Wales is a country used to incomers. The ones who crossed its borders in the late 1960s and early 1970s made an impact that is still being felt today – especially here in the west.
Some of those incomers were hippies following the music festival circuit and who stayed, some were professional people from cities like London who could afford to retire early to a rural idyll, others were simply looking to get closer to nature.
Among them though, were a group of people who saw a market and a way of exploiting it by producing the drug LSD on a massive scale, making the drug in remote farmhouses.
The undercover police operation that smashed the drugs ring – called Operation Julie after one of the police officers involved – put small communities like Tregaron, Llandewi Brefi and Carno in the worldwide media spotlight.
Lyn Ebenezer was working as a local journalist at the time and he’s just written a book about Operation Julie.
I met him in the Talbot pub in Tregaron where, during the mid 1970s, both drug dealers and undercover police officers drank side by side. Lyn told me that the vast majority of locals had no idea what was happening in their midst – until the police raids began in March 1977, raids which netted a haul of LSD tabs worth a hundred million pounds on the street.
What makes Lyn’s take on the saga so interesting is that he tries to separate fact from fiction – no easy task in a place like Tregaron where stories of hidden stashes of drugs and money in the hills are still local legends.
He also hints at police leaks of doctored information as certain senior officers tried to build up the case for the setting up of a National Drugs Squad.
Lyn has plenty of tales to tell of the time – of how some of the biggest names in rock music made the trip to West Wales attracted by the lifestyle and the drugs. It’s an episode that still resonates.
After my interview with Lyn was broadcast on Wales Tonight, I was chatting with a neighbour.She gave me the names of at least two people who live nearby who she said were arrested during Operation Julie and who have since gone on to lead very respectable lives.
An interesting fact – or maybe just another local legend created by Operation Julie.