Monday, 30 May 2011

Madness Monday: Naked Ambition (Great-Grandfather No 2)

Alfred Williams was my maternal grandmother's father.  Until very recently I knew very little about him, other than that he was Welsh.  My mother wasn't one to talk about her family and was indeed quite snippy about them.  So, Alfred was very much shrouded in mystery.

My own efforts revealed that he was born to Daniel Williams and his wife Hannah around 1865 in Glam Dowlais.  The Williams family were miners, Alfred too.  Somehow Alfred met and impressed Eleanor (Ellen) Jenkins, the daughter of the landlord of the Pandy Inn, Ton-y-Pandy.  The couple married in 1891 and moved to Robert Street in Ynysybwl, where Alfred continued to work as a miner.  By 1901 the couple had six children (three more, including my grandmother, came along) and Alfred was now "Living on Own Means" according to the census.  How did this coal miner come by enough money to support himself, a wife and six children?

The truth is that he was not living on his own means, he was living on his wife's means.  Ellen's father, Daniel Jenkins, had been a remarkably shrewd pub landlord.  He had bought property including houses in Ynysybwl and invested in shares.  On his death, he left the bulk of his estate to his youngest daughter, Ellen.  Thanks to his wife, Alfred escaped the mines and was able to live in relative comfort for the remainder of his days.

So, there is the ambition part - here is the mad part!  My mother's sister is now quite elderly and allegedly suffering from Alzheimer's Disease - I say allegedly because she seems perfectly lucid to me.  On our last visit to her she recalled that she had met her mother's father once, when she was a small girl.  She said that he was a stout gentleman and he had given her sixpence.  Later in life she was told that he had gone quite mad - she wondered if Alzheimer's ran in the family (something else for me to look forward to!).  Apparently he would escape from his house, entirely naked, and run about the village, until caught by neighbours who would wrap him in a sheet and take him back home.

Quite disgraceful, but you've got to smile!

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