Mayor Cllr John Watts with Mrs Edna Rowe and Mayor's consort Mrs Anne Watts
Rhondda great-grandmother Edna Rowe was born just two weeks after the outbreak of World War I and as a young woman she welcomed her husband back from WWII after he escaped from the German army.
Edna’s incredible memories of the war years were recalled by her family when she celebrated her 100th birthday on August 12. And Rhondda Cynon Taf’s Mayor Cllr John Watts was delighted to hear her life story and join the celebrations in Treorchy during his civic week (August 10-16).
Born in Lydney in Gloucester, Edna moved to London aged 16 to work in service in an Italian household. She met her late husband Lorie Rowe in London, where he was working as a hotel porter.
The couple married in 1938 and Edna became pregnant with their only child Myrna as the Second World War started. Lorie went to war and didn’t see his daughter for five years. Edna moved to Wales to be with her husband’s family.
Daughter Myrna Lewis said her father was captured in the war and Edna was told that he was missing, presumed dead. Mr Rowe was actually a prisoner in Germany working on a farm. He and some of his fellow prisoners escaped by climbing the Alps to get into Switzerland to safety.
A Swiss national hid the men in the basement of his house – and they were not found even when German soldiers searched it.Mr and Mrs Rowe were reunited on his return.
“When he came home I said ‘Hey mister! I couldn’t call him Daddy for a while,” recalled Myrna.
Sadly, Edna had problems with her eyes as a young woman and she was blind by the time Myrna was 10 years old.
Edna was a talented singer who entertained audiences in the Rhondda. In her younger days, she sang in clubs in the area along with local singers Des Rees, Ron Excel and the Morgan Brothers. It was her family’s turn to sing for Edna when she celebrated her hundredth birthday.
Mayor Cllr John Watts met Edna and her family at Ystrad Fechen Care Home in Treorchy.
“It was wonderful to meet Edna, who lived through two World Wars, and hear her fascinating stories,” said Cllr Watts.
“Over the next few years, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council will be commemorating the Great War with our residents. Our dedicated World War I centenary web page will have information about the events being organised for the centenary commemorations.”
During his civic week, Cllr Watts joined the audience at a ‘Music at the Park’ concert at the Rhondda Heritage Park, Trehafod. Pianist Sue Scott and singer Steph McNicholas performed at the award-winning tourist attraction on Friday, August 15 and their show included popular songs from the 1930s and ‘40s.
Cllr Watts said: “The free concert was well-attended and was a very entertaining way to spend an afternoon. All are welcome to the next Music at the Park this month - just one of the great free events lined up at the Heritage Park in the coming weeks.”
Acoustic, electric, folk roots duo Slipstone will play at the Park on Friday, August 29 from 12noon. Admission is free but booking is essential on 01443 682036 or firstname.lastname@example.org
An afternoon talk ‘The Legend of Guto Nyth Bran’ will be held at 2pm on Wednesday, September 3. Admission is free but booking is essential. Another afternoon talk ‘Elizabeth Andrews – Dress Making to Politics’ will be held on Wednesday September 17.
September is Open Doors month across Rhondda Cynon Taf, so admission to guided tours will be free on weekends at the Heritage Park.
During his year in office from 2014-2015, Cllr Watts will be working through his charity appeal to raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Support (RCT), The Royal British Legion and the Rhondda Appeal, a local cause for Boys’ and Girls’ clubs.
Donations to the Mayor’s Charity Appeal can be made through a secure online service. Please visit the Mayor's page if you would like to make a donation.
Or if you have an idea for a fundraising event, please contact the Mayoral Office on 01443 494061 or email email@example.com