Spotlight on your branch

Spotlight on Llanelli

In March, Ray Howells regaled members with memories of Llanelli. Ray focussed on the period after the second world war until the end of the seventies, when in common with many towns the centre changed dramatically making it almost unrecognisable now to someone who may have moved away.

In his talk Ray limited his observations to the square half mile of the town centre. The pedestrianisation of the town centre having a huge impact on Stepney St in particular and together with the growth of internet shopping and the development in more recent years of an out of town shopping complex has resulted in fewer shops and less choice.

Ray pointed out that no-one in the centre of town would have died of thirst as  that square half mile included thirty licensed premises including The Ship, The Mansell, The Three Crowns, The Lamb and Flag, The Brace, The George and Dragon, The Dynevor, The Swansea Castle, The Cambrian, The Queen Victoria, The North Gate, The Ivy Bush, The Island House, The Prince of Wales, the Bush Vaults and many more. Ray drew particular attention to the famous York Hotel which he felt should have been moved to St. Fagan’s.

The male population of Llanelli in this period was well served by fifteen gents outfitters, among them James Ready Made which had two branches in Llanelli, the joke of the time being that James, being ready made was the first man on earth. Another famous name is that of Burton, The Tailor of Taste, the art deco building remains but the premises no longer operate as a gent’s outfitters.

Whilst public houses proliferated there were any number of coffee shops and the Italian café culture was popular with everyone. Family names such as Sartori, Allegri and Rabiotti adorning the shop fronts.

The ladies of the town could choose from stores including Suzy Leonard, Rene Gwilym, Paige, Puddy, Vincent Morris, Irene Adair and Morris the Realm, Llanelli’s own department store.

The centre supported a range of businesses, tobacconists, jewellers, fishmongers, ironmongers and small supermarkets such as Home and Colonial and Liptons. Llanelli indoor and the butter market housed a wide range of stalls to meet the needs of the residents. The performances in the market by Llanelli Little Theatre drew large crowds. Members recalled the Palto fabric stall and Griffiths the Market. Just outside the market the famous Pugh Brothers furniture store where many newly marrieds bought the furniture for their new home together.

Something unlikely to be seen again were the outdoor urinals, at least one of which was positioned very close to the Lliedi River for fairly obvious reasons.

Ray noted that there are ninety-two listed buildings within the borough and include the old Post Office, The Exchange Buildings, The Town Hall and The Arcade.

It was an evening which triggered many memories, the town in which many of us grew up and the very different Llanelli of today.

In April David Evans a local genealogist gave an entertaining talk on delving into family history and showing how ordinary people can lead extraordinary lives. In David's words- “thirty-seven years ago, I began a journey of family history without even realising it. Back in 1982, what was Genealogy? What was I doing and what was the purpose? These are questions you solve over the years and constantly redefine with discoveries and the technical age. Genealogy can be what you want it to be.Simple and limited, through to staggering in diversity and range.”

David explained and illustrated with family photos how your family tree can be much more than just a list of names, dates and events. At the age of twenty-eight his grandparents had died and the questions he could have asked could never be answered. However, as he admitted, he then began to question anyone and everyone about his and his wife’s families. Whilst he did not have grandparents, he did have an aunt and she told stories, lots of stories!

Story telling is an essential part of family history, there can be embellishments over time, but there is a core of experience. You can research names, places and dates for the structure of the tree, the family can confirm things, and no one tells you a lie but will tell you the truth as they understand it. Unfortunately growing older is often the trigger for researching family history, from about age of 40 we begin to think of our genetic heritage. We also think of the questions we should have asked when people were still alive.

Interestingly the 1911 census included number of years married and noted numbers of children born alive or dead, born alive meaning living for more than twenty-four hours. Quite often people don’t mention children who didn’t survive, so in one case a lady had ten children but because five died before they had lived for a day they are not counted and mentioned by the family.

David noted that researching your own tree can be a very time-consuming activity. Many viewers watching Who Do You Think You Are? on TV can be deceived into thinking their detailed tree is merely the click of a mouse button away. In reality a large team of researchers and a significant period of time is needed to create the ‘instant’ tree.

A photograph can tell us so many things, David used a photograph of a family wedding to illustrate his point. A picture of 10 siblings aged between 60 and 75 at a wedding still speaking with one another which for one reason or another doesn’t always happen.

Photographs of pubs can reflect moments of social history; family history can be about fun and everyday life and pubs were often at the centre of these occasions. 

Pictures of homes can reflect how differently people lived tiny terrace homes which held large families, yet which still boasted a best front room, with net curtains indicating you were aspiring to grandeur, a need to be noticed but not too much. David spoke of one lady in the family who was widowed at the age of thirty-five with eight children under fifteen, her neighbour moves away and the neighbour’s lodger who needs somewhere to live comes to this lady who says she can’t have a male lodger, so they marry. Before any form of social security families had to make lots of difficult decisions in order to maintain the household and feed the children.

Photographs can lead to gaining information on occupations and activities long forgotten, David mentioned discovering watercress beds and orchid fields, which would otherwise have remained unknown. Photographs taken at the local church often mark a marriage, birth or death and can reveal more about your ancestors than just an entry in an official record. Clothing, accessories etc. all tell a story.

So, the message is dig out those old photographs, ask the questions, listen to the stories and have some fun whilst doing it.

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