As the custodian of a large quantity of historical documents relating to our family history I have a number of archive boxes full of material waiting to be sorted, some of which I’ve never delved into deeply. One of these holds letters and other papers picked up hurriedly whilst clearing out my late uncle and aunt’s house and I’ve never really looked to see what was in amongst them. A quick look through this past week revealed a small stitched section of a notebook, a hard cover with about 30 pages still attached. Obviously part of a much larger book at some time it contains daily notes my grandfather made during the course of his building business. I read the first page or two then my eye caught a notable entry, all of a sudden a few photographs that had been lurking in the shoebox suddenly began to make sense (see previous blog). With a little more research with the assistance of family and friends I have been able to piece together a few facts about Gorwelion, the Guide camp at Wig Fach near Porthcawl. Three men are mentioned in this notebook, SJS is Stanley James Simmonds, my grandfather and the writer of the journal; and Dick and WS (Bill Siddaway) were both regular employees. So here are the entries from my grandfather’s notebook; I have only transcribed the entries relevant to Wig Fach, it makes fascinating reading. All notebook entries are in italics, my additions in plain text.
Thursday 27th May (1948)
Guide House at Wig Fach burned down.
Saturday 29th May
Wig Fach. met Miss (Olive) Nicholl, Miss Lloyd, Miss Osman, Mrs Nell Jenkins at site with Insurance Assessor. The assessor gave instruction to clear the site. Collect all copper and steel, together with the steel window frames for the purpose of valuation for any salvage. The WC doors to be padlocked. The remaining end and timbers of washing rooms to be demolished. Larder to be taken down and common room grate if unsafe. Miss Nicholl expressed a wish that our Company rebuild the Guide House as soon as practicable.
Monday 30th May
SJS and Dick at Wig Fach. Commenced to clean up Guide site. Miss Nicholls again informed that Committee wished our Company to rebuild Guide House. Stone building was recommended. Money would be forthcoming as required and payment would be by cheque by post. Roof covering of strip slates, building same length, width to include back cemented area to line of lavatories.
Tuesday 31st May
At Wig Fach. Cleaning up of site completed for purposes of valuation and salvage. Telephoned Miss Nicholl at 9.30pm. Miss Nicholl informed that she had written Mr Pine, owner of land, offering to buy the land at Wig Fach, if satisfactory we would be asked to commence rebuilding immediately, though they could wait until Sept or Oct if our pressure of work required it. If land could not be bought or lease extended, the committee would consider building in steel pre-fabricated.
Saturday 4th June
Inspector Bailey interviewed re Wig Fach.
Monday 6th June
2-4.30. At court re Wig Fach
Saturday 12th June
Mr Burgess rang up and made appointment for Sat next at Wig Fach at 6pm.
Tuesday 15th June
Cast sample stone for Wig Fach
Three men started at Wig Fach. Timber cleared from site.
Shed framed up. (Presume this refers to a storage shed for the site)
SJS only at Wig Fach. Shed completed, brickwork demolished from fireplace and pantry etc.
SJS and WS at Wig Fach. Foundations started. WCs taken down.
Wet morning SJS and WS working, finished at 1’o’clock.
3rd January 1949
Fine day. All men at Wig Fach. Cutting foundations. Front foundations completed.
Foundations completed. Building commenced.
Monday 10th January
Wig Fach building on concrete.
Although there don’t appear to be pages missing from July until January, entries are sparse so suspect another notebook for other of his building projects may have been in use during this period. Sadly the rest of the notebook is missing, but may possibly be in one of the other boxes of archive material waiting for sorting. The first two photographs reproduced below were taken (we believe) at an event at the original wooden building whilst the lower two photographs were probably taken at the opening of the newly completed guide house.
Finally, after doing a search on the internet I found a couple of pages about Gorwelion, the first from a young guide who visited in 1961, and the second the web page from Girlguiding Cymru which gives a brief outline of the history of Gorwelion.