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March 2014
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Lecture Programme

Our 2014 programme opened with a fascinating talk by Roger James on Mr Rolls and Mr Royce – two men from very different backgrounds but with a shared passion for cars. Of course we also learnt a lot more about their lives, much more than I can write here. Why not come along to the next lecture at the Museum at 2pm on Wednesday 5th March to hear David Maddox tell us about the Tonypandy Riots.

Non-members are welcome; entry is £2.

St David’s Day Coffee Morning

Come along for tea/coffee and cakes and enjoy a morning of poetry and song, and help raise much needed funds for the Museum. All welcome . £1

100 Club February

No. 78 Jennifer Tuck £25
No. 33 Jean Colwell £10
No. 34 Jill Phipps £5

Do you know someone who would like to join our 100 Club? It costs just £1 each month and is a valuable fund raiser for the Museum.

Wool needed!

Do you have oddments of wool? Please bring them into the Museum for Mrs Wendy Hill who knits children’s clothes for charity.

Diary Dates

Saturday 1st March 2014 St David’s Day coffee and cake morningwith poetry and song £1

Wednesday 5th March 2014 The Tonypandy Riots by David Maddox

Wednesday 2nd April 2014Manufacturing Fine Bone China by David Woodliffe

Saturday 5th April 2014 Coffee and cake morning and “Adventures in the Andes” with Joanne Williams £1

Wednesday 7th May 2014 Military Band Archive and Music by Anne Gatehouse

Wednesday 4th June 2014 The Murder of KyminBet by Pete Strong

Wednesday 2nd July 2014 Swan Rescue by Ellen Kershaw

Wednesday 6th August 2014 A Brief Look at Vietnam by Jen Price

Wednesday 3rd September 2014 The WW2 Blenheim Bomber Crash at Abersychan by Ken Clark

Wednesday 1st October 2014 – Introduction to Rag Rug by Jane Dorsett

Wednesday 5th November 2014 The Mysterious World of Bees by John Holden

Fund raising February - £400 

2nd April Coffee Morning

Don’t forget to put this date in your diary. Joanne Williams (daughter of Museum volunteer Judith Williams) will be coming along to tell us something of her “Adventures in the Andes”.

The Blaina Riot 25th March 1935

In last month’s Newsletter the extracts from the log book of Cock and Chick School noted that the school was closed on 25 th February 1935 on the instructions of the L.E.A. who were requested to make this gesture by Abertillery United Front in protest at the new Unemployment Act. This is a brief overview of that day and the events leading to it. If anyone can give a more detailed account or has any memories of that day, please get in touch.

The 1930s were a time of deep depression and economic hardship. There was widespread unrest and protest marches took place throughout the country. The South Wales Coalfield was one of the worst affected areas following a slump in the coal trade and unemployment levels were over 20%. Unemployment meant severe deprivation and the Means Test which had to be met before unemployment benefit could be claimed was hugely unpopular, especially as it was applied more harshly in some areas than others. A revised Unemployment Act was due to be introduced in April 1935 but it retained the means test for some categories of the unemployed and this prompted protests in advance of its introduction. One such protest was that which was arranged for 25 th February 1935 throughout South Wales.

On that day thousands of unemployed men and their families from Abertillery, Blaina, Nantyglo and Brynmawr marched on the Public Assistance Committee (the body with responsibility for administering the means tests) offices in Blaina. There they were met by a line of police. The police wielded batons, the crowd threw stones, and hundreds were injured in what became known locally as the ‘Blaina Riot’.

The confrontation that day was not the end of the story. There were arrests, and more protests were staged later that year. That’s another story, one that perhaps you can tell? Contact Jen Price via the Museum.

George Ihringer, Clockmaker

There is a pendulum clock in the Museum café with the name “G Ihringer, Abertillery”on the face. Who was this man? It seems that he was George (probably originally Georg) Ihringer from the Baden area of Germany who came to Britain in 1878. George may have headed to Abertillery because there was already a German family of clock makers in the local area. He set up a shop in High Street, and possibly also in Church Street at some time. He became a naturalised British citizen but was interned on the Isle of Man in the First World War and died there.

Do you have a watch or clock by him?

Emmeline Pankhurst

Emmeline Pankhurst was one of the most influential women in Britain. In 1903 she formed the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) whose members were later dubbed ''the suffragettes'' in support of women's suffrage - the right to vote.

According to the register of births, Emmeline was born in Moss Side, Manchester to a calico printer and his wife on 15th July 1858. Confusion surrounds the exact date as Emmeline claimed to have been born on 14th July - Bastille Day. If this was the case it would have been very appropriate as the date marked the start of the French Revolution with its links to justice and equality. She grew up in a family that was politically active; her father Robert Goulden campaigned against slavery and her mother Sophia was an ardent feminist and introduced Emmeline to women's suffrage meetings. However, her parents did not see her education as important as that of her brothers

At 20 she met and married Dr. Richard Pankhurst, a Manchester based liberal lawyer and activist. He was highly educated and became involved in many radical causes amongst which was women's suffrage. He was known as a pacifist, agnostic and socialist. His controversial views did not win him many clients. The couple's first child Christabel was to become the leader of WSPU, leading the members to  more militant tactics. She and Anne Kenney became the first suffragettes to be imprisoned.

Richard and Emmeline had four more  children, including Sylvia, an artist who designed the posters and banners of the WSPU.

Her husband’s sudden death in 1898 left Emmeline having to find a new home for herself and her children and their move certainly involved downsizing. Their new home at Chorlton is now the Pankhurst Centre where visitors can see a re-creation of the parlour as it would have been in Emmeline's day. The room also contains Christabel's piano and Sylvia's typewriter.

The family later moved to London to better pursue their fight for votes for women. The campaign led by Emmeline and her followers was ultimately successful with women over 30 years being granted the vote in 1918. Emmeline died in 1928 and that was the year women achieved the same voting rights as men.

Let us not forget the Pankhurst family’s role in securing the women's vote. We must NOT be apathetic about our vote and we must all use it.
The Roving Reporter (Source: Debra John 17/05/2009)


Serious Collision on the Western Valleys Railway Monmouthshire Merlin 19th March 1854

An accident of a serious nature, and which it is feared will result fatally, occurred on the Western Valley section of the Monmouthshire Company’s lines on Thursday morning. The first passenger train from Newport, leaving here at seven o’clock, proceeded safely on its journey as far as Aberbeeg, at which point the Ebbw Vale branch forms a junction with the main line and here the carriages are formed into two trains, one proceeding to Nantyglo, and the other to Ebbw Vale. Between Aberbeeg and Ebbw Vale the line is single, and the regulations of the Company for working it, if they be but observed, are such as would seem to render an accident impossible. The system of working is by telegraph signals. When a train leaves Aberbeeg, it is telegraphed, a telegraph pass is given to the guard, and no train is permitted to depart from the other end of the line until that pass has been delivered into the hands of the telegraph clerk stationed there. Before the up-passenger train leaves Aberbeeg, a mineral train is due from Victoria, and which shunts into a siding some distance from the Aberbeeg junction. The time occupied in running from Victoria to the siding is about ten minutes. On the morning of the accident so far as we have been able to learn, the mineral train had been telegraphed as on its journey some 33 minutes before the time for the passenger trains to leave. Under ordinary circumstances, the mineral train would have reached its destination and, as we are told, the telegraph clerk observing an engine on the siding, took it for granted all was right, gave his pass to the guard, and the passenger train went on its journey although it would seem, he had not, as he should have, received the pass from the mineral guard. On nearing Cwm, about one and a half miles from Aberbeeg, it was evident to the driver of the passenger train that “some one bad blundered”, for right in front of him, and close upon him, at that point there happening to be a very sharp curve, which prevented the possibility of seeing far ahead, was the mineral train, and before the breakers could be applied the two engines were in collision, and as might be supposed, the results were serious. The driver and stoker of the mineral train escaped unhurt, we believe, by jumping from the engine, but the driver of the passenger train, John Williams, and the stoker, Henry Owen, the cleaner, Wm. Worthing, and the guard, Bayley, were much injured, Williams was severely scalded, his leg broken in two places, and one of his hands literally burned to a cinder and Worthing suffered from severe injuries to the head, and neither of them is expected to recover. The stoker sustained internal injuries, but he, as also Bayley, who suffers from a contusion of the shoulder and side, it is thought, may recover. Happily there were but four passengers….These were much shaken but it is believed no permanent or serious injury…. The mineral train is reported to have been delayed by two trucks leaving the rails.

Dale Challenger - Volunteer

I've volunteered at the museum for about 3 years now. I came on a work programme with the Job Centre in 2010. I did 13 extra weeks after the course had finished.

After the extra 13 weeks finished I  became a member of the museum. I am now a committee member. I like working with the old artefacts and enjoy the history behind them. I help out with documenting the artefacts and putting them on a special database. I help out when the school children come on a trip. I really like helping Don with the weapons when the schools come and do WW2. Working at the museum really helped me come out of my shell and I enjoy every minute I'm there. Volunteering at the museum has made me more confident talking to people and helped me when I went for a job interview. I don't know what I would be doing if I didn't go to the museum, I probably would be stuck in the house being depressed.

Editor’s Note: Dale is our youngest Committee Member and an invaluable volunteer in the Museum, able to turn his hand to anything that needs doing. It would be nice to have more youngsters like Dale involved in running the Museum.

Book Corner

This month we are looking not at a new book, but an old one which you are likely to find in your local library. The book in question is called “Clearly the Best – A History of Webbs Brewery, Aberbeeg” by Ray Morris, published in 1997. The book gives details of the history of the brewery itself, describes the local industries and townspeople, and contains a wealth of photos. The photos include many of the local public houses supplied by the brewery. A significant number of these pubs closed down long ago but many of us will remember them and leafing through the book is like making a trip down memory lane. Do you remember the Hanbury Hotel in Abergeeg? And what about The Prince of Wales Hotel or The Royal Oak (memorabilia from which is now in our Museum)? Or the Station Hotel as it used to look? Some of the pubs featured in the photographs look quite different nowadays as do the former colliery sites of which there are also several photos in this interesting little book.
Jen Price


St George

St George Plaque I have written many times about St Daffyd, this is the story of another British Saint In our museum is a plaque which was rescued from the Lib/Lab club in Abertillery. We paid to have the centre piece conserved, which is a painting of St George & the Dragon. This is the St George’s story.

Today in Nicomedia (near present Istanbul), Emperor


Diocletian watched the beheading that he had ordered of one of his own army officers. The emperor would hardly have guessed that his victim would gain far more military renown than he had ever dreamed of, for he would be celebrated for centuries as St George.

George was a comes (count) in Diocletian's personal bodyguard. He had been born to a Christian family in about AD 270 in Cappadocia in modern-day central Turkey, where his father was also an officer in the Roman army. When his father died, his mother moved back to her native Lydda in Palestine (now Lod, near Tel Aviv). There George grew up, joined the army, and was sent to Nicomedia, then the capital of the Eastern Roman empire.

The crime for which George was decapitated was insubordination. In 303 Diocletian issued his first edict against Christianity, which the army was commanded to enforce. George confessed to being a Christian and refused to obey the order, so Diocletian had him tortured and beheaded in front of Nicomedia's walls. His body was taken back to Lydda, where his tomb quickly became a shrine. You can still see it there today.

Just an insubordinate soldier when he was alive, George soon made up for that after he was dead. His first victory is surely his most famous one. No longer an officer in the emperor's guard, he was now a lone knight-errant battling with a dragon. We all know the story: a fearsome dragon lived in a lake near Silena (in what is now Libya). In order to draw the lake's water, villagers each day fed the dragon two sheep, but when they ran out of sheep, they substi­tuted beautiful maidens, selected by lot. One day the king's daughter drew the fatal lot, but before the dragon could devour her, George galloped in, clad in shining armour and carrying a lance. After crossing himself, he charged the dragon and skewered it with a single thrust. Having saved the princess, he then converted the king and his villagers to Christianity and rode off to find more battles to fight.

George's next recorded military adventure was in 6th-century England, where he became the patron saint of the knights at King Arthur's Round Table, there is no record of his actually going into combat. But that changed at the siege of Antioch during the First Crusade in 1098.

Christian forces had just taken the city but were now besieged by a vast army of Seljuk Turks reinforced by desert Arab cavalry. Hoping for victory through sheer audacity, the Christians charged out from the city gates to take on their enemies. The battle was fierce, with heavy casualties on both sides, when suddenly a company of knights on white horses smashed into the foe's left flank, led by St George, St Maurice and St Demetrius So inspired were the Christian soldiers that they now attacked with murderous courage and routed the enemy. A year later St George appeared again, this time at Jerusalem, just as the Crusaders assaulted the city walls, and in 1177 he was seen fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with the Christians when they ambushed and almost killed Saladin at the Battle of Montgisard Because of these daring feats, Richard the Lionheart adopted the banner of St Georee (the red cross of a martyr on a white background) for his soldiers during the third Crusade in 1189. Such a stalwart battlefield companion was George that in 1344 Edward III made him patron saint of England.

We next hear of George on the battlefield in 1385, when Richard II invaded Scotland. He commanded all his troops to wear the badge of St George and swore to execute any Scottish soldiers 'who do bear the same cross or token of St George, even if they be prisoners'. Thirty years later Henry V called on George once again, this time before the Battle of Agincourt (or at least so says Shakespeare): 'Follow your spirit; and, upon this charge Cry God for Harry, England and St George.

Over the centuries George has continued to inspire soldiers also those of other countries; in 1325 Charles I of Hungary founded his Order of St George and in 1769 Catherine the Great established Russia's highest award, the Military Order of the Saint Grand Martyr and the Triumphant George. In 1908 Robert Baden-Powell chose him as patron of the Boy Scouts, 'he is also the patron saint of cavalry, from which the word chivalry is derived'. King George VI established the George Cross (named for the saint, not for himself) for 'acts of the greatest heroism or of the most Bear Logoconspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger'.

Don Bearcroft Curator

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