Friday, 22 February 2019

The Beach Boys - Bob Carrick inspires Shallilo-Foreveryoung with his tale of Anglesey

Scottish exile tells a Welsh story
We moved south of the border in 1991 and very soon after arriving I joined the new Mill Male Voice Choir which was in its early days. That was a breath of fresh air and an entirely new subject for me. Life was good so we better have a holiday but where to go. We had usually holidayed on Scottish Islands.

A kindly neighbour and a Welshman across the road suggested Anglesey. Not too far and friendly folk they said. With Celtic blood in the veins we thought we would be okay. And it’s an island.

A search of adverts revealed ‘secluded cottage on a farm’. Just about right. Booked for two weeks.

We arrived at the appointed time to find a delightful cottage beautifully renovated and just ideal. However its seclusion meant that it was the last in a line of byres at the end of the farm yard. By default we were part of Owens farm which he ran with two teenage sons and the district nurse who was also his wife.

While we enjoyed exploring Anglesey (or Ynys Mon as they call it) it was inevitable that we became involved in the farm. There were 80 cows to be milked twice a day and a bull who had separate privileges. On top of that the boys on the farm were bored and needed a hand to fix the quad bike which was probably their only amusement.

Owen soon got us involved by suggesting that I give a helping hand at milking time. Green wellies and a green overcoat with one sleeve were duly supplied.

Owen said I, “There is a sleeve missing on this coat.” “It’s okay boyo, it will be good.” All was made clear as we entered the (very modern) milking shed and stepped down into the pit. The cows walked on to feeding stations along the outside walls on either side thereby presenting the business end towards Owen, two boys and myself in the pit. The uncovered arm was used to apply a group of suction cups of the right number and then move swiftly out of the way lest the unexpected occur. So that’s why!

A level of skill was required in observing the presence of an older lady on the milking station and improving the efficiency of the suction cups by placing a hefty pebble on the suction cup support thus providing a useful extension and a higher yield.

The boys were highly amused at my presence and were quite overcome with laughter at my applying the milking device upside down – but were pleased that their monotonous routine had been changed and the boredom relieved at my expense. To relieve his own boredom Owen would start singing in the pit (in Welsh) but I soon got the gist of it and we discussed the merits of Male Voice Choirs which were plentiful thereabouts.

That was okay until the next day when Owen announced that the family were going to the Welsh Agricultural Show for four days – 80 cows twice a day and the bull – but don’t worry said Owen someone will come in . Okay? “Fine” said I.

Owen called in the next day to say they were ready to leave. Since my cottage had the only serviceable bath/shower on the farm he informed me that the district nurse had managed a shower under the hose in the milking shed. “Too much information Owen” I said.

Upon his return after the show Owen invited us to see a new born calf which was poorly. We pushed our way past 80 cows and the bull to see a small calf which was all but gone. Owen produced what seemed to be a piece of hose and a bag full of warm milk. The milk was then poured down the throat through the hose and almost immediately the calf’s eyes cleared and very soon after the poor thing stood up and sought out its mother. A sight probably rarely seen by city dwellers but common to the skill and presence of the farmer.

By this time we were buddies and would I like to go to choir practice with Owen? “Which choir would that be?” I asked. “Cor Y Meibion y Traeth” he said in Welsh – the choir of the men and the beach – “we call ourselves the Beach Boys.” Off we went to the local school in Pentraeth where I was announced and made to stand to receive the warm Welsh welcome from 70 or so choristers.

Their evening was being used to perfect a rendition for the forthcoming Eisteddfod. The offering to be made was Calon Lan. The conductor was half the age of any of the choristers and he had absolute control. There was no talking. Each section was taken aside and rehearsed until perfect and the whole piece performed and again. That process occupied the three hours of the practice. There followed a welcome pint but not many of the choir stayed on – maybe because there was a bit of travelling to do.

They were a proud group of men in a choir founded in 1969 and with a membership of 80 at its peak. They had enjoyed a deal of success at the Eisteddfod over the years and enjoyed tours to Canada, Hong Kong, Germany, and the USA. Like New Mill they had raised funds to support tsunami victims and other worthy causes. Such was the local tradition and dedication that they had the same accompanist for 46 years.

Regrettably Beach Boys are no longer gathered. They had failed to find a new conductor and realised that their membership was ageing and so late in 2016 decided to go out at the top – that’s nearly 50 years of singing. Time passes by and it is salutary to recall that I met them over 25 years ago. On the positive side there are still three male voice choirs thriving on Anglesey.

We have been to Anglesey many times since and the memories of that trip are still vivid – Owen’s friendship, 80 cows and a bull, how to milk and how not to, how to fix a quad bike, the recovery of the calf and not least the district nurse and I still don’t know the words of Calon lan.

Bob Carrick..

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