On our summer holidays in Dinas I was lucky to have a bedroom to myself. The sunny room was quite delightful and I slept on a feather bed that I knew was like floating on clouds. But there was a problem with the wild animals that were part of the furniture; I refused to sleep with them in the room. I can’t remember the exact reason. I don’t think I found them frightening but I didn’t like them there.
There were more dead animals on the landing just outside my bedroom. I remember paying them closer attention and admiring their colours but wondering whether the plants and the rocks looked quite right and whether the sky was not rather too blue.
It never occurred to me to admire the art of the taxidermists, nor to speculate on the story of the animals and how they came to end up on display in my great-aunt’s house in Dinas. I have now learned, however, that there were two taxidermists working in West Wales, whose work is still much prized: James Hutchings of Aberystwyth, whose family business was established in 1860 and continued for seventy years and Thomas Jefferies of Camarthen whose family business also closed in the 1930s. I don’t know who stuffed the animals that I banished from my bedroom. The quality of the glass cases is probably the best indicator of their provenance but, to be honest, I find these items of only historical interest and still find them rather creepy.