An Excerpt from HM Stanley’s 1909 Autobiography

Chapter 2 – Adrift

This chapter covers HM Stanley leaving the work house and living with his Aunt Mary at Ffynnon Beuno when it was a shop and a tavern.

“Our tavern – kitchen on a Saturday night was a good school for the study of the North Welsh Yeoman and peasant, for then it used to be full of big-boned men, dressed in velveteen coats and keen-breeches who drank like troopers and stormed like madmen. The farmer, butcher, tailor, shoemaker, navvy, game-keeper, and a “gent” or two held high carnival during the last hours of the working week.

The first quart made them sociable, the second made them noisily merry. Tom Davies, the long limbed tailor, would then be called for a song, and, after a great deal of persuasion, he would condescend, in spite of his hoarseness, to give us “Rule Britannia” or the “March of the Men of Harlech”, the chorus of which would be of such stupendous volume that the bacon flitches above swung to the measure. If, while under the influence of the ale and the patriotic song, the French had happened to invade the Vale of Clwyd, I do believe that if the topers could have got within arm’s length of them the French would have had a bad time of it.

Then, another singer would treat us to “The Maid of Llangollen”, which soothed the ardent tempers heated by the late valorous thoughts; or John Jones, the butcher, envious of the applause won by Tom Davies, would rise and ring out the strain, “To the West, where the mighty Mizzourah” which gave us the vision of a wide and free land awaiting the emigrant, and an enormous river flowing between silent shores to the sea. More beer would be called for by the exulting men, while eyes spoke to eyes of enchanted feelings, and of happy hearts. Courage was high at this juncture, waistcoats would be unbuttoned for easy breathing, content flushed each honest face, the foaming ale and kitchen fire were so inspiring!

After ten, the spirits of our customers would be still more exalted, for they were deep in the third quart! All the combativeness of the Welsh nature was at white heat. This would be the time for Dick Griffiths – wooden -legged Dick – to indulge in sarcasm at the expense of the fiery butcher ; and for Sam Ellis, the black browed navvy, to rise and challenge them both to a bout of fisticuffs ; and then would follow sad scenes of violence, for John, who was gamey and a bantam-cock, would square off at the word.

But, at this critical moment, Aunt Mary would leave her shop -counter, and walk solemnly into the kitchen, and with a few commands, calm the fiery souls. Dick would be bustled out ignominiously, as he was too irascible for peace after half-past ten. Sam would be warned of the dreadful consequences if he lifted his voice again; while as for John Jones, the butcher, it was pitiful to see how craven he became at the sight of a woman’s uplifted forefinger.”