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Incidents In The Life of The Bangor-on-Dee Village Policeman 1919-1938
Thomas Parry Bangor-on-Dee Village Policeman 1919-1938

Thomas Parry

Village Policeman

1919 - 1938

First published by:
The Bangor-on-Dee Local History Society 1989.

The following are some of the stories remembered about Mr. Thomas Parry who after 5 years experience with the police, came to Bangor-on-Dee in 1919, and was the village "BOBBY" until 1938.

Briefly a policeman worked a 12 hour day and 6 days a week but was never really off duty.  He was allowed one day off a week - if there were no calls.  The policeman had no waterproofs, only a cape, and wore a flat hat.  His transport was a bicycle, which he had to provide himself.  The police had a system referred to as "Points"; three nights every week, between the hours of 12.0 midnight and 2.0. a.m. the policeman bad to cycle to Worthenbury or Holly Bush or Overton to meet a policeman from another village.

In the mid 20s, the Foot and Mouth Disease" was exceptionally bad in the Maelor area.  The police were on duty almost 24 hours a day, sometimes they were not able to get home for 7 to 10 days as they were on duty at the farm gates.  Whilst they were killing and burning, the policeman had a large bath of disinfectant in which visitors had to dip their feet, they had a canvas cover and an old fashioned sofa and a brazier.  The police slept at the farm gates and then moved from one farm to another.

The policeman used to spend a lot of time on the Overton corner until an hour after the pubs had closed, to see that there was no trouble or late drinking.

Farming in the old days was very different, the police did not receive many complaints from the farmers, and cattle were of very little value compared with today.  Many of the farmers had between 200 and 300 milking cows and women from the village would go milking twice a day.

Some of the incidents which come to mind :- The police were often receiving anonymous letters, which people thought were put in the waste paper basket, actually they were taken up to Mold once a month, where they were dealt with.  These anonymous letters usually came from wives, whose husbands were excessive drinkers - hoping the Chief Constable could do something about it.  There was one particular case when someone from Worthenbury wrote to the Chief Constable telling him that dances were held in an old Army Hut which was next door to the pub, they went on until between 2.0. and 3.30. a.m. and some of the men used to slip out after closing hours into the pub for drinks until well after midnight.  The result was, the Inspector from Overton together with a policeman from Bronington called at Bangor and asked Mr. Parry to accompany them on their bikes to Worthenbury when they knew a dance was being held there.  The three policemen hid their bikes behind some bushes and then hid behind the pub to watch and catch the culprits after hours.  Someone had spotted the police and told the dancers so naturally no dancers went into the pub that night.  The three policemen lay in hiding until 3.0. a.m. and then decided to go home.  In the meantime someone had pinched the three bikes and the three policemen had to walk home to their respective villages.  The next day the three bikes had been put back to where they had originally been hidden.

Mr. Parry always walked round with a stick - and he used it.  There was often trouble with children whose favourite prank with elderly people was the button the window tied with cotton and tapping on the window, very annoying to the people inside the house.  Use of the stick was the best way to deal with this sort of trouble - but is not allowed today.  There was one occasion when a boy climbed on a large barrel to put a button on a window, the barrel was nearly full of water, the boy slipped arid fell into the barrel of water.  The boy bad had his punishment for that day.

There were many incidents connected with the river and to refer to a few: there was the case of the man who was sleeping rough on the river bank who during the night must have wandered into the water and been drowned. He must have been in the water for some considerable time before it was reported to the police that there was a dead man further down the river.  Young Tom Parry, who was in his early teens at the time, went with his dad to find him; Young Tom ran ahead and called "here he is dad"; dad said "help me to pull him out".  Young Tom got hold of his boot and the whole foot came off.  How did young Tom feel?  He said he could not sleep for a week after that.  The police rolled the body into a sack sheet, then onto a cart and took him up to Worthenbury and put him in a shed which was an outbuilding of the pub.  They had an Inquiry to identify the body, the police having first washed the body down and put it on a trestle table.  The police found the man's brother who came down to identify him, and who seeing that the dead man was wearing a good pair of boots, asked "are you burying the boots with him or can I have them".  The police replied "If you would like to take the boots off you can have them".

Drowning's averaged about one or two a year in the River Dee.

There was another incident of a fisherman who had put his rod down on the ground and put the hook between his teeth whilst he sorted out another "Fly".  Someone came along the bank and caught the end of his rod which pulled the hook through his lip.  The fisherman was brought down to the police station where he was put on a couch.  Mr. Parry got out a pair of pliers to cut off the end of the hook and then draw it back putting Iodine all over the lip and hock.  Mr. Parry was not very light handed, he fairly gave the fishermen a bit of gyp.

In the old days the river used to rise very quickly; for instance, many years ago a party arranged to go to the panto' at Wrexham on the 6.0. p.m. bus, but when they returned, some three hours later, the river had risen approximately eight feet and flooded the village.  It was impossible for the bus to get back into the village, the passengers were brought into the village on a horse drawn lorry and then had to wade through the water to get to their homes.

In the 20s there was an abundance of rabbits in the Bangor area and the floods, which averaged 3 or 4 times a year, tended to reduce them.  The floods drowned many and hundreds climbed on bushes to get out of the water.  Local men went out collecting rabbits - dead or alive - took them home, dried them in front of the fire, put them on their bikes and took them to Wrexham where they were sold.

In 1926 the Dee River Board, which was made up of Riparian Landowners, bought off the local net salmon fishermen.  They also cut down the trees which provided shade for the fish.  To stop the net fishermen poaching the river at night large concrete blocks with steel hooks were put in the river to foul the nets.

In 1964 the village experienced the biggest flood ever recorded.  This was caused by two days continuous rain in the Dee catchment area and the misuse of the Bala Lake Flood Prevention Scheme.  This flood proved a blessing in disguise because the Rural District Council called an emergency meeting with the River Board which was attended by the Secretary of State for Wales.  After a tour of the village, inspecting the damage, the Council put forward two schemes for discussion; the first to remove the old railway embankment to allow a free flow of water in times of flooding; the second to build a new inner embankment.  The River Board would not agree to the removal of the railway embankment because of the possible increased flooding of the lower reaches of the river The new inner embankment scheme was agreed.  The Minister of Stake asked the River Board representative why this had not been done before, he replied because no one had asked for it!!!  The scheme was given priority and completed at the cost of £16,000.

Events at the Race Course.  The race horses and the public used to arrive by train, race-goers from Wrexham and other districts often had to walk, as there were few buses in those days.  At the Races there were always plenty of tricksters; one popular trick was called "Crown and Anchor", they would put a canvas sheet on the ground and invite the public to gamble and put money down: there was a shout of "police" and the trickster would pick the cash and canvas sheet and disappear.  The biggest trouble the police had to deal with at the Races was the "Pickpockets", quite a large number of them which the police became aware of from the very large number of wallets - empty- handed in after the races; after emptying a wallet the thief would throw it into the hedge along the roadside.  On one occasion over 50 wallets were handed in at the Police Station.  The pickpockets were quite professional and followed the races from course to course.  It was believed the pickpockets were working for the Bookies, who, when they were paying out, used to watch which pocket the winners put their money in, and then tip off the pickpocket who would then follow the potential victim.  The pickpockets were very slick.

The Pubs used to cater well on race days - at the Royal Oak in particular - they would put a trestle table up outside the pub on the pavement, put 4 large barrels of Beer on trestles, a tap on the bottom of the barrel and a large white enamel jug, and put out the beer as required by the public. The Oak" reckoned to pay their Rent and Rates out of race day.

The new development off the Worthenbury road was referred to as the "RACE COURSE" site because Sir Edward Hanmer (Bart), who was Chairman of the Rural District Council, and a great race going man, had asked that all roads leading into the development should be named after race courses such as, HAYDOCK, SANDOWN, WORCESTER. CHESTER WAY, etc.

Many years ago a man going to see his lady friend on a misty winter night walked along the railway line; when he was near a cattle bridge, which had no railing, he heard a train coming and made for the side of the bridge but finding no railing fell over the side on to the ground beneath.  A lady passing by heard his shout for help and got into touch with the police.  The police got the local taxi up to the first cattle arch near the station where the man was found; he had broken his leg in the fall and had been trying to walk causing the broken bone to pierce his leg and his trousers.  Mr. Parry, who had to be a "jack of all trades", used a home made box splint to set the leg before the man was put into the taxi.  On the way to hospital the man started "yelling like hell" - he had got cramp in the other leg.

It is likely that in the early twenties the population of Bangor was nearly as big as in the late 1970s.  In those earlier days everyone appeared to have very large families - some in double figures.  Families lived in quite small houses with one or two bedrooms - many slept "head to toe'; sleeping must have been very difficult.

The policeman's life was never an easy one; they had a diary to compile daily recording every event that took place locally such as the registration of cattle, sheep dipping etc.  Every small detail had to go down in the diary.

Sadly, Mr. Parry, probably as the result of being involved with out of foot and mouth disease, contracted a serious blood infection and died aged 46 in 1938.

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