Brothers battled on in the face of adversity

By Phil Phillips

John Jarvis welcoming the National Eisteddfod to Rhos.

A Rhos mining widow who struggled to bring up two sons without a father on ten shillings a week (the equivalent of 50p today). Robert Jarvis met and married Harriet Jones in the 1870s. He was a collier with a penchant for poetry and in 1879 we know he wrote with pride of their young son John who was then five years old. Tragically Robert was badly injured in an accident at the Hafod Pit on April 28 that year and died the next day. He was just 29 years of age.

At the time of Robert’s death, Harriet, who was living in Pentredwr, Rhos, was expecting her second child. The baby, a second son, duly arrived in January 1880 and was given the name Robert in memory of his father. One can only imagine how the young widow felt, faced with two very young children and no husband to support her. They were destitute, but Harriet was made of stern stuff. She only had five shillings a week for herself and half a crown each for John and Robert, so she set about selling clothes.

She went from door-to-door selling underwear, socks and collier’s shirts, all made from wool. As late as 1930 she would go as far as the mills in Bala for wool. She also had a milk round and helped by her sons she would travel to Scots farm in Aberoer to fetch milk in the early hours of the morning. Harriet Jarvis was a formidable and very religious lady. She was a widow for more than 60 years and when she died in 1939, a week before the Second World War started, she was buried next to her husband in Mynydd Seion cemetery in Ponciau.

The two boys, deprived of their father’s guiding hand, nonetheless thrived under such a determined mother and in each other’s company. Both boys left Rhos School at the age of 10 as was the practice in those days. John followed his father as a collier in the Hafod, but Harriet sent Robert as an apprentice to Ben Dafis in the post office in Market Street. He had a great influence on Robert who became a businessman all his life. After a short time in Liverpool where he met and married Mary Jones, he returned to Rhos and developed a successful business in Campbell Street.

Robert, like his father, had a love of poetry and regularly sent his efforts to the press until his sudden death in 1932. John Jarvis wrote poetry until his death in 1950. At the Bangor Eisteddfod in 1915 he was admitted to the Gorsedd and was given the bardic name Joan Maelor. He welcomed the 1945 National Eisteddfod to Rhos, the Eisteddfod where peace in the war against Japan was first announced. In the face of such adversity the brothers had made a name for themselves.

John Jarvis welcoming the National Eisteddfod to Rhos.

Source: First published by Phil Phillips in Bygone Wrexham 2017