Someone stole Grannie’s railings
by Barbara Fisher
Time passed and things continued much as they had done at No. 19 Gloucester Place, where I had spent a lot of happy times with my grandparents. (See also Winkles for Tea, ) I was eleven now and about to take my scholarship for entry to secondary school. I had lots of new friends and interests and exciting things to do as I grew up. I still visited my grandparents, but I didn’t stay there so often. Over all this hung the spectre of the war, for the year was 1939 . . .
I really didn’t think much of the War at first, but one incident really brought it home to me. My mother and I had gone to visit Grannie and Grampie in Mumbles and I, as usual had run along in front. I reached no. 19 and halted in amazement. Where were the railings and the gate? I looked at Woodland Villa and my eyes met the same sight—no railings or gate! What could have happened? I turned and ran back to my mother shouting, ‘Come quickly! Someone has stolen Grannie’s railings!’ Of course, as was explained later, they had been taken for the war effort and thus it was that the War became very real to me.
When the bombings began at Swansea, my parents and I, like many that were able to, left the town at night to sleep in safer places. We were really very fortunate to be able to do so. We would catch the Mumbles train down to Oystermouth and before we went to No. 19, we would go into Forte’s Ice Cream parlour to have a Horlicks hot drink. We had to be very careful not to ‘show a light’ when we entered because of the blackout. Forte’s, as I am sure many of you will remember, was all windows so all these had to be very heavily curtained. There was a piano there and I remember one of the boys, Elio or Olympio, I can’t say which, playing ‘It’s a lovely day tomorrow.’
After our refreshment, we would then go on up Dunns Lane to Gloucester Place, where maybe we would play cards a little, or maybe play the piano. Then to bed as we had to be up very early for my father to go to work at Victoria Station and me to go to school at Swansea. Of course, we never knew what to expect when we returned home. Then we would repeat this again the next night and for many, many more.
There were still chickens in the backyard, so we had eggs, but it was becoming increasingly difficult to feed them. Sometimes Grampie would kill one and we would have it for dinner, but no one told me this! I only realised afterwards. We still had apples and loganberries from the garden and sometimes would catch some fish. Grannie would make pastry from bacon fat, which she had saved when frying bacon — when we could get it!
While at Oystermouth, I remember seeing Swansea burning and flares dropping during the three nights blitz. We heard the ack-ack guns firing on Mumbles Hill. Mr. Alf Brown, who lived opposite with his mother, was serving there. A lot of young men had left the village. Things were becoming very different. My childhood had gone with the War.
On V.E. Day, everyone put out flags and bunting, but Grannie refused to do so until V.J. Day, saying that that was when the war would really be over. When this day came, my parents and I helped ‘fly the flags’ and what a display! The front of the cottage was resplendent in red, white and blue! Everyone was happy at last. Tomorrow’s lovely day was here!
On St. David’s Day, 2001, I replaced the railings and the front gate at Woodland Villa which had disappeared for the War effort all those years ago.