The speaker was Frank Harries BEM whose talk was entitled “Through the years, a full life” and what a full life he led. His father began his working life as a wheelwright in Pembroke Dock. He subsequently joining the army and taking his family to Gibraltar. Whilst on holiday in the Spanish City of Seville the Spanish Civil War broke out and Frank watched as bombs fell from the sky finding the experience exciting, but not realising how many people were being maimed and killed. Frank showed photographs of his family, Ration Books and Identity Cards issued at the beginning of the Second World War. Living in Pembroke Dock at this time he became an Altar boy and remembered the American Soldiers billeted in the area. Joining the army at the age of 18 Frank found himself in the Malayan Jungle searching out communists. It appears our hero was something of a footballer and played as goal keeper for Llanelli but in the days when footballers had a “day job” this proved too much for him. In his later days Frank became a referee and in retirement he joined the Rotary and became something of a fundraiser in fact he raised the staggering sum of £200,000.00. Indeed a very full life and still going at the ripe age of 90 it could make one’s own life seem somewhat dull!
Eleanor Parker gave a most interesting and enlightening insight into the work carried out by the Royal Voluntary Service. It is difficult to move away from wishing to refer to the Service as the WRVS, perhaps because that was how it was known until 2013 when it was decided, because of the number of male volunteers, it should simply be known as the Royal Voluntary Service.
Founded in 1938 by Lady Stella Reading, and then known as the Women’s Voluntary Services for Air Raid Precautions, it is now the largest volunteering organisation in British history. The Queen granted the organisation Royal status in 1966 in recognition of the work undertaken by the Service. There was a time when each Hospital had a WRVS tea bar sadly now replaced by Costa!
Eleanor spoke in the main on the subject of befriending. The Service has become a leading organisation in the field of social care, and has around 20,000 volunteers who give of their time to help make communities stronger particularly providing support for older people to remain active.
Barry Vaughan was brought up on a farm near Clarbeston Road and attended Haverfordwest Grammar School so he is a familiar figure with many of our members.
Barry was employed as general manager at Withybush Hospital and when this job folded he found work in a very large, modern, high-tech hospital in the Royal Commission hospital Jubail, Saudi Arabia. There are two directorates of the Royal Commission, Jubail is on the east coast near Kuwait and Bahrain and Yanbu, is on the west coast near Jeddah and the Holy City of Mecca.
There are very distinct rules which foreigners have to follow when living in Saudi Arabia. Because he was in overall charge of the hospital he was the person who had to mediate with the authorities when a member of his staff knowingly or more often or not unknowingly broke one of these rules. Some of the problems that he encountered had the audience in fits of laughter but the way he dealt with the problems was imaginative and could have had serious consequences if he hadn’t been so diplomatic. He was in post during the first Gulf War and he vividly described the terror when the oil tanks at Kuwait were set alight, apparently the smoke was so dense that day was turned to night and the once prestine white hospital was turned black.
A big thank you is in order because Barry came to talk to us at very short notice, nevertheless, he gave us a fascinating insight into living and working in a country with such a different culture.
Robin Sheldrake is a well known
authority on the history of Haverfordwest, having been the Chairman of the
Civic Society. With the assistance of
photographs he had taken he took us along the Heritage Trail of Haverfordwest.
The trail commenced with a
photograph of the Cleddau looking down stream and then turning back towards the
weir, the large warehouse on the new quay, with a view of The Bristol Trader
and the new Council Offices. It is
difficult to believe the quay saw sea going ships coming in on the tide,
leaving their cargo at the warehouse and picking goods for transportation
around the Country and beyond.
It was delightful to be reminded of
the old Haverfordwest, Foley House the substantial property in Goat Street
designed by the famous architect John Nash, now standing empty with signs of
decay visible. The substantial
properties in many parts of the town provided town houses for the landed gentry
who, having visited the town, needed a residence in which to spend the
night. The Palace Cinema formerly the
Corn Market, Temperance House, Hermon’s Hill House and others what a
fascinating past the properties enjoyed.
Then the sadder part of our history, Union Hill so called because it led
to the Union Workhouse. A most
interesting talk given by a gentleman who certainly knows his subject.
We are all very familiar with
Pembroke Castle, a place where many of us have taken visitors. Our Speaker for the month of March was Jon
Williams General Manager of the Castle. One
thinks of historic buildings as having a curator rather than a General Manager
but it became apparent that the Castle doesn’t function from simply being a
well know Castle. Jon, a local lad from
Saundersfoot, explained he was a frequent visitor, with his parents, never
dreaming for one moment that, in 2007, his career would take him to a
managerial post. It is a position which
he clearly loves but uppermost in his mind is always ways to generate income to
enable improvements and repairs to be carried out.
To begin his talk we were show a
short film documenting the history of the Castle narrated by none other than
Eddie Butler who has a deep interest in Welsh History.
Each year there are between
110,/120,000 visitors and Jon has some very inventive ideas for entertaining
both adults and children. The Castle is
now providing a venue for outdoor concerts, weddings and of course, The
Antiques Road Show.