Saturday 11 February 2012: Yorrie and Yolanda
Regular readers will be familiar with my recent discoveries relating to the abandoned farmhouse and its sad history.
One of the items I rescued was the faded photograph seen here. At the back was written simply 'Postman 1916-1948'. I mentioned it to my usual local informant and he immediately identified it, sight unseen: "That'll be Yorrie George." He was a local postman for all those years, delivering to farms and hamlets up the Gwaun valley. And his daughter is still alive. So today I went to see her. Yolanda must be a well-preserved 80 and she lives in the house where she was born, on the quayside in the old harbour. She's actually named after a French yacht her father encountered when out fishing one day.
"Oh yes, that's Dad" she said, and her face softened with affection. The story she told me was remarkable and this is only a potted version. Yorrie (short for Iorwerth) was born in Fishguard in 1887. Aged 14 he left school and went to sea. It was still the age of sail. He was twice shipwrecked, once off Cape Horn. In 1914 Yorrie, along with all his contemporaries, joined the army and was sent to France just in time for the battle of Ypres. He was badly wounded, nearly left behind in a triage station ("We've got to go back for Taff!" insisted one of his comrades), and invalided out with a blighty one - he'd lost an arm.
Back home in Fishguard he signed up with the Post Office. That was in 1916. For the next 32 years he walked a daily round of 15 miles through the remote valley that winds up into the hills south of Fishguard. Six days a week including Christmas Day. He would be heavily laden in the run up to Christmas, and he used to do messages (errands) for the isolated farmers as well: with only one arm he'd be festooned around his neck with packages. On the return leg he'd empty the postboxes and bring the mail back with him. He never missed a day. Winters were hard and in the 1920s he once got frostbitten.
Yorrie liked a drink and at Hen Galan he'd 'test' the home brew at all the farms on his round "and if it wasn't good enough for him they'd have to make it again." He had a beautiful singing voice, tenor, and would perform with a mate who sang bass (and had lost a leg.) He was a wonderful Dad and looked after the children when his wife had to spend time in hospital. He used to tell them amazing stories about his shipwreck adventures, for example when the natives at Cape Horn turned a bit threatening he filled his mouth with paraffin and lit it to scare them. "You're having us on Dad!" the children protested. So he went out the back, said Yolanda, took a mouthful of paraffin and he stood here (she pointed) and blew out flames - and set the curtains alight! They always believed him after that.
After he retired someone came to interview Yorrie about his life but 5 days before he had had a severe stroke and was unable to speak. He died five years later.
R.I.P. Yorrie George, what a hero.