"But such a day to-morrow as to-day, And to be boy eternal."
(Shakesespeare: The Winters Tale)
I was born on the 2nd November 1955 in St.Davids's Hospital, Bangor, North Wales. I was adopted when I was just a few days old by a wonderful couple, my Mum and Dad.
Fred and Dorothy Hill, my Dad and Mum, raised me on their small farm in a small village called Bont in Mid-Wales. Both were incredibly hard working. They had little money. When I was really young, Dad worked for the forestry commission. Before work each morning, he would have to milk our few cows, an operation he had to repeat on his return followed by all his other farm work. Mum and Dad sold milk locally. Rich Channel Island milk from their beautiful Guernsey and Jersey cattle. I have fond and wonderful memories of life on a farm, but neither the stamina, determination or interest to be a farmer.
Welsh was the first language of the majority of the inhabitants of Bont. As a consequence, I learnt and spoke English at home, but Welsh with the children I played with. I'm told by Mum that I, along with my best friends at the time, Gaynor Thomas and Alwyn Price developed our own language which contained both English and Welsh words. The only phrase I can remember that consisted of both Welsh and English is 'un yes', which roughly translated means 'isn't it?'.
As a child I was always showing off. I still do. I have quite an ego!. I regularly participated in the traditional form of performing festival known as the 'Eisteddfod'. I won quite a few prizes as a boy soprano, and for recitation. My first school report was quite impressive, but I prefer to keep later reports to myself!
At the age of eleven, we moved to a bigger farm at Llandinam. Although only a short distance from the first, about 20 miles, the difference it made to my life was significant. Previously I had lived in the heart of a village, now we lived a mile from the nearest. Although still in the very heart of Wales, I remained in a 'language' minority, this time because I was the only child at Llandinam Primary School who could speak any Welsh.
After one term at Llandinam High School, I moved up to Llanidloes High School. It became a place I dreaded. In hindsight, I received little encouragement or support in the subjects I was good at, and much ridicule over those I wasn't.
I hated sport, football in particular. When the team captains chose their 'squads', I was always the last to be chosen, the argument being 'We don't want him - you have him'.
Until my voice 'broke' however, I was still the 'pride' of the school for my angelic voice, and continued to win prizes. Once broken however, my voice and therefore myself, or so I thought, were of no further interest to my school.
This extended to my career ambitions. I wanted to work in television, perhaps as a cameraman. The notion was ridiculed by the teacher responsible for careers, as almost was my second choice, to be an electrician. The concept that as a farmer's son, I had no wish to follow the convention of following in my father's footsteps (as my farm reared schoolmates were often pressurised into), was beyond the career master's comprehension. The best they could offer was the vague possibility of an apprenticeship with the electricity board, and nothing about further career development.
To my mind, Llanidloes High School, at that time, had a lot to answer for. Pupils were graded stereotypically into A, B or C grades, according to their overall ability, and were taught to that level regardless of any outstanding abilities in certain areas. We were pigeonholed into an academic 'class' society.
- The A stream for whom the world was their oyster. Academia and fine prospects lay ahead.
- The B stream, who could probably learn a craft, but not much else.
- The C stream, destined for a life of labour and demanour.
The most vivid example of this was a then close friend of mine. He had a passion for, and great talent and ability for cooking. Because he was a boy, and because he was assigned into the C stream, cookery classes were not an option he could enjoy. I suspect he could have followed a career in cuisine, maybe ending up running the finest restaurant in Europe, but he never had the chance. In the summer of 2005, after 35 years, I managed to get in touch with him again.
Despite the lack of encouragement of my school, but with the full support and encouragement of my Mum and Dad, I left school at the age of 15, without finishing my CSE studies, to start a career as an apprentice electrician. It meant leaving home.