HOW IT ALL STARTED:
Our story begins in 1953. One of the first Summer Missioners to Trecco, Father S. Herdson of the Community of the Resurrection, wrote: ‘The first full-scale experiment of taking the Church to holiday-makers at Trecco Bay was conducted at the caravan and camping site from Saturday July 18th to Monday August 31st 1953. A small building, which had been used as a garage, was erected on the central site by courtesy of Sir Leslie Joseph and suitably furnished. A large notice board informed those interested of times of services and announcements were made, as necessary, over the camp loud-speaker.
The programme, as planned, made provision for two priests and four students to be resident on the site each week. This resident staff was housed in two tents. It was hoped, when the project was launched, that it might be possible to hold open-air services in the Concert Arena on Sunday evenings, at a time that would not interfere with the normal hours of public worship. This idea had to be abandoned eventually because of inclement weather (typical of summers in Porthcawl!), but the experiment showed clearly the need for a place of worship on the site – which brings an average of about ten thousand people during the months of July and August.
The number of communicants varied considerably and there was a larger group who wished to end the day with Night Prayers and to listen to a short instruction each evening.
Although little or no provision was made for children, the attendance at the Children’s Service on Sunday mornings warranted special consideration for what might be planned in future years…’
Father William Roach, Rector of the Parish, who resided at 64 Victoria Avenue, and who had been the first to recognise the need for a Church presence in the caravan site, wrote that, without the help and encouragement of the then Archbishop of Wales it would have been difficult to attempt the venture. The Archbishop had known it would be a huge task and although he supported the work, wrote at the end of a letter to Father Roach in July 1953, ‘All good wishes – and again’ (in red ink!) ‘DON’T you go half killing yourself.’
At the end of the mission that first summer the Rector felt it had been worth- while. He hoped it would continue and asked for Planning Permission for the building (the ex-garage) to remain until 1955. Although they had found the Open Air Services difficult, yet valuable work had been done in the camp with daily services and personal contacts by visiting – all of which had been greatly appreciated by many of the campers. Father Roach paid tribute to the clergy – two priests and two laymen each week in different teams – for their work. The only cost met by the Parish was £75, raised by donations but for the work in future years he felt they must look to the Evangelistic Council for some help.
Father Roach drew attention to the contributions of Sir Leslie Joseph for the building; Miss Olive Nichol for furnishing for the altar; Mr. E. Moore, the architect who had been responsible for the plan of the building for the Planning Authority; Major Kelly, who provided two tents, bedding, crockery, cutlery, a Calor Gas cooker and Calor Gas lighting for the dining tent; the Bishop of Bangor who met the travelling expenses of one of the priests and some students who gave their time; and ladies of the Parish who cooked and served the mid-day meal for the mission teams each week. Part of the food had been donated by themselves (forerunners of our Social Committee!).This was all due to the Rector having seen the need in the caravan site and acting where he saw the need.
With many ups-and-downs, the work has continued to this day and is now jointly shared by Churches Together in Porthcawl. A programme of Services on Sundays and weekday activities and refreshments for families is organised during the month of August each year. At Christmas time there are Carols by Candlelight and there are various other events during the year. All this takes place in the lovely purpose-built St. Mary’s Church, consecrated in the summer of 1964.
How the building we now have came about, is the story for our next installment. Watch this space!