David V. Williams
I was part of the first intake of first form boys at the new Grammar School site on Cwmdare Hill in September 1964 and entered form 1 alpha. Being from Cwmaman I was joined by two other pupils of Cwmaman Primary, Gareth Griffiths and David Llewellyn Davies.
My family was very established in Cwmaman and as a boy I lived in Fforchaman Road and my nearest bus stop with ‘the Police Station’. We lived opposite my maternal grandparents and great grandmother so lots of cakes and good cooking for me!
My mother’s family were very much Cwmaman-based and attended the Seion Welsh Baptist Chapel in Cwmneol Place where my great grandfather notably ran a successful choir to raise money for the chapel.
My father’s family hailed from Godreaman and Ffrwd Street in particular.
The first term at the school was very exciting but not terribly organised and was pleased to be sent home early on a number of occasions in the first few weeks of term as the staff settled into the new premises.
I soon established that I was not going to be a scientist as I found maths, chemistry and physics ‘hard going’.
My choice of ‘O’ Levels subjects was mainly arts with a one residual science in geology and the mixed subject of geography.
My main love proved to be geology and geography which was enthusiastically taught by Meirion Jenkins and ‘Long Tom’ or Tom Evans and studied at ‘A’ Level. My third ‘A’ Level subject was history which I loved but only achieved a ‘O’ Level pass.
This rather scuppered my proposed higher education studies at Swansea University but I settled for ‘second best’ at Plymouth Polytechnic. In actual fact this was by no means second best and I thoroughly enjoyed the geography honours degree course with ancillary geology.
Although my main love was geology and the West Country was well situated to study the many varied igneous rocks, I favoured the physical side of geography with a view to pursuing a career in land surveying after my degree.
Most of my contemporaries studying geography stayed on to teach or become Planners.
I wanted the outdoor life and as much travel as possible; moreover I wanted to earn some money and leave academia!
Part of my degree thesis was written on ‘the rehabilitation of derelict lands’ which Cornwall and South Wales had plenty of in the early 1970s. This thesis proved to be invaluable as I was subsequently employed by a firm of consulting Civil Engineers call Sir William Halcrow and Partners based in offices on Farm Road, Aberaman.
They had secured a contract with the NCB to advise on the stability of coal spoil heaps or tips as we call them, all over the South wales coalfield. Their aged land surveyor had been posted to some exotic location overseas and there was vacant post for a land surveyor holding a degree.
This proved to be a wonderful job and I spent the next few years exploring the derelict landscape of the South Wales coalfield, climbing spoil heaps and getting fit to boot!
Being an international firm, I was eager to get an overseas posting. Halcrow’s finally offered me a position on the project team advising on the construction of the first tunnel under the Suez Canal after the Sinai desert had been passed back to Egypt in the mid 1970s. Cairo and Egypt was all that a precocious 20 something year old could imagine! It was quite a prestigious civil engineering contract and was visited by President Sadat.
The posting only lasted three months but it wetted my appetite for overseas work due to the adventure and substantially increased ‘tax free’ salary!
Returning to South Wales and surveying Tylorstown tip above the Rhondda valley in mid-winter was a bit of a shock!!
So back off overseas to a two year contract on an Irrigation Project in South West Saudi Arabia, and finally another two year contract in Baghdad from 1981 to 1983. This was as the chief surveyor on the Baghdad Metro Project, designing an underground metro system ahead of the terrible wars which eventually engrossed that part of the world. The metro was never built!
I was eventually relieved not to have to return the South Wales coalfield and started a trek around the UK. I settled in Ipswich Suffolk on a major bridge building project across the river Orwell. This proved to be an epiphany moment as I have lived in Suffolk ever since.
Halcrow and I parted company in the mid 1980s after which I spent a period of self-employment as, by now, a chartered land surveyor. This led me to join a firm of surveyors in Suffolk which led to redundancy in the late 1990s due to the slump in the national economy and civil engineering sector in particular.
So time for a change, I ventured into financial services and left my peripatetic life behind me! Well not quite, as I joined a financial services firm in the City of London and had to commute from Ipswich to London on a regular basis.
Eventually the commuting got the better of me and I decided to join a local Suffolk financial services firm which led to my own firm being set up in 1995. I am still in full time work and specialise in Inheritance tax mitigation and pensions. Quite a change from surveying tips in South Wales!!
I am currently embarking on a two year retirement / succession strategy and hope to pursue some of my hobbies on a more regular basis soon.
I am an openly gay man and have, in recent years, given my time
to a local charity and became the chairman of the Suffolk LGB&T Network for the
last four years. The aims of the charity are to offer support for the LGB&T community
in Suffolk and to eradicate homophobic prejudices.
DVW 15 January 2015