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I am a man of humble origins. My paternal grandfather, Wyndham Howells, was a salmon fisherman at Goldcliff on the River Severn .

In fact I believe he was one of the very last salmon fisherman to fish using traditional techniques in the area.

Radio interview with Wyndham

This interview was recorded for the radio (station unknown) at the start of the 80′s and was found on an old C90 cassette tape in a drawer by my aunty. I transferred it and did some clean-up on it to remove all the noise. The most startling thing listening in 2010 is how un-Welsh he sounds. He sounds more like a farmer from Somerset, but I guess Somerset isn’t so far away from Goldcliff, just across the Severn Estuary.

Wyndham Howells, pocket watch and all
The traditional fishing ranks filled with wicker putchers (painting by Derek Howells 2009)

He started working at the fishery after WWII and worked right until his death aged 85, in 1985. He was a craftsman making and repairing the wicker baskets; known as ‘Putchers’ that crossed the Severn in ranks catching the fish as they swam blind in the muddy water.

As I remember, he didn’t speak much and spent most of his time outside on the back doorstep area smoking a pipe. He called me ‘boy’ and patted me on the head a lot. I never really knew him, but I believe I may understand him more now than I ever could have done then, even with all the talk in the world.

He died as the result of a Shrove Tuesday, pancake-induced heart attack. Extra-thick pancakes, I’m told. I must remember to go steady on them next year.