Centenarian, Jane Jones Davies, known as Mamgu (Welsh for Granny, pronounced mam-gee)
"We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time." T.S Eliot
Mamgu is my friend Matt’s Granny. Next month she will celebrate her 100th birthday.
In families, things get passed down the ages. Heirlooms, toys, photographs, beds made with ‘hospital corners’. Words too get jumbled into our mother tongue, becoming normal.
Until a month ago I had never heard of the words ‘mamgu’, ‘uckavy’ (ych a fi) or ‘yachida’ (iechyd da). What on earth?
In the James family these terms are commonplace: Granny, disgusting and cheers if you want to know. The Mamgu from whence the words came grew up in the small town of Abaraeon in West Wales. She was raised in a house with no electricity, cold baths and lights that were either paraffin lamps or candles.
Mamgu has lived through a century of monumental change. She witnessed bombs and rationing, and took her first job in a bank on the basis of ‘duty’ since the men were called to war.
This post was in Birmingham, something that pleased Mamgu who wanted to get as far away from home as possible. In the familiar way of growing up this sentiment was coupled with guilt and intense home-sickness at first.
Rev. David Egryn James, an army chaplain fell for Mamgu when he walked into the bank one afternoon. He took her for a spin on his motorbike every week for a year until they wed in 1941. The couple settled in Thorpe until 1970 when Egryn sadly died leaving Mamgu a widow.
Coming full circle Mamgu then returned to Abaraeon moving into the bungalow next door to the house she had grown up in.
Here her grandchildren would visit her, sleeping on camp-beds and being spoilt with treats that included squirty cream and fruit-salad jelly. The children were amazed that their Granny spoke Welsh.
Mamgu now lives in a home, and last weekend she met her first great-grandchild, Wilf. When asked how she felt about him she replied with the word ‘lovely’ six times.
Mamgu we wish you a very happy 100th birthday.
Words by Daisy Allsup, The Iris Letter June 2016.