Kenfig - The Complete History (e-Resource)
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FAMOUS PEOPLE OF KENFIG THROUGH THE AGES
Ben the Hermit of Kenfig Sands
Lone life of Miner who tired of civilisation
The following is an extract from South Wales Echo & Express (Tuesday 10 April 1934); the information from the original newspaper cutting has been edited by the webpage author.
The Story of a Welsh 'Robinson Crusoe', the difference being that he was cast up from a coal mine and not by the sea.
His name is Mr Ben Evans and at one time a colliery timberman but for the past 10 years has been living alone in a dugout he has made for himeself on the shore of the lonely Kenfig Sands, 3 miles from the nearest road or homestead; his companions are two wild cats, so wild that they snarl & bare their teeth at your approach and flocks of seabirds that Ben feeds on pieces of fish.
The dug-out is in the side of a high sand dune where all Ben's skill as a timberman has gone into the dovetailing of the rugged beams that support the galvanised iron roof & wooden sides that make his home. Inside are many comforts; a bed, table, boxes (serving as chairs), oil lamps and an ingeniously devised grate on which the hermit cooks his meals.
The smell of bacon being cooked led me to my finding the old man. I had wandered for miles without seeing a soul, yet the smell of bacon was undeniable. I was following the scent when Ben hailed me, the next moment I was in the most remarkable room I have ever seen. It contained everything a lone man could need, except books!
Ben doesn't read much and is content with copies of the Western Mail & South Wales Echo newspapers which a friend at the Kenfig Inn keeps for him. 'I have been here for 10 years' he said, twice my lair has been destroyed by fire but there is an old saying that 'There are 3 tries for a Welshman' - so this is number 3 and as you see this time it is a dug-out.
I was born at Kenfig Hill and I never married. I worked as a timberman for 40 years and then one day I decided that civilised life no longer held attractions for me, so I left and came here to live with nature.
Ben finds sermons in stones and in the tides and good in everything. I have discovered that life is full of beautiful things he said, and I am very happy. I have the old age pension and all my needs are satisfied.
The wild cats came to the door are bared their teeth again and made fearsome noises, Ben drove them off. They are wild he explained, I am not allowed to keep a dog because of the rabbits that swarm on the warren so cats have to be my companions. They are quiet enough with me but the moment a stranger appears they become like tigers.
There were rumours that smuggling was being done on the Kenfig Sands and that motor boats had been put in near by Sker House. One night Ben was awakened by loud knocking and shouts of 'Open the door! Open the door!' - I was very freightened said Ben. When I opened the door in came several men, some in naval uniform. They searched my dugout for contraband goods believing I was in league with the supposed smugglers. They found nothing and since then I have been left in peace.
This modern Robinson Crusoe is resourceful. He needed water on his parched desert so using a divining rod and found it in a well he has excavated close to the dugout. The water is pure and there is an abundance of it.
Ben is a philosopher; the sea is a great mother he said. She provides everything her children need. Come and see my coal! He opened a box containing cobble coal. It was all rounded and smooth like pebbles & of a dull colour, the result of being washed up on the beach. The sea rolls it until it is round and it burns splendidly; with timber also washed in by the sea I am able to keep a good fire all the year round.
But this is not all that mother sea does for Ben. It brings him all he requires for soleing & repairing his boots from odd bits of leather & motorcar tyres; his stock of candles he replenishes from pieces found among the seaweed left at high tide and the sea gives him fish in plenty. Outside the dugout I noticed a heap of mussel shells, 'my cats breakfast' he explained, they love 'em.
The old age pension enables Ben to buy the few essentials that mother sea overlooks. The rest he gets by the primitive method of barter. Farmers are always willing to give him bacon, cheese, potatoes etc in exchange for his fresh fish. Ben poured hot water into a cup and produced a razor - it was part of his daily routine. You are particular, Ben I said 'anyone might think a woman was coming to see you'. Ben looked at me thoughtfully, there was a queer expression in his eyes.
There was a time many years ago when shaving and brushing-up had some purpose for him and in the still loneliness of his retreat in the wastes he thinks of those days. Sometimes in the night I fancy I hear a light football near my dugout he said, I listen intently and hope but the sound dies away - always it dies away. He paused, perhaps he was being indiscreet then said, 'when I know you better, I may tell you the story.' I looked back from a distance and saw that Ben was at his dugout door waving to me.
EXPLORE KENFIG - THE COMPLETE HISTORY (E-RESOURCE)
History of Kenfig & surrounding areas - Prehistory to the Present Day
HISTORY - GENERAL
HISTORY - GENERAL - IN-DEPTH
HISTORY - GENERAL - THE LAND
HISTORY - KENFIG
Arthur Smith - 1982 1st History Booklet
LOCAL NEWS STORIES
KENFIG - THROUGH THE AGES
KENFIG TIMELINE C.1147-1886
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