Joe Harding reflects his grandfather

Joe Harding reflects on the grandfather he never knew.

Joe Harding who lives at 64 Mountain Ash road reflects on the life of his grand father (Joe Harding) who Mrs Silcox mentions as the man who lit the gas lamps in Carnetown.

Joe says” I was recently very pleasantly surprised to learn that there are still people in Abercynon who remember my late grand father (also Joe) lighting Abercynon’s Gas street lamps in the 1930s. I never actually knew him because he died in 1942, five years before I was born.

Lamp lighting was one of his last jobs. At the same time he was a road sweeper and despite chest problems (which eventually contributed to his passing) he was also able to do some grave digging.

Joe came originally from Bridgend where (lucky man) he was brought up in a pub called the “Welcome to the town” eun by his father Isaac.

Grandad was something of a sportsman in his youth, particularly as a 100 yard runner and would often win himself extra money from winning races around the South Wales area.

On one particular occasion he entered a sprint meeting held on a track  off Bedwas Road Caerphilly. This would have been in the 1890s on a track that no longer exists. Joe and some friends arrived from Bridgend in his Father’s pony & trap’

Apart from winning the silver trophy, there was a cash prize that he and his friends spent in the pubs of Caerphilly.

The following morning he woke up back in the pub in Bridgend only to find that the money had all gone. The cup was nowhere to be seen and also the horse & trap had disappeared but in its place he found a goat tethered in the pubs back yard. Isaac said “well at least we will have fresh milk every day before he “physically chastised “his wayward son.

Grandad came to Abercynon at the end of the 1980’s to work in Abercynon Pit where he met and married Bessie Rapson whos father Bob had come from Somerset some years previously to also work in the mine. Joe and Bessie had five sons and a daughter with my own father Tom being the fourth son. Somewhere along the way Grandad left the pit and trained to be a gas fitter. Unfortunately working with gasses brought on chest problems that forced him to give up gas fitting around 1932.

Until chest problems got worse, Granddad’s favourite pastime was not sport but playing B-flat Bass in the Abercynon Workmen’s Silver band. Apparently there are not many solos written for b-flat bass but granddad loved the tune of grand old march “old comrades” In his words, the” finest 16 bars written in the history of music”He was heartbroken when his chest problems forced him to give up playing for good in 1932, but would always have a tear in his eye when ever he heard a band play that march that caused the memories to come flowing back. I am not afraid to admit that it does the same for me now that my Father Tom who was a military man has passed away as well.

I will leave you with one story that my late father Tom loved to tell of the two of them in action together.

Both my Grand father and Father would enjoy a drink or two together while relaxing at the end of a week of hard physical work and occasionally they would get a little too telexed, but who could blame them.

On my Dad’s 16th birthday his dad took my dad out for his first official pint. What Grand dad knew but Gran didn’t was that my Dad tom had drunk two pints once a week for the previous 18months while working at Abercynon Pit. It was a tradition that young boys were paid their “Trumps” (wages) across the road in the Navigation pub, but only if you drank your two pints first. Nan had warned Granddad to “look after her boy” but both of them ended up the worse for wear when they arrived home. Doffing his bowler hat to Nan as he always did Grandad said “don’t worry about the boy, he can drink his share”

Grandad –I really wish I had known you. JOE HARDING.


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