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Learner wins award for multi-million docks overhaul

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Success: Melanie with Judith Evans, CollegesWales chair, Sarah John, NTfW interim chair, Huw Morris, the Welsh Government’s director of skills, higher education and lifelong learning and compere Sian Lloyd

Success: Melanie with Judith Evans, CollegesWales chair, Sarah John, NTfW interim chair, Huw Morris, the
Welsh Government’s director of skills, higher education and lifelong learning and compere Sian Lloyd

THE DOCKS and marina supervisor at the Port of Milford Haven was a proud winner at the Vocational Qualification (VQ) Awards for Wales.

Melanie Durney collected the VQ Learner of the Year Higher Level Award at the ceremony held at St David’s Hotel and Spa, Cardiff on Tuesday night, the eve of VQ Day. The awards are organised by the Welsh Government, the National Training Federation for Wales (NTfW) and ColegauCymru / CollegesWales.

“I am thrilled to win the award,” she said. “It’s not only a personal achievement but an achievement for the Port of Milford Haven as a whole. I would like to thank the Port of Milford Haven, my colleagues, Pembrokeshire College and everyone involved in the VQ Awards.

“This award shows that vocational qualifications are effective, help you to progress in the workplace and I hope it encourages others to do the same.”

Melanie strives to make things happen, fast. She drew on her background in business finance to fulfil a lifelong ambition and joined the Port of Milford Haven as docks administrator. Five years on, she and her team are heading up a multi-million pound regeneration project set to bring jobs, boost tourism and create a brighter economic future for her beloved home town.

Melanie’s professional progress has been meteoric. Before her Level 4 NVQ in Business and Administration was even complete, promotion to docks co-ordinator came calling and she went on to achieve a Level 5 NVQ in Management last December.

Melanie has gone from supervising a team of four to having line management duties for 15 staff, including personnel from the port’s commercial dock and marina staff. She also managed customer relationships during the installation of a new set of Lock Gates – a once in a decade project – and in 2015 became Manager of the Year after nomination from colleagues.

“The Port of Milford Haven has played such a huge part in the town’s history and growing up I knew lots of people working here and always wanted to be involved,” she said. “I’m really passionate about the changes taking place here and take them very seriously on behalf of my local community.

“Continuing my learning while working has ensured that I’m up-to-date on best practice and processes within the sector and, more importantly, able to bring much more into the role and the wider business.

“I want to progress in my career and learning will be a big part of that, whether on the job or through studies. It’s important to keep learning and adapting and vocational qualifications are one way of achieving that.”

Her next goal is to progress to a Higher Apprenticeship at NVQ Level 7 – postgraduate level – in management.

Crediting the support of her team, manager and Pembrokeshire College assessor Glenys Francis with her success to date, Melanie is now focused on providing vocational opportunities to other staff members. She is also committed to helping ensure plans set to create further economic and social advantages for the wider region become reality as soon as possible.

She was one of 10 finalists in VQ Awards, which celebrate the achievements of both learners and employers across Wales. There were two other finalists in her category, which recognises individuals who clearly demonstrate progression and excellence in vocational studies and have made considerable achievements in their field thanks to vocational qualifications.

Minister of Skills and Science Julie James congratulated the 10 finalists and praised everyone who had been nominated for the VQ Awards this year. “Vocational skills have a huge impact on the Welsh economy and we value the gold standard of vocational learning being delivered to people right across Wales,” she said.

“Both VQ Day and the VQ Awards provide the perfect opportunity for us to celebrate not only the high standard of technical, practical and vocational learning being delivered in Wales, but also the many personal successes and achievements of our learners.

“High quality VQs are essential to provide individuals and businesses with the skills, experience, motivation and inspiration they need to get ahead. Ultimately it is only with appropriately skilled and trained people that we can drive forward the Welsh economy.

“Many of our VQ Award finalists this year have demonstrated that they are marked out as future leaders or ambitious entrepreneurs and have an eye on making sound business decisions and increasing productivity.”

Now in their ninth year, the awards coincided with VQ Day on June 8, a celebration of the benefits and value of high quality technical, practical and vocational learning to individuals and to the economy. There were also awards for VQ Employer of the Year and VQ Learner of the Year Intermediate Level.

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The Pembrokeshire man on the Titanic

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ON the morning of April 15 1912, in the North Atlantic some 450-miles south of Newfoundland, the RMS Titanic slowly slid beneath the sea just two hours and forty minutes after hitting an iceberg.

Stories from that night are famous, from the lookouts misplacing their binoculars to the ship’s band playing even as the sea washed over their feet, the sinking of the Titanic holds a special place in the public consciousness and continues to grab our attention some 109 years after the ‘unsinkable’ ship sank.

Over 1500 people lost their lives in the biggest maritime naval disaster at that point.

Among the dead were American and British millionaires, White Star Line employees and countless anonymous immigrants from across Europe who were all seeking a better life in America.

908 crew were on board the Titanic when it left Southampton on its fateful maiden voyage, one of the crew was a man called Charles Essex Edwards, 38, who sometimes gave himself the first name of ‘Clement’.

Charles was born in 1862 to John and Harriet Edwards of St. Martin’s Place, Haverfordwest.

He worked as a carpenter as a 19-year-old man and would end up moving out of Pembrokeshire and going to sea.  By the time he married a lady called Lavinia Ann Poulter, from Llanstadwell, in May 1892 he was living in Newport.

Lavinia, a Pembrokeshire woman herself, was the daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Poulter who lived on Lawrenny Terrace in Neyland.

By 1895, Lavinia had returned to Pembrokeshire following the death of her mother. Charles and Lavinia’s marriage suffered but Charles would continue visiting Lavinia and stayed at his father-in-law’s house when he was on shore leave.

Although still married in the eyes of the law, Charles and Lavinia were basically separated by 1901.

Charles signed on to work on the brand new RMS Titanic after it had completed its sea trials in Belfast Lough, he gave his address as 7 Brunswick Square, Southampton. He worked on the Titanic as an assistant pantry-man steward who earned a monthly wage of £3 15s on his previous ship the SS Zeeland.

SS Zeeland: The ship Charles worked on before the Titanic

When RMS Titanic left Southampton a massive crowd had gathered to see the newest addition to the White Star Line fleet depart. Charles Edwards was there. He was there when the ship picked up more passengers at Cherbourg and Cobh.

He would’ve been working during the day, his job entailed keeping the ship’s pantries stocked with food and wine, a vital job on a ship with such a high-class passenger list as the Titanic.

He was, more than likely, sleeping when Frederick Fleet spotted an iceberg in the ship’s path at 11:40pm on Sunday, April 14. He would’ve been woken by the noise of metal on ice and the ship shuddering as it was torn open on the starboard side.

As the ‘unsinkable’ ship took on water Charles, as a White Star Line employee, would’ve been given the unenviable task of waking up passengers, informing them of what happened and getting them to put on their lifejackets.

Once the scale of the situation on the Titanic became apparent, the command structure effectively disintegrated.

Captain Edward Smith would’ve cut a forlorn figure as he wandered around near the wheelhouse and his last words to his crew, according to reports at the time were:

“Well boys, you’ve done your duty and done it well. I ask no more of you. I release you.

“You know the rule of the sea. It’s every man for himself now, and God bless you.”

This would’ve been around 2:10am, at that point Charles would’ve faced a literal up-hill battle with male members of the crew only having a 24% chance of survival and many people gathering ‘like bees’ on the stern of the stricken liner which, experts say, raised to a 12 degree angle.

The Pantryman-stewards from the Titanic’s sister ship, the Olympic

Many male crew members elected to stay at their posts as, according to Victorian culture it was better for men to die than to live and be perceived a coward, so the lights of the ship remained on until about 2:18am, just two minutes before Titanic broke apart and began its journey to its final resting place some 12,000ft below on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

But now you know there was a man named Charles Edwards who was born in Haverfordwest and who died when the Titanic sank in the freezing waters of the North Atlantic. His body, if it was recovered, was never identified and we don’t even have a picture of him.

When news of the disaster broke, The Pembroke County Guardian described the tragedy as ‘one of the most appalling calamities in the long history of shipwreck’.

Four men from Maenclochog, it was later revealed, had a lucky escape as their plans to emigrate that April on the Titanic were thwarted by one of their number being unable to travel, so the group decided to wait for their friend. That decision saved their lives.

Pembrokeshire responded to the sinking by raising money for the Titanic Relief Fund, Pembroke Dock raised £12 2s 0d through a collection at the Royal Dockyard and, in Haverfordwest, Sidney White, who would later go on to own The Palace Cinema, hosted benefit performances to packed houses which raised £5 15s.

Lavinia, after a legal battle with Charles’ brother William, was given £192 in compensation for Charles’ death and went on to look after her father at Railway Terrace, Neyland until he passed away.

Lavinia went on to move to Middlesex where she lived until 1934. She left her estate to her chauffeur.

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Marloes pensioner in child abuse images case

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A PENSIONER has been bailed to attend Swansea Crown Court by magistrates sitting in Haverfordwest Law Courts this week.

Derek Lister, 72, of Marloes is accused of making indecent photographs of children.

He appeared before the bench, on Tuesday (Apr 13).

Lister was represented by Redkite Solicitors.

The court heard that between June 2009 and November 2019 in Marloes, Pembrokeshire, Lister allegedly created 3 indecent category A images of a child, 14 indecent category B images of a child and 152 indecent category C images of a child.

He will now appear at Swansea Crown Court on May 11 at 10am for the next hearing after the local court declined jurisdiction.

Lister has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

Derek Lister: Accused of making child abuse images
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Primary school teacher described as ‘touchy-feely’ on day two of trial

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A HAVERFORDWEST primary school teacher, accused of sexually assaulting his pupils was “very touchy-feely”, Swansea Crown Court heard on the second day of his trial.

James Oulton, 34, of Haverfordwest would put his hands around students’ waists and touch their bottoms, an ex-female pupil said in a video interview played to Swansea Crown Court.

The defendant denies 30 charges of sexual assault at a primary school in Haverfordwest. The alleged offences took place between 2012 and 2018.

On the opening day of the trial, court heard that Oulton said the case was a “witch-hunt” and that he always behaved appropriately with children.

On Tuesday, the jury watched the video interview with one of Oulton’s former pupils, who said he was a “friendly person, very chatty and sociable and quite outgoing and wanted to know everything that was going on.”

She added: “Mr Oulton often wanted to know a lot of details on what we had done over the weekend, where we had been, and also who they had been with.”

“At the time I just thought he was trying to be really friendly but now when I look back at it now, it does seem odd.”

The witness also described the defendant as a “very touchy-feely teacher”.

She added: “If he was marking your work or if you approached him to ask him a question, he would put his hands around your waist or around your bum”.

“If he was standing by his desk, he would, like, motion to his knee, so he wouldn’t ask you directly to sit on his lap but he would tap his knee.”

Swansea Crown Court heard that the witness eventually came forward and told her parents parents after she heard them speaking about Mr Oulton being suspended from his job.

“Did you feel under pressure to say something had happened to you?” asked Mr Clee.

The witness answered “No”

Oulton, of Richmond Crescent, Haverfordwest, previously told the court he had behaved appropriately.

He also believed letters were sent by Pembrokeshire County Council to parents which encouraged “deliberately false evidence” and collusion between pupils.

The trial continues.

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