Later I went out running: east along The Prom at Aberafan Beach, past the pier and Mariner's Quay, along the foot and cycle path that flanks the River Afan, right over Newbridge then, ignoring the 'No Trespassing' signs, through the dock gates towards the Grade II listed Harbour House, built around 1838 for the harbour master at the site of the new dock's original lock gates.
The expanse of rippling dock water present today greatly exceeds anything you would have seen in 1840. CRM Talbot's new dock, built between 1836 and 1841, was expanded in the 1870s and again in the 1890s as ships shifted from sail to steam and larger berths were required. But if you don't mind hanging over the dock wall, just to the right of Harbour House, and if the water is low enough, you can see the original stone wharf wall belonging to that first small dock just below the surface.
And how does this all link to where I started, with the idea of 'a sense of purpose?' Because life is richer when we have one, for ourselves and our community. Allen's sense of purpose, his research of local history and families, how he fills in the blanks of history for himself and for others, myself included, has expanded the lives of hundreds, probably thousands of people. And Port Talbot seems particularly gifted with people like him.
Brian Jones' three volumes, Port Talbot, A Gallery of Personalities, published between 1989 and 1992, detail the lives of 34 men and women whose sense of purpose also shaped the town. Doctor, nurse, boxer, gardener, shopkeeper, cafe owner and many more. Perhaps not the kind of people 'big' history books record and remember but they are just as important to history making. The stories of the world are all contained in the stories of the lives of ordinary people.
All three volumes are, unfortunately, out of print, but they're available to read and borrow from our town libraries. Perhaps they'll remind you to acknowledge your own sense of purpose and how your life is better for it.