Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Alcwyn Davies - porter/odd-job man, 1942

Alcwyn Davies, worked at Craig-y-nos as a temporary porter/odd-job man in 1942.

Here are some of his stories.
He recalls his first day.
“On my first day there I was sent to work with Mr Christie, the head porter.
He says : "Come with me.”
He picks up a stretcher.
We go into a ward. The screens are around a bed.
A nurse pulls them back. There’s this young girl there, beautiful she was.
“You grab her legs “ says Mr Christie, he was always known as Mr Christie a funny chap, real funny chap kept himself to himself.
He seized her shoulders.
‘ I can’t do it’ I said”

“You either do it or you are out of a job.”
So I took hold of her legs. She was still warm.
She was about my age, 16.

I shall always remember that.”

How Griff (the fox) spent a night in the morgue

The porters lodge was on the right of the main entrance. That’s where you went when you were off duty.
One night there was , a big “do” up in Craig-y-nos just a few weeks before Christmas, it was a very eerie place with the wind blowing and you know all those balconies with people outside even in winter.
Well, there were four of us, and we missed the last bus home.
I says to my friends: “Come on boys we will sleep the night in the porters lodge”.
Two of them didn't want to stay and walked home but one, Gerald, stayed with me.
We went into the porters lodge.
The deputy matron , a really lovely woman, not strict like the matron, came to see us.
We tell her we have missed the bus.
She says:” I will bring you something to eat”.
So she comes back with a big plate of Welsh cakes left over from the party.

Well, about 1 o clock in the morning there’s a knocking on the door and this awful groaning sound.
It’s Griff “Canddo”, (Welsh for fox cause he is so crafty) the chauffeur, blind drunk.
“You are not coming in here:” I say.
I turn to Gerald :
“I am going to get the key to open the morgue( which was opposite the porters lodge).
We open it up but don’t turn on the lights.
Between us we carry Griff in and lay him on a slab.
We lock the door.
Around five o’clock next morning we are woken up by the most terrific bellowing noise.
“Dreadful racket !” says Alcwyn.
“That must be Griff”.
So they go to the morgue. They put on the lights. Now they see for the first time that there are three dead bodies on the stone slabs - and Griff, alive and groaning.

“He’s frozen. So we carry him out and put him by the side of the gate because there was a bus at 6 o clock in the morning, the first bus to Ystradgynlais. He could hardly move. He was that cold.”
He wasn't there when we went out at half past seven in the morning so he must have got the bus home.
He was that drunk he didn't know where he was, which was just as well.”

Coal for the castle
One of Alcwyn jobs was to go with Griff up to Penwyllt to get coal for Craig-y-nos.

“He could drive so it was our job to get the coal.
it for the hospital boiler-house.
The nurses had coal fires in their quarters and sometimes there were fires in the wards too.”
“But the only time I would only go in to the wards was to collect bodies,” says Alcwyn.

Thunder and lighting in Craig-y-nos castle
Thursday was always Mr Christie’s night off and I would have to stand in for him.
He used to go to the Astoria cinema in Ystradgynlais (they are knocking it down now) .
Well, there I am sitting in front of my nice big fire, reading a book in the lodge when I get this call from matron.
“Can you come over to the main entrance and bring a stretcher with you?” she says.
I knew what that meant, another dead body.
It was a bad night with the wind howling and the thunder and lightning and I didn't fancy going out one bit.
As I put the phone down there’s a massive big clamp of thunder and all the lights go out.
I find a torch and walk over to the main entrance and matron is waiting for me.
“Come with me” she says . She has some candles.
We go up to Ward 2 .
We put this chap who has just died on to the stretcher.
Matron carries one end and I the other.
We go to where the lift is only it’s not working.
There’s no electricity in the castle.
What to do?
Matron says:
“You carry him. I will wait for you at the bottom of the stairs.”
And she lifts him over my shoulder .
It is the back stairs and very narrow and his head must have hit against the wall. Suddenly the man makes this enormous sound: ”uuuggh.....”
I drop him and I run all the way back to the lodge and lock myself in.
Matron phones and I says to her:
“He’s alive!”
“No, he’s not.”
She orders me to go back and get him.

Immune to death
You would be taking out three or four bodies a week. It was very sad.
Some were very young, in their early teens, 12, 13 and 14 year olds.
“It was a sad , sad place but you got used to it. You had to. It was a job and jobs were hard come by in those days. ”
You got a bit immune to it cause you saw so much.
You had to...
Thank God those days have gone.”

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