Jul 16, 2009

Tales of an Aber Lad

A top television producer has described how he looked on in horror as a trapeze artist plunged helplessly to her death in the big top at an Aberystwyth circus. The tragedy is one of a collection of memories of David Lloyd’s childhood in the 1940s and ’50s in his autobiography Tales of an Aber Lad. David was a teenager in the Bertram Mills audience in May 1958 when 31-year-old Frances Duncan fell 25 feet, head first, after a defective rope became loose around her ankle. David says, “In my young life, I had never felt so frozen with shock and horror. I had seen her plummet and hit the ground and it was terrible. She lay there in the sawdust, her body shaking violently but the band struck up a tune and the clowns came on and distracted us as Frances was taken away to the North Road Hospital.”

Other recollections include a quack German ‘doctor’ who made patients bathe naked beneath Constitution Hill and an outbreak of typhoid fever, caused by local ice cream, which threatened to wreck the resort’s post-war tourist trade. The author, now living in semi-retirement in Aberystwyth, remembers the glory days of the old Coliseum Cinema, presided over by its formidable owner Mrs Gale, the “Grand Dame of picture palaces.” David says, “If there was romance on the Coliseum screen it was nothing compared to the passion in the back row of the stalls.” The ‘activities’ there are said to have been “so intense that the entire row from Seat 1 to Seat 25 had developed a treacherous lean.”

Reminiscences include news of the first television signal, picked up from a Midlands transmitter in 1950. The reception was said to have been better at night, “when there was less traffic on Trefechan Bridge.” Similarly early wireless (radio) signals were believed to have been affected by “bad weather around Pen Dinas.” A world that has long since disappeared was enlivened by the (Air Raid) Wardens Dramatic Society with producer Wilf Jones, the popular seasonal pantomimes of Peggy Royston and Shirley Twiddy, and “dainty teas” at DW Teviotdale in North Parade. David turns back the clock to remember the ‘big freeze’ of 1947, sweets becoming ration coupon free in 1953 and the terrors of the gas machine at the Portland Street dentists’. He remembers the November Fair with Ronnie Taylor’s Boxing Booth and the town girls who were “thrown around on the waltzer, hiding their stockings and suspenders from blasts of cold air.” Milk poured into jugs from churns carried by horse and cart was supplemented by doorstep deliveries from the likes of Mister Lister the green grocer and the eagerly awaited Corona man. Bread, coal, meat and fish were also delivered direct in those days, while itinerants brought candles and clothes pegs. Then there were visits to the traditional shops of Hodges, Bradleys, Daniel Thomas and Albert Davies. The Gwalia Motor Company boasted that it provided “a reliable motor car that could cover any distance.”

David recalls the launch of the Eagle comic, the wonders of the first radiograms, rides on Crosville buses, houses with no central heating, beatings in school and being ordered to inhale fumes from the Gas Works as a cure for whooping cough. Aber is said to have been “awash with tea rooms, coal merchants, iron mongers, dressmakers and tailors.” Personalities abounded, including businessman John Potts who wore his trilby like an American gangster. Seilo Chapel’s organist Charles Clements was described by no less than Sir Henry Wood as “the finest accompanist in Europe.”

Born in the Caradoc Road maternity home in 1940, David Lloyd is the son of the late Gilbert Lloyd, manager of the old David Roberts Brewery in Trefechan. For many years David was producer/director of award-winning programmes for HTV Wales in Cardiff, where he became Head of Features and Head of Community Programmes. Another distinguished ‘Aber Lad’, the acclaimed author Herbert Williams, says in his foreword that David’s tales are “told with humour, dexterity and lightness of touch that makes for easy and rewarding reading. They are accompanied by a diversity of photographs which will surprise and even astonish readers.”

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