You look at them as ‘payback’ moments. No money changes hands, but every now and again you get to savour the moment when it really does pay to be a volunteer.
There was one such moment a couple of years back.
Seated in a pew in a packed St Mary’s Church in Burry Port before the beginning of the funeral of the Very Rev Kerry Goulstone, the partially-sighted lady next door struck up a conversation.
It wasn’t long before the talk turned to the Llanelli and District Talking Newspaper for the Blind.
“I thought I recognised your voice,” the lady said. “I hear you on the talking newspaper. Oh, how I look forward to getting a copy of the talking newspaper every other week. It really is a window on the world for those of us with failed sight who cannot read newspapers.”
The generous appreciation for the talking newspaper service continued for several moments.
The setting may have seemed strange to some, but in many ways it was entirely appropriate as one of the most sterling supporters of the service in Llanelli was the late Kerry Goulstone.
There is a very black joke which the secretary of the Llanelli and District Talking Newspaper, John C Williams MBE, is fond of repeating at regular intervals during the year –
“No-one is allowed to resign from the Llanelli Talking Newspaper. You might get ‘sacked, but death is usually the only reason for not attending recording sessions.”
Kerry Goulstone’s ‘resignation’ from the talking newspaper team came just a few days after he had contributed to a recording session at our state-of-the-art studio in Llanelli.
Like all other members who have ‘resigned’ down the years, Kerry’s contribution to the service will be greatly missed.
Our search for volunteers to replace the likes of Kerry continues and we are always on the look-out for individuals who can help.
Newsreaders, editors, technical directors and technicians – we have jobs to fit lots of different profiles.
But it’s worth setting the scene and explaining what the talking newspaper service is all about.
Talking Newspapers originated in Scandinavia.
It is fortunate for Wales that Mr Ronald Sturt, a Lecturer at the University College of Wales Aberystwyth saw a talking newspaper in production during a visit to Stockholm.
There’s a touch of serendipity to the next part of the story.
Members of the Aberystwyth Round Table were considering how to use charity monies raised from a club project involving a Donkey Derby. On Mr. Sturt’s suggestion, the funds were used to purchase equipment and provide a talking newspaper for blind and visually-handicapped people.
So it was that the Cardiganshire Talking Newspaper became the first talking newspaper service in Wales in 1969.
The Llanelli and District Talking Newspaper Association was founded during 1976, with the first edition being issued to nine listeners in December of that year.
The inspiration and driving force behind the project was Mr Harold Owen, manager of a painting and decorating shop situated in Stepney Street, Llanelli.
At the age of 25, Harold had become blind, and attended a rehabilitation centre in Torquay where newly-blind people could learn to take care of themselves, learn to move about, and train for suitable employment.
Harold eventually became a tutor at the Torquay centre, where he met his future wife, Joyce. He later became the Royal National Institute for the Blind , RNIB organiser for the county of Glamorgan.
On returning to Llanelli, he became a telephone operator at Barclays Bank before moving to take up the same position with Llanelli Borough Council, based at The Town Hall, Llanelli.
He was an active member of Christchurch in the Morfa district, and became a prominent figure in community affairs, also organising fellowship meetings for blind and visually-handicapped people.
At one time, he stood unsuccessfully for election to the council as a candidate representing the Liberal party, but his abiding ambition was to establish a Talking Newspaper for the Blind in Llanelli.
During his local government employment, Harold had got to know many of the leading figures in the civic life of Llanelli, particularly Mr Selwyn Samuel, OBE, Town Clerk of the former Llanelli Borough Council, and from April 1, 1974, Clerk to Llanelli Town Council, one of the new community councils created under local government re-organisation.
Mr. Samuel was impressed by Harold’s enthusiasm and agreed to assist in establishing a talking newspaper service for Llanelli and District.
To that end, he persuaded the then Town Mayor, Councillor Mrs Joie Davies to sponsor an appeal for funds to purchase recording equipment, the appeal raising some £8,000.
A small team was recruited, comprising Councillor Mrs Joie Davies as Chairman, Mr Harold Owens as Vice-Chairman, Mr Selwyn Samuel as Secretary, distinguished local journalist Mr Harry Davies as Editor, and Mr Colin Morgan, then Secretary of Llanelli YMCA, as Recording Engineer.
The first edition was recorded at Bryntirion Hospital in Swansea Road, on equipment belonging to Mr G. Rees, who was at that time providing a service to hospital patients.
Talking Newspaper secretary John C Williams takes up the story:
“The sound quality and content of that first edition was disappointing to say the least, but worse was to follow!
“Having spent many hours in bitterly cold weather with Members of Llanelli Lions Club raising funds for the talking newspaper in the week before Christmas, Harold sustained a fatal heart attack at the age of only 49.
“This catastrophic event could have derailed the project, but it is testimony to Harold’s incredible drive and enthusiasm that it was decided to continue.
“He would surely be very proud that to date, after some 37 years, and 940 fortnightly editions later, the Llanelli Talking Newspaper continues to serve some 200 blind and visually-handicapped listeners.
“After the early recordings were made at Bryntirion Hospital, and following purchase of recording equipment, recordings were made at the Town Council Offices in Town Hall Square until January 1979, when the operation was transferred to the premises of Llanelli YMCA in Stepney Street, where it remained until moving, in 1995, to a nearby purpose-built recording studio.
“During those early years following 1976, the association’s income was derived from its annual flag-day collection, and casual and unsolicited donations, many coming from local organisations, clubs, societies, and churches and chapels.
“Flag day collections ceased in 1999, but the association is in a good financial situation due to unsolicited donations from listeners, many representing donations in lieu of floral tributes at the funerals of former listeners, and to a small number of legacies.”
In the last few years, the Lanelli Talking Newspaper has gradually moved from a cassette tape version to a fully digital CD recording.
More than £20,000 has been spend on converting the studio into a state-of-the-art digital recording suite, complete with a CD duplication service.
The service is keeping pace with technological change and there are hopes to provide an internet service for listeners this year.
The team of volunteers involved in the production and distribution of the newspaper numbers about 25 and it is a credit to them, and their predecessor volunteers that the service has never once missed an edition.
No volunteer receives any payment or remuneration whatsoever, and all income is applied solely to the provision of the service itself, i.e. water rates, electricity, and insurance of the recording studio, and purchase of CDs and postal wallets and other necessary equipment.
The format of the ‘programme’ on the CD is constantly being revised in accordance with the wishes of our listeners.
But the core part of the ‘programme’ is built around news items from the Llanelli Star. We are, of course, very grateful to Star editors who have, down the years, supported the talking newspaper. The talking newspaper service also sources news from the BBC, Carmarthenshire Council, the Llanelli Herald, Llanelli Online and other media outlets. Their support is much appreciated.
The current team of duty editors includes seasoned Llanelli journalists Barrie Thomas, Ron Cant and Diane Phillips (nee Williams).
Down the years, duty editors have included the late Harry Davies and his great friends the broadcaster, journalist, author and lecturer Gareth Hughes and author of journalist Norman Lewis. Newsreaders have included the late Monro Walters, affectionately remembered as ‘The Voice of Stradey Park’.
The ‘programme’ has always included a religious item and for many years that was provided by the late Dewi Davies, of Moriah Chapel. Today, the ‘God slot’ on the programme is in the very capable hands of the eloquent Rev David Jones of Greenfield Chapel, Llanelli.
Our technical advisor is David Hurford, who is also well-known for his work on Llanelli hospital radio, Radio BGM. He played a massive role in ‘project-managing’ the change from analogue to digital recording.
The talking newspaper service is provided free to the blind and partially-sighted. CDs are posted out fortnightly in ‘free to post’ plastic wallets. Service users can either keep the CDs or return them to the talking newspaper.
If you have a relative or know of someone who might qualify for the service, then please contact our secretary John C Williams, who has, to his great credit, been performing the secretary role since 1979.
You can contact ‘JC’ on –
Phone: 01554 772350
If you are interested in joining the Llanelli Talking Newspaper team as a volunteer, then please contact ‘JC’ or Robert Lloyd – Email: email@example.com. Phone: 07777 683637.
Link to earlier story –
Pics attached for some old scenes from the Llanelli Talking Newspaper for the Blind.
The late Harry Davies
A cheque presentation from Llanelli Inner Wheel.
Members of the Llanelli Talking Newspaper at the Llanelli Town Council chamber.