24 Feb 2020

Apothecary Anecdotes: Acker Bilk and the Wooden Cash Register

Ardd Fotaneg · Botanic Garden

The wooden cash register in the counter area of the Apothecary’s Hall was donated by John Jenkins of Pontarddulais, around 2014.

It was in his father’s Tobacconists in Pontarddulais.  John Jenkins , who was  93 years old in 2014,  says that he doesn’t remember any other cash register in the shop, right up to the shop closing in the 1980s.

Details of the sale would be handwritten on the till roll, and transcribed to a ledger at the end of the day, which would be used for tax, and for stocktaking.

The cash register was very well worn; in particular the ” runners” on the underside of the drawer had worn so much that the top of the drawer could not engage the bell mechanism.  I fixed these using a combination of wooden spatulas and used tea stirrers from the restaurant.

Sometime in the mid 1970s, when the main road from West Wales to Cardiff ran through Pontarddulais, a minibus stopped outside the Tobacconists and members of Acker Bilks band got out for cigarettes and soft drinks.  They had been playing at Tenby the previous night.

Acker Bilk was fascinated by the cash register, which goes “ding” when opened, and was allowed to go behind the counter and serve several customers, using the cash register!

( for the youngsters out there, Acker Bilk was a talented clarinet player and bandleader in the 1960s and 70s)

As a thank you to Mr Jenkins, who was also a member of my quiz team, I invited him for a day out at the Botanic Garden. Embarrassingly, although being more than 20 years my senior, he walked the legs off me!

MR. ACKER BILK MBE Clarinetist, professional musician. 28.01.29 –02.11.14