The All Dafen Welfare Ground, known popularly today as Dafen Park, was officially opened on 14th August, 1926. It was a dream realised by the co-operation of works managers and employees in the village.
Dafen Works' manager Llewellyn John chaired the development committee, made up of the John family (founders of Felinfoel Brewery and subsequent owners of Dafen Works) and leading village activists. Llewellyn John made land available, as well did Mr David Harry, Llwynhendy. Members of the local works (both Dafen and Gorse) agreed to contribute a penny a week from their wages (doubled by a works contribution), to raise money for the scheme, and as a fee for use of the facilities and maintenance. During a two-week lay-off in April, 1926, workers gave their services to level the ground with earth from the works reservoir (Dafen Pond). The wet, marshy land was transformed into a recreation ground comprising of a children's corner, two quoiting pitches, three hard tennis courts, a cricket pitch, a bowling green, and later, a soccer pitch.
In opening the park, founder and President Llewellyn John said: “We have gathered together to celebrate a great event in the history of Dafen. I well remember going back many years...when it was difficult indeed to obtain a field for a cricket or football club...and more difficult still to run a club, owing to lack of money...We have now, for the village of Dafen, a ground which not only the young and strong men can avail themselves of, but also the middle-aged and old people, not forgetting the children.”
Mr David Harry said: “The generations of unborn will bless the name of Mr. Llewellyn John for his foresight and generosity in connection with the scheme...The villagers will have a recreation ground available for all time.”
The 'donation' of land by Mr John later appeared to have been ambiguous: after the closure of the works in the mid-1960s it appeared that the company still owned the land, and the Welfare Committee had to make door-to-door collections in order to secure the Park for the village in 1972, at a sum of £2000.
In 1976 the trustees of the Welfare Club transferred the park to Llanelli Borough Council, securing the Park for the future. However, 40 years later, this future is again uncertain, with Carmarthenshire County Council looking to save money by cutting subsidies to grass roots sports, and parks and playgrounds have been listed in an asset transfer programme. In 2014 Carmarthenshire Unified Sports Committee (CUSC) was formed to fight against these plans, and its campaign 'Save Our Parks and Playgrounds' (SOPAP) is currently making compelling arguments. Local resident Mike Bassett is Secretary for CUSC. Find out what the latest news is, and what Mike and CUSC have to say, on the Facebook page:
Main source: Davies, Byron. Dafen Recollections. Llanelli Borough Council, 1996.
The images show carnival floats being prepared in Tirforgan for the Felinfoel Carnival parade in 1973. One has a wedding theme, the other with a bit of everything has been given the name Dolly Mixtures.
The introduction of licensing laws and increasing insurance premiums have made the use of floats in processions difficult, and now at small events like this they seem to be a thing of the past. These days, many village carnivals, including Felinfoel have resorted to 'marching floats' instead.
Did you know? The name “float” is derived from the first floats, which were decorated barges, and were towed along canals with ropes held by parade marchers on the shore. They were originally introduced by the churches in the Middle Ages as mobile stages for religious plays where pageant wagons were used as movable scenery for passion plays.
What do you remember about the local carnivals of yesteryear?
Street parties have been organised by residents of British streets (on a mass basis) since 1919, when they were part of peace celebrations, and as a special treat for children who were suffering after the war.
Residents have since organised them on all major national days of celebration, which have included the Queen's 1977 Silver Jubilee, and the marriage of Prince Charles and Diana Spencer in 1981. See also the Festival of Britiain, Glasfryn, 1951.
It was nice to meet up with Eifion O'Brien this week. He had made the journey south, from Holyhead, with his wife Margaret, almost a month after his 80th Birthday, here to the village of his birth and the town in which he grew up, for a family gathering. He had offered to use some of his time during the visit to share some photos from his Dafen days, with the readers of Dafen Community Website.
When they arrived at my home in Maescanner Road, after settling-in to the Pemberton Premier Inn, the rear arches of the O'Brien's car, bearing down towards the tyres, showed the burden of carrying something heavy.
“There's a headstone in the back”, explained Eifion cheerfully. – The family were meeting at Adulam Chapel, Felinfoel on Saturday, to remember loved ones. And to replace an old wooden cross there with a new stone. Something which Eifion had wanted to do for a long time.
Eifion and Margaret had brought with them a miscellany of paper mementos: Holiday postcards addressed to Sarah, Eifion's mother; old photos of faces from the village, some remembered, others long forgotten; birth and marriage certificates; and an ancient copy of The Life of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (John Fleetwood), its brown boards barely attached, half bound in black leather, pages lightly tanned, fox edged, with the occasional evidence of pressed leaves. On the blanks at the back of the book there were hand written records carefully listing family births and deaths as far back as the 1860's; the book was easily that old too. The most recent of these hands was certain to belong to Margaret, which had cheekily added the name 'Eifion O'Brien 1935 – ' at the end.
We began to look at some of the pictures on the table.
Regular readers of the website will remember a photo which Eifion has already shared with us: his father Fred's cobbler shed on the corner of the Vitreflex works (now Dyfed Steel) on the junction of Dafen Inn Row. The shed was last there, he told us, in 1935. He now reveals that, sadly, in January that year, his mother Sarah O'Brien passed away. Only a day after Eifion was born.
From amongst the papers on the table I was shown the original bill for the funeral, made by Frank Owen of Cwmnant, Dafen (pictured). It was for eight pounds, including a hearse and motor coach to Adulam Chapel from Dafen. Around £500 in today's money.
Raising Eifion and his older sister Mair would have been a challenge for Fred O'Brien, but the grieving widower, who had only one good leg, would receive support from friends and family in the area. Eifion was looked after by a Mrs Lyons for six weeks after his birth, allowing Fred to organise his affairs.
Eifion explained that Fred had to sell the cobbler shed and all its contents so that he could support his children and have money to live on before they could receive support from the State. (This was before the modern Welfare State was founded).
He also had to find a place to live. – Fred and Sarah had lived in Maescanner House (Pictured).The house was for the caretaker of Maescanner Chapel, so after the tragedy, Fred had to move out.
Two rooms became available in a place that Eifion remembers was called Penrhiw Terrace. This, he says, is now part of today's Bryngwyn Road, opposite the junction of Lon Yr Ysgol. As these arrangements were unsuitable for a young girl, Mair would later move to live with an aunt in Felinfoel.
From the names listed in 'The Life of Our Blessed Lord...', I learned that Mair had passed away on the 28th of February 2010. While the memorial stone was put in place for their parents, Mair and others would be remembered too.
Click images to enlarge
Eifion was among the first pupils of Dafen School on Lon Yr Ysgol which had been built to replace the old tinworks school. And when he left school, his father found him work at Bryn-gwyn-mawr Farm, on Dafen Road in the area of Prince Philip Hospital. Eifion complained wryly to me that he planned to spend the summer looking for work at his leisure but, as it was, he finished school on the Friday and was in work the following Monday.
From the yard of Dafen School the view shows the Gorse works and Dafen Brickworks on the right, as well the reservoir (Dafen pond). You might make out the end of North terrace, next to the reservoir, but more clearly, over the fields now occupied by Prince Philip Hospital, is Globe Row, and in the corner of Dafen Road.
Eifion O'Brien supplied this picture of his father, Fred O'Brien, outside his cobbler shed on the corner of [what is now} the Dyfed Steel Building (then the Vitreflex ) at the juction of Maescanner Road, Dafen Road and Dafen Inn Row. Mr O'Brien says that the shed was last there 80 years ago, in 1935.
This photograph of Dafen Tinplate Works, taken around 1880, can be seen at Kidwelly Industrial Museum where you can you can gain an insight into the complicated and fascinating process of tinning/tinplate. There is also a section devoted to the coal industry as well as a small section on brickmaking; all part of Dafen's rich industrial heritage. Admission is free, but check the website before visiting, as it is a volunteer run site that is only open on certain dates.
Prince Charles’s investiture as Prince of Wales in 1969 was hugely controversial. The ceremony took place in Caernarfon Castle and was broadcast to a nation divided in opinion as to whether it affirmed Wales’s place in the United Kingdom, or reminded us of English dominance. Nonetheless, street parties were held across the country in celebration of the event.
Steve Thomas sent in this picture of a celebration in Dafen park. In the background, Dafen brickworks' stack and the overhead cable which carried clay down from Capel Quarry.
The Festival of Britain was a national exhibition held throughout the UK in the summer of 1951. It was organised by the government to give Britons a feeling of recovery in the aftermath of war and to promote the British contribution to science, technology, industrial design, architecture and the arts. The Festival's centrepiece was in London, but Festival celebrations took place around the country, including Cardiff, with further smaller scale local events such as this street party in Glasfryn.
Dafen History Overview