Meet the council candidate who was abandoned in a phone box at just six months old
Ted Peskett, local democracy reporter
Apparently, I was found in a phone box in a carrier bag,” said Rhys Goode plainly as he described how he was found, abandoned at just six months old.
The Nant-y-moel man said it was a group of teenage boys who found him in a North Cornelly phone box. The boys then flagged down a lorry driver, who promptly called the police to notify them of Rhys, now 34.
After that, he was taken into care and later adopted by the “most amazing people” he now calls his parents.
“That was that”, as Rhys put it. He has since gone on to work in Westminster and the European Parliament – bumping into figures like Marine Le Pen and having a stand-off with Nigel Farage.
Rhys said he always knew he was adopted. However, it wasn’t until he was 21 that he found out about the wider, “Hollywood” version of his story.
“I was at university and I put in a request for my birth records, which I had never really thought about before,” he said.
“It wasn’t even in a hope to find my birth parents, but I became more interested in my heritage and background.
“I got this A4 letter back in a home office form [and] it said ‘registered on the abandoned register’. I remember ringing my mum and saying I had done this.
Both of my parents have [always] been very supportive about this sort of thing.”
After Rhys was found and the police were notified, a national appeal went out. However, no one came forward and he was put up for adoption.
“When my parents adopted me [they] had to have a [a police officer] standing by our terraced house in the valleys like Number 10. They [social services] were convinced that someone would come and try to steal me.
“I think it is hilarious, but my parents probably thought it was terrifying.”
“I was quite incredulous,” said Rhys, who was working on an essay during his third year when he heard the whole story.
He said: “I rang a couple of friends – I said, ‘can we go to the pub? I have news’.
I think that’s the only way you can deal with it. I think as well it is a weird point in life to get that information because you are between childhood and adulthood.
“Particularly 21, when you have settled into uni life [and] you are about to have to go and be a real grown up. It is unlikely that I will ever be able to find my birth parents”
“I think it probably took me about 10 years to properly process it fully as a concept, but as I said I was very lucky to have such supportive parents and friends.”
Rhys, who is running as a Labour candidate for the Bridgend County Borough Council (BCBC) electoral ward of Nant-y-moel in this year’s local government elections, said that he doesn’t feel that being abandoned has shaped him.
However, he does feel as though being adopted has.
“I have a lot of interest in how the care system works and how we do the best for all children, regardless of their circumstances,” said Rhys.
“I have a [real] concern at this point on how overstretched most local authorities [are]. Social workers now are so over-stretched.
“It seems to me that it is only a matter of time before something falls through the net and for that to be catastrophic. That is something that really concerns me and something that I think we really have to focus on.”
Having lived in London, Rhys moved back to the valleys during the pandemic and rediscovered his roots. Helping to rejuvenate his own community is something he would like to turn his attention to if he is successful in the elections.
Rhys said: “Part of what I want to try and achieve within the council is [getting] more people like me to look at the opportunities of coming back to valleys communities and re-building them.
“I remember us having a library, a brass band, a choir and it was great. There are still elements of that and it is definitely coming back. We need to reset the relationship a bit and we need to encourage and give support to new start-ups and micro businesses and give people that confidence.
“[My community] doesn’t have a co-op and that is something I [would] try to achieve.
“We need an affordable food shop that people can access. The other problem we have now is that in the last ten years, people have been driving to Sainsburys in Sarn or Tescos at the bottom of Bridgend, but with the cost of petrol now, how many people [can] afford that?”
Transport is another key valleys issue that Rhys said he would like to try and tackle if he was to get in as councillor for Nant-y-moel.
He added: “As someone who has worked in business for the last 10 years I understand that first you have to make profits and that the routes into the valleys probably aren’t profitable, but it is absolutely insane to me that when I was living in London I could buy a £1.50 ticket, which I could use for any bus for an hour and a half.
“[In] the valleys, where people can afford much less, it is about £4.50 to get to Bridgend and the buses aren’t even regular. [Having] them all brought into a conglomerate, where these routes have to be provided at affordable prices [would be] amazing. I really hope the Welsh Government pushes that forward.”
Touching on the valleys more generally, the young and hopeful candidate said: “It is understandable that some communities, particularly the old industrial valleys feel left behind and like they are not listened to. Surely it is part of the role of a local councillor to try and re-build that.”
Also standing for election in Nant-y-moel is Conservative candidate Shaun Jones.
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