The current news on the River Wye prompted one of Monmouth’s oldest residents to call us to see a photograph he has of a salmon caught in the Viaduct Pool, near Wyesham.

91-year-old Chris Roche was born in Monmouth, a few doors down from where he lives now in Wonastow Road.

The picture shows Frank Greatorex Lewis at Wyesham Cottage with a 49lb cock salmon caught in the Wye in 1937.

“It’s a shame to see the Wye in such a state now” said Chris who revealed he was born and bred in the town.

He went to Overmonnow Infants School (for many years the Family Learning Centre) and then Priory Street School when Major Reed was headteacher, then Monmouth School under head Rev Gulliford.

When he was seven years old, he saw King George V1 visiting Monmouth by train in 1940 when the King toured the country and remembers looking over a wall on his bike to see him inspecting the troops before going on to the Rolls Hall

His dad was a policeman and his mum, Blodwen, was a midwife who worked for the county council as a midwife, riding her bicycle around the town.

“Morris and Herbert’s garage on Dixton Road had the contract to take mum out to the rural areas such as Newcastle or Dingestow and was on call 24 hours a day” said Chris and he can remember Harry Herbert coming up in the car at all times of the day and night to pick his mum up.

His friend, Vicky Hicks who lives in the apartments in the bus station used to drive one of the two petrol wagons from the garage at the opening to Troy Station, the other driver was Roy Jenkins.

During school holidays Chris used to bring Charlie Breakwell’s cows down Wonastow Road to the dairy but his first proper job was at Carters of Coleford where they made Ribena, then he went to work for Tillotsons after the factory had been built.

In 1954, he married Betty Roach, a cousin to Nesta Pearce (nee Roach) and had three children, Michael, Susan and Wendy, who now looks after Chris.

He also played rugby for Monmouth for years and features in some of the pictures that hang in the club today.

Chris in his rugby days second left middle row
(Des Pugh)

When his rugby days were over, he joined the committee and helped with the youth side, which was run then by Reg Stafford “who didn’t have a clue about rugby football but had a lovely car and used to transport a few of the players when they played away,” remembers Chris.

“The team was a shambles so I offered to take them on”. 

Over a period of a few years during the 1970’s, he had built them up to be a very good side and remembers when they went to Devon for a youth tournament “but when we went down there there were teams for Newport, Cardiff, Pontypool as well as local village sides, but we won it!”

Those boys would now be in their mid-fifties.

He got Richard Wills to present the programme and the photograph of the team to the rugby club.

He worked out of Bridges in the 1940s when it was the Compton-Roberts building (now Bridges) and was supervisor of seven people with cars who would visit the elderly people in the county who needed help and worked out the schedules to cover the 150 people he had on his books.

When that job closed down in 1994, they were just finishing building the Waitrose supermarket and was given the job of car park supervisor, helping shoppers with their shopping and answering questions.

Many will remember him for all the free potatoes, cabbages, cauliflowers, peas and beans he would give away from his large garden at the back of his house.