My name is Carl Llewellyn and I’ve been a friend of David Thomas for over 40 years. When I was asked by David’s son, Mike daughter, Janet to give the eulogy here today I deemed it a  privilege. It was a pleasure recording David’s life span and his numerous achievements, and to speak about the family man who was such a kind and genuine character.

To give some background to David’s life, I will begin with his birthday and place of birth. David George John Thomas was born on Monday 30th January 1928 at No. 3 William Street, Twynyrodyn. He was one of three children born to John Emlyn and Blodwen Thomas. Sadly, his brother died as a child, leaving David and his younger sister Nan surviving. David attended Twynyrodyn Infants School and later the Junior School, which was then known as Walters Terrace School. Sadly the school is no longer standing and a housing estate is now in its place.

It was only recently I knew that David was known as David George in his school days, due to David’s age. There was only one man that I remember who called David, ‘David George’ and that was a gentleman called Ieuan Evans, who died fairly recently and David attended his school friend’s funeral.

David had been born into a well established family of grocers, with roots in Penyrheolgerrig. His great-grandfather Richard Williams owned a grocer’s shop in Penywern, whilst his grandfather John Richard Thomas owned  a grocers shop at No 1 Aberdare Road in Georgetown. David’s father John Emlyn worked for his grandfather and David remembered accompanying his father to Ystradfellte to make grocery deliveries, taking the opportunity at a young age David to have a go at driving his father’s van in the  remote location.

The family business carried on with David’s Uncle Brynley and his son Peter Thomas with John Emlyn (David’s father) managing the shop. David’s Uncle Brynley and his son Peter Thomas opened a business on the High Street, called the Welsh Dairy. Interestingly, David’s grandparents were a brother and sister who married a brother and sister. David’s great Uncle Abraham owned a bakery and lived at Hill House, Georgetown.

In 1939 David passed his 11-plus, and for those of us at a certain age who can remember sitting such an examination, David was successful in passing his 11-plus and was assigned a place at the Cyfarthfa Grammar School. Sometime later in that same year, David, his parents and his sister Nan moved to No 24 the Avenue.

In 1941 he transferred school because he wanted a more technical education. He was accepted at Quakers Yard Technical School, Edwardsville. Yet again David, his parents and his sister Nan moved to Bridgefield Cottage Georgetown and I believe the cottage once stood near to where the Rugby Club now stands.

In 1943 David left school and was too young to be considered for conscription into the forces. He applied for a job with GWR (Great Western Railway) as an engine cleaner, then gained promotion as a fireman at the Merthyr Tydfil Engine Sheds. In those days to gain promotion you needed to accept a post in another area, so in 1945 David was transferred to Tysely, Birmingham as a fireman. And in 1947, the year of the big snow, David was transferred to Pontypool.

In 1949 David was transferred to Caeharris, Dowlais and it was at this period he met the love of his life – Jean Brewin from Brondeg Heolgerrig. She was the love of his life and remained devoted to her until she passed away in December 2009.

In 1951 David was finally relocated to Merthyr Engine Shed and in the same year he became engaged to Jean. The following year, on March 1st David and Jean were married, and it was the custom when railway men were married, their colleagues would place fire crackers on the rails and drive the engine over them. David and Jean started married life in Walters Terrace, Twynyrodyn on 23rd November 1953 where their son David Michael was born.

On occasions when David and Mike would visit the Doctor at the same time, when David Thomas’ name was called they’d look at each other wondering which one of them appointment it was for!

In 1954 David left the GWR and joined the Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Fire Brigade and he attended a recruits course in Birmingham, becoming an operation fireman for a number of years. On May 25th 1964 David’s daughter Janet Mary was born and in David’s own words, “She was a joy to our lives.”

David was known as David, David Thomas, David George Thomas; but to many of us he was called “Dai Fire”, a nickname that became his signature. But why was he called “Dai Fire”? David explained it was not because he worked on the railway or because he became a fireman. David liked to place a bet now and again, and while in the betting office there was a space on the betting slip where one would place their name. Many people used a shorter version, like his fellow fireman who was a man called Will, and wrote “Will Fire”, so David decided to do the same and wrote “Dai Fire”. The rest as they say, is history.

David’s first car was a Morris Traveller and his first journey was not an excursion to Porthcawl or Barry, but a trip to the hospital with Janet, who had a tummy bug.

On 30th April 1964 the present Fire Station was officially opened, however the Fire Station had been relocated earlier – possibly the year before. One of the memories at that time was related by Dai Fire’s long standing friend for 55 years Len Haggart, who related when he and Dai Fire, plus other members of the fire Brigade had to clean the floor of the new Fire Station. Needless to say their hard work resulting in the existing polish on the floor being scrubbed away.

In the 70′s houses were being built on Shirley Gardens and with Jean’s connection with Heolgerrig, David and Jean decided to buy a house – No. 33 Shirley Drive, and they moved into their new home in February 1977, where for 42 years David has resided.

In his career with the fire service, David’s personality showed dedication to duty and his loyalty to the job, which resulted in him being promoted to leading fireman. He was further promoted to Sub Officer and following attendance at the 6-month course for fire prevention at Fire Service College, Dorking, Surrey, he was awarded a prize for the high marks he obtained through hard work and perseverance. The award was presented to him by the Mayor and the Chief Fire Officer at the Old Town Hall, known today as the Red House.

David remained in the Fire Prevention Department and was promoted to Station officer, then assistant Divisional Officer , Senior Fire Prevention Officer, and on re-organisation in 1975 David was transferred to the Mid-Glamorgan Fire Service Headquarters at Lanelay Hall, Talbot Green. David advanced his career by becoming Divisional Officer and Deputy Senior Fire Prevention Officer, later becoming Divisional Officer Grade 1; a post David remained in until he retired on December 31st 1985 after 31 years of loyal and dedicated service.

One incident I want to recall – when  the Aberfan Disaster occurred at 9:15 am on 21 October 1966, when 116 children and 28 adults died. That was 53 years ago! Len Haggett and David were two of the first firemen on the scene, and were among the fire brigade rescuers who rescued a young boy called Philip Thomas from being buried alive. Philip was terrified and was trapped by his feet. Len Haggett said, “If Philip hadn’t come out within a few minutes he would have drowned.” The fact that this young boy was alive and he’d been saved, was an elation, without a shadow of a doubt. At the 50th  anniversary of the Aberfan Disaster there were documentaries shown on TV and one of those documentaries helped Philip Thomas find out who the firemen were who saved his life. Len and David were the only two surviving firemen who helped to save Philip’s life. Although  Philip Thomas was pulled out from the waste with horrific injuries, he had almost lost an ear, had two head-wounds and a badly injured hand, as well as three crushed fingers, which doctors were not able to save. But he was saved through the efforts of Len and David and their colleagues. The TV documentary was an emotional meeting for Philip, Len and David, and Philip’s words were, “Thank you for saving my life.”

David certainly enjoyed his retirement and was able to spend more time with his wife Jean, however Jean  sadly passed away on 1st December 2009, two months before her 80th birthday. Having lost his soul mate it was a difficult time for David, but the love and support of his family helped ease his grief. David was a family man. He loved his children – Mike and Janet, his grandchildren – Joanne, James, Kelly, Sarah and Kate and his great grandchildren – Isabelle , Jack, Jacob and Georgia. Sadly his only grandson James and his family are unable to attend David’s funeral due to distance. James lives in New Zealand, and the new addition to James’ family is a baby girl, who has been named Georgia after one of David’s Christian names. David was also close with his sister Nan and her daughters Diane and Susan and his first cousin Peter Thomas.

There’s one talent I didn’t know David had acquired until now and that was his adaption to the internet. For a man of his age he became adept at using the computer and he’d sort out his bank accounts with online banking and send for various items on Amazon. He must be admired because there are those younger than David who struggle with using the internet. He was also able to access emails sent from the choir secretary.

Lastly, I have to mention about David’s love for Male Voice singing and believe his love of singing began when he attended Sunday School at Zion Welsh Baptist Chapel, Twynyrodyn, where he would have been taught Sol-Fa. He would have taken part in various events such as Harvest festivals, Easter services, Gymanfa Ganu’s and other special occasions. These were the foundation of David’s musical interest, which led David in later life joining the Cefn Coed Male Voice Choir, and was put to sing in the second tenor section. Sadly Cefn Coed Male Voice Choir is no more, but David joined in around 1971, when he became friends with Norman Thomas and Robbie Johnson. In 1972 Robbie Johnson decided to leave Cefn Coed Male Voice Choir and join Dowlais Male Voice Choir. And soon after, David Thomas followed Robbie by also joining Dowlais Male Voice Choir. When the choir won the National Eisteddfod in 1973, there was an official  photograph arranged to be taken of the choir to celebrate the choir winning the  National Eisteddfod at Ruthin. And although David was a member of the choir he was not allowed to be in the photograph. The photograph was of the choristers included in the winning of National Eisteddfod.

Over the years David has been a loyal and dedicated chorister, and his contribution has been invaluable to the second tenor section. In his 46 years as a chorister he’s been an asset to the choir and would often exchange an intimate rapport with the choir’s musical director, Darya Brill Williams. When the Lifeguards and the Dowlais Male Choir organised an Old Thyme Musical at the old Miner’s Hall in September 1981 and April 29th 1982, it was David and Len Haggatt who did an inspection for fire safety before the Old Miners Hall was reserved. I recall both Len and David washing, wiping and sweeping the upstairs gallery.

As far as I can recall David has been on all the choir tours to Luxembourg, Bulgaria, USA, Holland,  Canada and the West Coast of USA , Ireland, Italy Northern Cyprus, and recently a visit to Menin Gate in Belgium in April 2018, when Dowlais and Pontypridd Male choirs joined together to commemorate one hundred years since the end of the First World War. David was 90 at the time but made the four day tour.

The choir was David’s saving grace after the death of his beloved Jean. It became a sanctuary for his grief and a blessing. But I must mention David’s close friend Len a man who was a true friend to David in all respects their friendship spanned 55 years, Len’s wife Barbara was also close friend of Jean. David and Jean had been lifelong friends with Norman and Barbara Thomas and Billy “Ginge” and his wife  Betty Evans, and they shared many happy times as a group of friends.

It was a sad day when David’s other close friend, Robbie Johnson passed away. David was devastated when he lost his friend and it was a shock he never got over, because Robbie (and Len) were truly his closest friends. But since Robbie passed away David has continued his friendship with Robbie’s widow Carole Ann, who David shared many outings, especially to Abergavenny.

All of us here today will remember David. He was a gentleman, a caring person, a good friend, a genuine colleague, a loving Father, Grandfather, Great-grandfather, Brother, Uncle, Father-in-law and Cousin. His character did not show any malice; he was sincere, honest, earnest and always had a warm acknowledgment when exchanging pleasantries.

I will end my eulogy by reading the last verse of a poem recited by the Reverend Eli Jenkins in the play, ‘Under Milk Wood’ by Dylan Thomas. A poem David knew so well and sang many times to Troyte’s Chant:

O let us see another day!
Bless us all this night, I pray,
And to the sun we all will bow
And say, good-bye – but just for now!

 

God Bless you David

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