My wife and I moved to Laugharne in 2017 and this has been a wonderful move .
Laugharne or Talacharn in Welsh a community in West Wales lying on the estuary of the River Taff in Carmarthenshire . Laugharne is know for many things , but probably most famous for the final resting place of Dlyan Thomas. Dylan lived in Laugharne from 1949 until his death in 1953, described it as a “timeless, mild, beguiling island” of a town. It is considered the inspiration for the fictional town of Llareggub (Buggerall backwards) in Under Milk Wood .
Laugharne is very unique and is one of only 2 remaining Corporations, together with the City of London Corporation the last surviving mediaeval corporation in the UK . The Corporation was established in 1291 by a Marcher Lord Sir Guy de Brian (Gui de Brienne),
The Corporation is presided over by the Portreeve wearing his traditional chain of gold cockle shells, , the Aldermen, and the body of Burgesses. The title of portreeve is conferred annually, with the Portreeve being sworn in on the first Monday after Michaelmas at the Big Court.
I was asked by Portreeve Matthew Thomas, to speaking at the Portreeve Breakfast in October 2022. It was a great honour and this is my speech.
Thank you, Portreeve, for your kind introductory words.
It wonderful for us all to enjoy each other’s company and have the first full Breakfast since 2019.
I would like to offer thanks on behalf of all the guests and members for today arrangements.
I am honoured to be invited by the Portreeve and unlike Dylan Thomas who I believe was invited to the breakfast in October 1953 and declined due to a trip to the USA, I am delighted to be here.
I was born near Mandy Stadium in North Road Cardiff in July 1958 during the Empire Games. Apparently, the marathon passed by the window, but I don’t remember that!
On one of my birthdays at the opening of a Volvo dealership in Cardiff, I had the privilege of sitting next to the great Cliff Morgan. We were chatting and when he realised it was my birthday, he picked up my name card and say ‘why didn’t your Mam call you Charles. He said he was on duty with the BBC at the Royal Box at the opening Ceremony and remembers that that was the day that Charles was named as the new Prince of Wales.
King Charlie 3rd who I hear visited Laugharne a while ago and had a pint in Browns is the 35th Monarch since Laugharne incorporation.
My actual association with Laugharne goes back much further than the last 6 years when I moved onto Sir John’s Hill. It goes back over 60 years to the time my father used to travel South Wales for a fashion house. He would call upon all the clothes shops on his patch, including the little green shop, currently being renovated, in St Clares. In fact, following discussions with Dad and Gareth my neighbour on the hill we realised he also called on Gareth’s mother who had a dress shop in Pembroke Dock …it’s a small world.
My Dad would stay in Tenby with Ivor Crockford (Coxswain of Tenby Lifeboat) overlooking the harbour, I am told my first boat trip was to Caldey Island in very rough sea’s a when I was 18 months old.
Year after year we would return for our summer holidays and my brother and I would help the Crockfords on the pleasure boats that went around Caldey Island, me on the MV Enterprise and my brother on the Tenby Queen.
I helped Jim Pully behind the bar and always remember that the Sunday afternoon trip were always fully booked, not by families but by group of men. I asked Jim why that was so, he said the pubs in Tenby had to close at 2 o’clock and we advertised that we sailed at 2.30 and had a licenced bar. Once we had left the harbour he could open the bar for 1 ½ hours, now that’s marketing at its best.
When not on the boats, we would travel around all the castles, including Laugharne in Dad’s navy-blue Morris Oxford sitting on those great big bench seats, no seat belts then! The special treat was Fish and Chips in newspaper overlooking Saundersfoot harbour.
I did my main schooling in Cheltenham., I was a late developer at school….at the end of each term we were ranked, the position was included in our individual school reports to take home to our parents. For most of the time in school I was ranked between 105 and 108 in a year of 112. At least I wasn’t 112th!
Can you believe that being allowed to be published today, did it affect me mentally, who knows, but it never stopped me, as my dad always said it you who make it happen. That philosophy has been the core of who I am …’you are the one that makes it happen’.
I remember our English teacher, Denis Robinson, asked me this question in class…’Sanders …give me a word being with F that you’re not very good at …’ I thought about it and said “Spelling” …another detention.
I’m sure I could have given a word beginning with F but that would have got more than detention!
I came back to Cardiff University in the mid 70’s to read Economics. Great times when you could buy 4 pints of Brains SA and still get change from a pound, have a curry in City Road for a quid and end up in Monty’s, Top Rank or The Moon club drinking bottles of Newcastle Brown wondering how you got there.
There was also the magic of the legendary Welsh Rugby teams and those international weekends when Cardiff was invaded, our student flat turned into an open house for days with not a clue who was staying, and we never knew who invited those lovely girls from Aberdare.
One of my memories was the infamous Wales v New Zealand game in 1978 with the Andy Haden incident and Wales losing by 1 point. After the game and a few pints in numerous Brains pubs in St Mary’s Street my flat mates and I ventured down Bute Street to The Casablanca club, ah it sounds if some of you boys have been there.
We queued for ages and my friends all went in …I was the last and just as I made my way up the steps a huge arm was extended to stop me. I looked up and up and up and this huge bouncer was standing there smiling, dressed in a Tuxedo, white shirt, black bow tie and had a black Stetson on. He shook his head and say no. I said but all my friends …no he said again. I said but they would be worried … please listen to me he said, no means no, but this time he really meant it.
I decided the most sensible thing to do is start walking back the four miles to the house near the Heath Hospital, up Bute Street, through town and down Queens’ Street. It was a cold, wet night and as I passed the Park Hotel I heard singing, so decided to investigate. I walked up the steps, no bouncers to stop me and turned right into the Bar and found the whole of the New Zealand team in full song, also there were the greats of historic and current All Black teams, Sid Going, Grant Batty, Brian Lochore and Colin Meads. After a wonderful night, where I became an honorary All Black, I eventually returned home, in day light, long after my house mates, no mobile phones then, were they worried….no….
did I ever find out why the bouncer wouldn’t let me in no …
did he do me a favour …most certainly yes.
I stayed in Cardiff after University and qualified as a Chartered Accountant with Deloitte in Cathedral Road and lived opposite the Halfway by Pontcanna park. After a night of studying, it was an easy run across the road at 10.20 to catch last orders, before the 10.45 call from the bar ‘haven’t you got homes to go to’. Remember that was Cardiff not Laugharne.
I then worked in audit for British Airways and then Volvo Cars in several roles and that’s where I got into Sales and Marketing.
After my time with Volvo Cars, I joined Honda (UK) in 1994 and that’s where I met this engineering chap from Aberdare called Mark Davies, from day one we got on famously even though he thought I was posh coming from Cardiff.
We certainly had a laugh and although we really didn’t know what we were doing, it was a magical time and once we proved we could get results, our Japanese’s collages just let us get on with it. Little did I know then that after working with him for 20 years and continuing to be friends when he left for the Scarlets, we would meet up again in Laugharne.
So, what brought me to Laugharne. Well, I always wanted to come back to South Wales and especially West Wales after all my fond memories of many years in Tenby and Saundersfoot. In fact, my wife and I and our 3 boys holidayed in Saundersfoot for the most of married life so there was no need to persuade Kirsty about the attraction of the area. We moved here in 2017 and found a wonderful house on Sir John’s Hill with one of the best views in the world. It can certainly be windy, and the hill can be steeper after a session at The Mariners!
As I walk up the hill and see the rabbits playing, I am reminded of the story I read in the book Laugharne and the Great War, reflections 100 years on. In February 1916 the Carmarthen Rural Tribunal heard appeals by individual men to be exempted from military service, they were being recruited under the Derby scheme.
One such appeal heard and reported in the Carmarthen Weekly Reporter was the case of a rabbit catcher from Laugharne, (apparently there were many rabbit catcher’s in Laugharne and they heard 8 similar appeals one day). This rabbit catcher appealed on the grounds of hardship as his brothers were already at war and someone needed to look after his mother.
The Clark asked the chap -” how many rabbits do you catch a year “he replied that he had only just started so it was difficult to say but he though he would trap 40 a week.
Captain Margrave, the senior officer, said “I think this man ought to go to war and the rabbits should have a chance like everyone else.” ‘Your mother will come to no harm; we haven’t seen the Germans over here yet and you will look much better in uniform than you look now”.
When you read the old books and talk to older residents you realise what a rich history Laugharne has what a special place it is. The wonderful traditions we are witnessing today must be maintained as its unique. The fact that the Laugharne Common Walk has been held every three years since 1711 is incredible.
I also love some of the comments I have heard about Laugharne and its people.
For instance, when someone says: –
‘Honest he didn’t start the fight …. but he finished it
and “I am just out for a quite pint, and then numerous noisy ones’
“Always remember that you are unique. Just like everyone else in Laugharne “.
I know that many people have a history of going up to Sir John’s Hill Farm to play when they were kids, I am sure the view out to sea hasn’t changed. I read that when the unpopular Sir John returned from Ireland he said he intended, “to lead a countryman’s life and to keep out of debt”.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sir_John_Perrot I think I would like to consider that , but judged on the last few weeks activities at Westminster I am not sure that’s possible.
I am delighted that Laugharne has a strong and successful rugby club, I was privileged to attend the 125-Year-Old lunch a few years ago and the lunch last December to remember the game v Llanelli 50 years ago. I met the legendry Graham Price recently who is a good friend of Muff’s and played his last game of rugby at Laugharne in a charity match. Note sure he was so happy as he was in his early 50’s and most of the others had over 20 years on him.
Rugby has been a saviour for many of us and provided us all with lifelong friends, I have played for numerous teams around the country including Marlow, a place made famous by Will Carling who made his ‘RFU Old farts’ speech in the Marlow club house.
Marlow had the traditional huge bath, and it was a pain if you were the last team in on a wet, cold and muddy day. No idea why we ever bothered with a bath as you came out dirtier than you went in, someone always put their hand on the bath floor, picked up a huge wet handful of mud and chucked it on your back.
I played my last game of Vets rugby at the age of 49 but have continued my association with rugby through the Children’s Rugby Charity, Wooden Spoon, hence my tie today. Set up in 1983 when England won the wooden spoon for the first and only time, supporting disadvantaged Children and young Adults. I have been a Trustee, and a local committee member for 35 years. Over that time, we have raised nearly £40 millions. There is a Welsh Region which are always looking for worthwhile projects to invest in so let me know of it you help.
My other passion which I can enjoy in Laugharne is powerboating. I have been around boats all my life as my dad always had a boat and we launched it in Tenby, Saundersfoot, Lawrenny and explored the wonderful coastline. I raced powerboats in a one make Honda series, racing in Cardiff Bay and Swansea flying the Welsh Flag. Now it’s a bit more sedate I have a small rib and of course a Honda engine and love launching it in Laugharne.
I had watched people launch before in Laugharne and knew there was a secret to negotiating the mud banks to get out into the estuary. The Marine charts were no good as there no official port or starboard markings so I thought I would ask Dai Milk and Roger for some advice. Dai just said follow the sticks.
I asked them to come out with me the first time and as we were going out, I said Ok, I assume the sticks are coloured Red and Green as most is the marine convention in all harbours. “Follow the sticks he replied”, I said “yes, but who ever put them in must have thought it would be useful to colour them” …” he said just follow the sticks. We did and we eventually were enjoying the beautiful water in the bay.
I would like to finish with a quote from the great New Zealander John Kirwan which sums up the things I have been saying this morning about living in Laugharne.
“I have often say that rugby’s like life. You can have the ball in your hand and be running down the field feeling unstoppable. Then someone tackles you and you hit the deck and your vulnerable, you’re lying there exposed. Suddenly your teammates are there, not just over the ball but over you. They’re prepared to put their bodies on the line for you. That’s what happens in life, you fall over, and your mates come to your aid”
I have lived in many places larger than Laugharne and you barely know or see your neighbour. Whereas in Laugharne you quickly get to know everyone, and everyone knows you. Laugharne to me as the name suggests, is where you come to laugh, live and love!
Thank you for listening and enjoy the rest of the day.