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Tony Jarratt. 1949 – 2008.

by Simon Hughes


I first met Tony Jarratt at the far famed Cwmystwyth Mine on the 1st of May 1971. Our bunch (the North Cards Mining Club) had found a winze going down below Taylor’s Adit that ought to have connected to the eastern parts of Level Fawr, beyond the soft ground, but we needed about 100 feet of electron ladder. Tony had managed to borrow this from the Wessex and brought some assistance – John Alder, Roy Q, and John Savage. Sadly there was only about a quarter of a mile of Level Fawr that was accessible and the Kingside Adit, about 90 feet below that, was totally flooded. At this time he was living in a caravan in Newtown and working for the Ordnance Survey.

Three weeks later he returned to Cwmystwyth with Alan Mills and Ken James, from Bristol, to dive the flooded inclined shaft, sunk below Level Fawr, and the flooded adit known as Level y Ffordd, neither of which revealed much.

We developed a good friendship, and regularly went down mines whilst he was based in Newtown, an area devoid of caves. In the September of 1971 he, and John Savage, dragged me over to the Knotlow mine en route to the BCRA. A little later, we carried his diving gear into the Talybont mines so that a flooded winze could be examined. Again, acting as his Sherpa’s, we visited the Goginan Incline on the 5th of May 1974 and had an epic trip where everything that could go wrong, did so. Some weeks later there was a three-day return visit to the Goginan area when we camped on the dumps in glorious sunshine and spent the evenings in the Druid Inn.

In the early 1970s considerable advances were being made in extending the caves in north Wales, particularly Ogof Hesp Alyn, where we met up again for a rescue practice in the July of 1974, and later got ejected from yet another pub.

I also have a vivid memory of the Sheffield conference (1975?) where he persuaded me to return home on the Sunday evening rather than leave early on Monday and go straight to work. It was a dreadful journey and took hours longer than it should have. When I got up the next morning, the radio kept announcing grim news of multiple pile-ups in fog on the motorway. Had I not heeded Tony’s advice, that afternoon, I’m sure that I would have become involved in one of these.

Our last trip together was in 1975 at the Cyffty Mine near Llanrwst (where there used to be a good lock-in at the New Inn) when we assisted Neil Weston and Sion Scheltinga in recovering a huge Tangye Cornish steam pump that Sion later cleaned up and loaned to the Llywernog Mining Museum.
Having performed his duties in mid Wales, the Survey moved him up to Scotland in 1975 and I remember him complaining bitterly that if they moved him any further north that he’d drown. Despite being a good diver, he couldn’t swim without the gear! However, he soon acquainted himself with the Grampian cavers and always made the most of any environment in which he was based. After several years in Scotland he went off to Africa for a few years and we lost regular contact.

Tony was a very widely known, well-liked character, with whom I had some real laughs and mammoth piss-ups. Possibly the most memorable of these being when Tony, Sulo Sulonen (aka Paul Frost), Jim Cobbett and I decided to go to a Chinese restaurant after the 1971 BCRA conference in Nottingham. This seemed like a good idea and a few other lads tagged along. Jarratt bursts into the restaurant and commands “A table for 50”, at which the staff snap to, push the tables together, and 50 half pissed cavers are accommodated in moments. Stragglers drift in over the course of the evening and are also accommodated, passers by recognise us from the conference and drop in. Jarratt, at the head of the table, takes on the role admirably and as the evening progresses, the whole restaurant takes on a bizarre air along the lines of  “The last supper”. (Sulo fell to his death on the following weekend).

Several hours later, and after the demolition of a shed load of beer, the manager turns up with a bill for seven hundred and something pounds. Jarratt insists, “Separate bills”. Manager goes spare and some people are now on the verge of leaving. The waiters congregate by the door for fear of anyone doing a runner. Several whip-rounds were needed to come close to the sum.

Jarratt was also a maestro at finding places to doss down the night. From ’71 to ’74, he was often to be found on my settee. The strangest place that I ever dossed with him was in “Harpic’s dad’s greenhouse” in Sheffield after another BCRA meeting (1974?). Every bed in the house was full and there was even a local lass doing a brisk business in the bathroom.  Other seasoned co-dossers of note were P.B. Smith, Martin Bishop, Jim Smart, Nigel Burns and Tony Oldham all of whom were most adept at finding a place to get their heads down for the night.

It must also be said that we were regularly ejected from a host of pubs for singing from his vast collection of lewd songs. No night’s entertainment was ever complete without Jarratt giving his rendering of “Sweet Chariot”, frequently using a table as a stage. Once seen, never forgotten.......................................

He will be greatly missed.

Simon Hughes. 5th Sept 2008.

This was not read at the funeral but will be for the memorial at the Priddy Village Hall on Saturday 15th November 2008