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April 2014
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Lecture Programme

David Maddox gave a very interesting talk in March on the Tonypandy Riots. The cause of the Riots was that the price of coal had dropped but the coal owners wanted to maintain their profit margin by dropping the wages of the miners. A strike ensued but the miners eventually went back on the coal owners’ terms. The talk was illustrated with some wonderful photographs which had come into his possession as glass plates which had been cleaned and processed. Mr Maddox cleared away the myth that Winston Churchill personally sent in troops. The fact was that thousands of police were sent in and it was the police who recommended the use of troops. Some of the photographs showed shops being rifled but notably some were not violated, probably due to the sympathy they had with the miners.
Enid Dean

Why not come along to the next lecture at the Museum at 2pm on Wednesday 2 nd April to hear David Woodliffe tell us about Manufacturing Fine Bone China. Non-members are welcome; entry is £2.

5th April Coffee Morning

Come along for tea/coffee and cakes and hear Joanne Williams talk about her Adventures in the Andes. All welcome. £1

100 Club

No. 73 Enid Dean £25
No. 7 Roy Pickford £10
No. 131 Chris Budd £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.

Sheets and Rags needed

We need lots of these for polishing museum items so please bring yours into the Museum for recycling. If you’d like to help with polishing, speak to Peggy.

Diary Dates

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 March - £220  

Get Well Wishes

A number of our members are or have been in hospital, or have been unwell or unable to get about easily, including Alf Stone, Gwyneth Hutchings, Val Sykes and Enid Dean. We hope you will all soon be up and about and back at the Museum. We miss your familiar faces!  


I have always wanted to visit Tasmania and in Christmas 2013 I did just that.

We flew from Melbourne in 40 degrees C and even though Tasmania is approximately 2500 kms from Antarctica it was still 39 degrees C there.

The highlight of our visit was a day trip to Port Arthur Historical Penitential site. After the American War of Independence Britain could no longer send their felons there and attention turned to Australia. In 1787, eleven ships carrying 770 convicts, 443 sailors, 252 marines (including wives and children) and enough supplies for 2 years left Plymouth for Van Dieman Land (now Tasmania) but most people were sent there between 1820 and 1850.

Convicts were sentenced to periods of transportation ranging from 7 years to life. After sentencing a convict would spend a short time in a local prison or one of the prison hulks moored in the river.

When we arrived at Port Arthur we were given playing cards (mine was nine of spades) and told to find out who we were. There were small boxes on the walls and I found out that I was a surgeon imprisoned for forgery. He was later pardoned by the governor for saving his young son’s life after he was bitten by a snake but was later sentenced once more for forgery.

In the beginning the convicts were housed in wooden huts but as numbers grew the flour mill and granary were converted into a brick built 4 storey penitentiary; the lower floors contained 130 cells for prisoners of bad character and the top floor for 480 better behaved sleeping in bunks.

Most of the buildings were destroyed in a fire but the remains are there to be seen including a hospital overlooking the site.

On arrival most convicts were assigned to work for a free settler although those with useful skills were often retained by the government and put on public projects such as road building. Women were either assigned to free settlers to work as domestics or they worked in the local factories.

A ticket of leave was a reward for good behaviour. It meant holders could work on their own account or hire themselves out and were allowed to own property.

Certificates of freedom were issued to convicts once they had served their original sentences and were permitted to return to Britain if they wanted. Many of those who served their time made lives for themselves there while others re-offended and returned to gaol.

Transportation ceased in 1853 but did not cease altogether as the settlers themselves continued to request the convicts in a desperate attempt to ease a chronic shortage of labour.

Convict shipments continued for a further 18 years at a rate of 2 or 3 a year until 1869. On 9 th January the Hougoumont docked in Freemantle with 279 prisoners, among them 62 Fenians (Irishmen) who had taken part in the Fenian rising of 1867. She was the very last convict transport.

Whilst at Port Arthur we took the ferry to the Isle of the Dead. The convicts were buried on this island on the lower ground and the families on the hill. Many were wives who died in childbirth and young children. We were told of one young mother who died in childbirth leaving a toddler and a baby six hours old. Her husband was an ordinary soldier and unable to cope; one of the mothers and the Commandant’s wife, both of whom had recently given birth, fed the baby.
Margaret Dyer

Appeal to all pupils who attended Gelli Grug School

At the moment our Museum is involved in a project with the pupils of Gelli Grug School; the school is to be demolished and a new school built in its place. The project involves a history of the school written by the pupils themselves but to do this they need to interview former pupils who attended the school. The interviews will be carried out by the children in Abertillery & District Museum on Tuesday 8 th April at 2p.m. The children will be asking the interviewees what school was like at the time they attended and also what life was like in the area at that time.

Will all those who are interested please phone the school on 01495 212684 or the Museum on 01495 211140 (Museum 10a.m to 1p.m.). Those of us at the Museum were amazed at the children’s enthusiasm and their knowledge. It was entertaining for us and will be for anyone who is willing to take part. Please help the children with their project and get in touch if you attended this school at some time in the past.  

‘So This Was Abertillery’

Where are the kids who on street corners would play?
Rat-tat ginger and long lamp and Queen of the May?
Where are the skipping ropes and whips and tops?
Where are the gas lamps and old corner shops?
Where are the gratings which halfpennies fell down?
And where are the grocers that cluttered the town?
Where is Bon Marche, Pontlottyn and Halls?
And the Penny Bazaar who sold toys, bats and balls?
What’s happened to the pictures where you’d go every night?
And the old Six Bells Lido which was quite a sight?
Penny pictures on Saturdays, Baths in the ‘Stute
And the Old Lamb Inn, men came out ‘like a newt’.

Old Tillie’s buses with seats made of wood,
And the old Foundry Bridge where the old men all stood.
The train trips to Barry with the Chapel and Club
The sand, sea and fairground you all had a sub.

The kids all watch ‘Telly’ and some they sniff glue,
The roads are too busy and games are too few;
The gas lamps were torn up and electric put in,
The corner shop trading is looking quite thin.

The gratings paved over and halfpennies gone o’er,
The Bon Marche and Pontlottyn are supermarket stores.
The Penny Bazaar has long since passed away,
But the old Met. Theatre is still there today.

The Empress, Gaiety, Palace and Pavy
Are things of the past like the earthenware lavy.
The baths were burnt down and ne’er built again,
The Lamb Inn sells carpets and no Lido remains.

The buses are bigger, we travel by car,
And the bridge is much wider and colder by far.
The railways are dug up, the chapels are gone,
And we go to Majorca the sand to sit on.

My memories are good and they’ll always last
But we must live for today and not in the past.
The pits are all closed, and jobs there are few
But I wouldn’t swap ABER for anywhere new.

Rose Smith

April Fool

It is impossible to be certain of the origin of April Fool’s Day but one popular tale dates the tradition to 1564 when France formally changed its calendar to the modern Gregorian calendar and thereby moved the celebration of the New Year from the last week of March to 1 st January. In this version of events, those who continued to celebrate the end of New Year’s Week on 1 st April were derided as fools or, as they are known in France poissons d’Avril (April fish).

Cwmtillery Junior Boys’ School

(Some extracts from the Log Book)

1937 April 20th – A lecture on ‘Alcohol and its abuses’ was given to Classes V and VI today by Miss P Thornley M.A.

1938 April 14th – The boys collected 343 eggs this week for the local hospital.

April 26th – A Temperance lecture was given to Classes IV, V and VI by Miss Thornley of the South Wales Temperance Union.

1939 April 4th – 131 eggs were collected by the boys for the local hospital.

1941 April 10th – During the last month our yard has been in a very filthy condition as a result of the erection of air-raid shelters. The masonry is now completed, the yard has been given a sweeping, and the whole place is tidier and cleaner.

1944 April 28th – The school was closed for the afternoon session, to allow the children an opportunity of visiting the circus which was in the town for one day.

1956 April 16th – Hall & Co commenced work on Girls’ Lavatories during holidays.

Patricia Tombes fell during PE at 3.55p.m. and fractured a forearm. This was the left arm which she also fractured in November through falling off a bicycle. She was taken home after first aid by Miss Purnell.

1967 April 13th – 14th – Television set brought to the school. Wired ready for use.

Does anyone have memories of their schooldays to share? Does Patricia Tombes remember breaking her arm in PE?

Wool still needed!

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


How the Chocolate Boys got their name

When I first started as an apprentice electrician I found myself working in a completely new world with young men that were a strange breed. I was told, “You will be like them after you have been here for a while”. It’s due to all the ions coming from the electricity, it affects their brains.

I knew some of them as I had met them attending Abertillery Technical School they told me tall stories about the work I was going into. I had done my underground training at Oakdale Colliery and was used to this sort of ribbing so I did not pay any heed to them.

The one thing that did worry me was the initiation carried out on new electrical apprentices. Once they were caught they would be, greased then a large harness used for climbing wooden telegraph poles would be fixed to them after which they would be hung on the gantry crane. The crane was used to bring electrical equipment into the department which was three stories up. The crane was then run out with the apprentice dangling in mid air. Fortunately I was small but quick and when they did catch me the biggest charge hand took pity on me and after thumping all the others and setting me free warned them of dire consequences if they attempted to do it again. Other apprentices started and they forgot about me preferring to go for easier game.

There were about 30 electricians working on three shifts at Six Bells aged from 17 to the old men of 25-30. The apprentices once they had turned 18 went on to shift working with a designated electrician, the shift electricians. The men on opposite shifts together with the surface and underground district electricians became close like a family.

We were all still studying to take the examinations to become Electrical Engineers and Electricians of the Mine attending Night School after which we were given day release to attend Crumlin School of Mines and Cross Keys Technical College. We took exams each year moving on to the next coarse when we passed these exams, a bad report meant being dropped from the apprentice scheme. As we progressed the older men would pass on their knowledge to the apprentices who were a year or two behind, it was not an unusual site to see a group of them kneeling on the tiled floor of the electrical shop, with one of them drawing diagrams of electrical circuits on working out problems using electrical formulas.

In the last year of our course we were given Block Release for 4 weeks when we would do practical work, at the end of each week visit another industry to see how they worked.

We worked hard and looked forward to the weekends which sometimes involved taking part in inter pit tournaments, tug of war cricket 5 a side games and there were darts and skittles.

We had good players among the electricians for both of the latter and as they were mostly played on Saturday Nights there was no shortage of supporters. Wives were sometimes told, “I have to go love, I’m a reserve player”. “Aye 25 th reserve if I know anything about it!” some wag said.

The teams all had their nick names ours was, “The Chocolate Boys”, on one occasion we reached the final of the knockout darts competition. It was held in The Bottom Limes Club the opposing team was made up of older men but they realised that we had a good team with star players in it.

The game was due to start at 7pm but not all their team had turned up, “they’ve been held up they will be along shortly”, they told us. “Have another drink up while we wait!” Finally they had a full team and the match started, the reason for their delaying tactics became apparent when our star player stood on the mark and was seen to be swaying back a fore. He was drunk, in fact all our team were drunk!, the other teams supporters had been plying them with drink until they were ready to start. We were young and learned our lesson but as one of us said at the time. “We never paid for a drink all night and some of our boys were bottomless bins.

When we were on shift due to the nature of our job we were allowed to ascend and descend the mine when we wanted to. Workmen on the pit bottom would ask “where are you off too now?” One electrician would invariably reply, “I’m going up for a cup of chocolate!” Thus we were nick-named “The Chocolate Boys”!

Two of my best friends from those days have passed on in the last month, they must be having big electrical problem in heaven for them to go almost together. I have told them it’s no use sending for me I have too much unfinished work to do in our museum.

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Don Bearcroft Curator

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