Stories of our Lives is a digital portrait photography project offering a window into the lives of people living at Hafan Y Coed Care Home Llanelli.
Over three weeks in March and April 2016 six residents living in the Home were invited to have their photographs taken and to share stories of their lives.
In the first session artist Pip Lewis and projects assistant Tangwen Roberts introduced themselves to a group of residents who meet regularly to work on art and craft projects in the home. As a way of getting to know the group Pip and Tangwen ran a drawing workshop and during the session a song was started with several of the residents joining in.
Many conversation were struck up during the session, about the residents lives, their memories of Llanelli , their occupations and families. Some of these conversations were recorded and were added to in the following sessions, when more in-depth individual interviews were made with the residents.
In the second session Doreen Hughes, Hayden Jones and Eirwen Jenkins shared their stories of growing up in and around Llanelli, reflecting on their working lives and families, in conversation with Activities Assistant Clare and portrait photos were taken under studio lighting by Pip Lewis.
In the third and final session Margaret Morrsis, Gordon Griffiths and Nest Mathias shared their memories of growing up and living Llanelli, in conversation with Big Picture project facilitator, Cheryl Kitt with portrait photos being taken under studio lighting by Pip Lewis.
From farming to fashion and tailoring, pharmacy to mining, Margaret, Gordon, Nest, Eirwen, Hayden and Doreen’s stories illustrate the range of working experiences and ways of living in 20th century Llanelli.
I’m from Enfield, Middlesex. My mother used to take me to Sunday School. Monday she would do her washing and Tuesday we’d go and take sandwiches to Jenny.
I moved to Pembrey, near Llanelli a long while ago. I loved living in Pembrey, where I worked as an upholsterer.
I spent a lot of time at the market, and the grocery shop, the Post Office and Boots the Chemist. I loved going into town and buying things like clothes and lipsticks. I got most of my clothes from Marks and Spencers.
I’ve got a son called Philip and a daughter-in-law called Jan, and we used to have a cat and dog called Whisk and Bailey.
Most of the people here are eccentric.
I haven’t done too bad out of life. I haven’t really grown up, I’ve sprouted up! I lived in Gorseinon and was brought up in a big family of seven boys and three girls, I think. But don’t put any money on it because you might lose it all!
I’d love to write a book about my life. Stanley was the eldest, then Eddie was next, and Hannah and Donald the twins. Then me, Oswald, and Sulwyn was the baby.
My father had his own business, as a mine owner in Twll Y Carn and I took it over. I think I was a good boss. I looked after the people who worked for me.
I was born September the 7th 1929. l’ll be 87 this year.
I went to school at Penyrheol. Then I went to Swansea Business College in Sketty when I was about 12 or 13. There was a lot of typing and book keeping, you see.
I did the accounts for my father’s business Thomas Jones and Sons. I cut coal. It was hard work. We were cutting stone coal. We’d use a one-man drill and we had a pneumatic drill. There was seven or eight of us working there.
I don’t know whether my father owned the land or he leased it. I’m not sure if I worked there for 7 or 17 years.
I left when I started my own business. I owned a newsagents shop in Llanelli. I had one down the bottom, on the coast road and one at the top. I had lots of early mornings getting up to do the papers. I had a paperboy, and lots of young people working for me. They were efficient and it was good pocket money for them.
I tried to teach them how to live. If I could teach them anything I’d teach them how to live. I think I was the only newsagent in town at one point. I hope I treated my employees well. They weren’t old, just finishing school.
My wife, Renee was the brains. I think I was in my twenties when I married [Joyce, my first wife]. I have 3 children, Philip, Huw and Pat. Philip and Huw helped me in the mine and Pat helped in the shop.
I was a lorry driver for my father before the shop. He had quite a few lorries on the road. All the boys drove them. We took ashes and slag from the works in Gorseinon to build the foundations of Trostre. I was always busy, no time to muck about, the work comes first.
You make mistakes in life don’t you, but I hope I’ve told you all the truth.
I’ve got two granddaughters, but they haven’t seen so much of me because I’ve been here since the spring.
I had a pharmacy in the High Street in West End Gorseinon, right opposite the bank.
We were all there, it was a family affair, so all the family were in it: me, Rhian, my daughter. She wasn’t a chemist then, but she is now, see? And Matthew the Chemist.
It’s trade secret, how old I was when I started in the shop.
I was in there for 50 years. Non-stop. And we retired after that. It was a very happy time.
We had our ups and downs like everyone one, but it was a very happy family shop. Doesn’t always work like that.
Fashion was all I knew. Morris y fanc they used to call us where we’re from in Bancffosfelen. With my parents they never said, ‘Oh we can’t do this,’ or ‘We can’t do that.’ ‘They were that kind of people: adventurous and what have you. And they were in the tailoring business.
I had a wonderful upbringing. Wonderful! And we all went to the Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Carmarthen. And that was our second home really. That was number one.
Mamma was always starting up little businesses everywhere. And you become known if you’re in fashion or anything like that. And that was the beginning of everyone getting all dressed up in a certain way. Oh it was so pretty.
I don’t know how we came to live down here. Mamma had about 8 children I think. She was an only child and she had a house full. She was having children like peas but she loved every one of us!
I don’t know this area very well. It’s proper Llanelli. We were Carmarthenites. Carmarthen was everything because of the schools. And to have fun, you went to Carmarthen where they were all farmers and there were the big marts.
Having two languages fluently it was a big mix up for me, being the youngest. And education was everything, and clothes. Dress to kill!
After I left school I went into business. It was all fashion as far as I was concerned. I was in the fashion world.
There would be an enormous wedding about once month for years, because we were 8 children. Glamour weddings. And people used to think, ‘Dear, they must be loaded with money.’ It used to make my mother laugh. It was hard work. Hard work
And Cars! Oh dear, dear. They used to call us Morris the bank, full of swank! You know what that means? The Celtic Crachach. The Crachach! Oh dear…
I’ve been driving since I was that high! I was treated as if I was one of the boys. I used to have these lovely limo cars and Rolls Royce’s. Beautiful cars we had. Great big cars!
There was always plenty of money for clothes. They were fabulous clothes. You just can’t imagine what they were like because they were so advanced and so professional. They’d never turn around and say we couldn’t afford them, oh no. They’d always find money for clothes.
My husband was Donald Walters and he was an only child and I was one of eight. He was very big brained. We had a daughter, Prudence. She was so wonderful, and me having a child! And she had pretty clothes of course.
Gordon Ernest Griffiths (90 in April)
My dad had a farm years ago before I had mine. He worked in Bardon quarry in Kittle for quite a while down the Gower. I worked there too. I was an odd job man helping out.
I chose to be a farmer because I always liked the land since I was about five or six. ‘Course Father worked on the farm then for his father. I used to work for them on Saturdays and plough. I’d lead the horse for them and lay the hedges. Because I was so keen farming on the land Father took over from his father, when I was boy.
We had a couple of Guernseys and Jerseys, and we had Friesians, they produced a lot.
We had a Fordson Major tractor and a Massey Ferguson. It could get pretty heavy going because we did grow quite a number of swedes and potatoes and sell them. It was pretty hard digging them up. We’d go around the villages selling bags, and people used to come to buy them.
That farm was milk, because his father and mother were dairy farmers and they carried on with it. We had to milk by hand.
My wife was from a farming background, from a farm in Merton. That was a dairy farm. We had two children, a boy and a girl. And I have two grandchildren. And I’ve got two great grandchildren.
I started my farm in Bishopston. We had about 50 to 70 acres with about 12 cows. My son Raymond took over the farm.
We’ve always done a little bit of holidaying but not a lot. I would say my favourite place to holiday is in Yorkshire. My sister in law was in Yorkshire, in the countryside.
I got very friendly with the people in the Rhymney Valley. I still am with one or two. I have a feeling we used to pass through with our swedes.
I didn’t play much football but I’ve always followed the Swans. They have American investors now, they’ve just come into 10 million. I’ve followed them since I was a little boy.
Nest Mathias (neé Perkins)
I was born in Milford Haven. We moved to Llanelli quite a while ago. I can’t remember how old I was, 16 or 17.
I worked polishing cars. I worked for a local car sales place.
I looked after children too. Little ones. They all said, ‘Aunty Nest, we’re waiting for you!’ I looked after them because their parents were working. The father and the mother, so they said, ‘Will you put your name down Nest and say how much you can be around to help?’ I was like a nanny. I’ve only got one daughter, Diane.
I used to like cooking, and making pancakes. I loved doing things like that, and people loved eating them. I’d cook for whoever wanted them.
I did my nails too. Pink, not red. I wasn’t keen on red, but I like pink. And I’d go for a run with the dog. He was called Benji, he was lovely, a good, well-behaved dog. And I absolutely love knitting. I’ve got loads of it, I’ve got to go through it and get rid of some of it. My gran taught me. She lived in Brecon with her husband. Doing the stitching was marvellous. Two great big long needles we had. And in the end I found some more needles and used them as well. I didn’t crochet at all.
I used to go out with whoever was going out. We’d go on the beach and I enjoyed it. And the ones who wanted to play in the sand did, they loved it. I met my husband on the beach! He was good, Tom. Ooooh he was a wonderful farmhand at a farm not far from me in Llanelli.
I’ve got one sister called Mair, who’s younger than me. I’m the eldest, making sure I’m in charge! She moved with us.
We didn’t do much dancing. I used my legs and feet, and then if I got tired I just stopped, but I loved cooking.
We went to Cardiff, Tenby anywhere like that on holidays. It was different countryside altogether, because we were from Milford. Mummy and Daddy’s home was the main street, Charles Street.
My dad was a minster, a real minister in a chapel, in the main chapel in the main street. It was very big. He carried on being a minister in Llanelli at the Non-Conformist chapel.