Ystradgynlais & District

History and Heritage

Leandro Macho - An Abercrave Life

These two articles are from the Llais newspaper, recording two occasions in the history of the Macho family of Abercrave. In later life, Leandro, by then a Headmaster, would recount how his family were heading up the Swansea valley, just what they could carry, utensils etc hanging down the side of their cart, when they came upon some people needing manpower near the Rheolau, and meeting this need chose to settle in Abercrave, seeing it as a sign. They would go on to attend St. David's Church, Abercrave, believing that it was the same God, held in the same reverence, whether Catholic or Anglican.

From the South Wales Voice newspaper, 27th May 1965:-

Teachers Faith in Condemned "Idiot" Rewarded
Free After 45 Years of Terror

An Abercrave teacher has been instrumental in rescuing a sane person from a lifetime in mental hospitals.

The teacher Mr Leandro Macho, 47, born at 34 Heol Tawe, Abercrave, and educated at Maesydderwen Comprehensive Sc hool and Bangor University College.

Mr Macho is a teacher at a school for educationally sub-normal children. He now lives in Bloomfield Road, London, with his wife, formerly Miss Beryl Watkins, Abercrave. Both are frequent visitors to their former homes.

The story of Mr Macho's good deed started last October when a party of teachers visited Harperbury Hospital near Radlett, Hertfordshire.

One of the teachers was Mr Macho. He did not think that one of the patients, Kenneth Warden, locked up for 45 years in mental homes, was an idiot. Mr Macho offered to give up 2 afternoons a week to teach him.

Mr Warden is a spastic and paralysed from the waist down. Every now and then an uncontrollable spasm shakes his body. In addition, he has a defective mouth palette which makes his speech difficult to understand.

But Kenneth Warden, condemned at the age of 4 as an imbecile, could understand. His hearing was and is perfect. Because of his condition and his speech defect, he was unable to communicate with the doctors.

Over the years he was seen by dozens of psychiatrists. They recorded on each occasion a verdict of "no change" in his condition and ordered him to be detained in an institution.

Mr Macho did not agree with their verdict. He got down to the difficult task of teaching Mr Warden. Within 3 months his IQ officially recorded as 65 had jumped up to well over 100, which was above the average for the country.

Today thanks to Mr Macho, Mr Warden is a free man. Instead of living the life of a condemned man he is having a picnic by the sea.

When Mr Macho, who had the ability and the experience to interpret his mumbled words, first talked to him the first thing Mr Warden wanted to discuss was steel nationalisation. He followed this up with questions about President Kennedy's assassination.

"I absolutely shattered." said Mr Macho, "Although totally illiterate, and with virtually no education, he has managed to acquire this vast knowledge of world affairs from listening to the radio."

He added, "The biggest part of teaching is to interest the pupil. It was obvious Kenneth Warden would be unable to concentrate on 'the cat sat on the mat' when he really wanted to read about Vietnam.

I bought him adult reading books on travel and he had no difficulty over the big words. No longer does Mr Warden read ABC books. He now reads textbooks and historical novels."

Leandro's achievement came as no surprise to his Spanish-born, widowed mother, Mrs Juano Macho at 34 Heol Tawe, Abercrave.

"He has always been interested in this kind of work", she told me, "When he was home some time ago Leandro told us that he was trying very hard to get Mr Warden released from the institution."

Mrs Susan Jones of Brecon Road, Ystradgynlais, said she had lived next door to the Macho family for many years.

"Leandro was a lovely boy and has always been interested in everything connected with the good of humanity.", she said, "Some years ago he was on a whaling expedition to the North Pole. He has never forgotten us."

Mr Macho who speaks English, Spanish, French, and German fluently is known locally as a 'character'.

He has one sister, Miss Cecilia Macho, a supervisor at Mount Pleasant Hospital, Swansea, and two brothers Mr Frank Macho, Superintendant of a hostel for the aged in Wolverhampton, and Mr Manuel Macho, a teacher in Dunstable.

From the Labour Voice newspaper, Saturrday 13th August 1932 we learn the sad news of the death of one of Leandro's brothers, Maisemo, 33 years earlier:-

Death of Young Lad The death has occurred of Maisemo Macho, second son of Mr and Mrs Carlos Macho of Old School, Pantycwrt. Deceased had been ailing for only a short time and the news of his death came as a great shock to the district. Of a retiring nature, Maisemo was well-liked by all who came into contact with him.

The funeral took place on Wednesday at Saint David's Church, where he was a faithful member.

The chief mourners were: Mr and Mrs Carlos Macho, parents, Cecilia, Frank and Leandro, brothers and sister; Mr and Mrs Duenas, grandparents; Mr and Mrs Esteban, uncle and aunty; Mrs Duenas, aunt; Anselmo and Valentine Duenas, cousins; Mrs Eturate, aunt; Mr Santos, uncle; and numerous other relatives.

This photograph from Abercrave Council School, 1925, features Leandro and Maisemo Macho, as young boys in the front row, respectively third and fourth from our left, just to the right (as he would see it) of the boy holding up the board.

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