" Cau dy geg, a paid a malu cachu!"
It was a mild May morning several years ago when I awoke to hear the sounds of Brythonic banter drifting in through the open bedroom window, stirring memories from two-thirds of a lifetime earlier. A little later, risen, washed and dressed, I opened the front door.
"Bore da. Ble ydych chi'n byw?"
"Ro'n i'n bwy yng ngogledd Cymru."
After that, the product of my forty-year-old learner's Welsh lessons deserted me and the rest of the conversation continued in English. It transpired that Severn Trent had given the contract to replace the old water main outside my house to Amey who in turn had sub-contracted the work to a company from south Wales. The road was closed, and I was awoken most mornings for several weeks by the dulcet tones of the crew from Carmarthenshire.
Just what is the purpose of this recollection, you may well ask. Well, that memory of waking to hearing Welsh being spoken, which stirred deeper memories of waking to hearing Welsh being spoken, was itself stirred recently as the road outside the house is once more closed. Once again a crew works to replace the water main, above and below the short length that was installed just a few years ago. Speaking in their mother tongue they're even harder to understand than the first bunch, coming as they do from the Black Country. It doesn't help that I don't possess an English-Mercian phrasebook. Quite why the whole stretch couldn't have been replaced by the Welsh water wizards whilst they were here only the bean counters at Severn Trent's head office will know.
That memory stirring – don't ask me which particular one for even I've lost track – also gives me a very weak link and reason to post this image of a Llanelly tramcar – the anglicised spelling was used until 1966 – outside a pair of pubs that I've had stored away for a while. The brews being advertised on its hoarding were those produced 'across the water' in Bristol by Rogers at their Jacob Street brewery. Rogers had quite a number of pubs in south Wales but none that I can trace as far west as Llanelli.
The last horse-drawn tram journey took place in 1911 and their electric-powered replacements were superseded by trolley buses in the early 1930s, but what became of the two pubs?
There were in fact three pubs in a row on Station Road. As can be seen, the Oddfellows had the Melbourne to one side, but its neighbour on the other was another boozer, the Railway. Let's start with the pair in the old photograph.
Llanelli's station opened in 1852 so it's probably no surprise that I can find no record of either them, or Station Road for that matter, prior to the 1861 census which suggests that the town's rail travellers might have been a thirsty bunch back then.
The Melbourne and Oddfellows were both owned by the town's Buckley's Brewery and around 1913 were demolished and a new Melbourne Hotel was built on the site, designed by Llanelli architect William Griffiths who had designed the town's Town Hall a couple of decades earlier.
In its later years the building was home to various clubs including the Melbourne Sports and Social Club and the Marylebone Club. A winding-up order was made against the latter in 2017 and I believe the place has remained empty since then.
The Railway was a Felinfoel house and having been called an inn, a hotel and a tavern at different points in its life...
...the Railway is no more.
But it's not all bad news. Painted scarlet, the shirt colour of the town's rugby club, and named after a local hero, the place is serving once again.
The late Carwyn James, although winning a couple of Welsh caps whilst playing for Llanelli, is best remembered as the coach of the British and Irish Lions who beat the All Blacks in 1971, whose Llanelli side beat the All Blacks in 1972 and who guided the Barbarians to their win over the All Blacks, in arguably the greatest rugby match of all time, in 1973. I remember to this day sitting alongside my late, great mate Ian, when we were at the start of our rugby-playing careers, marvelling at the performances of those playing in our positions. Gareth Edwards for him, David Duckham for me. The former's try is the try, the one try that everyone remembers. Too young to remember it or the match? There's just a few of the highlights in this short video. You can go straight to 33s for that try if you want.
What a match. What a try. What tackles! What a time that was.
Jaggery's images are copyright and are reused under this licence.
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