New Quay: Quite Early One Morning, 1891, a guest blog unearthed from the archives by David N Thomas

Quite Early One Morning, 1891

A beautiful morning greeted me as I awoke from my first night’s slumber at New Quay and, as I gazed out of my bedroom window at the hills around, smiling in their summer garments of green like a fresh young maiden decked in holiday attire, I began to feel a pleasant buoyancy of spirit…

I wasted no time in finishing my toilet and sauntering leisurely down to the pier-head, from which coign of vantage a magnificent expanse of sea opened itself out before me. Cardigan Bay is decidedly one of the finest in the kingdom, and its splendid sweep as seen from New Quay amply repays a visit…

The pier-head of New Quay does not make any pretensions to architectural beauty. It is purely and simply a rough and ready promenade constructed of huge squares of stone, sufficiently ponderous to withstand the fiercest onslaught of the mighty volumes of water which ceaselessly dash against its sides. At the extreme end is a. small, but substantial lighthouse, which in the winter serves to warn mariners from running too close to the rocky shore. Viewed from the pier-head, New Quay presents a very picturesque appearance. It is built on a hillside, so that the inhabitants have the full benefit of the invigorating ozone which is wafted across the bay.

The houses all present a neat and cleanly appearance; in fact, anyone hailing from the heart of the Rhondda Valley would, if he were suddenly transported hither, imagine that he had at last reached some new Atlantis where cleanliness was the reigning God. About the time of my stay there, the summer visitors were on the eve of putting in an appearance, and the residents who had rooms to let were busily engaged in going through a second edition of their spring cleaning. A large proportion of the visitors hailed from the coal fields of Glamorganshire, and during my walks abroad I met many whom I at once recognised as delvers.

The population of New Quay is not of very large dimensions, and the people seemed to be like members of one large family, each intimately acquainted with the other. But, unfortunately, they also, like members of large families, sometimes fall out amongst themselves, and allow petty jealousies to interfere with their peace of mind. What town, however, is free from such influences?

The majority of the male inhabitants of the little townlet take to the sea, almost from babyhood, and it is notorious that almost without exception they attain to excellent positions as mariners. There are many instances of marriages taking place in the neighbourhood and the bridegrooms being called away in the course of a few days to do duty for years in foreign climates. Such things happen so frequently that they do not attract much attention.

The domiciles of some of the New Quay captains are perfect little treasure troves of curiosities which are collected from all parts of the world, and many an interesting hour did I spend in inspecting the nick-nacks of “these men who go down to the sea in ships.” The habits of the people are simple, and they are content to eke out a quiet existence, preferring, as Goldsmith did, the charms of nature to all the gloss of art.

Close by the entrance to the pier is a stone shed, in which a magnificent lifeboat is kept. There have been times when this lifeboat has been instrumental in saving the lives of poor helpless creatures cast at the mercy of the waves by the foundering of their ships, and many acts of bravery on the part of those who have manned the boat are recounted.

Of course, boating is a favourite amusement with both natives and visitors. Indeed, the New Quayites, both male and female, take to the water at an early age, and the young men excel in the manipulation of boats, the young ladies also make a good show as skippers. During my sojourn there, a most interesting regatta was held, in which the ladies took a prominent part. On regatta days, New Quay puts on a holiday air, and the full strength of the little watering place concentrates itself upon the pier- head to watch the progress of the aquatic tournament. Afterwards, the regatta sports are held on the sands and much enjoyment is got out of greasy poles, three legged races, and such like dissipations.

As I have already remarked, an air of quietude and sleepiness pervades the atmosphere of New Quay, and it remains for the visitors to “wake things up a bit.” This the visitors are not backward in doing. After dark, the importations wander about in bands “making night hideous,” with all sorts of unearthly noises, and laying rough hands on the outside embellishments of houses…the inhabitants, however, are prepared for these little excesses, and as the visitors are usually lavish in their expenditure, they do not raise any formidable objection to these little nocturnal outbreaks.

On the Tuesday following my arrival at Cae Newydd, the good folk of the little sea-side resort were all astir, the occasion of the unusual excitement being the holding of a grand eisteddfod, probably the very grandest ever held in that secluded spot. Gigantic preparations had been made for the long-looked-forward-to-event. A spacious stage for the conductor, officials and competitors had been erected together, with rows of comfortable seats for the crowds of patrons expected. The great morning came and with it came Mabon*, the renowned “Coal King” of the Rhondda Valley, who had with his usual good nature consented to act as conductor for the day. Mabon the night before had lectured upon the “British Constitution” at Llandyssul and had succeeded in winning, as he always does where ever he goes, the good opinion of the people.

New Quay presented an unusually animated appearance on the eisteddfod day. Thousands of visitors thronged the quiet thoroughfares, the bulk hailing from Dowlais others from Merthyr, Aberdare and the Rhondda. Mabon sustained his reputation as an eisteddfod conductor, and received a most cordial and enthusiastic welcome. The New Quayites are musical to a degree and the younger portion of the inhabitants while away the monotony of quiet evenings by producing vocal harmony.

My stay there has resulted in pleasant recollections. I was fortunate in having secured as a constant companion a gentleman who, when engaged in the serious business of life, directed the destinies of a Brazilian liner. His name was Capt. Jones, and I trust (if his eyes should meet these lines) he will excuse me for dubbing him what in the language of Freemasonry is known as a jolly good fellow. He had just returned from several years sojourn across the high seas, and had interesting tales to tell of foreign parts. These tales were usually told in the snug little parlour of the Lion, an hostelry which I can thoroughly recommend. The host, Mr Patrick, is a gentleman who, for kindliness of spirit and bon homie, is ”one among a multitude.”

I wished New Quay good-bye with a good deal of regret, and would probably have experienced a bitter pang at parting had it not been for the fact that I had a few more days to enjoy doing nothing and was bound for Llandeilo.

Holiday Jaunt, by the Toiler, in The Pontypridd Chronicle and Workman’s News, August 28 and September 4 1891
Edited by D. N. Thomas © 2019

* Mabon: William Abraham, trade unionist, MP for Rhondda and musician. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Abraham_(trade_unionist)


Holiday Memory, 1909

I have just been favoured with a report of the doings of Aberamanites in livening up the sleepy seaside village in Cardiganshire which is known as the ‘Quay. To the real Cardi of the working class type, Ceinewydd is the Mecca of holiday seekers every year. He leaves the more modern and “classy” haunts of Aberystwyth to those who, in the words of Kipling, can “pay, pay, pay.” Dreary, however, would the life of a tourist be at New Quay were he devoid of company. There are no music halls or places of amusement to while away the time in the evenings, so that he must depend upon his own resources for a bit of fun, if he wants it.

As far as I can gather, the Aberamanites referred to had realised this fact, and had therefore decided to visit the place en masse. A jolly fine company is but an euphemistic expression of their characteristics, for they were the life and soul of New Quay during the first fortnight in August. Realising that the absence of a band and bandstand at a seaside resort was rather extraordinary, a few of the members thoughtfully provided musical instruments in the form of a mouth organ, concertina, and banjo. I am afraid these did not harmonise too well as an orchestra, but taken separately as an accompaniment for the human voice, each served its purpose well. For instance, what could be sublimer after a recitation upon “The vicissitudes of a tinned tack” than a banjo solo, “The old folks at home.” Such items as these made the indoor concerts a perfect success, and the hilarity displayed was quite infectious.

‘Twas not so with the evening meetings held on the pier, where subjects of a more controversial nature were introduced to the audiences. After tea each evening, there was an efflux of visitors and residents alike from the houses to see “bechgyn Aberdar” on their way to the pier. Had any civic dignitaries visited the place, they could not have had a greater reception. The topic on which speeches were made the first night was “Woman’s Suffrage,” the Aberaman boys championing the cause of the ladies to the hilt, without meeting the opposition they expected, and which they would have welcomed. Their object was to come into contact with the Suffragettes themselves, but they were disappointed.

Nothing was to be done on subsequent evenings but turn attention to topics of a more general interest. They tried to rake up controversy on such questions as the potency of the miners’ 20th rule, the advisability of a minimum wage for shop assistants, and other matters which were all equally bewildering to the ‘native’ element in the ‘Quay. The climax was reached, however, when they adopted variety programmes of entertainment, with a complete change nightly. A feature of these entertainments was the telling of stories and personal reminiscences. One raised roars of laughter as he related the dialogue between two “shoni-hoys’ who were booking tickets for Penclawdd. “Two tickets for the Top of a Hedge, please,” was the way in which one of the Shonis addressed the booking-clerk, and the way in which his comrade tried to extricate him from the lingual difficulty was very amusing indeed.

A trip was taken in a motor-boat one day to Aberystwyth. There were about 200 passengers on board, and everyone was in high glee upon the forward journey. So pleased was the captain that he expressed the hope of seeing the Aberdare section of the trippers often, and suggested that the Rural Council should give them medals for advertising New Quay so well. When Aberystwyth was reached, the tune was changed. The proposal of the authorities to demand one shilling landing toll met with a point-blank refusal, and a strong agitation was mustered up by the Aberamanites. Nine-tenths of the passengers threw in their lot with the rebellious ones, and the adoption of the much-talked-of Rule 20 was decided upon at sea. This was carried, and the result was that very few disembarked at Aberystwyth, and the return journey was taken in a short time. The agitators successfully carried their point, for on the next day passengers were allowed to land at the usual charge of three pennies. So it was not a bad strike, after all.

And now a word as to the send-off the merry party had at New Quay. The popular doggerel verses which were in favour on the pier were sung with as much gusto as the “Sospan fach” of yore. The refrain was a most peculiar and nonsensical one, and went something like this:

“Daliodd nhad fi’n shavio,
Daliodd nhad fi’n shavio,
Gofynodd imi beth own i’n wneud,
Finau’n ‘stupid,’ pallu dweyd,
Daliodd nhad fi’n shavio.”

I firmly believe they sing the refrain there yet, for the principal soloist remained for another week, and the encores seemed to come without end as the Aberdarians left Ceredigion.

Holidays at New Quay, Anon. The Aberdare Leader, August 28 1909
Edited by D. N. Thomas © 2019


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