The Last Coal Trip To Tenby, by Rod Humphries
Review by Frank Ruhrmund
ST IVES' Rod Humphries began this book 13 years ago, but has been quite a while finishing it because, as he explains, "Arthur Caddick got in the way."
It was in the summer of 1999 that, happening to be in Nancledra, he first heard of the poet. Intrigued, he investigated further and his findings led eventually to him being the prime mover in the publication of Arthur Caddick's splendid autobiography, Laughter From Land's End.
While it is a long way from Rod Humphries' native Penddawn in Wales to his adopted St Ives in Cornwall, and in many ways an even longer passage of time from the start of his book to its conclusion, fortunately for him and his readers he has a good memory. It is a sense of community – as strong a presence as Eric, Larry, Hywel or any one of the many colourful characters who people the pages of Rod Humphries' memoir – which, for me at least, forges a link between South Wales and west Cornwall.
Just as Arthur Caddick recorded laughter from Land's End, so Rod Humphries records laughter from Penddawn.
It may have been a time of deep depression when money was scarce and life was certainly very hard for most people and the shadow of the coming Second World War was already darkening doorsteps everywhere, but there was fun to be had.
Then, too, there were books. As the author says: "I cannot remember a time I couldn't read and can imagine no greater pleasure than sitting with a good book, not just a good book, any book!"
From rugby, his account of the match of the year, Penddawn versus Neath, and man of the match Gareth "Twenty" Williams, to religion and the Reverend Evans, the tale Rod Humphries tells lives up to its claim of being heartwarming and one of abiding friendships and a portrait of a community "as close knit as an old cardigan".
Written by a Welshman who now lives in a Cornish town, he likes to think of it as being "Penddawn with beaches", engrossing, hugely enjoyable, and excellent value.
The Last Coal Trip To Tenby by Rod Humphries is published by Parthian at £8.99.