Sunday, 20 January 2013

How Green Was My Valley

Last week my son repaired our video recorder
so one evening
we decided to watch a film
that I had been wanting to watch!

For sometime I had been telling myself that I should read the book as it is a classic.
A tale of life in a Welsh mining village
as told by a 60 year old
looking back on his life as a boy.

It was in black and white 
......but that didn't detract from it's story.
Also the Welsh accents were appalling
but even that didn't detract from its impact on me.

It was filled with wonderful Welsh singing
the songs 
that were sung so much in the chapels those days...

I have found myself dwelling on it so much over these last days that I felt I needed to share my thoughts

It won 5 Academy Awards
and showed life at the beginning of the century, I suppose, and the disintegration of family life

At the beginning
we saw the family together coming home 
from work in the mines.
The values of family life......
adult sons and daughters sharing 
the same small home.

All sitting round the table to eat with Pa at the head of the table carving the roast 
and Mam seeing all was just right 
before she too sat down

Pa so much head of the family while Mam really was the ruler...a matriarchal society!

It made me think of my own Welsh Grandparents
and the similarities....
with adult children living at home 
and going out to work

             The family coming home from work
Grandad, his lunch box under his arm, coming home                        from work on the docks
Aunt and uncle coming home from their workplaces...

Granny at the end of the table 
(no one dared to sit in her seat)......
That's where she always sat to talk to people, read the paper, do her crochet....
that was her place!

Grandad always sat it the corner,below the Grandmother clock, smoking his pipe,
reading his paper..
always there for a cuddle or to talk to.

A family together..
Chapel on a Sunday morning, a walk after lunch and 
Granny preparing tea 
and cutting the bread and butter 
so thin 
you could see through it
whilst she listened to the Welsh hymn singing 
on the radio

The other thing that struck me about the film 
was the sense of everyone belonging to each other 
in the village......
something happened to one family and the rest were always there to help and support.
I remember so clearly that being the case
where my grandparents lived

The film just brought so many memories...
things I hadn't even realised that I was taking in as a child when I stayed there.

I am aware that I am jumping around a little 
but the other thing that hit me between the eyes
was the way the boy in the story experienced a similar experience to that of my husband.

It really opened my eyes and made me realise how I had been brushing off the stories he had told me
and not really understood what he had gone through
and for that I feel sorry!

In the film the young lad was clever and had won a place at a school in the other valley.
He had to walk there
and when he arrived his shoes were dirty.
The other children mocked him
and fought with him
(it seemed encouraged by the teacher)!
and, in fact, the teacher bullied and beat him too.
The little boy was told he shouldn't be in school with dirty shoes and said,
"They were clean when I left home, Sir!"

The family farm that Hubbie was brought up on.....
Indeed where my own children
were brought up....
and now my son's boys too...
is two and a half miles from the nearest school.
The farm lane is tarmacked now...
but, when we were first married, 
was three quarters of a mile of potholes and, in places when it was wet, the surface was like a riverbed.

This is Hubbie

Hubbie had to walk to school 
six days a week!
Most of the children were from the town
and he used to get bullied
because of his dirty shoes.  He recalls leaving his boots and changing at the top of the lane but it was still a long walk from there!!

When a teacher said to him why didn't he clean them with a hose he said, "What's a hose?"
He didn't know...
they didn't have running water...
only a well...
The teacher gave him the cane for being cheeky 
and answering back....!!

Another similarity that hit me about the film
is that two of the sons were
earning less and less in the mines as work became scarce and left to seek work in America.

I think I shared in a past post
that Hubbie's father went to America
we thought in 1912
but our discoveries are moving on apace 
(as I will share in another post) and we now know he arrived in 1914!

As you can see there were so many things that gave me food for thought

I wonder if there is a book ...
or a film..
that has done the same for you.......??!!


  1. I loved this . . . it brought back memories of the stories my dad would tell of having to walk miles to college back in the early thirties in rural Wisconsin. Very poor, wore the same pair of pants, ridiculed . . . YET . . . he carried on to pursue his education. He was always my inspiration as a young girl and still today.

    I will have to see if I can find the movie, I would enjoy!

    Always happy to see you Joan!
    Love, Lynne

  2. This was a wonderful post. Many films stir up memories for me. Similar to yours in the sense that I was raised in a small town and I so miss those days. I feel so sad that your husband had to endure such harsh treatment over something he had no control. I'm fear some children of today endure the same.

    I love black and white movies as a whole. They enchant me.

  3. I loved that movie - and the wonderful memories it brought back to you!! It was a couple years ago that I saw the movie and need to watch it again. But I was disappointed that it was not filmed in Wales.

    This is a wonderful post!

  4. What a fascinating post, I have not seen the movie or read the book, but now I am tempted. I am glad it had such an impact on you and that felt so moved by it.
    Hugs to you,

  5. Although I grew up in the 1950's in the USA, this does make me think back on the differences growing up and how we always had extended family around us. My grandmother lived with us, and sometimes I grieve for those days. The milkman, church on Sundays, and everything cooked from scratch from my mother and grandmother. Life was hard but in many ways much richer. I have never seen this movie but I will make a point to see it now. Thanks for the post.

  6. A lovely post Joan! I remember that story. I read the book when I was in my teens.

    I hope you are feeling well!



  7. I think we are all spoiled now and don't realize how hard life was for many before us. My parents both had hard lives that I cannot imagine.

  8. My father grew up on a farm, with no running water or electricity in Manerowen and also had a long walk to primary school, where all lessons were in Welsh. My grandfather insisted in Welsh only being spoken at the farm so when my father (one of 12 children) went to high school in Fishguard where lessons were in English he had a doubly hard time of it - welsh speaking and farm boy (with ll brothers and sister I can't imagine that any part of them was very clean!)
    My greatgrandfathers brother also emigrated to America, not quite sure of the date, I shall have to ask my father. It would be very interesting to share the two stories as they are from the same area!! maybe they sailed to the same place?
    Can't wait to read about your discoveries, hope you will write about them soon.

  9. How very interesting and how special this movie is to you!!! I saw it long ago when I was probably a teenager, but I need to watch it now that I am old! I know I would get more out of it! You know, I can't really think of a movie that so closely paralleled my life or my family.

  10. I've read the book and watched this film many times and still enjoy seeing it. While the film has sad moments there are so many heartwarming and tender moments too.

    I loved reading your post with all the personal similarities that you've shared.

  11. I remember some of the stories my Mom and Dad would tell of their childhood, but it was vastly different than mine. They were raised in the mountains of North Carolina and I was born and raised in Texas.

  12. Oh, my goodness - This is my very favorite book of all the books I have ever read! I read it when I was 13 years old and it left such a mark on me, I have never forgotten. Your memories are so poignant and sweet, and your Dear Husband's experiences of being bullied for having dirty shoes - oh, aren't people just cruel? You have to read the book, it is 100 times better than the movie. You will never put it down, so make sure you have time. I love that your Grandmother had her own special chair. My Mother did, too and my Dad, oh how I miss them so. Your husband is a very handsome boy. Thank you for sharing your stories. xx

  13. Oh wow this is amazing the story and real life mimicking each other. I have a few movies that trigger memories of my Grandparents and my Grandpa going off to war and story of the depression when my Dad was a kid remind me of his stories.
    There are a lot of sad stories in the movies and in real life.
    Your husband was a handsome fella not to say he isn't now:) B

  14. It's nice to hear your stories. I love when a movie makes me think alot. That's the sign of a good movie!

  15. What a thought-provoking post! My husband and I are retired and at the age that it seems we're always talking about the old days when we were young. I might try to find that movie to watch. ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

  16. I think that I have seen this film. I find myself thinking more and more about how things used to be. Must be me getting older I suspect. I enjoyed reading all the 'memories' you have written about. I can also remember teachers being quite cruel at times.( I do hope that the children I taught during my teaching career don't think I was cruel.)
    I have been sharing memories of days gone by with my Mum this last week as she has been staying with me. Hope you are keeping well. Anne x

  17. I have watched this movie several times and although our families histories are English and Irish, my memories of my grandparents houses are the exact images in the movie...poor but never without and 9 aunts and uncles growing up in a 2 bedroom house with an outhouse and their baths taken in the middle of the kitchen in a large metal tub with the oven on for warmth on Saturday night so they were all clean for church. My grandmother could take the smallest roast beef or chicken and feed a houseful! My fondest memories are of getting to stay the night at my grandparents house, standing by the coal stove in the dining room to get warm and then running into the unheated bedroom where grandma and all the girls slept bundled up under many homemade quilts....the happiest time of my childhood. So I really enjoyed your post and the closeness of it all.

  18. This is so thought provoking! I've seen this film before, and I enjoyed it very much.

  19. My goodness, Joan, this film really did hit home for you. I have never seen it, but have heard of it. Thanks for explaining about the film in a personal way by including recollections from your own family's life.

  20. Joan, while I have seen the movie I have not read the book. Your synopsis of it and the remembrances it provoked are poignant, and remind me of stories my parents who were reared in New England in the early 1900's told me...stories that are in stark contrast to the modern ease gentleness I have known.

    Many movies have impacted me, but The Sound of Music has been the greatest. Somehow Maria's relationship with God was real to me, and encouraged me to not just talk to God, but to learn to recognize His "talking" to me through Scripture, wise counsel, His creation, my circumstances and the still small voice within me. I am still learning :)

    Blessings to you and yours,

  21. ooops....end of first paragraph should be

    "ease and gentleness" :)


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