Severe Winter of 1962/63

  • August 31, 2012 - cerysjones

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.

Jenny Ogwen’s Extreme Weather

  • August 31, 2012 - cerysjones

During the project’s time at the National Eisteddfod in Llandw recently, we spoke to Jenny Ogwen, a familiar face in Wales as she used to present the weather forecasts on S4C (the Welsh-language public-service television channel). She was there to promote her autobiography entitled ‘Glaw a Hindda’ (‘Rain and Shine’). When asked what periods of extreme weather she remembers during her career, her answers were:

“1963 – Eira Mowr – Llundain a dros Brydain.

1976 – Haf tanboeth – drought ym mhobman.”

She remembers the Great Snow of 1963 in London and over Britain (she was working in London at the time), and the scorching summer of 1976 as there was drought everywhere.

What do you remember of these periods?

Welsh Almanacs: Extreme Weather among History’s Extraordinary Events

  • August 14, 2012 - cerysjones

This is just one page which has been digitised by The Snows of Yesteryear project in order to research extreme weather in Wales.  The whole collection, which includes almanacs, diaries and various other manuscripts, can be viewed on Flickr (click on the right of your screen).

John Harris 1790 Almanac Carmarthen/Caerfyrddin (National Library of Wales / Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru)

This page, entitled ‘Register of various extraordinary events’, comes from an almanac for the year 1790 compiled by John Harris and printed in Carmarthen (from the National Library of Wales’ archives). The first extraordinary event listed is that it was 5894 years since God created the world which, from the year of printing (1790AD), sets the creation of the world at  4104BC. Among the following events, Harris included many natural phenomena:

4141 years since the water deluge [i.e. flood] [=2351BC]

170 years since there was an earthquake in Britain [=1620AD]

104 years since there was a large and terrible shooting star [=1686AD]

75 years since there was great darkness on the sun [i.e. a solar eclipse] at 9 in the morning [=1715AD]

74 years since the northern lights started [=1716AD]

71 years since there was light like a shaft [or column] of fire [=1719AD]

51 years since there was a great frost, which started on December 24 [=1739AD]

35 years since Lisbon was destroyed by an earthquake [=1755AD]

21 years since a large shooting star appeared in the morning [=1769AD]

15 years since there was an earthquake in England and Wales [=1775AD]

The events in bold are indicative of heavy precipitation and low temperatures, considered to be meteorological events. However, the definition of ‘meteorology’ is:

1. The branch of science that deals with atmospheric phenomena and processes, esp. with a view to forecasting the weather.

2. The character of a particular region as regards weather, atmospheric phenomena, etc. (OED, http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/117496?redirectedFrom=meteorology#footerWrapper).

Historically, this full definition was embraced to a greater extent than in more recent years. As such, all atmospheric phenomena on this list – the 1686AD and 1769AD shooting stars, 1715AD solar eclipse, 1716AD northern lights and the 1719AD shaft of fire – were considered to be ‘meteorological events’ at the time of printing this Almanac.

The National Eisteddfod of Wales: A Visit to the Vale of Glamorgan

  • August 13, 2012 - cerysjones

The National Eisteddfod of Wales in the Vale of Glamorgan (4-12th August 2012) was the second national festival for ‘The Snows of Yesteryear’ project. The wet weather at the beginning of the festivities meant that the Eisteddfod saw the return of the trusted wellington boot – a ‘must-have accessory’ for most summer events in Wales. As the week progressed, the clouds retreated and temperatures soared. Such variable weather was a natural conversation starter, which led to a natural sharing of memories of extreme weather (some recorded under ‘Community Interaction’) and promises of many more inputs to the blog.

*Thank you to everyone who visited the project on the University of Wales and National Library of Wales stands.*

Cardiff floods 1979

  • August 7, 2012 - guest

Contributor at the Eisteddfod:

I remember watching the water levels coming across Sophia Gardens – it was like a black mass slowly coming across the fields. The water came up Cathedral Road. We were protected by the houses of Plasturton Avenue and our house wasn’t flooded. But the water came to the front garden; it was literally lapping over the front step. Me and my friends were waist deep walking down Cathedral Road helping people get stuff out of their houses. I was 15 years old.

I remember the sludge and the smell after the water levels dropped. And everyone was so upset – especially the ground floor flats in Cathedral Road. A man was trying to get his guitar to safety – I think it was ruined.

From a kid’s point of view, we had fantastic fun. But the adults were horrified and anxious.

Summers aren’t what they used to be…

  • August 6, 2012 - cerysjones

From two ladies from the Llanelli area at the National Eisteddfod during a heavy shower of rain (summarised, originally said in Welsh):

When they were children during the 1950s, summers felt as if they lasted forever. We don’t have summers like they used to be. 1976 was the last proper summer we had; everything was dry. There’s a village, near Rhandirmwyn, that was drowned for the reservoir. But in 1976 the lakes were all dry and you were able to see the old village.

December 2010: Snow at Carmarthenshire; a strange, sad time

  • August 1, 2012 - cerysjones

Kindly received by comment:

My mother in law died at 00.20 on the morning of December 17th 2010 in Tycroes, Carmarthenshire. The doctor couldn’t get to the bungalow to certify her death for several hours, neither could the District Nurses. The undertaker couldn’t get to us until 05.00, using a 4 wheel drive vehicle. Her funeral was a week later on Christmas Eve and again, only 4 wheeled drives could get to us, so no service in the house, no limos, many friends and family struggled to get to the chapel. It was a strange, sad time. The snow added to the feeling of a surreal experience. The silence that night was eerie, almost deafening.

The Snows of Yesteryear at the Royal Welsh Show

  • August 1, 2012 - cerysjones

The sweltering 2012 Royal Welsh Show was the ideal occasion to spread the word about ‘The Snows of Yesteryear’. The project received media attention from BBC Radio Cymru (Geraint Lloyd, Wednesday afternoon), BBC Radio Wales (Thursday’s Good Morning Wales) and S4C (Y Sioe/12, Thursday afternoon).

The project was based at the National Library of Wales’ stand throughout the four days, which gave a fantastic opportunity for the public to learn more about the project and how to share their memories of extreme weather.

The Show was an extreme weather event in itself as the BBC reported that,

St John Wales declared a major heatstroke incident after being overwhelmed by people needing help on Monday and Tuesday. Such was the demand on Tuesday for space that some patients were treated in the [medical] centre’s kitchen. An inflatable tent was put up on Wednesday providing an extra 12 spaces. On Monday staff dealt with 190 cases at the show, while on Tuesday there were 202, of which about 120 were for heatstroke.” (full story at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-mid-wales-18996775)

Welcome to the Snows of Yesteryear blog

  • July 27, 2012 - blogadmin
Welcome to the Snows of Yesteryear blog; a brand new forum for extreme weather in Wales.
The blog's developing every day so keep an eye out for the latest changes, such as Flickr images of historical documents on the weather - coming soon!