Museum Logo
Monthly Newsletter
Previous Month Button
March 2022
Next Month Button

Dates for your Diary

Saturday 12th March  - Coffee Morning – 1992 Ebbw Vale Garden Festival 10:30 – 12:30

Museum opening times

The Museum is open to the public, free of charge:

Thursday to Saturday 10am – 1pm

February 100 Club

This month’s prize numbers were drawn by two young ‘Pokemon’ hunters and the lucky winners are:-

No.   53            Liz Ewers                                £20
No.   55            Sally Murphy                          £1

If you would like to join our 100 club and be in with a chance of winning, it costs just £1 a month.  Ask at the museum for further details. 

Our recent half-term ‘Pokemon’ Hunt was a huge success, many thanks to all who supported us!

Councillor Ray Owen OBE, CBE 1925 - 2002

Photo of Ray Owen and his wife

We are grateful to the wife of the late Councillor Ray Own for entrusting the museum with his medals.  Councillor Owen was first elected as a County Councillor back in 1965 for the then Monmouthshire County Council which subsequently became Gwent County Council and more recently he represented the constituents of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council.   In 1983 Ray was awarded the OBE by her Majesty for his services to local government and later the CBE in 1996.   Both medals are now in our care and will be on display for all to see along with the key that Ray was awarded in 1972 for opening the Blackwood Ambulance Centre.    

Photo of Councillor Ray Owen's medals

Above from left: OBE, CBE and Key

Saturday 12th March 10:30-12:30

It’s 30 years since the Ebbw Vale Garden Festival.  Come along on Saturday 12th March for a walk down memory lane!  A short talk will be followed by a video of the Festival plus an exhibition of photos and other memorabilia.  £2 entry, (members £1.50) to include hot drink and cake. All welcome.

Daffodils cartoonHappy Saint David’s Day!

If you are Welsh you will probably be very proud to wear your daffodil on March 1st, the Patron Saint of Wales official day – or St.   David’s Day.   What do we really know about St.   David? There are many versions of the story of the origin of St.   David (Dewid) and from reading about them, here is mine!

What we know is based on the Latin writings of Ryygyfach some 500 years after the death of David.   His actual date of birth is believed to be between 465-515 AD and supposedly lived over 100 years dying on March 1st 589 AD, hence why we celebrate our special day on that date.   It is written that his father was Prince Powys and Grandfather King Ceredig of Ceredigion, and his mother Non who was a Nun!  He is thought to have been born in a storm on the cliff tops in Pembrokeshire where a thunder bolt hit and there is now a Holy well said to have healing powers.   He was educated at a monastery and became a preacher of Christianity going as far as Jerusalem where he brought back a rock which was put in the alter in his old monastery now where St.   David’s Cathedral stands in the smallest city in the UK.....St.   David’s in Pembrokeshire a very popular tourist spot.   It is written that he was able to perform miracles and became the Patron of Wales in 12th Century with over 60 churches dedicated to him.

His legacy to followers at a sermon just before his death was –
‘Be joyful, keep the faith and do little things that you have heard and seen me do’

The phrase – ‘Gwnewch y pethau bychain’ – ‘do little things’, is still well known in Wales today.

The Welsh Flag

Image of the Welsh flag Another symbol of Wales that is famously flown around the world is the Welsh flag with the wonderful red dragon at the forefront.   But where did the flag originate and why a dragon?  Graham Bartram of the Flag Institute writes that the flag that we know today has only been used since 1959.   It is believed that it was first used in on a red background during the reign of Cadwaldadr, King of Gwynedd from around 655AD.

The Romans were known to use the dragon symbol to frighten people and show their strength and power.   They did this by attaching flags bearing the dragon to long poles and as they moved the dragons appeared to hiss thanks to wind passing through holes bored in the poles.   

During the 5th & 6th century the pictures of dragons became popular but were more of a serpent shape having a long body, this slowly turned into the four legged winged picture we have today.  There is a 12th century legend that Merlin told of how sleeping dragons, one white and one red awoke and fought, which he used to express the struggles between the English (white dragon) and Welsh (Red Dragon).    In 1401 at the attack of Caernarfon Castle, Owain Glyndwr flew a flag with a golden dragon.   The Anglo Saxons had a flag with a white dragon on a yellow background, whilst the kingdom of Wessex had the symbol of a yellow dragon and Welsh poets wrote about a supreme red dragon.   But the flag that we all recognise was used by Henry Tudor (Henry VII) at the Battle of Bosworth where he placed a red dragon on top of the green and white background of the Tudors.   It was such a prolific image that in 1807 when the union of parliaments of Great Britain and Ireland took place the flag was adopted as a symbol of Wales though the original had the dragon encircled in a gold band with the words as seen below.

An image of the Welsh flag used before 1959

By Sodacan This W3C-unspecified vector image was created with Inkscape.  Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

The design above was used at the Coronation of our Queen in 1953 and then in 1958 the Gorsedd of Bards asked that the red dragon become a symbol of Wales instead of the badge and this led to the flag that we know today becoming official in 1959.
Karen Pratley

Pancake Day

Pancake Day, or Shrove Tuesday, falls on 1st March this year.  It marks the day before the start of Lent and 40 days of fasting.  What better way to use up those eggs and fat and make a tasty meal before facing a period of 'doing without'.  Basically, that is the origin of Pancake Day.  My favourite is still a traditional pancake sprinkled with sugar, lemon juice and currants and that simple pancake recipe has long been a favourite for getting children into cooking.  I don't toss mine though – partly because previous attempts have seen just half the pancake land in the pan and partly because the little cast iron pan I now use is too heavy for tossing.  I read on the internet that pancakes featured in cookery books as far back as the 15th century and there are reports that by the following century, tossing them (to prevent them burning) was a well established practice.

Pancake races apparently originated as long ago as 1445 in a town called Olney when a woman heard the church bell tolling while making her pancakes on Shrove Tuesday – she ran to the church still holding her pan and pancake and tossed it to stop it burning.  It seems the practice caught on.  An annual pancake race is apparently still held in Olney and they are also run in other towns around the country.  I've never seen one live but they look good fun from photos.

Anyway, here is the pancake recipe I always use and the pancakes usually turn out well (except for that first one which invariably seems to stick).


  • 4oz flour
  • half pint milk
  • 1 egg
  • pinch salt
  • lard (for frying)
  • sugar (for sprinkling)
  • currants
  • lemon juice


1. Whisk the egg, flour, salt and milk and preferably leave to stand a little while (but if you do, be sure to stir the mixture well before using).

2. Get your pan hot and rub a little lard over the base before pouring in some batter.

3. Swirl the batter as you pour so that you get a nice thin pancake and as soon as little bubbles start to form add your currants while the top is still sticky enough to keep the currants in place.

4. Turn your pancake, take it out of the pan about a minute later and sprinkle with sugar and lemon juice while a small knob of lard is already melting in the pan ready for the next pancake.  For even more indulgence, try serving with ice-cream and toffee or chocolate sauce!

Photograph of pancakes and icecream

Mmmmmm....  go on, indulge yourself
Jen Price

Purple Plaques

You have probably heard of the ‘Blue Plaque’ scheme which dates back to 1866 and adorns UK buildings to commemorate notable men or women who may have lived or worked within them but have you heard of the Purple Plaque?  The Purple Plaque scheme is similar to its Blue cousin but is unique to Wales and is there to honour famous women who are both deceased and have strong links to Wales.  It was only launched in 2017 and is a Welsh government initiative.  The colour purple was chosen because of its link to the Suffragette movement. 

A Purple Plaque is being affixed to the front of Abertillery Museum and the grand unveiling will take place on 13th May this year.  More on this next month, including the name of the mystery women being honoured!

Abertillery Amateur Operatic Society

Sitting above Abertillery Museum is the Metropole Theatre and it was in this theatre that the Abertillery Amateur Operatic Society was born way back in 1916.   In 1922 the name was changed to Abertillery Amateur Operatic & Dramatic Society and later still it became Abertillery Amateur Dramatic & Musical Society, the name it still uses today.

Its inauguration began with a production of The Mikado under the Musical Direction of Mr M E Thomas.  The society continued to perform shows at the Metropole Theatre throughout the 1920s and 1930s and these included Proof (1920), The Pirates of Penzance (1925 and 1934), Ruddigore (1926), and The Mikado in 1937.    In 1939 the Society produced Merry England and, with the start of World War 2, this would be their last performance for over ten years.

Picture of the Pirates of Penzance programme from 1951

Their next production (The Pirates of Penzance again) would not be until 1951 and this time they had a new home; The Workmen’s Hall, Llanhilleth.  They also had a new member that year; none other than Betty Wayne (nee Evans); my mother-to-be!  My mother often talked with fondness of her days as a chorus girl though I believe her last part was in The New Moon in 1953.   By 1954 the Society had moved again to the Pavilion where they performed Waltz Without End  and this would be their home up to and including 1961 and performances each year (usually October) included, The Dubarry (1956), Pink Champagne (1958) and The Student Prince (1961).   

In 1962 the Metropole Theatre, which had been closed for some time,  re-opened and the society that had been born there in 1916 was invited back! However, there was a problem.   Two shows were planned for that year and while there were seats on the balcony (‘the Circle’), there were none on the ground floor (‘the Stalls’) but the Society was promised that if they could manage that spring, proper seating would be installed by their October show.  And so the Society sprang into action, borrowing chairs from pubs and clubs all over Abertillery with chalk being used on the underside of the seat to mark the pub/club’s name.    Forty-six years after their first performance of The Mikado they were back at the home of their birth with a production of their old favourite The Pirates of Penzance followed that same year by Oklahoma and, true to their word, the Metropole was by then fully kitted out with seats upstairs and down.  This performance of Oklahoma in 1962 won the Society joint winner of the NCB Light Opera Competition.  The following year they came second in the same competition for their performance of Showboat.

It was in 1961 that two of our long-standing museum members, Trevor and Margaret Cook joined the Operatic Society and would become regular performers on stage for the best part of the next four decades.   Another museum member, Mrs Val Rosser, was also a member for over three decades and all three took part in the 1986 production of Hello Dolly to name but one.

Picture of the Hello Dolly programme from 1986 It was during the mid 1960s that I was introduced to the annual October shows by my maternal grandmother.   I remember that the first show, (Monday), was referred to as ‘pensioners day’ and was always the cheapest as, I was told, there was more likelihood of things going wrong first performance.   It was to this Monday show that my grandmother would take me and the first show I saw with her was the 1965 showing of Carousel followed by South Pacific in 1966, Brigadoon in 1967 and Merry Widow in 1968.   Sadly this would be my last trip to the show with my grandmother as she passed away in August 1969.   Of all the shows I saw with her though my strongest memory is of Brigadoon as my grandmother couldn’t grasp the concept of a place that only existed for one day every 100 years and, as we walked home after the show that evening, I spent the entire journey trying to explain the plot to her!

The Abertillery Amateur Dramatic & Musical Society is, I’m pleased to say, still going strong today and their next production, in October 2022, will be The Little Shop of Horrors.  Tickets will be available to purchase later in the year from the Metropole Theatre or by calling 01495 533195.
Sally Murphy

Many thanks to Trevor & Margaret Cook who not only helped with this article but also provided programmes from the day which are now available to view on our Facebook page.


Top Of Page