Saturday, May 18, 2024

The Tree Revisited

April 15, 2010 by  
Filed under Prose

The last year or so of my schooldays slipped by so quickly. One or two episodes still remain as sharp as ever in my memory.

Summer time lunch breaks, and a mad dash up past the station, into the fields to Carno Brook, a tributary to the River Severn. ‘Last one in is a sissy.’ Clothes flung in a heap on the bank. Splashing and swimming in the cool clear water. Occasionally someone would, in haste, and excitement, jump in with his socks still on, or even worse, his pants.Although the river played a large part in our lives and gave great enjoyment, it also sometimes caused great concern. I remember two such occasions.Near ‘the bridge on Trefeglwys Road, a family lived in a red brick house, built in the small triangle of land between the railway bridge (no longer existing) and the road bridge. This house had a small blue plaque, stating that the Welsh poet, Caradoc Hughes, had once lived there. The water supply was by means of a large pipe which ran past the house and discharged into the river. Water was collected by means of leaning over the bank, and allowing a bucket to be filled from the discharging pipe, a hazardous method even in fine weather.One lunch time a gang of boys, of which I was a member, was standing on the road bridge, trying to assess the river which was in full flood, and gauge how soon it would be before it broke over its banks, causing a flood, and our quick exit from school. We always got sent home when floods were threatened.

Suddenly there was a terrible screaming, and we could see someone being swept away down river, shouting and waving her arms. All we could do was rack back to the station and raise the alarm. The poor lady was found the next day entangled with the barb wire, underneath the Severn Bridge. She had met her death by trying to catch a bucketful of water from the pipe. This was also in full spate, and the force of the water hitting the bucket dragged her into the

river. It was weeks before any of us could stand on the bridge and look into the river.One other incident also had a very lasting effect on the boys of the school. In the same spot, just near the railway bridge where the pipe discharged. It was a glorious sunny day, the usual gang of boys was on the river bank, looking into what was in fact a whirlpool. In the clear water you could see the water going round and round, a stick thrown in would follow the flow, sinking down, and then slowly swirling back up again.Suddenly one of the boys slipped in and was carried round and down. His twin brother jumped in to try and save him. Neither could swim. One lad raced off to get help from the station yard. The rest of us watched in horror as both boys were swirled round and down, and then we could plainly see them crawling up the gravel slope of the bank, where we quickly grabbed them, coughing and spluttering, but otherwise apparently none the worse for their experience. A very quiet group of boys received a roasting from the two men who had raced up from their workplace, no doubt expecting to have to reclaim two drowned boys from the well known whirlpool.

The boys of the school had their own fighting arena, this was the square public weigh-bridge, which was let into the road near the station. The metal square formed a perfect arena, and the press of children round the edge ensured the best possible enclosure. Any disagreement in the school resulted in the challenge ‘see you on the weigh-bridge after school!’ If the challenge was taken up, the news would go round the school like wild fire, and everyone rushed to get a first class viewing spot. Many reputations were made and broken on that weight-bridge. My reputation was never challenged; after all, I was at least six inches taller and much heavier than my contemporaries.

A move to the County School at Newtown proved to be impossible and I would have to leave school at 14 years of age. Therefore, an alternative plan for my education had to be worked out. Acting on the advice of an old retired policeman, my future life was mapped out. That is to say wait until I was 18, and then join the Guards, further

my education, leave after three or four years. Join the Police Force. Retire after the stipulated 25 years on a good pension and still a comparitively young man.

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