Saturday, 24 March 2018

Eglwyswrw and the 1946 University Boat Race

Today will see the running of the 164th University Boat Race.

But there’s a little bit of Eglwyswrw hidden away in the Boat Race archives.

In the 92nd edition in 1946 sitting in Seat 5 for the Light Blues of Cambridge was Geoffrey Cunningham Thomas of Jesus College.

Geoffrey was born in Hirwaun, the son of Dr Benjamin Thomas and the grandson of the Surgeon Dr Ieuan George Thomas. His great-grandfather was Rev Benjamin Thomas, or ‘Myfyr Emlyn’ to go by his Bardic name who was born in the foothills of the Preselis in 1836 and who moved to Pantygarn in the village of Eglwyswrw in 1849 (his youngest sister Anna married Stephen Lewis of the neighbouring farm Carnhuan - they were my gg-grandparents).

Young Geoffrey weighed in at 13st and 9lb - the heaviest of any of the participants in either boat on that day, 30th March 1946. It was reported that many in the Light Blues had taken unwell in the days leading up to the race which hampered preparations but the race went on.

Sadly for Geoffrey and for the family honour, 1946 would be the only race in the first 6 post-war efforts that would see the Light Blues of Cambridge place 2nd!

Geoffrey eventually emigrated and married in Rhodesia in 1970. He passed away on 9th September 1999 in Waterfall, KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa aged 73. To my knowledge he had no children and as an only child himself, his story will have been lost.

But he isn’t forgotten and neither is the fact that on this University Boat Race day, thanks to my Mam’s 3rd cousin, there is a little corner of west Wales that will forever support the ‘Light Blues’.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

The Never Ending Story...5 Years of Family History Research

It's been 2 years since I wrote in this blog about my burgeoning family history research that had been kick-started by the support of Mick Cole in Barry.

I honestly don't know where the time goes but it is now exactly 5 years since I finally decided to begin researching my family and it has been quite a ride.

As I stated at the time here in my blog, it all began with my paternal grandfather William Benjamin Cole's birth certificate from April 1899. With the help of Mick and so many other family relations, that tentative start has grown into a monster.

A Family Odyssey
5 years on, my paternal tree now includes over 8,700 names. It includes non-blood family from around our home stomping ground of Martletwy, Landshipping and Loveston where neighbouring family married into neighbouring family - as well as telling a personal family story, it tells a fascinating tale of a tight-knit community prior to the age of change in the face of greater transportation.

My maternal family tree from up and around Eglwyswrw has in itself grown to over 8,100 in number with the same mix of blood relations going back generations, as well as the wider story of neighbouring families from around Brynberian, back to the village and into the hinterland around the Preseli Hills in all its fascinating complexity.

Annie Willoughby
So from one single birth certificate, a combined tree of over 16,800 names has resulted after 5 years of research.

As that time has moved on, the number of new relations to contact and new discoveries to find has gradually slowed down as most bases have been covered. So it's amazing when a big breakthrough is made out of the blue.

So it was only last week when I came across new photos of two of the greatest enigmas in my research. On my paternal side, thanks to my Dad's 2nd cousin Carole Thomas in Pembroke, a previously unseen photo album had come to light which included the image of my grandmother Maude Cole's first cousin Annie Willoughby. At the same time, my Mam's 2nd cousin Nia Roberts in Swansea had come up trumps with a first ever image of my great-grandfather Stephen Thomas Lewis' brother Griffith Alban Lewis.
Griffith Alban Lewis
Both Annie and Griffith led what can only be said were colourful lives. It is said that every family has skeletons in the cupboard and these two, on either side of my family, certainly had their fill of skeletons. So to find within a matter of days of each other, an image of both, having long given up on the idea that such images existed, was quite something.

It goes to show that the research never does end - even 5 years and nearly 17,000 names later.

Never give in. Keep talking to family relatives. Keep asking for photos. Keep researching. It's incredible to think what information lies out there, undiscovered.

Where it ends, who knows, but the last 5 years have been greatly fulfilling in terms of self-exploration.

So for cousin Mick, who was with me for so many of those formative trips into our family past, it goes on.