Tan y lan Homesickness


I’m starting to feel the pull of home again.

It’s only a slight tug right now but I know that, come October when we actually fly over, I’ll be almost rabid with a desire to see my home town.

It’s not just seeing the family either, though that obviously plays a major part in it all. Through Facebook I’ve found a couple of friends from my school days, a rook of mates from the army and a couple of new people who I have never met before, but stumbled across on FB through other people.

Then there’s the council estate where I grew up, Tan y lan. It’s changed so much since I left home in the Autumn of ’83 and it’s hard to reconcile the neighbourhood now with the rundown ghetto I knew as a kid.

(OK, that’s not fair, but in my defence it was never known as the posh end of Colwyn.)

The council has sold a lot of the properties on to the residents and all in all Tan y lan is now a nice neighbourhood. However, in my time as a young street urchin, it was the pits.

In 1971 my father left the army and having no immediate place to live, (my Mam and Dad were stationed in Germany at the time of his demobbing) they went back to stay with my Gran in Colwyn Bay until something could be found.

The train journey along the North Wales coast takes the traveller through Rhyl to Abergele and then into a tunnel that opens up to the magnificent panorama that is Colwyn Bay. In the 70’s Colwyn Bay was a popular seaside resort town and it looked the part. A smart white pier stretched out into a miraculously blue sea which set off nicely the golden sands and row of pastel painted seafront hotels and restaurants. As hard as it is to imagine nowadays,  people actually flocked to spend their summer pennies on ice cream, donkey rides and the one armed bandits of the North Wales Riviera.

After leaving the tunnel, immediately on the left is Tan y lan council estate. He was probably smiling when he said it; because even the Gods couldn’t be so cruel as to plonk his little family into the mad warren of dilapidated buildings before him, but my Dad naively nudged my Mam and said, “Hope they don’t put us there.”

Famous last words.

Eight months later we moved in to our first house. It was damp, infested with earwigs, cold in winter and exceedingly small, but it was ours, (well, not ours on paper but ours morally).

Tan y lan was full of the working poor at that time. It was where the council put people who didn’t have much money and so young families were shoved there to raise their kids as best they could.

Nearly every father on the estate worked in Hotpoint, a huge factory the other side of Colwyn Bay, (an almost impossible distance to travel every day to my young mind) and most of the mothers stayed at home or did part time work. That was the way it was then, we didn’t have much but mothers could afford to stay home in those days.

We kids played footy in the street or war in the “Quarry”, the “Tip” or the “Camp”; the three areas of waste ground around the estate.

The Tip was a field and still is, though nowadays it has swings and the like. The Quarry, well I’m not sure if it ever was a quarry but it had a couple of scrapped cars and was totally cool to play war in, (and totally out of bounds to me and my brother, not that it ever stopped us).

The Camp was supposedly once a holiday camp; though I have never given that claim any credence what so ever. There was also an old house everyone called, “Alex’s house” which was meant to be haunted. It was knocked down around 1975 or so, I’m not sure, but that just made it even more mysterious. Some swings, a climbing frame and a lot of porno magazines. I never understood where they came from but every six months or so a new batch of porn would be found and all the kids would read it and discuss the various topics illustrated therein.

The Camp is now built over with a parking space where the swings used to be and also where Alex’s ghost used to haunt.

There was always a good community spirit in Tan y lan and the Tan y lan kids were proud to be known as the Tan y lan Bootboys, (I was never a Bootboy and I never knew anyone who was, but one of the signs for Tan y lan road had, “Bootboys” spray painted onto it and the name stuck.). It wasn’t a youth movement as such, more of an unspoken belonging to the group that has followed some of us into adulthood. Facebook has a Tan y lan residents group and there’s also an “Old Colwyn East residents society”, which I think is great. The picture above is of Colwyn Bay, (hence the name, “Boy from the Bay”) but in the foreground is Tan y lan as I knew it in the early 70’s. You can just make out the roof of our old house next to the blue sign with, “About” written on it, bottom left of the picture.

This picture is so close to my heart. The motorway that scores itself along the coast nowadays isn’t there and that was the Tan y lan I remember; the Tan y lan I look to visit every time I fly home but never manage to see.

So now you know peeps, that’s why I called my Blog, “The Boy from the Bay”.

Take it easy.

Reg 😉


18 thoughts on “Tan y lan Homesickness

  1. You set the scene brilliantly and I can see it in my minds eye. I understand how you can miss it.
    I have the same problem when I go back to my home town in Hastings Sussex. I went to my family home. Explained who I was and could I just step inside. They sat me down made me a brew and allowed me to wander. Nothing was the same of course. it had walls knocked through etc. but my memories were still there… That’s what matters.

  2. They say that everything grows smaller with age Tee, (geographically, not biologically I hasten to add) and that’s certainly the case when I go home.
    Ah well, come October I’ll be back there again 🙂

  3. Thanks Reggie once again.The Voryn Camp was in my backyard.When we first moved in Winston Close the camp was still open and quite busy.They would have dances and the music could be heard.I used to sit at the window in my brothers bedroom and watch the activity at the camp for ages.We used to cut through the camp to get to the street going down into Tan Y Llan, that lead up to Abergele Rd and Tom Parkers. Sometimes the boss at the camp would yell at us and I’ll never forget the time he chased us and we ran screaming.I think a few of us wet ourselves.Then it closed and as usual it was left to deteriorate.Great memories. I knew exactly how you felt seeing The Bay coming through the tunnel on the train.Thank you.

    • No, thank you Julie for the support. I appreciate it.
      About the Camp, do you have any old photos of it? I’d love to see what it looked like. I’ve found two on a Llandulas website run by Rod Faux since I wrote this, (June 2010) but it’s still hard for me to make out how the spread of it was.

  4. I forgot to say, our old house is on this picture. It’s in the avenue after the Tan Lan post office. Demolished for the expressway.

      • Yes the post office was the corner shop and there was another shop about three doors further towards our avenue and yes the bus terminus was there too.

      • So I’m not as senile as I thought I was, now that’s a relief, lol.
        My dad used to send me to buy fags from the corner shop/post office. An old gent used to run it I think. God you’re levering memories out of me here Lynne, lol 😉
        We also used to catch the bus to my Gran’s every Saturday from there. We had a car but my Dad liked a drink at dinnertime in the Legion.
        When we did drive, he always took the back roads home and we kids thought he was doing it for us because the Old Highway was spooky in the dark… little did we know he did it to avoid being caught with beer on his breath, lol.
        Ah, the innocence of youth…

      • Haha. Your Dad sounds a case. No you’ve still got your marbles.Our house was at the bottom of Queen’s road turn right and after a couple of houses was Roseberry avenue. All that row plus our avenue have gone now. All in the name of “progress”.

  5. Great … well written and evocative. Us “posh” kids were scared witless by a couple of lads from Tan Y Lan … one was the junior boxing champ of Nth Wales (if I remember rightly) and the other was a red haired lad who was determined to fight his way through life. He used to terrorise everyone after school. There was a snobbery about where you lived back then but in reality most of the families in the Colwyn area were struggling to stay afloat. I can vaguely remember a family of Romanies setting up camp every summer in the Tan Y Lan area … do you remember them at all? They used to come round selling pegs and other bits and pieces. My grand dad (who lived with us and was an ex regimental sergeant major from the Royal Welsh Fusiliers) used to chase them off when they came calling! Keep up your writing …there’s a lot of human interest value in memories such as yours. And you’re right … that freeway is a blight on one of the most spectacular stretches of coastline in Wales.

    • Thanks for the comment Jonathon 🙂
      I think everyone in Britain was struggling to stay afloat in Britain during the 70’s and early 80’s, but you’re right about the snobbery; Tanylan had a “name”..
      Whatever, times were different then and growing up in Tanylan didn’t do me any harm… I think? 🙂

  6. wow just bin reading all this back to my best days growing up in uch-y-don. lived behind you my back garden to yrs.Not lived in the bay for yrs but think about the place daily. Thanks for the memorys and so good to see tan y lan before the moterway. Bless the boot boys.

    • Diolch Dewi, I’m glad you liked it. I like this picture as well.
      Are you on Facebook? If so, look up “Residents of Old Colwyn past and present”. There are loads of pics on there, mate.
      Thanks for the feedback 🙂

  7. Pingback: Tan Y Lan | What a Wonderful World !

  8. Pingback: Tan y Lan | legends & locations

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