Taffy the Welshman - Winifred Hone memoirs

Taffy the Welshman had arrived at Mersea in answer to an advert he had seen in the Daily News of that day. The advertiser was a foreman that Taffy had worked for on other sewerage developments. Taffy had been a miner in his early days and his tale of hardship and adversities used to keep the Victory bar enthralled. He had been imprisoned on several occassions, not because he was a bad man but because he was hungry, he could not resist using a catapult when he saw something edible and an easy target. In prison they used to put him on the treadmill where he lost weight quickly, then they would take him off this instrument of torture and put him in the cookhouse where he put on too much weight. With pathos in his voice, he would say 'prison authorities are very hard to please'.

Being a good digger he decided to leave the coal mines and joined up with a contractor of drains. He walked everywhere and did not believe in paying for a bed, he had to be an early riser as the farmer whose haystack he had decided to kip in had the same impulse and Taffy might well have had a pitchfork in his backside if he overslept. It took him a day and a half to walk from London to Mersea and he received the first kind act of his life, going quite penniless into the White Hart and asking if anyone would lend him 1/6 on his pumb bob. He was given the 1/6, also refreshed with bread and cheese by the proprietor Mr Went.

Taffy used to call Mersea his Utopia, Mersea people in return were more than pleased to see the sewers developing. He what you call kipped rough, there was a disused pub in The Lane which seemed past redemption. Taffy endeared himself to many people and he could always rely on a cooked meal by some kindly mother living in The Lane. His cockney logic always went straight to the point and his rudity was often embroidered with obscene language. He was so amusing that you let him off with a caution. He used to sing 'There's a great big silver lining in the sky, Let the dark clouds roll by', usually full of beer on his way home to his disused pub. This was his way of forgetting his drab environment of laying the Mersea sewers. To have complained about Taffy waking up the neighbourhood on his way home as he was rather beligerant in his cups, would have landed you in the local hospital. Taffy was a very staunch Liberal, this at the time the maternity benefit became law. His foreman was red hot Labour with several children and he made a derogatory and blasphemous remark about Mr Lloyd George, then the Prime Minister. Taffy in his defence of his Welsh God chucked in his job, and loaded with food and with tears in his eyes before completion of the drains, walked out of our lives.

[ The West Mersea sewerage system was constructed in 1924. ]

Author: Winifred Hone
c1969
ID: WW01_291


This item is part of the Mersea Island Museum Collection. The information is accurate as far as is known, but the Museum does not accept responsibility for errors.