaving Mrs. Davies free to attend to the children. Mr. Davies himself saw to the buying of meat for the household, and would order fruit and vegetables. Mrs. Davies had an extraordinary addiction to tea. She would drink cup after cup, invariably draining the pot dry. She had a very sweet tooth, too. Mr. Davies was unhappy to see her eat so many sweets, but when he was out, she would come down to the shop and help herself to a pound or more of sweets, of which we sold many varieties, asking us not to mention it to Mr. Davies.
There were some old bottles of miscellaneous drugs on a shelf in one of the stockrooms which had come from the shop of another chemist in the same street, who had died and whose business had closed down shortly before Mr. D. M. Davies opened his shop. This man was also called Davies, but was better known as Dafys Gwyllt, because of his wild and uncontrolled manner. He had also been a dentist, it seems, and had placed a chair outside his shop to advertise the fact that he was prepared to extract teeth for sufferers. One does wonder, in view of his reputation, how many clients can have availed them selves of his services. Young Henry Howells, the grocery assistant was investigating one of the old jars one day, and took out of it some sticks of phosphorus which were kept under water. He was surprised to find them beginning to smoke in his hands, and his fingers were soon burned and needing bandages. After this incident, the sticks of phosphorus were thrown away on the midden of the Castle Hotel field. Next day, it was discovered that some of the Castle Hotel's hens were staggering about and some had died. Mr. Jenkins, the vet, opened the gizzard of one of the dead hens, and found it smoking and smelling strongly of phosphorus. We finally had to retrieve all the phosphorus from the midden and burn it with plenty of wood shavings and then flush the ashes away with gallons of water.