It is always fascinating exploring the life and work of others in times gone by. Certainly, with regards to Thomas, its been intriguing learning about his time at work, both as a miner as well as a lay preacher. However, it does beg the question: With such little time left for himself, what did he do for leisure?
From what he writes in the latter stages of his autobiography, it seems that Thomas not only travelled with work, but also spent a great amount of his time throughout his life, travelling up and down the UK on holiday with his wife, Polly. He writes, “When the miners got two weeks holiday with pay we always made good use of it. Once we had a holiday in Scarborough, and another we took a Northern bus tour of Torquay. The outward journey went through the middle counties of England and some beautiful countryside and we returned up the West of England staying at Taunton, Bristol and Chester…” (75). He also writes of many trips to London, recalling memories of his last trip London in 1956 in which he took his granddaughter, Pauline, of which she had her first experience of the London Underground and the Houses of Parliament. “We were shown around the House of Commons and the Lords by an MP which we all enjoyed and then went on to Westminster Abbey where Pauline and I climbed to the top of the whispering gallery.” (76).
As well as travelling to the inner city, Thomas also travelled to the countryside closer to home. Two trips to the Lake District proved interesting holidays! “The first time was at a quaint farmhouse in Borrowdale where there were many beautiful scenes to be witnessed. The second time we had a caravan and one night we had a thunderstorm. We saw a fireball roll down the hill and hit our caravan at the bottom with a tremendous bang. After that we thought it was time to go home, which we did” (77) For Thomas, who as a child, may not have had many opportunities to holiday around the country, and whose adult life was predominantly spent underground in the mines, the chance to travel the country and see sights he had only heard and dreamed of must’ve been somewhat liberating.
In his later life, Thomas writes of the many times he visited Scotland to stay his daughter,
Doris, who worked for the Regional Hospital Board in Aberdeenshire. The many trips to see her resulted both Thomas and Polly moving to Scotland on a permanent basis in 1966. They first lived with Doris in Aberdeen, “…a beautiful city and many of its streets are lined with trees, while the floral displays all round the city is wonderful to see in the Spring and Summer “, later moving to Penicuik on the outskirts of Edinburgh, in which they stayed for 5 years. However, due to the changes to the health service in Scotland during this period of time, Doris Polly and Thomas were required to move twice more with Doris’s job. After moving from Penicuik, they found themselves living in a small village names The Bridge of Weir until finally settling in Ayr, Thomas’s home whilst writing the memoir. Throughout their moves, Thomas and Polly always maintained that they would move wherever Doris job would lead them. He writes “You may think we should be tired of moving, but when a person is improving her position in her profession, it is essential to move around” (74)
Thomas also writes about his passion for walking, something he maintained throughout his life. In his early years, he and Polly enjoyed many happy years walking around the countryside of Seaham. He writes lovingly, “Polly and I have had a very happy life together. In the early days of our life, together we loved walking and every time we got the opportunity, we spent the day walking around Seaham. On each country walk we did you could have been sure that by the time we reached home Polly would have a bunch of wild flowers which she loved to gather.”(75) Again, this love may have been sparked by the fact that the majority of his working life was spent underground in the heavily dark and oppressive surrounding of the mine. A chance to be free of the confines of the mine and within the fresh air must’ve certainly been welcomed. In the latter stages of his memoir, he even dedicates a chapter to his dogs, who I presume also loves the many walks they will have been on over the years! Certainly, an endearing and interesting read for a man so heavily involved in many associations. Stay tuned for my next post on War and Memory!