By Carl Llewellyn

Although the 2017 choir annual dinner has since passed I felt it necessary to recognise two choristers who recently celebrated 40 years with the Dowlais Male Choir – Richard ‘Richie’ Cole and Tommy ‘Toshie’ Davies.

CHOIR’S DIPLOMAT

Richard Cole is known to every chorister in Dowlais Male Choir, for his role as stage manager and some of his qualities include diplomacy and sensitivity.

Richard Tudor Cole was born on 11 April 1951. Originally a Penydarren boy, Richard was one of six children – Howard, Ann, Jeanette, Roland, Richard & Alun – born to William and Rachel Cole. The family lived at No 80 Penybryn Estate, Penydarren and Richard is one of the 5th generation brought up in Penydarren. He had strong ties with Horeb Chapel, where his family were members and where Richard was christened. He attended Sunday School there, where his introduction into and love of hymn singing began. Richard attend Penydarren infants and junior schools, followed by Gellifaelog Boys School, where his musical talents were nurtured – he joined Gellifaelog Youth Brass Band under the musical direction of Mr Pendry. His chosen instrument was the tenor horn, advancing his position from 2nd Tenor horn to Solo Tenor horn. About this time the Merthyr Tydfil Youth Brass Band was formed, combining Georgetown and Gellifaelog Youth Brass Bands. This was where Richard came into contact with fellow Dowlais choristers and bandsmen, Carl Llewellyn and former chorsiter Gareth Oates.

When Richard left school he joined his father’s building company, called W.J. Cole & Sons where he completed an apprenticeship as a brick layer, but learned other trades through different aspects of the building trade. Richard’s working life has been varied with jobs such as driving lorries to time being spent working in Germany and mastering the rudiments of German colloquialism. As well as choral music Richard has a love of Rock and Roll music, especially Elvis Presley. So it was no surprise with Richard’s love of music he decided to join the choir in 1977 with his first appearance at the Annual Concert at Bethania Chapel, Dowlais in the same year.

Richard has a caring nature, this being evident in the case of former chorister Viv Oates. Richard’s regular visits were appreciated very much by Viv. Although Richard is not a committee member he works tirelessly for the choir with fundraising and is always ready and willing to assist with staging and equipment at all concert venues. As well as the choir’s stage manager, he arranges the bus travel and looks after the choir wardrobe too. A truly dedicated and committed member of the choir, his mobile number is always available for choristers any time.

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Richard has given 40 years service to Dowlais Male Choir – his loyalty and dedication is second to none. His presentation took place at the Annual Dinner, held at the Morlais Castle Golf Club on 18 November 2017. Richard’s award is thoroughly deserved, may we as choir salute you.

CHOIR’S YODELER

Tommy Davies, affectionally known as ‘Toshie’ was born 15 August 1932 at No 10 Penheolferthyr, Twynyrodyn. He was the son of Evan (Known as Ianto) and Margaret (Maggie) Davies. Tommy was one of 9 children; he had 4 sisters and 4 brothers. In his childhood he attended Twynyrodyn School and the Bryn Sunday School, a branch of Seion Chapel in Mountain Hare. He began his working life as a tea boy for Wimpey Construction company, then a scrap merchant called Slittman, followed by a job in the button factory. Next he took on an apprenticeship in carpentry in the housing estate at Pentrebach, then a coal miner and finally before retirement he worked for OP chocolates, Dowlais.

Tommy has always been musical, his voice range making him a natural first tenor. He was associated with a musical troupe called the Merthyr Gang Show with two men called Edwards and Connors (Jackie and Bill). They would sing comic duets and Tommy became involved due to his transportation (car); he would drive Edwards and Connors to various entertainment venues.

Tommy’s cousin, Tommy Powell used to sing a yodeling song:-

High on a mountain all happy and free,
There’s a young girl she’s waiting for me;
Down by the stream she promised to be,
And hear the Mockingbird sing.

Originally sang by another member of the Merthyr Gang Show, George Kelly but with Tommy’s unique voice for yodeling, he and another friend, Ken Edwards (also of Twynyrodyn) performed this ditty with Ken presenting dialogue and Tommy singing. It was a very popular party piece.

Tommy married Betty Nicholas in 1964 and they have two daughters, Susan and Alison, and a son Stephen. They also have grandchildren, great grand children and great great grandchildren.

In 2012 Tommy celebrated his 80th birthday in his local hostelry, the Farmer Arms, also known as the ‘Spite’ where he was surrounded by his family and close friends.

Whilst working in OP Chocolates, Tommy became friends with Stan Regan and Johnny Mac. Stan Regan sang in the down bass section of the Dowlais Male Choir and persuaded Tommy and Johnny Mac to join Dowlais Male choir in 1977. Both men passed their voice tests with ease. Tommy is a natural first tenor and an asset to the choir’s first tenor section. Tommy’s first concert was in Ebbw Vale and is the current first tenor registrar; a task he does diligently.

Tommy was unable to attend the Choir’s Annual Dinner to receive his presentation, however a week later the chairman, Ian Hargreaves presented Tommy’s 40 years service award at the choir’s rehearsal. First tenors are a rare breed so the choir is delighted Tommy is still singing with the choir, and he can still yodel if need be. Salutations to Tommy from the choir for his long service as a faithful and loyal chorister.

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