Morgan, Ernie (b.1903, d.1999)
Morgan, Ernie (b.1903, d.1999)
Ernie Morgan received an MBE ca 1997 for his devotion to Raglan Village. He was well known for his stories and his positive attitude on life. For 40 years he was the Verger of St Cadoc's Church. In 1987, he was interviewed by Charles Davies, Raglan Local History Group. His stories are both entertaining as well as educational - they remind us of how much life has changed in the last century. He died in December 1999 and is buried in St Cadoc's Churchyard with his wife Bessie. (|click here to listen to Ernie tell his story)
Geography of the village
Coming into the village from Abergavenny by the roundabout on the right would be the Jefferys Hall then a little cottage belonging to the Crown and then the Crown Inn. On the left side of the road coming down there was a wooden bungalow and then there were some old buildings that were used as a malt house. The malt house was pulled down when they built West Lea. There was Orchard Lea and then 3-4 old cottages running up to the garage. On the left side of the road where Fairfield is now there were open fields. There were two fields with an orchard and a footpath that went to Primrose Green and then up to the Castle. The current residents of Beaufort Gardens found horseshoes when they dug their gardens. These were from Mr Jones' garage where they had a wheelwright.
Castle Street is just the same now as it was years ago. There has been little change on this street.
Chepstow Road had only one house below where Mrs Jenkins lived at 1 Elm Cottage. The house was called the Manse in those days and it was where the minister lived. The house is now known as Dean House. Below Dean House were meadows and fields and the Brooks farm. On the other side of the road was the old school and nothing below that. It was all meadows a mile down the Chepstow road until you came to a cottage. Behind Mrs Jenkins' cottage (Elm Cottage) and Caestory house was all fields.
Usk Road from the Crown Inn toward Usk. There was the Kings Head, the chapel, Mr Hampshire's Chestnut Garage and Ironmongers and three old houses at the end of that. The three old houses were torn down in 1937 to build Wilcae Terrace. These were the first council houses in the village. Next to Wilcae Terrace was the "Billiard Hall". That was at the end of the Village. On the other side of the road, the last building was Willsbrook. That was the last house until you went over the Wilcae Bridge.
Caestory Avenue, the Crescent and the Willows
These are new. When I was young they were all footpaths through fields. There was a footpath from Chepstow Road to Usk Road that follows the same path as the road is now. This was the shortcut to the station. The footpaths in the village were very important in those days. They saved the people quite a distance. Every one walked in those days.
From the Church the last house on Monmouth Road was where Mr Challenger lived. There were a couple of cottages up above. The Léger on the other side was built just before the Second World War. Where we now go over the dual carriage way there was a row of houses that Mr Hampshire built in the early 30's and then you came up to Cuckoos Row and that was the end of the village. You got to the end of the parish just around where the motorway services are now. That bridge divided the parish between Raglan and Penyclwyd.
The houses in the Village were just exactly the same as when they were built. Most people had to carry their water from standpipes in the village. There were four standpipes then. One opposite the Crown, own opposite the police station, one at the Church that is the only one left and one at the end of Castle Street. There was hardly any water laid on in the houses. Some people had their own wells but most people had to carry it. In the winter they had to cover the pipes up and people had to take out hot water to thaw them.
People didn't have electricity in their homes, they used candles or paraffin lamps. Even the Church was filled with paraffin lamps they were filled on Saturday for church on Sunday. People heated with coal fires brought in by rail and then hauled from the station. We had a couple of coal merchants that got the coal from the station and then transported to the village. It was sold loose by weight. I had a motor bike up till the Second World War. I had 6 or 7 motorbikes in that time. I even had one with a sidecar. I went everywhere including Uxbridge left the bike there and took the train to London. It took 3-4 hours. There wasn't so much traffic on the roads then. We used to start early in the morning before the traffic got bad.
Electricity first came to Raglan Village in 1949. Prior to that the streets were lit by oil (just for a few years). There were 4-5 lamps in the Village. The lamps were there but they weren't lit very often. Bill Coffee Jones was the lamplighter. He used a ladder to climb up to light the lamps. They were lit in the evening and extinguished about midnight after the hotel closed. When they switched over to electricity, Bill Coffee Jones had the honour of switching on the village and was given a lighter. Everyone in Raglan had a nickname in those days.
We had a good football team in the Village that started up after the First World War. We had several football pitches to play at. One pitch was along the station road (it was later changed to the Usk road where the bungalows of Cadocs Court are now). We played local village teams. We played for a cup called the Langdon Cup (put up by Dr Langdon of Raglan).
We had a very popular cricket team. The pitch was down by where the Willows are now. I watched both games but didn't play. The games were played on Saturday afternoon when I had to work. They had a tennis court at Raglan Castle where the archery was (but they didn't do archery). It was called the Raglan Tennis Club. There was a ladies hockey team and they played along station road.
Mr Roy Silverthorn organised the dramatic society. They performed in Jeffreys Hall and put on a real good show. Jeffreys Hall was originally a malthouse and later became the Public Hall. Mr John Jeffreys, a blind man, who was a Warden at St Cadoc's Church, bought the hall and gave it to the Church. The Hall was named after Mr Jeffreys. Just inside the church gate on the right side is a stone for one of the malsters who owned what is now known as Jeffreys Hall. The building was lit by oil lamp, as we didn't have electricity. Jeffreys Hall was well used for dances and concerts. It had a lovely dance floor and people said it was the best dance floor around. We had a couple of dance bands piano, violin, coronet, and drums all local people.
They had dances in all the villages around. They started after the First World War. The Crawley Hall in Bryngwyn is still going strong. We also had concerts at the Hall. Sometimes we had local artists and sometimes we engaged people from elsewhere. The Raglan Village Band played once a year at Jeffreys Hall. We had whist drives at the Hall to raise money for instruments and uniforms. Whist was very popular in those days. The Jeffreys Hall was packed.
We had a brass band that was formed in about 1925 and it went on into the 1930s. The players kept on leaving and the band finally fell through. They played for garden parties, fetes and at sporting events. They had a full programme in the summer. We had an engagement every Thursday in the summer. We raised funds for charity. Indoor sports we didn't have a billiard hall then.
Village occupations and businesses
In those days we had four pubs: the Beaufort Arms Hotel, the Ship Inn, the Crown and the Kings Head next to the Crown. The Kings Head is the butchers shop now. We had a works up the Monmouth Road where they did blacksmithing and wheelwright. Mr Hampshire owned the Chestnut Garage on the Usk Rd where they had a blacksmith, carpenters and a wheelwright. Of course we had the railway station, which was quite busy in those days sending coal to Newport for shipping, wood for the mines and hay for the horses working in the collieries.
There was a boot shop in the village (ed. known as London House, it is now privately owned). There were two butcher shops. One butcher shop was next to the garage. The other butcher shop was where Connie Jones, the butcher lives now (ed. next to the Chippy). And we had a couple of cafes. One café, "the Coffee Cavern" was in Castle St. There was a saddler's shop in Castle Street at Castle Coch, two slaughter houses, a couple of ale houses and a couple of sweet shops as well.
The old police station was on High street. It was later a sporting club and is now in private ownership. We had two policemen and a Magistrate court held on the last Saturday of each month and they had two cells if you had to lock anyone up. I remember quite a few people that were locked up. A few were locked up for behaving disorderly. A couple or people were locked up for thefts (they were not local people, but tramps who went from one workhouse to the other).
There was a building known as the billiard hall on the Usk Road where Wilcae Terrace is now near to Mr Hampshire's. But I don't remember it being used as a billiard hall. It was used for coal storage it belonged to the Pryce-Jenkins at Willsbrook. During the First World War, the billiard hall was used for prisoners of war. We had about 20 German prisoners of war that came here to work on the farms. They had a guard with them and the farmers would come in the morning and pick two or three of them up to work in the fields. They stayed out all day and the farmers were responsible for them. We had a dramatic society that went quite well for a time. It was active from the thirties well into the Second World War.
St Cadoc's Church Rev Mathew Perkins christened me on 1 April 1903. In 1903 the Rev Shelley Plant became vicar. As a child, I was in the choir. There were 12 choirboys and I was one of them. We used to get a happeny a service- At Easter we got 5 shillings and the one with the best attendance got 6 pence extra. I often got the award for best attendance. The services were at half past 8 for communion, 11 matins and evensong at 6 o'clock. The services were well attended with the evening service most popular. Ernie Morgan Baptism Certificate
The Church turned over from oil lamp to electricity in 1950-52. We had the organ pumped by hand until it was electrified. After I left the choir they needed an organ blower and I took it over and I blew the organ for 16-17 years until it was electrified. We had many organists: Jenny the Schoolmaster, Mr Charles Saunders was the first I remember. The next schoolmaster was Mr Emby. He was also a good organist and continued to play the organ until the Second World War. And then there was Mr Fitzroy Silverthorn. He played the organ for many years. I blew for him until the organ was electrified. Mr Poynton took over from Mr Silverthorn and played through 1988.
The old verger, Mr William Morgan died and I became a verger under Rev Sproul in 1949. (William Morgan was a verger for 40 years and nearly lived at the church. He has a son and daughter still living in the village) I was Verger for 40 years himself. There is no record of a verger before Mr William Morgan. My duties as Verger included attending funerals and weddings to make sure the church was open, the books were available and the candles and lamps were lit. I took responsibility for the graveyard in about 1957. When I started there were two of us but now I do it by myself. When I first started in the graveyard all the work was done by hand with hand hooks and a scythe. Even with mowing machines you still need to do quite a bit by hand as the graves are so close together. There is one gravestone that I find particularly interesting. It is in memory of Mr Parry who was a clockmaker in Raglan. He made grandfather clocks. The gravestone has a clock with the time set for the time he died
Raglan Castle In the early days Mr Raglan Somerset was the Warden of Raglan Castle. When he died the Duke of Beaufort handed it over to the department for the environment. The castle was used for many special events the coronation of King George V in 1911 there was a big celebration at the castle. In 1935 the Castle was used for the Jubilee and in 1937 the Coronation of George VI was celebrated at the castle. We had many party's and games up there at the Castle.
We had quite a few visitors to the castle in the old days. The people came up with horse transport horses and breaks from the valleys. The colliers would come up to the castle and have lunch out there. People came up in ponies and traps before cars came. People would come in the Charabang. People came by train and there was a footpath from the station to the castle. Often we would have tea at the church and then go up to the castle. Most visitors had to pay to go into the castle but we could go in for free with Mr Somerset
Ernies life story
Ernie Morgan was born March 2, 1903 in a cottage next door to the garage. His father, a postman, was born in Raglan. It was all horses and traps in those days. The first car came to the Village in about 1910 when Ernie was about 7 years old. At that time you might see about one car a month. There was no public transport at all except for the train. You went to the junction at Pontypool Road and then changed trains for Newport or took the train the other direction to Monmouth through the Wye Valley to Gloucester.
I didn't enjoy school a lot. The headmaster was Mr Charles Saunders, a real country gentleman. He lived in Raglan and was also the choirmaster and the organist in church. In school there was very strict discipline both in and out of school hours. If you misbehaved on Saturday, you were punished at school the next Monday. The subjects we studied were reading, writing and arithmetic. We wrote on slates at first and had an old blackboard. The school day started at 9:00 in the morning with a 10 min break at 11:00 lunch for an hour and then we went to class until 3:30pm. There was no school dinner in those days. For a drink, we used the pump in the schoolyard. In the wintertime, a stove heated the school. There wasn't any lighting in the school.
The First World War
I was 11 or 12 years old when the First World War began. Many boys went to the war and two or three didn't come back. We were lucky with the number of men that went into the service. The greatest effect of the war was the rationing. Everything was rationed. We had a lot of military coming through the village. They were going down to the docks to ship out to France. They went by horse and mule and motor transport. There were no private cars then as petrol was unattainable.
I attended school until I was 14 years old (the school leaving age in those days). After school a lot of the boys went to work on the farm as that was the only work in those days but I went to work at the grocer shop. The girls went into domestic service. I began working at the shop while I was at school as an errand boy taking parcels around the village and helping out in the shop. I worked at 'the Old Shop' where Mr Watkins' supermarket is now (and Mr Silverthorn was before). I worked long hours from 8 in the morning until 7 at night. Friday and Saturday would be later. On Sunday morning I had a lie in. On Thursday we had early closing at 1 o'clock. My wage was 10 shillings a week as apprentice pay. We thought that was lots of money. I worked there for 14 years until I became redundant. The business was sold and the people who bought it had sons to work in the business High street - West. 1920 . Morgan & Evans shop, now the post office. Mr Blanch, Ernie Morgan, George Williams, Tom Exall, George Skill, and or course, a Model T. Ford Van. After I was made redundant, I was out of work for two months when I was offered a job. I worked for the Monmouthshire County Council on road repairs. I worked at Raglan and Abergavenny and all the roads around up to the Breconshire and Herefordshire borders. The roads were tarmacked. We had a gang and it was all done by hand. We had steamrollers but nothing else mechanical.
I was married in 1936. I married a Raglan girl. She had been working up in London for awhile. We had a double wedding at the Church.
The church was filed to over-flowing by well wishers. of the brides, the Misses B and F williams, who have lived in the village since childhood, though in recent years their employment has taken them to London and Surry. It is thirty years since Raglan last saw a double wedding. There was small regard for superstition as the marriages took place on the Friday 13th and the brides maid dresses were green. Both brides were given away by their father Mr Abraham Williams. Miss Bessie Williams married Mr E j Morgan who best man was his brother Mr Edwin Morgan. Miss Frances Williams married Mr WG Purver, his best man being Mr Bert Redman a cousin of the brides. The brides maids were B Misses Marjorie Smith, Olive Hook and Tryphena Kennett (neice of the brides.) Little Miss Joan Morgan was flower girl. The brides wore white crepe dresses with vales and carried bocques of pale pink tulips. The brides maids wore green, the green crepe-de-chine dresses and crinoline hats and carried sheafs of daffidols. Little Joan Morgan wore a pink crepe-de-chine dress with a poke bonnett and carried a posy of pink anemones. The ceremony was performed by the Rev T wright, Vicar and Mr R Silverthone was the organist. The brides presents to the bride grooms were signet rings and travelling cases and the bride grooms presents to the brides were pendants and to the brides maids necklets. A reception was held at the Crown Hotel. (newspaper article, undated)
The Second World War
GNR E Morgan In 1942, Ernie was called up into the Army. He served 4 years and was demobbed in 1946. He returned to his old job and worked there until he retired in 1968. He was in the Royal Field Artillery and later transferred to the Coast Artillery. He served around the country, in the Isle of Wight, in Scotland and in Wales. He saw lots of the country but didn't go overseas. he was demobbed in 1946 and returned to his old job and worked there until retiring in 1968.
(A52) ELIZABETH MORGAN (BESSIE) died 7th Jan 1960 aged 52 years. ERNEST JAMES MORGAN, M.B.E., died 21st Dec 1999, aged 96, verger of this church, for 50 years (Rag burials 1959-1986. Elizabeth Louisa Morgan, 3 Castle St. Raglan, bur. Jan 11, 1960. age 52 yr. Rag burials 1989-2010. Ernest James Morgan, Belmont Hse, residential home, Abergavenny, buried. 24th Dec. 1999) P1040133