Author Topic: MAURICE CLAGUE TAYLOR - THE LAST OF THE PIONEERS  (Read 525 times)

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MAURICE CLAGUE TAYLOR - THE LAST OF THE PIONEERS
« on: July 24, 2017, 04:15:41 pm »
MAURICE CLAGUE TAYLOR - THE LAST OF THE PIONEERS

By Glenn Jones


"Dark, damp and dangerous!" Those three words, written in an article in the South Wales Evening Post, in the early '60's, by Maurice Clague Taylor, fired my schoolboy passion for caving. He was writing about "the Taylors" exploration of Llethrid Cwm Swallet, its low wet entrance series and its magnificent main chamber. 

The Taylors, sisters Eileen and Marjorie and Maurice, together with their parents, moved to Swansea from Ramsgate in 1940, to escape the ravages of WW11, only to witness the bombing of Swansea from their flat in Mumbles.  Once normality had returned, the Taylors, armed with F J North’s River Scenery at the Head of the Neath Valley (an excellent book) started exploring their new locality. On one of their excursions, they came across Porth-yr-Ogof, and their fascination with caving began. At the time they started caving, Maurice, Marjorie and Eileen were, respectively, 40, 50 and 53, an age when many cavers today think about retiring from the sport.

Together, the Taylors started exploring caves, and their attention quickly turned to looking for new caves, in the Ystradfellte area, the Black Mountains, and the place of many of their successes, Gower. 

I first met Maurice in Swansea museum, where he worked during the 60’s and early 70’s as curator. He invited me to his home in Cockett where he showed me his superb collection of photographs taken in many of the caves the Taylors had explored and also showed me “The Cave Book” his neatly typed account of their explorations. Through his enthusiasm and knowledge I (and some fellow schoolboys) started to explore other caves in Gower and the upper Swansea and Neath Valleys.

Maurice wrote over 70 articles for the South Wales Evening Post (not all on caving), many with wonderful titles such as “Cactus Eaters Dream in Colour”, “Limestone is our Quarry” and “The Extraordinary Behaviour of a Gower Stream”. He even wrote one article on the impact that Global Warming would have on the Gower Coast before Global Warming was considered a possibility! He was a gifted artist painting beautiful scenes of Gower (oils and watercolour) and also wrote quite wonderful poetry, a short example is included at the end of this article. The Taylors always had cats, and Maurice frequently wrote in poetry of their passing, beautiful tributes to Tara and Androcles and other magnificently named moggies.

He eventually stopped caving in 1980 (at the age of 70) but continued to be active. During this period he could regularly be seen skating in the Swansea Leisure Centre, where he made many new friends. At this time he was living in an annexe of Gurnos House in Gowerton, where he could indulge one of his many other interests – gardening. He enjoyed being in his garden so much, he even slept in his summer house throughout the summer months. He was also delighted when local cavers contacted him to enquire about his many caving projects throughout Gower. It was in 1990 that several of his friends persuaded him to think about publishing his memoirs, and the resulting “Three Below Gower” (published in March 1991) is a delightful account of The Taylors pioneering exploits in the ‘50’s and 60’s and a “must read” for anyone looking for digging projects on Gower.

In his book Maurice describes the exploration of many Gower caves, at a time when the caving infrastructure we know today simply did not exist, they were learning by their own mistakes - they really were pioneer cavers. It should not be forgotten just how many Gower caves exist today thanks to the pioneering work of Maurice and his sisters, at a time when the caving infrastructure we know today did not exist. Apart from OFD (7,000ft), DYO (6,000ft) and Agen Allwed (1,500ft), Thornbers 1953 Britain Underground lists only nine South Wales caves longer than 1,200ft – Bridge Cave was a good days caving!

With the onset of cataracts and failing eyesight in the early ‘90’s, he reluctantly gave up driving and moved to a bungalow in Waunarllwyd. Fortunately, his new home had a large garden, where he single-handedly turned a neglected plot of land into a wonderful garden – although it was a sobering experience to see this little, partially sighted 90 year old, on top of a fully extended ladder, trimming his far too tall hedge .

I feel extremely fortunate to have known Maurice for nearly 40 years. He died in September aged a sprightly 94, still active, still an inspiration. He frequently told me that “he felt so very lucky to have had such a wonderful life”.

Epitaph: Maurice Clague Taylor, 16th November 1953
Her footsteps raised no echoes
In the Halls of Fame, instead
Throughout the passing years
With gentle tread
She softly made her way –
And so today
Let not a tear be shed.
For now,
Life’s lengthy span completed, she
Attains an infinite
Tranquility

reprinted from The British Caver (127) by kind permission of Glenn Jones