David Davies (Dai Tirbach) was born into a coal mining family in Cwmgors in 1910, he was the sixth child out of ten born to William and Sarah Davies.
The family were known as the 'Tirbachs' to distinguish them from all the other Davieses in the village, the name comes from the smallholding near Llandeilo where William Davies ( Dai's great grandfather) lived in the mid 1850s.
They built their own house on Llwynrhydie land in Cwmgors in the late 1880s and within a few years this had expanded to three adjoining houses, informally known as Tirbach Terrace. The rear walls of the back gardens were only yards away from Cwmgors colliery.
Dai presumably left school at 12, he worked 'in athracite' from the age of 20, he couldn't initially have had many doubts about where he would spend his working life, just like his grandfather, father and brothers.
Perhaps he was influenced by the industrial unrest of the 1920s, both national and local --- there is a photograph on the Picture Gallery (Cwmgors) of his father William with strikers at Ammanford in 1925. Maybe he took note that his father died at the age of 50, and his grandfather wasn't exactly long lived dying at age 63.
Whatever, he did try and 'get away' from mining, but wasn't successful soon enough it seems.
In the Picture Gallery (Pontardawe 6) there are photographs of him in 1931 on a summer course at Pontardawe Mining and Technical Institute, subject surveying; he also attended surveying Summer Schools in 1928 & 1931 at Swansea University. So, even at age 18 it appears he was looking for an alternative to underground coal mining work.
I have no information on whether he obtained any surveying qualifications, but assume not.
His driving licence shows he was living in London with his sister Bess between 1938 and 1941/2 , doing what I don't know, it was war time.
His health must have already deteriorated since in January 1945 there was a Medical Report by Howell Davies (DMRE Camb, MBBS, London) of Swansea; an X-ray of Dai's chest showed changes due to pneumoconiosis, the stated cause of his disability and he was advised to apply to the Board immediately.
Dai was by now 34, he had been 15 years 'in anthracite', then worked at the Steer Pit.
But he was seemingly unsuccessful, a further letter in 1964, from the Pneumoconiosis Medical Panel in Swansea advised him that "although the X-ray appearances suggest that there is a little dust in your lungs, the changes are considered too insignificant to suggest that you are suffering from the prescribed disease Pneumoconiosis"
See Picture Gallery (Cwmgors 1) for a view of the actual Medical Report and letter.
Dai was for a few years c 1952/59 a partner with my parents Handel Hicks and Rae, his sister, in a milk round /shop business in Shoreditch, London. He really struggled in any active sense following the lethal smog conditions in London in 1952 which killed 4000 people. I remember it fairly well, he was badly incapacitated by an inability to breathe easily, he had returned home to Cwmgors before 1958/9 and never worked again to my knowledge.
He was a bit of a lad though, he had brought his Francis Barnet motorcycle up to London with him but it spent most of its time 'in the way' in the shop storeroom in the yard. Another memory for me is Dai and my father buying an old van for the business, it never moved from being parked outside the shop, what a heap, they were well and truly done by an East End fly boy. I could never work out which of them was supposed to be the mechanical expert !
Dai spent the last 10 years or so of his life totally dependent on his 'pwmp' and unable to walk more than a few yards without a long rest; you could hear his wheezing chest coming a way off.
I well remember him sat in a chair in the corner by the fire in the 'gegin' at 34 Gors Street, he was looked after by his sisters.
I never heard of any involvement with the opposite sex, he certainly remained a bachelor all his life.
My memory is of a retiring man, a dry wit with an interest in what went on in the world. I don't think he was a particularly religious person, at least he wasn't a regular chapel goer, although all the family probably were when his grandmother 'Mamgu White' was still alive !
He died in 1966 at the age of 56 and was buried in the family plot at Hen Carmel.
The death certificate states that the cause of death was 'broncho-pneumonia, chronic bronchitis and emphysaema after post mortem.'
So, were 'they' right in 1945 and 1964 about the affect of coal dust on his lungs ?
From this distance in time it certainly looks like a case of governments doing their best to limit payouts by setting unduly high medical parameters, but I would say that wouldn't I ?
I know that the government in recent years has 're-opened the books' on compensation claims for mining diseases, but too late for Dai.
Local newspaper item from 1966;
"The death has ocurred of Mr David Davies age 56, of High St , Cwmgorse. He was a bachelor and had been a shotfirer at the GCG pits, latterly at Cwmgorse Colliery. He was known as ' Dai Tirbach' and was a member of one of the district's oldest families of sportsmen. All his brothers played rugby for Cwmgorse and his brother Will Davies while playing for Swansea as a wing forward obtained 4 caps for Wales."
See the extracts from 'The Fed' on this site for further local background re pneumoconiosis etc