He Gave Me Thruppence!
I attended Dynevor Grammar School in Swansea from 1949 – 1954.
Most days I would travel to and fro on the Mumbles Railway – the oldest passenger-carrying train in the U.K.
I would leave school at 4pm, run down through the old bombed-out Swansea Market to Rutland Street, which was the terminus for the trains, and catch the 4.15pm train to Mumbles. Then transfer to the Caswell Bay bus for the onward journey to Newton. Nearly all the Mumbles and Newton kids would catch the same train which would be quite full of us kids!
One day, I must have committed some unpardonable sin in school, as I was ‘sentenced’ to an hour’s detention!
After serving my sentence, I ran to Rutland Street and caught the next train. Alas! It was turned 5 o’clock and there were no kids on it at all! It was just full of ‘workmen’ (as we used to call workers!!). Most of them were somewhat dirty as they did manual jobs.
So, instead of going ‘upstairs’ where ALL decent and normal kids go, I sat at the bench style seat next to the folding doors of the train. And there I sat for the entire journey – satchel on my lap, looking very sorry for myself. Because I knew that I was going to be very, very late for my paper-round! The people of St.Peter’s Road and Caswell Avenue would never forgive me. My mother would know that something had gone wrong, so I was probably in for a right rollicking there too! And I would then be too late to go and ‘play’ with the boys as they would have already gone off in search of
treasure today’s playground!
So, I just sat there! All the way until the train stopped at West Cross. West Cross was a council-house area, built of steel-houses after the war. Riff-raff lived there, of course!! Or, were they?
One of the workmen got off the train. I shall never forget him. He would have been about 40-ish; slim build; dirty, once-white but now grimy grey mac; the seemingly mandatory features of flat-cap and ex-army haversack which would have carried his lunch; and the solemn, dirty face of a tired man! He had been sat opposite me and must have seen my woeful face because, after he got off the train, he reached back inside, and stuffed a thruppeny bit into my hand! He quickly turned away and hurried up the slipway to the Mumbles Road leading onto the council estate. And I never saw him again.
Which is a great pity because, I have often wondered whether he ever knew just what that gesture meant to me – and still does!