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South Wales Evening Post column, March 08, 2024

Robert Lloyd PR, Media and Marketing Consultancy News, Newspaper columns South Wales Evening Post column, March 08, 2024

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South Wales Evening Post column, March 08, 2024

Posted By RobertLloyd58

IT was the American writer Mark Twain who once remarked, “There is no such thing as an ordinary life.”

This is an universal truth which you will all learn to recognise when you get to my stage of life – a period when diary entries for funerals compete with hospital and medical appointments.

The funerals in the last couple of weeks have been much too frequent, but exposure to crematorium and graveside eulogies does hammer home Mark Twain’s message.

Often, while sitting on a cold pew, I also find the mind wandering to the beautiful poem by Linda Ellis, called ‘The Dash’. The poem illustrates the importance of the ‘dash’ (eg 1959-2024) that is written between the date of a person’s birth and the date of their passing.

If you haven’t read the poem, then seek it out as it makes you think about how much you can pack into that ‘dash’.

Three friends knew how to pack life experiences into that ‘dash’. I was privileged to know them and shed a tear at their funerals.

The lives of David Jenkins, Ken Abban and Charles Braham didn’t fall into the ordinary category.

David Jenkins, for example, was company secretary for the famous Jenkins Bakery. He died aged just 66.

David spent some time working away in England before rejoining the family business in 1990.

At the time, the Jenkins Bakery had five shops in Llanelli. Today, the business has 300 full and part-time employees and has 28 shops on an estate spanning south-west Wales.

That is some legacy for a man who was a pillar of the community in west Wales.

Ken Abban (or to give him his correct title, Dr Kenneth Kwesi Abban MSc, MD, FRSM, FRIPH) died aged 82.

He was a much-loved audiologist in Llanelli, but few knew his full story.

Ken’s birthplace was a village called Niconya Ahenkro in Ghana. Considered academically gifted by his teachers, Ken, aged just10, was awarded a scholarship at a Roman Catholic school some 300 miles from his home!

Aged 17, he had sat all O Level and A Level examinations, gaining top grades in 5 A Levels. However, Ken could not apply for a university place because he was too young.

When he was old enough, he was offered a scholarship in . . . Russia!

Ken was given six months to learn the language and then resit his 5 A levels in Russian.

Needless to say, Ken succeeded and he enrolled at the 1st Leningrad Medical Academy. During his time there he was elected President of the Students Union and represented the Union on travels to Germany, Sweden and Finland.

Ken received a medal for the Most Outstanding Student in his six-year study group, an award the family treasure to this day.

Leaving Russia, Ken worked in Germany, Liverpool and London. It was a colleague who suggested Llanelli was a friendly place to work and Ken met his wife Kim in the town.

A distinguished medical career followed, but Ken never forgot his roots.

As a member of Llanelli Rotary Club, he launched a five-year fundraising campaign for a £40,000 mobile audiology unit called a HARK, to help children in remote parts of Ghana.

Charles Braham, meanwhile, who died aged 92, was a much-admired newspaperman and the founding managing director of Swansea Sound independent radio station.

His grandson James Saralis read the eulogy at his funeral at Llanelli Crematorium.

Charles Braham’s life story, James said, showed perseverance, resilience, and a determination to succeed against all the odds.

Charles was born in Hammersmith, London, in 1931. His world changed forever in 1939 when, aged seven, he became one of the millions of young children evacuated to safety at the start of World War Two.

He was separated from his parents and siblings and evacuated – first to Oxfordshire, then to Penzance in Cornwall and finally to Cardigan.

He was taken in by the family of Mr Brinley R Jones, of Llangoedmor, a newspaperman who was the founding owner and editor of the Llanelli Star.

Charles was a quick learner and continued his education at Haverfordwest Grammar and Millfield School in Somerset.

He developed an interest in journalism and carved out an exceptional career for himself in the media.

At the age of 20, he joined the Llanelli Star as a trainee reporter, learning his trade and progressively taking on more responsibility, eventually rising to the role of managing director, which he held for 16 years.

In 1965, Charles added to his portfolio, with another newspaper, the Cardigan and Tivyside Advertiser, which he owned for almost a quarter of a century.

Charles was a passionate supporter of print media, but he was also an innovator and he began to realise the contribution that radio could make to the local area.

In 1973, he joined a consortium of local business-people to apply for a licence to launch just the seventh independent commercial radio station in the UK (the first in Wales) and, against all the odds, won!

His grandson James said: “True to his word, Swansea Sound served the people of the area with distinction for almost 50 years and through this time retained a loyal and devoted audience.

“Charles was an Englishman born, a Welshman raised, and a journalist by trade. He led an extraordinary life, touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of people over a 45-year career in the media, cared and provided for his family, and, to me, he was an inspiration.”

All the above is taken from three wonderful funeral eulogies. Obviously, the reflections have been condensed for use in this column, but it does give you an appreciation for that Mark Twain quote about no such thing as an ordinary life.

It may also make you reflect about your own ‘dash’.

You can find out more about Linda Ellis, the author of The Dash poem, on her website at https://lindaellis.life

Charles Braham, includes photo with five other Llanelli Star editors.

Ken Abban, includes photo with Hark vehicle.

David Jenkins.

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Written by RobertLloyd58

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