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This report is taken from PN Review 260, Volume 47 Number 6, July - August 2021.

Letter from Wales Sam Adams
As a fourteen-year-old, my father was apprenticed to a baker in Gilfach Goch. He was the youngest of three children and his parents clearly saw no point in paying the fees that would have gained him a place in a secondary school in the next valley, like his older brother, who eventually became a coal mining surveyor. Communities need bakers, and perhaps they thought it was a career that would keep him gainfully and safely employed for life, with his own business in due course. His father, my namesake, had been a miner all his life, rising through the ranks from ‘hewer’, as the census termed those who hacked coal from the seam for a living, to ‘overman’, with responsibility for oversight of the output and safety of a section of the mine. He was also a Salvationist, with a keenly charitable conscience, and a small-time entrepreneur on the side. He set up an arrangement whereby local customers could obtain furniture and household and fancy goods from Cardiff department stores. I don’t know how long my father spent in the bakery apprenticeship; I suspect it was no more than months.

If he had promise in any line, it was engineering, which his parents, sooner or later, sought to encourage. From early childhood, as a wilful explorer of hidden places about the house, I knew that one of the cupboards in the mirror-topped sideboard in what we called ‘the front room’ contained a hefty six-volume set of books on electrical and mechanical engineering. Surely intended to help my father gain professional qualifications in that line, they ...

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