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A RHONDDA BOY 1906 - 1914

Glyndŵr Pub

Author: Ivor Howells




A RHONDDA BOY 1906 - 1914 by Ivor Howells Glyndŵr Pub 2001

Foreword by Edward Howells:

‘This book was written by Ivor Howells at the age of 93 in a nursing home in Hayling Island in Hampshire. He wrote partly to recapture his memories and in his mind to visit again the Rhondda Valley and his beloved Wales. He also wanted to record the details of life at the beginning of the twentieth century for future generations. After his death at the age of 94 in 1998 a friend and colleague, Owen Vernon Jones, suggested that it might be published. Very grateful thanks is owed to him for all the hard work involved in editing and searching out interesting photographs from local sources. It is due to his invaluable help and encouragement that this book now appears in print. Ivor would have been thrilled and amazed to read the printed version.’

This account of Ivor’s childhood years is full of amusing anecdotes, such as: ‘Ther surgery was not far away from our home. The practice consisted of three doctors, and the fees were paid by a weekly deduction from my father’s wages, made by the colliery offices. Non-mining families paid their fees by annual subscription. The senior doctor, Dr. Jackson, was tall, saturnine, immaculately groomed. We saw very little of him. Rumour had it, no doubt unfairly, that he spent most of his time attending to the fee-paying families who were better off than the mining families…

The third doctor, Doctor Edwards, was a short man with a white moustache and a very red face. He looked much older than the other two because of his white moustache. To him seemed to fall the most humdrum and menial tasks, including tooth extraction, at which he was expert. Tooth decay was very prevalent in those days, due not only to the excessive consumption of sweet foodstuffs in our diet, but also to the lack of necessary vitamins in our monotonous meals. There was one dentist in town, but few could afford the fee. Dentistry was in its infancy in those days, there was no certainty that the process would be pain-free as recourse was made to an extraction “in the raw”, that is without any anaesthetic.

The lad affected would be brought to the surgery; always by his father, the mother being unequal to the task. They would be shown into a small anteroom specially set apart for this kind of examination. Dr. Edwards would be waiting and say, “Open your mouth”, The boy, very wary and uncertain as to what was going to happen, would hesitatingly half open his mouth at which the doctor would say, “Come on! Open wider, I’m only going to examine the tooth”. The boy would obediently open wide, and before he knew what was happening, he was uttering the most bloodcurdling cries. The doctor’s forceps, craftily concealed up his sleeve, was already at work, pulling at the offending molar. Patients in the waiting room would wince in sympathy on hearing these heartbreaking cries.

Suddenly, the cries would cease, followed by an ominous silence. The door would open and out would emerge the father, looking very relieved, followed closely by the boy, more relieved, but also aggrieved because he had been deceived. Last of all would come Dr. Edwards, triumphantly waving the bloodstained forceps with the offending molar in its clutches. “There!” the doctor would exclaim, “It wasn’t so bad after all, was it?” If looks could kill, he would have died where he stood, but he was a real expert at his job.’

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