Severe Winter of 1962/63

The mobile phone rang, flashing ¬†“Unknown number”. Could be a salesman, could be a person asking whether I had been mis-sold PPI, but no – it was a researcher from Radio Cymru. The very friendly voice asked me whether I could talk on Nia’s program about the weather of 1962. I instantly agreed; I’ve learnt not to decline any offers from the media.

But, what did I know about the weather of 1962 when Mum had only been born a year earlier?! They wanted a Welsh perspective and the internet was surprisingly unhelpful. I only had Jenny Ogwen’s recollection to go on. It was now my time to make some phone-calls… to ask the experts.

Expert number 1: Grandad. Age in 1962: 26

He remembered that it started snowing in December 1962 and the snow stayed until mid-March 1963. Living in Llanybydder (Carmarthenshire) at the time, which is a fairly large village, he remembered that it was very difficult to travel; buses and cars were “on stop”. He also worked in the forestry, and he remembered it being so cold that he had to wear two coats at all times. This came as a bit of a shock after the warm summer of 1962! The following year, he left the forestry and went to work at a timber merchants. No doubt, the winter of 1962/63 was a part of his decision to change his occupation.

 

Expert number 2: Father-in-law. Age in 1962: 28

My father-in-law is a farmer; born and bred in Talgarreg (Ceredigion) down in the valley of the river Clettwr. The winter of 1962/63 is the worst he can remember. It lasted from Boxing day 1962 until the beginning of March. Snow would fall and instantly form drifts as it fell. There was also frost every day and a chilling wind from the East. As a result, their water supply froze. It was so cold that the pipe which took water underground to the cowsheds had frozen. This was a serious problem for a farmer as they had no water to give to the dairy cows.

They were also stranded as the farm road was impassable; another serious problem for a dairy farmer as they weren’t able to take milk up to the milk stand for the tanker to make its daily collection. This meant no income and – worst of all for a ‘Cardi’ (renowned for being careful with every penny) – wasted milk. As they couldn’t ascend the Clettwr valley by road, their only option was to go across it. They put the full milk churns in a box on the back of the tractor and traveled across the valley floor; across the fields towards the village of Talgarreg. There, they met the milk tanker who collected their churns. In return, the farmer would get empty churns, ready for tomorrow’s milk. But first, they had an other job; they filled the churns to the brim with water from the village and returned to the farm to give water to the livestock. They did this every day for around ten weeks until, finally, on the 10th of March 1963, they were able to take the churns up the farm road to the milk stand once again, the last time having been on Boxing day 1962.

It was a very long, cold winter. And they had no ‘cab’ on the tractor to protect them from the elements. But he remembers that, somehow, the coldest day was the day it started to thaw and it started to rain.

 

The experts had spoken, and I tried to do as much justice as possible to their recollections during the radio interview (which was broadcast on BBC Radio Cymru on August Bank Holiday (27th), 2012).

Cerys, Research Assitant, The Snows of Yesteryear Project.

2 thoughts on “Severe Winter of 1962/63

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