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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

WALES: MY FAMILY'S HERITAGE

CAERPHILLY CASTLE (MY CASTLE!)

This is my sister Jean and I posing with the castle in the background.
My father played in this castle when he was a child and I grew up hearing stories about it. So I call it "my castle".

My cousins tease me that the reason the castle has a leaning tower is because I took home some shards from it as a souvenir. It's really leaning because it was knocked over in a bombardment in one of the sieges.

My dad, Fred Filer, was born in Caerphilly in 1903. He came from a family of coal miners. The year he was born, his grandfather (my great grandfather) and several members of his family (uncles) were killed in a mining explosion in Senghenydd. Dad became a miner himself when he was only 14 years old.
OUR FATHER'S HOUSE ON WINDSOR ST.

Dad lived in this house along with six brothers and two sisters (one died very young). His mother died when he was young and my grandpa remarried. It's a very small house for such a large family. I was lucky enough to visit here several times while two of the old uncles still lived here so I am very familiar with the house. Now it has been sold, so we can't go in. But it happened as we were taking the photo, the new resident came along. I don't suppose it's anything like when the uncles lived there when there were still remnants of the family around.
A lot was lost when Uncle George died and Uncle Reg went live in a home. Apparantly a housekeeper is suspected to stealing a few of the precious artifacts like the family bible and grandpa's fiddle and an old tea kettle belonging to my grandma that my dad really wanted me to bring back to Canada.


SLAG HEAP, BEDWAS NAVIGATIONAL COLLIERY

Dad worked here in the Bedwas Navigational Colliery. When I first visited Caerphilly in the '70's there were still remnants of the mine, but now this is all that remains. Dad went down into the pits when he was just 14 years old. He worked down there, sometimes never seeing the light of day for weeks, until he was in his mid 20's. At that time, there were problems in the mines and Dad was a union organizer so he lost his mining card, forcing him to leave the country in order to obtain work. He immigrated to Canada as a farm worker, but later, because of his oratory skills and desire to be a preacher, he was invited to attend McMaster University Theology college and he became a Baptist minister, working in the south Saskatchewan near the mining fields there.
He teamed with another Baptist minister to work among the mining communities. His friend was Tommy Douglas, "the Father of Medicare" in Canada, who became a well-known and well-loved political leader.

A few years ago my cousin and I visited the Big Pit Colliery in Wales and went down into the mine to see what it was like. It gave me a clear vision of what kind of life my father and other Welsh miners had to live. I also visited Senghenydd where my great grandfather's house still stands. His name, and those of his son-in-law and other of his family who died in the Senghenydd explosion of 1903 are listed in the miner's memorial book in the small mining museum in the town.

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