The lectures start up again in February with a talk and films by Harry Vagg. In the meantime we have a busy diary of events for January following the re-opening of the Museum on Tuesday 8th January:
Saturday 12th January
Coalhouse Coffee Morning with one of the producers of the series. This will be a chance to hear how the families were selected, how they coped, what went on behind the scenes, and what happens next!
Friday 18th January
ADMS Annual Dinner at The Railway Inn starting at 7 for 7.30pm. Tickets £16, contact Roy Pickford 01495 213377 for more details.
Saturday 26th January
Visit to the National Museum at Cardiff for guided tours of the art gallery including the Lowry painting of Six Bells, and the archaeology gallery to see the skeleton of ‘The Red Lady’. Tickets £6, contact Roy Pickford 01495 213377 for more details.
£5 membership fees now due. Please pay at or send your cheques to the Museum.
Velindre Hospital Appeal
My contact at the hospital has passed me a card and letter of thanks for the knitted Christmas puddings, so a big thank you to the ladies concerned. The hospital is now collecting knitted chicks for Easter and would like to have these by early February of possible. Peggy has the knitting pattern if anyone would like to help.
Fund raising December - £250
The lecture series by frank Olding contributed a very welcome £115 – many thanks.
Used Specs and stamps
I am still collecting these to pass on to an organisation which uses them to help people in Third World countries. Jen Price
Saturday 12th January 2008 – Coalhouse Coffee Morning with one of the producers of the series
Friday 18th January 2008 – Annual Dinner, Railway Inn, Abertillery £16
Saturday 26th January – ADMS trip to National Museum of Wales in Cardiff £6
Wednesday 6th February 2008 – A Visit to Italy (films) by Harry Vagg
Wednesday 5th March 2008 – Mons on the March by Richie Rudd
Lectures start at 7.00pm in the Metropole Theatre, with teas and a chat downstairs in the Museum afterwards. Entry is £2 and the public are most welcome.
As a young child and my father unemployed, nothing was wasted in our house. At Christmas time before the days of packet stuffing, my mother would keep a loaf of bread until it was stale and remove the inside of the loaf. This was rubbed to fine crumbs adding grated onion and sage or thyme. These herbs had been picked from the garden in the summer, tied up in a brown bag, hung up somewhere to dry and then finely rubbed.
The stuffing was made but what about the outside crust of the bread? Well, this had to be eaten although not very palatable. We all had a piece each, the children having a much smaller portion than Mam and Dad. After that was eaten we could go on to the nice fresh loaf of bread.
Our back kitchen was just one storey high, and exactly opposite the grate was the door to our living room. During windy weather the smoke often blew back into the back kitchen as a draught was created if the door was open. When the wind rose the cry was ‘Shut the door before the smoke blows back’.
Reading the account of smoke blowing back reminded me of the fire-lighting days of my childhood – laying the cokes, coal, paper and sticks and hoping the fire would catch. If a bit slow, out came a large piece of brown paper (or even newspaper) which my mother held over the front of the grate to encourage the fire to draw. The trick was to judge the exact moment to remove the paper before the hint of scorching turned to something a bit more drastic!
Christopher Evans, Alf Stone’s grandson, has been accepted to play Bass Trombone in:
The National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain
The National Youth Orchestra of Wales
The National Youth Brass Band of Wales
The National Youth Jazz Band of Wales
Christopher, a student at Cardiff College of Music and Drama, is also a Grade 8 pianist. What a talented young man and a name to look out for.
Don Bearcroft has arranged for the Museum to host a touring exhibition on the partition of India, an event which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year and which has particular relevance given recent events in Pakistan. The exhibition will be on display at Easter.
Continuing the ‘Fool Britannia – Back to the Future’ series by Janet Preece, here is Episode 2.
News from the Battlefronts, Date 2057 CE (Common Era).
From your Special War Correspondent, Cillim E. Snotwonovus.
News from Abroad
What a pity about our neighbours across the channel; Cornwall is now threatening to secede from Wessex, over the choice of Exeter as the capital instead of Truro – oh dear! Expect a new Berlin Wall along the Tamar any day now.
Unfortunately, the situation of the enclave of Greater London grows even more perilous now that Essex, Kent and Surrey have declared a truce and are all attacking her boundaries. Let’s hope that Hertfordshire will come in soon on London’s side – if not, bye bye London – c’est la vie; no, c’est la guerre! Ken Livingstone must be turning in his grave by now.
Meanwhile, back in Blaenau Gwent the furious Tylerians for Top Dogs Party are still laying siege to the new Parliament Building at Ebbw Vale. So far, luckily, the carnage has been slight – a nasty black eye or two. I understand that the President of Monmouthshire is trying to broker a peace between the warring parties. Although in my opinion it’s far more likely that Monmouth will hope to step back in and take over when the combatants have beaten each other senseless. However……Hang on a minute, there’s a noise outside (WHAM, CRASH!)…..Would you believe it, the militants from Alexandra Road have put a brick through the window. They’ve obviously stormed the barricades at the war memorial and actually got as far as Anvil Court. They’ll be trying to take the Foundry Bridge next and we’ve only just had the long outstanding repairs done there. Right, that’s it, we’ve had enough of your cheek; forward Abertillery – look out Six Bells, here we come!
To be continued.
Museum Saturday Children’s Club
Communities First, with the help of the Museum Society, is starting up a children’s Museum Club some time in the New Year. Meetings will be monthly to start with and membership will be on a ‘first come, first served’ basis as numbers will be limited, at least at the outset. If you have a family member who might be interested, please contact our Curator, Don Bearcroft, for more information.
“Debit and Credit”
I’ve drawn up a bill
as I’ve looked at the past,
Since first you drew breath
and how much it cost.
There was napkins, the pram,
and innumerable toys,
Equipment and costs
for games played by boys.
Holidays, school trips, various fees,
pocket money, school meals, bus fare,
Birthday and Christmas presents,
and all the clothes that you wore.
Then as you grew older,
more books and music,
With latest Hi-tech gadgets
as the world went electronic.
Your social life we financed
until at last you found a job,
But even then it seemed you
always needed a few bob.
If I list all that you cost,
then I must say what you’d give,
to me and your mother,
while with us you did live.
Joy unbelievable of holding you
in my arms when newly born,
Coupled with pride as I
realised you were my son.
Watching you walk
after your first talk,
Then learning to run
as you played and had fun.
Feeling your pleasure
when on Christmas Day,
You opened your presents
amid laughter and joy.
When together we climbed
a mountain so tall,
I felt so proud of that
accomplished by you so small.
My pride in your achievement
at work and in sport,
How you finally turned out
even better than we thought.
There is so much you’ve done,
so many battles you’ve won,
You have given me so much,
so it’s not worth going on.
For it’s obvious to me,
as I weigh up it all.
This bill I have drawn,
has been well paid in full.
Gordon Rowlands, Dec 2005
Back to 1978
Writing up the minutes of the last AGM, I turned to the first AGM recorded in the minute book, dated 3rd May 1978. Although the membership was small in numbers they were a very dedicated lot. They seemed to like going on trips and it is recorded they went to Tintern Abbey, Dan-yr-Ogof caves, Shrewsbury Flower Show, Caerphilly Castle and Machen, Sherbourne Abbey, and Bath. They too placed great store on fund-raising albeit on a small scale by our standards. I also noticed an item ‘School visits to go ahead’ – so they too had the same ideals as we have today. I also saw that a Mr Olding ‘called on the Society to record all the old buildings in the area’. I wonder if that was ever accomplished. These pioneers would certainly be proud of the present day achievements. Sadly all the people named have passed away but their memory still lingers on and we are proud of them for laying the foundation of the present day museum.
A group of people from Abersychan & Garndiffaith History Society, under the auspices of the W.E.A. and Rise organisations have produced a wonderful study of ‘the evolution of Abersychan, Talywaun, Garndiffaith and Varteg 1800-1900’. The book is entitled Into the Melting Pot and is available at local booksellers priced £10. The story it tells makes for fascinating reading. I have only just started turning the pages but will certainly continue, and not just because I, like many people of Abertillery, had ancestors from the ‘Eastern Valley’, but also because the book speaks tellingly of conditions in the Valleys at the time. In fact, Cwmtillery gets a mention, but not a complimentary one, with an extract from a letter written in about 1852 stating that at Cwmtillery there is ‘bad coal’ and that the houses at Club Row were “called ‘bug rank’ for there are hundreds of bugs and fleas”. The book is well researched and well illustrated. It contains a wealth of detail but remains very readable. An excellent buy! If you have any difficulty getting hold of the book, let me know and I’ll get a copy direct from one of the authors.
We are into 2008 and last year 2007 is consigned to history. As far as our museum society is concerned it was a momentous and exciting year, with the successful application to the Heritage Lottery Fund and then the implementation of the design chosen by the committee.
On December 1st 07 Jennifer, Peggy and myself were invited to the Gwent Local History Council A.G.M. at Shire Newton to accept their awards for "Services to Local History". We were given these awards for the work we had done in applying for the HLF grant and setting up the new museum.
Peggy as Chairman prepared the information and co-ordinated the work required, Jennifer set this into the H.L.F. application (an immense task for which her professional expertise was invaluable). My involvement was to give all the information on the museum that the H.L.F. required, I was also appointed by the committee as "Project Administrator" to work with the designer Alan Morgan in implementing the design. I was also responsible for setting up a number of policies, Risk Assessment etc, which are required by law when work of any sort is being carried out. It proved a challenge but these policies can now be used in the museum.
When we received the awards the three of us were of one mind, we accepted the awards on behalf of our society for all of our members who worked so hard over the past eleven years.
I myself am conscious of the fact that whenever an interview about the museum is required it falls to me to do it. Thus I am in the limelight more than other's, I put this down to the fact that having been elected curator at the 07 A.G.M and 2008 will be my 17th year serving in that capacity. I do not ever take this for granted and am always striving to learn more and improve on what we have achieved.
The museum itself thrives because of the dedication of the volunteers who work in it and for it. I heard one person remark on the mundane tasks, I think that this is a wrong terminology as something that is mundane is a task that is not enjoyed but has to be done. All the volunteer's enjoy coming to the museum and are glad to help no matter what job has to be done. It never ceases to amaze me when people turn up for their turn on duty when it is blowing a gale and the heavens have opened. You may think it not worth opening on days such as these but this is a time when we sometimes have a load of visitors.
We look forward confidently to the future, building on our success, I will serve as curator as long as the society requires me, providing the Lord is willing and then a younger volunteer can take my place.
Don Bearcroft, Curator
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