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January 2013
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Pantomime Friday 11th January

Last call for the trip which has been arranged to see Cinderella in Swansea on Friday 11 th January (matinee performance). A few tickets are still available for Museum Society members and friends. The ticket to the panto and your coach fare is just £21 – please contact Peggy Bearcroft or Enid Dean. Just the thing to brighten up January

Annual Dinner Friday 18th Jan

As usual this will be at the Top Hotel. If you haven’t already booked your place please call at the Museum to check if there are still places and to make your menu choice. The evening will start at 7pm and tickets are £17.

Coffee Morning 26th January

The theme for this coffee morning is ‘Mystery Treasure’. Do you have an item which someone else might find intriguing? You know the scenario – what on earth is this??? Bring your mystery treasure along for a morning which promises to be very entertaining as well as helping to raise funds towards the cost of running our Museum.

Lecture Programme

Please be sure to put the lecture dates in your diary! Our first lecture is on Wednesday 6th February at 2pm at the Museum, price £2. Our speaker will be Steve Taylor talking about “My Life in the Media”. Steve started as a journalist with the South Wales Argus and went on to be one of the regular evening newsreaders on HTV Wales. He retired a few years ago but still leads a very busy life including as a tour guide on battlefield tours in Normandy. Steve is one of those wonderful natural raconteurs. He has lots of stories to tell and I can promise you a very enjoyable afternoon so please come along.

Fund raising

November 2012 - £482

December 2012 - £317

100 Club December

No. 15 Gwyneth Cooper £25
No. 96 Margaret Dyer £10
No. 81 Marge Selway £5

Diary Dates

Friday 11th January - Cinderella Pantomime, Swansea £21 ticket and coach (see Peggy or Enid)

Friday 18th January 2013 Annual Dinner , Top Hotel, Llanhilleth at 7pm £17

Saturday 26th January Mystery Treasures Coffee morning

Wednesday 6th February My Life in the Media by Steve Taylor

Wednesday 6th March What Lies Beneath? By Richard Dean

Wednesday 10th April Intellectual Property is All Around You by Gail Ashworth

Wednesday 1st May Cwmcarn Dam Disaster by Tony Jukes

Wednesday 5th June Inn Signs by Bob Trett

Wednesday 3rd July The Story of the Hero of Newport Docks Disaster by Monty Dart

Wednesday 7th August Newport Transporter Bridge by Anne Gatehouse

Wednesday 4th September Garden Birdwatch by Mick Bailey

Wednesday 2nd October ( TBA) Robin Williams

Wednesday 6th November Stanley Spencer War Artist by Pete Strong

Compliments of the Season

We wish our Members and readers a happy and healthy 2013. Please continue to support the Museum with your visits, membership fees (£5), 100 Club contributions, and your time and good will.  

Vice Presidents (Annual Subscription £25) Mrs Esme Heal Mr Glyn Saunders Mrs Kathleen Davies Rev. R Watson Mrs Margaret Herbert Prof. Gerwyn Griffiths Mrs Carole Brooks Mr Arthur Lewis OBE Mrs Jeanette Fulton (Dec’d) Mr Alan Hayman Mrs Thelma Griffiths Mr Keith Dykes (Dec’d)  

Poetry Corner

“A Few of Our Favourite Things”

Maalox and nose drops and needles for knitting,
Walkers and handrails and new dental fittings,
Bundles of magazines tied up with string,
These are a few of my favourite things.

Cadillacs and cataracts, hearing aids and glasses,
Polident and Fixodent and false teeth in glasses,
Pacemakers, golf carts and porches with swings,
These are a few of my favourite things.

When the pipes leak, when the bones creak,
When the knees go bad,
I simply remember my favourite things,
And then I don’t feel so bad.

Hot tea and crumpets and corn pads for bunions,
No spicy hot food or food cooked with onions,
Bathrobes and heating pads and hot meals they bring,
These are a few of my favourite things.

Back pains, confused brains, no need for sinning,
Thin bones and fractures and hair that is thinning,
And we won’t mention our short, shrunken frames,
When we remember our favourite things.

When the joints ache, when the hips break,
When the eyes grow dim,
Then I remember the great life I’ve had,
And then I don’t feel so bad.

Poem sent in by Mr Arthur Lewis O.B.E. The poem featured in the magazine of his local U3A club.

Alfa 63 sewing machine

I have lost the handbook. Does anyone know how to wind and thread the bobbin? Jen Price

Christmas in Austria

Enid Dean has a family friend in Austria and this year she sent Enid a Christmas card which she herself had drawn and painted and which featured a little devil. Here is an extract from the letter to Enid explaining the significance of the devil.

“…This ‘Krampus’ as we call the devil is typical for the region of the Alps. On the 5 th and 6 th of December Santa Claus (we call him Nikolaus), accompanied by Krampus visits children bringing sweets to the good ones.

Children get little presents like chocolate, candy, nuts, apples, oranges, all packed in a sack. If they were naughty there is coal, onions or potatoes in the sack. Santa Claus reads from his golden book and of course he knows everything about them.

On the 5 th and 6 th of December boys dressed up as Krampus run around and try to beat girls with their birches. So little girls rather stay at home on the evening of the 5 th of December.  

The story of our Nikolaus is that he was a bishop in Asia, long long ago. When he got to know that in his town were three girls (sisters) who were so poor that they could not get married he put three golden apples into their windows. So this is the origin of getting presents on the 5 th of December.”

History in the Making - 2012

Every year man makes some amazing discoveries. It is well nigh impossible to say which is the most momentous or valuable, but the discovery of the Higgs boson both excited the scientific world and caught the imagination of the public. The existence of the Higgs boson verifies a theory drawn up nearly fifty years ago by a British physicist, Peter Higgs, (now 83), using just a pencil and paper in his office in Edinburgh University. The discovery was made at the Large Hadron Collider at Cern and was the culmination of over 20 years of work by 3000 or so scientists. The theory says that elementary particles, like the quarks and electrons inside atoms, get their masses from an invisible field that stretches through all of space. Without something to give particles mass, there would be no stars, planets or life as we know it. The discovery of the Higgs boson is the culmination of decades of research but it is not the end of the story, rather the start of yet more research to try to determine whether the particle discovered at Cern is the simplest form, or whether there is a more exotic form of the particle still to be found. Isn’t nature wonderful?

Christmas in the Workhouse

The workhouse was a grim place by any standard and Christmas Day was sometimes the only day when things looked a little brighter for the inmates. Before 1834, in the days of the parish workhouse, Christmas Day (and sometimes Whit Sunday) was traditionally a day when inmates enjoyed a treat. There are reports, for example of inmates receiving roast beef, plum pudding and a pint of porter each, or roast meat, cake, cheese and ale.

Things were harsher, at least in the early years, in the union workhouses set up under the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834. The Poor Law Commissioners ordered that no extra food was to be given on Christmas Day or any other feast day, and also decreed that “…no pauper shall be allowed to have or use any wine, beer or spirituous or fermented liquors, unless by the direction in writing of the medical officer.” Some unions nonetheless set these rules aside to allow inmates ‘treats’ such as plum pudding and ale. Despite the generally harsh conditions, along with Good Friday and each Sunday, Christmas Day was one of the special days when inmates were not required to work other than to carry out necessary tasks such as household chores and cooking.

By 1840 the Poor Law Commissioners had relaxed their rigid rules and allowed treats for inmates, provided those treats came from a private source and were not funded by the union. Queen Victoria’s marriage to Prince Albert in 1841 saw the importation of German customs such as present-giving and Christmas trees, and Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ further encouraged these customs. In 1847 the new Poor Law Board (which replaced the former Poor Law Commissioners) went further and allowed Christmas extras to be paid for from the rates.

It was often the case that Boxing Day was the day of most celebration as this was when the Guardians visited the workhouse; treats might then be distributed and entertainment laid on. This did not necessarily mean the relaxation of other rules such as the segregation of men and women.

The harsh regime of the workhouse persisted for a long period and there were many who were critical of conditions to be found in them and their degrading treatment of inmates. One such was the campaigning journalist George R Sims. In 1877 a monologue he wrote, telling the story of an inmate whose wife had been refused out-relief the previous Christmas and had starved to death rather

than enter the workhouse without him, was published. Here are the opening verses:

In the Workhouse: Christmas Day

It is Christmas Day in the workhouse,
And the cold, bare walls are bright
With garlands of green and holly,
And the place is a pleasant sight;
For with clean-washed hands and faces,
In a long and hungry line
The paupers sit at the table,
For this is the hour they dine.

And the guardians and their ladies,
Although the wind is east,
Have come in their furs and wrappers,
To watch their charges feast;
To smile and be condescending,
Put pudding on pauper plates.
To be hosts at the workhouse banquet
They've paid for — with the rates.

Oh, the paupers are meek and lowly
With their "Thank'ee kindly, mum's!'"
So long as they fill their stomachs,
What matter whence it comes!
But one of the old men mutters,
And pushes his plate aside:
"Great God!" he cries, "but it chokes me!
For this is the day she died!"


The Museum Society is saddened to have lost three of its supporters in as many months.

Laurence Hale was a familiar face at Museum events and a regular contributor to the Newsletter, sending in many meticulously researched articles on various aspects of local history.

Keith Dykes was active in many local organisations, including our Museum Society, as we reported in last month’s Newsletter.

Margaret Jones recently passed away and she too will be much missed; Margaret was at the Museum most Thursdays to help with registration.


The Old New Year

Last month I was thinking about how we celebrated Christmas in the past. This month I am thinking of the “Ghosts of New Year Past”.

On New Year’s Eve we would again gather at my Grandmother’s house. Playing games, telling Ghost Stories and reflecting on events of the past year.

My grandmother told us of the way they would celebrate New Year when she was a girl in Crickhowell. They would make the rounds in a Horse and Trap (which they used for delivering the bread that they baked in their bake house) wishing people the compliments of the season. Usually they were given a tot of something to cheer them on their way.

Some of the farms roundabout still kept up the traditional of custom of the Mari Lwyd (Grey Mare).

On New Year's Eve, a group of friends would dress up in costume the star attraction was a real horse's head. During The Mari Lwyd celebrations the revellers challenged house-holders to a singing contest in Welsh. In essence the Mari Lwyd tradition is wassail singing with mummer animal head costumes, coupled with trick-or-treat menace.

My uncle, Jack Bevan would get us to play Ducking Apple. Apples would be placed floating in a large bowl of water; someone had their hands fastened behind their backs. The object was to pick an apple out of the water using only your teeth. The person with the most apples won. Usually the one with biggest mouth.(I never won but Peggy doesn’t believe that.)

New Year’s Resolutions

We would promise to give something up, try to be a better person or perhaps try something new, for the year ahead.

After the games we waited for the clock to strike 12 announcing the New Year, we would go outside and listen for all the pits to sound their hooters heralding in the New Year. We would then all join hands and sing For "Auld Lang Syne", with kisses all around.

A visitor who did not know about the hooter custom became terrified on hearing the cacophony of sound echoing in our valley.

The pit hooter was used to denote the beginning and end of a shift and with short blast in-between to mark food times.

Bear LogoAn amusing incident involving our hooter happened on a sunny summer Friday evening. When the colliers on the coalface had completed their work they were allowed to go home early.

The surface workers however had to wait until the time of the end of their shift. This was unfair as they were paid less than underground workers.

On this particular evening my Butty D.G. sidled up to the hooter controls saying let’s give them an early finish. Then he pressed the hooter button!

We rushed outside to watch. The top boss was on his way to find out what had happen when he saw a crowd of men exiting the Screening Plant.

He lifted his arm like a traffic Policeman, shouting “Stop, Stop” he became engulfed by what seemed like a heard of stampeding buffalo’s. The men knew something was wrong but weren’t waiting to find out what!

To avoid repercussions’ from this we took the hooter solenoid apart and reported a short circuit in it. This became a repetitive fault especially on Fridays, until the management took the hint allowing all the surface workers to finish their shift when they had completed their work. All surface workers with the exception of “Electricians”, who were all classed as underground and surface workers.

We electricians were excluded from a lot of activities including the annual safety exhibition quiz. Various reasons were given, including that we were Safetymen. They never trusted us. (One day B. T. and I did accidently find the answers to the quiz) we however blamed the Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev who had reportedly said in one of the Communist Newspapers of the day.

“That; Colliery Electricians were the most troublesome workers he had ever dealt with”.  

Don Bearcroft Curator
& Electrician of the Mine.



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