Thursday, November 12, 2009

Raymond O'Connor- Lincolnshire

Raymond's 71st birthday party

This is Raymond O'Connor personal account of how TB affected his life.

He decided to write his story after a relative sent him a copy of "The Children of Craig-y-nos" as a 71st birthday present.

Not only did it trigger off many childhood memories but it provided the answers to questions he had been asking all his life.

Today he is married with three children and lives in Gainsborough.
He says:" I am kept quite busy doing the maintenance, decoration and repair for all my children.

My story is about Tuberculosis and how it took control and shaped the destiny of my family.

It all started with the death of my grandmother Margaret Ann Davies formerly Williams. Her father was a coachman who had the public house called the 'Bull's Head' in Brecon.

It was at the time of the farmers market where she met Dan Isaac Davies whom she later married. This was normal practice at the time, for all the local farmers to visit Brecon to sell their wares. Margaret eventually settled down in Forestfach on a farm called Glanyrafon, a farm with a mill attached. Dan Davies also worked down the pit following his family tradition as his dad
William Davies better known as Wil Sar ran the farm at Pontalasau, Morriston called Maeseglwys.

He also worked down the pit, made coffins and buried the dead as he was a joiner and also had time to practice country medicine. He originally came from Llanderbie where the family is well

Craig-y-nos- view of the Glass Conservatory and balconies

My grandparents had four children called Ifor, John William, my mother Bertha Kathlyn Mary and Margaret. The fourth child Margaret Davies, born February 29th 1920 and died March 12th 1920 due to complications in birth and tuberculosis.

Grandmother Margaret died Dec 14th 1920 at Cyrola Sanatorium, Neath. Two years later, Dan Isaac died Sept 6th 1922 due to an accident down the pit where he was crushed between two trams, leaving three children as orphans so they were taken under the wings of the formidable Aunty Annie. She lived on a small holding called 'Tredigarfach' on the road that leads to Felindre, until British Steel built the steelworks in its place. She raised all the children that were orphaned from the Davies family as there were others besides my mother and her two brothers.

Fate decided to strike once more as young Ifor was killed in a motorbike accident in Llangyfellach at the age of fifteen. My mother and her brother William continued to live on the farm until my mother had to go into service to supplement the income of the farm. It was during this time that she met my father Chris O'Connor who was home on leave from the army. He was in the Kings own regiment at Brecon.

It was during their courtship that my mother asked aunty Annie permission to marry even though she was 21. The answer was 'No' the reason being that Chris O'Connor was an Irish Catholic. However, this did not deter her as she married him anyway but the Davies family ostracised her. She lived with my father's mother at 31 St.Georges Terrace now known as Hannover Street where i was born on 1st October 1938. My father was still in the army at the time. Two years later my sister Eileen was born. It would appear my mother was asked to leave as there were too many people at the house. My sister was actually born in Page Street in Nov 20, 1940.

At this time my father was away in the war in Africa so she was like a single parent struggling to raise 2 young children on her own. It must have been an awful time for her as she was forced to accept lodgings at her sister-in-laws in Richards Place behind the police station in Swansea. I have fond memories when I lived there as all the children slept in one bed, 3 at the top and 3 at the bottom.

I remember being snug as a bug with the welsh multi-coloured blanket on us. I know I was a handful for my mother as I remember running around the streets whilst the air raid was on, talkingto the ladies on the search lights while everyone else were taking cover in the shelters.

Now as I reflect at the age of 71, it is strange how something's are very vivid in my memory whilst other things are obscure.

It was when I received the book 'The Children of Craigynos' from my second cousin Hilary Thomas as a gift on my 71st birthday, some of the things in the book had answered the dreams I've been having for years and still have these dreams now.

The Glass Conservatory - babies ward

Most strange dream is about the house with many glass windows in and being tied down to the bed and travelling down a corridor on a trolley with lights passing overhead. Another one of my dreams was about horses and the blacksmith working, shoeing horses and quenching the iron shoe in a water barrel at the side of the door. The next one was, rolling down the hill which was full of nettles and wild flowers. Being locked in the cupboard under the stairs.

Now as I try to remember Craigynos it is a complete blank. Maybe I shut out the memories because of the death of my mother as she died a day before my 5th birthday.

I try to ascertain as to when my mother, sister and myself arrived at Craigynos and I can only do this by the last photograph that was taken in Swansea in July 1942 so, this leaves 13 months from the photograph to the time of her death in Sept. 30th 1943.

I do know that I was released before my sister and looked after by my aunt Molly. She was the one who gave me the photographs in 1990 at the re-union of the family arranged by me but that's another story.

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