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Gareth Jones

THE rickety car rumbled out of the farmyard, taking some old chairs, a clock, pictures of the Disciples, and a box of documents.

Huddled inside was the old farmer, leaving his farm after 47 years, and making his way to the Llan, where a modern house waited, prepared for his retirement. Most of the furniture had gone before, but here were some possessions without which the new home would seem strange, and which his son Matthew, now married and taking over the farm, found superfluous.

Down the rough road from the Berwyn Mountains the car went, and Huw Huws, singularly calm and resigned, devoted his farewell journey not to an outburst of sentiment, but to a recounting of the stock of wealth he had acquired and to the changes he had seen in those 47 years at Tynewydd Farm.

They had been remarkable years in the life of the farmer, thought Huw Huws. No sooner had you begun counting 1900, 1901, instead of 1898, 1899, than the changes came rushing along with a speed that alarmed your conservative nature. When the War came everything was upset and the changes were still more rapid; but what prices in those days! If only you could get wartime prices again, what a blessing it would be to the farmers!

Huw Huws had a methodical mind, the result of years of faithful attendance at the Sunday school, and of listening to sermons with their three or more headings. He, therefore, found himself counting upon his fingers the changes in a farmer’s life in the Berwyn Mountains during his 47 years of farming. “In the old days,” he thought, “we farmers used to boast of the number of menservants we kept. But where are they today? When we cut the corn we used to have six men sweeping the fields with the scythe. They have gone."

And he recalled the day when he went to the fair at Llanfyllin with his horse and cart and first saw some new-fangled contraption—a machine. He had laughed at it, but now all the farmers around had machines, and no one needed so many labourers. “Of course, the other reason is that I sow no more corn,” reflected Huw Huws. “When I began the field near the orchard, the field beyond the thicket, and the field to the west of the mound were all wheat fields. Now I’ve given up wheat and have become a sheep farmer pure and simple, apart from my milk business for Oswestry.” Yes, that had been a great change in that district—the change from sowing to sheep farming.

If he had more sheep, however, he had fewer horses, and he regretted it, for in his younger days he had been proud of the prizes he had won at local shows. His riding horses had given him great prestige in the eyes of farmers’ daughters around, and many an admiring smile had he gained as he rode to the fair at Llanrhaiadr-ym-Mochnant. It was sad to think that these horses were disappearing. The Llan pony fair attracted hundreds of ponies, but now only a few attended and you missed the fun of the old days and the joy of judging the points of the horses and discussing them with other experts.

The frequent visits to the smithy at Llanrhaiadr and the debates they had there on Gladstone, Welsh Disestablishment, and young Lloyd George and Tom Ellis were pleasures he missed nowadays. Smiths were disappearing, and the town square, where once you saw dozens of horses waiting to be shod, was empty. Huw Huws felt angry when he thought of the old craftsmen who had had to make way for the over-dressed salesmen with their factory goods.

There was Robert Jones, the cobbler, who used to make his boots; Thomas Evans of the factory, who used to make his flannel from the wool which he (Huw Huws) provided; and Ebenezer Griffiths, who used to grind the corn. Now they were all dead and their workshops or mills were silent. Dafydd Lewis, the tailor, was still alive, but he was poor, for his former customers were buying their clothes in the shops in Sweaty.

Suddenly Huw Huws laughed. The thoughts of horses and craftsmen and flourmills made him think of the part which donkeys once played in the village life. Strange to say, he had not for a long time seen that animal. For once upon a time it had been a most important creature. In Llanrhaiadr three flourmills were once working and each had donkeys to carry the grain and the flour between the farms and the mill and the market. Now it was good-bye to the donkey!

And what about the chicken fairs? Huw Huws smiled again, for a picture of Huw Ffowls, the chicken dealer, who used to come every Tuesday in his cart from Carneddau, flashed across his mind. The “marchnad cywion” (chicken fair) in that ramshackle Town-hall was now no more, and on Tuesday you no longer heard the town square resounding like a “Cymanfa Ganu” of twenty or thirty united farmyards. “Stryd y Moch” (the Pig’s Street) was also silent now. How different from the squeals and squawks of the days when he and his fellow farmers used to bring their pigs there to sell them in the street.

“What other changes have there been in my life?” Huw Huws asked himself There had, of course, been the magnificent rise in prices in the War, and then the depressing fall which meant less money and living on capital for many.

Money! Oh, yes, that was one great change -the banks. As a young farmer he had kept his money in a box in the house -and what a worry it had been I One always feared it would be stolen. Today the banks looked after your money, and although the interest rate was disgracefully low, and they charged usurious terms for loans, still, said the farmer to himself, your money was safe and was as little likely to be stolen as your land was. Land! Another change. Huw Huws was no longer a tenant but an owner of land, as were many farmers around him. In a way he was proud, for he had always longed for land. In another way he cursed himself for his folly. “If only I had waited a few years and not bought soon after the War!” was his continual wail. For he had paid a heavy price and interest rates were high. Still, it was good to hold land in the family, and now his son Matthew would tend it and it would be handed down from generation to generation.

By this time the lights of the Llan had appeared and the car puffed up the hill on which the retired farmer’s newly built house stood. His journey was over and the greatest change of all - his leaving the farm - had taken place.

 January 12th, 1934.  

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