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.
Dafen History Overview