In the 1950’s one of the most popular places for parents to stay whilst visiting their daughters was ‘The Golden Lion’ in the heart of Dolgelley (that’s how it was spelt then). Rooms there were so sought after that parents had to book months ahead. The ivy-covered hotel was warm and welcoming and the food seemed so good. Was it, I wonder - or just such a welcome change from school fare – but we certainly relished it. I usually took a friend out with me, and if the weather was cold and damp we would sometimes sit in armchairs by the log fire in the hotel lounge and flick through magazines (not allowed at school). Anything from Women’s Own to Vogue would seem endlessly fascinating. But, alas, there was nothing then to tempt us in dark grey granite local shops as we wandered through the tortuous little streets. (The Golden Lion complex is now flats).
However, it seems that The Lion was not always so welcoming. In l850 William Makepeace Thackeray wrote the following lines:
“If ever you go to Dolgelley
Don’t stay at the Lion hotel
For there’s nothing to put in your belly
And the waiter don’t answer the bell”.
This notice was displayed by the front door of the hotel and always caused us much merriment.
My parents were keen to explore the surrounding area and we had many day trips in and around Snowdonia. A fondly remembered highlight was Portmeirion. Having never been abroad in those days I was enchanted by this gloriously colourful Italianate village created by Sir Clough Williams Ellis, which he called his ‘Home for Fallen Buildings’.
Sometimes we drove to Barmouth and parked to look out at the bridge and estuary. I remember we often used to listen to the legendary voice of John Arlott, the iconic cricket commentator, on the car radio. Treats included Kunzle cakes (delectable chocolate ‘boat shaped’ cases filled with gooey cream) – to eat with our picnic and to ‘smuggle in’ to school.
One time when my parents came for a visit I had been put into ‘detention’ (I really cannot remember what I had done!) and was not allowed out for half the day. My father was enraged – the journey from Manchester being no small undertaking in those days of petrol shortages. He called on Miss Lickes to ask if I could do the detention another time. The answer was ‘no’. And so I sat in school writing lines “Empty vessels make most noise” whilst my parents and younger brother and sister had to kick their heels. A salutary lesson indeed.