Forget Romeo and Juliet, here’s Stan and Meudwen!

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I’ve just been looking online to see what was happening back in 1949, just 4 short years after the Second World War.  Rationing was still very much on the cards although clothing would soon be coupon free.  Here in Britain millions of people were trying to get their lives back to some sort of normality after seeing their families and homes torn apart by 6 years of sadness and destruction.

In 1949 the world was still trying its best to be prepared for another war founding the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. It was the year when young men were still being forced into National Service just in case we needed them to fight again. The British Navy was in action in the Yangtze River collecting British Commonwealth refugees fleeing the communist forces of Mao Tse Tung.  Later that year People’s Republic of China would be established.

In Europe the Iron Curtain was closing tightly.  This was the year West Germany was founded, closely followed by communist East Germany.  There was already a major international crisis between the East and the West with the Soviet blockade of Berlin meaning the West had to fly in supplies to keep West Berlin fed and partying.

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Whilst all that was going on out there in the world here in Swansea a grocer from Pontrhydyfen and a teacher from Brynhyfryd got married in a little Gospel Hall in Phillip Street Manselton. Stan had spent the war on the destroyers chasing the U-Boats around the Bay of Biscay. Meudwen had spent the last few years in East London, avoiding the doodle bugs and teaching the East End kids how to read and write.

Stan Pope in 1945 and on the right HMS Wren on which he served

After the war Stan still dreamed of being a teacher.  His mother had died a few years earlier but as his father had in the last years of the war and he still had a little brother that needed looking after he decided to put his plans on hold and take over the family business.  Every Sunday he would travel up and down the South Wales valleys in his little grocers van using a license that he bought as in those days they didn’t have a driving test.  As a preacher he was much in demand.  As an orphan who was still well below his fighting weight he was the object of much attention from some of the older members of the Gospel Hall community.  Stan needed to find a wife and family and they would do everything they could to find one.

Post war, Meudwen had returned to Swansea getting a job teaching in Gendros School. That first summer they both found themselves at the Swansea Holiday Conference, a week away in a country house in Wiltshire called Grittleton.  Obviously Stan had heard about the lady from Swansea. That night in the boy’s dorm Stan said out loud does anyone know Meudwen from Swansea.  The lad in the next bed said ‘I should do, she’s my sister!’

With so much in common they soon hit it off but he still had to pass the family test.  For their first official date Stan took Meudwen to the Mumbles.  She didn’t like his rather nifty trilby which she certainly made quite clear. I think she said it made him look a bit like a spiv. He definitely understood that she was not a lady for turning when she made a decision.  As far as I can remember I never ever saw my dad wear a hat.  He also never saw my grandmother and grandfather watching from a safe distance.  Some might have called it spying on the young couple I would say it was them just doing due diligence.

So after a traditional courtship on April 14th 1949 they got married and started a life together.  She would support him as he went back to college to train to be a teacher.  He would comfort her as they coped with losing a child early in her first pregnancy. Then came the children, a boy, then another boy and then me. They coped with success and failure together.  They taught generations of other people’s children in school during the week and in Sunday School on the weekends. Then came the weddings and grandchildren.

Mal youngkid with family

The Pope Family circa 1963.  The boys from the left, David, Gareth and Maldwyn

A couple of years ago my dad fell ill.  The vows said took in 1949 said ‘in sickness and in health’ and as she headed into her 90th year my mum took on the role as primary carer for her Stan. It was just before Christmas that she had a fall.  For 4 days she tried to persuade us that it was just her sciatica playing up and that she would soon be better.  In her my mind I’m sure was the thought if she had to go into hospital Stan would have to go into a home.  After 4 days of intense pain she finally gave in and allowed herself to be taken to hospital where an x-ray showed she had snapped her hip.  4 days with a broken hip!!!  She is one tough lady.

For the first time in 68 Christmas’s they would be apart, Mum in Singleton and Dad in care.  2 weeks ago my mum left hospital for a period of convalescence and last week my dad joined her.  They are now together again and yesterday we all celebrated with them their 68th Wedding Anniversary.  She still fusses over him making sure he is comfortable and he still looks at her and smiles. People will write of Romeo and Juliet, Kathy and Heathcliffe, Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy but in my eyes, and I know I’m probably a little biased, the story of Stan and Meudwen rivals them all.

9 thoughts on “Forget Romeo and Juliet, here’s Stan and Meudwen!”

  1. Strangely enough, I am thinking of my parents this weekend as well. They married on 16 April 1949, within two days of your parents, which I think was Easter Saturday, or close to it.
    My father was also in the Royal Navy, as a regular, and my Mother was a Wren. They met at HMS Nuthatch in Cumbria, and married in South Kirkby in Yorkshire, my mum’s home village (my dad’s family were from Pembrokeshire). They too had three children – my brother and me and our sister.
    What did you do on your parents’ Ruby Wedding? We managed to keep from my parents on the night we were celebrating that the Hillsborough disaster had happened that afternoon (which was actually the day before their Ruby Wedding).
    Sadly, their Ruby Wedding anniversary was the last time I saw my mother – she collapsed and died suddenly six weeks later, when I was in Bristol at College. My dad died eighteen months later from cancer.
    When you raise a glass to your mum and dad tonight or tomorrow, give them best wishes from someone they’ll never know who would love to be raising a glass to his own parents on the same night and for the same reason.

  2. I loved reading the story of your mum and dad. I taught with Meudwen for three years in Manselton Infants until her retirement in 1977. I met your dad on a few occasions. Coincidentally I married a boy from Manselton on April 14th 1977 and we celebrated our ruby wedding yesterday. I was so pleased to hear that your parents were able to be together for their anniversary. You are blessed to have such lovely parents.

  3. lovely tribute Mal – now I know why their home was called Griddleton too! Glad they can be together again – my parents are just starting down the separation route! Mum is in singelton and their 70th anniversary is on the 26th. It’s a bittersweet time eh! x

      1. Ah that’s wonderful! It’s a fantastic Home, I hope they’re settling in well. I work on the ground floor, but will pop up to see them xx

  4. Hi Mal, What a lovely story and photos of Uncle Stan and Auntie Meudie. So pleased that they are now together in the home. Give them our love when you next see them, Marilyn and Steve xx

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