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  • Writer's pictureCymdeithas Aberaeron Society

John Osborne: When the Trains Came By (1998)

We used to live within a couple of hundred yards of the railway line and we didn’t need watches, we could tell the time by the trains. We used to take the kids to watch them go by. In fact, our neighbour just across the road was Evans the Ganger. He was the fellow that built the railway when it came in 1911, and he lived to see it taken up.


I remember the circus coming to Aberaeron, it must have been 1957. The elephants came on the train of course. The circus came to the field where the council flats are now on the front. The circus was very popular and I was sitting in the field watching the people come to the circus, and I remember seeing a man, dressed in his Sunday black, a picture of black, with a little girl by the hand wearing a flowery dress. The fellow doing the western lasso — he did a fair bit, but kept on too long and tripped over the rope. He swept off his hat for a big bow, to show his completely bald head as if to say. “I could do it when I was younger.”


It was very hot that year and when we’d finished work we’d go down to the beach and watch what was going on. There was a terrible hullabaloo because the elephants were getting in amongst the other caravans, nicking things out of the windows. The circus people were batting them with brooms and shouting at them, to no effect, the elephants were doing just whatever they wanted to. Then this little kid of about seven came, took hold of one of the elephants by its lip near the tusk and just led it away. And the other two each put their trunk round the tail in front and followed.


Extract from Memories (ed. Clive Hopwood, 1998)

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