Memories of a Pontycymer Policeman

Bernard Evans was brought up in Gilfach Goch. After completing his National Service he joined the South Wales Police. His first six months in the force was spent training in Bridgend before he was sent in 1961 to Pontycymer Police Station in Victoria Street as a probationer. There was a sergeant and four constables based in the station so that there was at least one constable on duty 24 hours a day. Bernard lived in a flat above the police station with his wife. Sergeant Jenkins was in charge who claimed to have seen more probationers than he had eaten cooked dinners.   He was known as, “Tiny,” even though he was a large man weighing about 20 stones, who once sat on a suspect and sent PC Evans after his accomplice. PC Evans remembers PC Sid Legge, PC Goodwin and PC  Michael also being stationed in the Garw, with  PC John James being the station man in Blaengarw and PC Tom John being the station man in Llangeinor.

Bernard remembers working nights in Pontycymer when only one PC. was on duty. The street lights used to go out at midnight, and he had to check that all the shops were locked and secured twice each night, and record he had done so in his book. He also had to check  that the explosives kept in the Ffaldau Colliery were safely under lock and key. Every hour he had to go to the police station and telephone Bridgend Station to say all was well with him.

Whatever shift he was on he always had to walk his beat as there were no bicycles or police cars available for Pontycymer Station, although a police traffic car from Bridgend would sometimes come up the Garw on its patrol.

Bernard remembers having many complaints about sheep roaming in the village causing a nuisance,  and trying to get sheep free when they were stuck in wire fencing,  but he was surprised when a well-known publican came into the police station and said he had knocked down and killed four sheep in his Volvo car.  There was also a case when a dog fell down a crevice on the mountain and he had to call out the RSPCA to dig the dog out. It took two days, but the dog survived his traumatic adventure!

In 1964 Lyn “The Leap,” Davies from Nantymoel won a gold medal in the long jump at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.  Crowds from the Garw turned out to see Lyn and his gold medal travel up and down the Garw. His winning leap of 8.07 metres was marked out on the road by Pontycymer Post Office. PC. Evans later handled the gold medal in Nantymoel and was surprised to find how heavy it was.

Bernard also remembers Jeff Young, who went on to play rugby for Wales and the British Lions, delivering the daily newspapers to the houses when he was on duty. Bernard himself was a very good darts player and he played for the Halfway Club, now Blaengarw RFC, when he was stationed in the valley. He also played for the Mid Glamorgan Darts team.

The Garw Valley was quite a law abiding place and he would only make around 20 arrests a year. Most of these were for using indecent language, urinating in a public place, and being drunk and disorderly, although there were a few breaking and entering offences. He recollects having to deal with 3 sudden deaths before he was allowed to go to a rugby international in Cardiff.

A sad story he tells is meeting a boy in Oxford Street, Pontycymer during school time. He asked him why he was not in school. The boy told him it was the afternoon of the School Christmas Party and his mother had no money to pay for him to go to the party so he had been sent home. Bernard gave him some chocolate as he felt sorry for the boy.

On a lighter note the police division had a charity and a trip was arranged to the early performance of the pantomime in Swansea for some of the Garw children. Denis Hooper, a Pontycymer resident, was also in Swansea that day and he was not sure of the way out of Swansea. He saw the bus from the Garw and decided to follow it home to Pontycymer but unfortunately for Denis the children were going to Mumbles before coming home. Needless to say Denis was not at all happy with his extended trip home!

Doctor Griffiths, the Pontycymer doctor was known to enter the Police Station asking for help in locating his car as he would forget where he had parked it.  Dr. Stevens was another doctor Bernard remembers, who was based in Blaengarw. He once saw him set a girl’s leg which had been badly broken in a fall.

Bernard bought his first television in the Garw from Denis Martin’s shop in Oxford Street. He also remembers the founder of Oxford House Menswear Shop David Chambers working in the outfitters in the Coop. On Remembrance Sunday, all the Police Officers, army cadets, local fire brigade and the St. John’s Ambulance used to march to the church for the service.

PC Legge was by the Squirrel one night on duty when he could hear faint steps and then a few coughs. He immediately thought that this was suspicious behaviour as it was the middle of the night. He waited in the shadows to see who it could be but was shocked and relieved when a sheep appeared.

Evans remembers being given a lift by a well-known Pontycymer character, Dai `Moonshine ` Rees. PC. Evans became very worried when he realised Dai was using a paraffin heater to warm up his van and in the back of the van were containers full of paraffin that Dai was selling. He explained to Dai that this was dangerous, but Dai was not concerned. PC Evans was relieved to get out of the van without being burned.

After Sergeant Jenkins left the Garw Sergeant Gordon Westcott, a police officer that Bernard Evans had great respect for, took charge of Pontycymer Police Station. Sergeant Westcott policed the area with common sense and he always treated his officers fairly. Gordon Westcott was a former Bridgend RFC. player and is still a keen rugby supporter. In 1992 he wrote a book,“ A Century on the Rugby beat,  A history of 100 years of Police  Rugby in South Wales.” He has now retired and lives in Machen.

One of Bernard’s fondest memories  was when, on a cold winter’s night, he stood on duty outside the Ffaldau Arms on Pontycymer Square with his hands behind his back. Suddenly  a glass of rum and blackcurrant was put in his hands- someone obviously felt sorry for him being out in the cold!

PC Evans left the Garw after serving over 4 years, to join the Police Dog Section in the Pontypridd area,  where he still lives. He has a lot of fond memories of the people in the Garw Valley.

Bernard Evans, as told to Ian Black

4 comments Add yours
  1. They also recorded Lyn the Leap’s jump distance on Bridgend Road. I don’t remember one by the post office. I have Doctor Reg Griffith’s signature on my Aunts death certificate dated 1941. So he was there before that date. I went in his house once which was being used as a Surgery and saw my first ever Grandfather clock. I remember Sid Legge. His son Richard was in school with us, and of course I remember Dr Stephens who vaccinated everybody during the scare in the early 1960’s.

  2. Rather belatedly I’ve come across this article about Pontycymmer Policemen. Yes I’m rather old. I was brought up when there were two ‘m’s in our village name. My memories of the valley policing are very positive. I was nine years of age when the war ended and although there were three cinemas in walking distance there wasn’t the money available to make full use of them. I lived on Hill View and there were three of us boys of the same age and we used to walk from Pontycymmer to Blaengarw quite often, just for something to do.

    It was probably late one autumn evening when we three found ourselves on Blaengarw square just outside the General Post Office telephone kiosk. There was a matching kiosk on Pontycymmer square, painted red with small glass panes on the two sides and even the door. They were there for the use of the general population to call for the doctor, the fire engine or to tell the landlord that last nights wind had blown some slates off the roof. Very few people had the need for a private phone and the public phones were used more for emergencies than casual conversations.

    The GPO provided a free service for getting the time of day. You just dialed TIM and an automated voice would state the time. ‘The time is exactly nine o’clock and fifteen minutes’ and this was update every minute. We thought it was great fun to dial TIM listen to the voice and then we would imitate this very public school voice. \We were laughing away, not a care in the world, the three of us crammed in the small space of the kiosk, when we noticed that it had got suddenly quite dark. The light from the street lamp had been blocked. We turned to the door and outside was this giant of a police man. He stood there motionless, then after what seemed like ten minutes, as we started to whimper, he pointed to one of us and beckoned for us to come out, one by one.

    The first victim pushed open the door and stood in front of the officer. He was so fast you didn’t see him move but there was a yelp and then he indicated that he was to stand to the side. I was the next out and standing as bravely as I could, I waited for my punishment. It came fast and strong, jarring my head and practically tearing my ear from my skull. The cry was involuntary but served to acknowledge the deed had been done. The three of us stood there in a scrappy line, heads ringing but there were no tears. He looked at us, one by one, then turned and left us there. He had not said a word, he didn’t need to.

    We walked from the square in silence knowing that we deserved the punishment and glad to know that he wouldn’t tell our mams.

  3. I have recently moved to Pontycymer and it’s very wholesome to hear peoples memories of the village. I would love to learn more.

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