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April 2015
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Diary Dates

Ongoing – WW1 Exhibition in the Museum

Monday 20th April - Annual Dinner (Lunch) . More details at the Museum. Please put your name down – local venue to be chosen.

Saturday 25th April – Coffee Morning with Holiday Postcard Quiz

Wednesday 6th May Ralph Robinson Memorial Lecture - William Abraham M.P.- Working Class Hero? by David Maddox. 6pm at the Museum

June Coffee morning , details to be announced

Saturday 4th July – Aberfest. The Museum will be joining in the activities, more news nearer the time.

Fundraising March – tba

Holiday Postcard Quiz

Please drop your postcards off at the Museum ready for 25 th April.

100 Club March

No. 67 Sharon Saunders £20
No.88 Matthew Price £10
No.96 Margaret Dyer £5

Annual Dinner

Lunch As you know from last month’s Newsletter, this year we decided to have our annual dinner at lunchtime and to hold it on a Monday when the Museum would normally be closed. The feedback for a suggested Abergavenny venue was that people would prefer somewhere more local and so that is what is being arranged. It is sure to be an enjoyable event and will include a guest speaker. Please call at or ring the Museum to put your name on the list. More details at the Museum about the venue, menu and cost. Please try and support this event!

May Lecture

We decided at the start of the year not to continue with our monthly lecture programme as the numbers attending were too low on occasion but we thought we would resume the tradition of holding a Memorial Lecture in May. Please be sure to put the date of 6 th May at 6pm in your diaries. All welcome, entry £2.

Thank you Enid!

Mrs Enid Dean has been an active member of Abertillery & District Museum Society for very many years. She has held various posts on Committee and until recently ran our successful 100 Club. Her efforts on behalf of the Museum are too numerous to mention but we all remember her tirelessly contacting local shops and businesses and former residents when we were busy fundraising for a new museum building. Mrs Dean has been our Fundraising Secretary for several years but having reached the young age of 90 she has decided to step down from Committee. She will, however, continue to support the Museum and will continue to be a familiar face at fundraising events. Her hard work over the years is much appreciated and an inspiration to us all.


Roy and Sylvia Pickford recently celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary.

Local Voices

‘Mein Kampf’

This book, which tanslates as ‘My Struggle’ was written by Adolf Hitler in 1923-24 while he was imprisoned for what he considered to be ‘political crimes.’ The book outlines his political ideology and future plans for Germany but although Hitler is the author, he never actually put pen to paper or typed the text. Hitler dictated the book to Rudolf Hess in his prison cell and later at his base in Bavaria.

Tom Wayne, a friend of mine and who recently passed away, was a well known local plumber and central heating engineer. Tom’s daughters recently visited me (they live in Croespenmaen) with some memorabilia for the museum. Amongst the items was a copy of Mein Kampf. Well, I did know about the existence of this book as a few years ago Tom told me about it but I had never before seen it. It is a thick leather bound book written, of course, in German. On the inside is an inscription in German which has been translated to read “Presented to (German names of a lady and gentleman) on the occasion of their wedding” in 1940 and was signed by the Mayor of a certain German town. It seems that a copy of the book was given to all newlywed couples.

Anyway, when I was a child I lived in Penybont and I vaguely remember going to buy dolly mixtures in a large glass fronted shop in Penybont Road, It adjoined Waynes the milkman’s premises. I remember too that it was some sort of drinking club. I cannot recollect any name … was it a private club, perhaps unlicensed? When the milk business finished Tom stored all his tools and equipment in the large glass fronted premises. Upon retirement several years ago, Tom went to this store of his to clear out his belongings. He told me that all around the walls there were shelves but there were no beer pumps. Thinking to dust the shelves down he came across the book Mein Kampf. How did it get there? Was it a souvenir brought back from Germany by a soldier? Had it been stolen? Had it been found? No-one knows but it is now in our Museum – an unusual acquisition I would say.
The Roving Reporter

Poetry Corner

‘The Fly’

God in his wisdom made the fly
And then forgot to tell us why.
Ogden Nash

Sequel to Davy Lamp – 200 years old March 2015

In 1936, aged 14, I started work underground at Budds Aberbeeg South - a house coal mine Crumlin; no methane, candle light used. I transferred in late 1936 to Llanhilleth Coal Mine; methane in seams and I worked in Old Coal. Davy Lamps were used, complete with bonnets. A problem was the need to travel over the railway line to the upcast shaft for shifts in Old Coal. Most colliery upcast ventilation shafts were housed in a building. Llan upshaft was just a wooden platform which lifted off when one winding cage reached the surface. The draught was considerable and so a flame safety lamp had to be protected or the flame would extinguish involving a trip back to the lamp room for it to be relit.

The law required 1 in 8 face workers to use Davy Lamps as well as battery lamps. During work inspection in a new coal face I noticed a methane blue cap on a Davy Lamp and had men evacuated to the downcast ventilation shaft. Inspection showed that a regulation aperture in a ventilation door had been obstructed by a corrugated steel sheet, stopping fresh air entering the coal face to dilute methane gas from the surrounding strata.

Colliery officials used Davy Lamps with relighters in later years but they had to be trained and pass examinations on their use. In the late 1950s an attempt was made to make relighter lamps smaller and less heavy. This was stopped when a surveyor untrained (?) in their use, used it for a target whilst surveying underground. When the lamp extinguished, not realising why it had gone out, he tried to relight and killed himself in the methane gas explosion.

The Davy Lamp was altered as a relighter, with a different atmosphere intake system, but it still required to be entered into methane for detection and measuring. During the late 1960s-1970 the Garforth Lamp was introduced for methane testing using an aspirator bulb to take an atmosphere sample, then introducing the sample into the bottom of the pot, up to the round wick flame, thus bypassing the gauze.

The introduction of methaneometers was safer and accurate but they had to be sent to Tredegar N.C.B. Laboratories for weekly testing.

When I was senior lecturer at the Polytechnic of Wales I tested officials in reading blue methane samples in a dark room at Britannia Colliery Lab.
W.Arthur Lewis O.B.E

Interview with my Grandfather – Thomas James Wayne

What were you doing the day war was declared on Germany?

I was in King Street Chapel Abertillery on 3 rd September 1939 when Neville Chamberlain, our Prime Minister, announced that we were at war. I was 13 at the time and I remember running all the way home expecting bombs to drop on me at any moment.

Did you serve in the war?

I was lucky because on leaving school I got an apprenticeship as a plumbing and heating engineer and therefore my enrolment was deferred for two years so by the time I joined the RAF in 1945 the war was all but over. I served as an LAC (Leading Air Craftsman) for two years but never left the country. I can still remember my RAF serial number – 2334466!

As a boy did you ever have any child evacuees staying with you?

No because I had 3 brothers and 3 sisters there was no room for anyone else, but your late grandmother, my wife, had an evacuee from London staying with her for a while.

What did you do when youheard the sir raid sirens?

Some people built their own shelters in their garden, but my family hid under the stairs as most people did.

Did you ever see or hear any bombs dropped in your area?

Yes, we often heard bombs exploding. The target was Ebbw Vale Steelworks but they missed and landed on the mountains. My friends and I often went up into the mountains to look for shrapnel and sometimes found some.

How did rationing affect you?

Most foods were rationed, butter, sugar, meat, sweets, virtually everything. We did not have supermarkets like you have today, only small shops which had a limited amount of stock. If we heard that say a delivery of potatoes had arrived in town, we would all rush off and queue for hours to get some.

Did you have enough to eat during the war?

No, my brothers and I often went to bed hungry.

How many people died in the war?

Over fifty million I believe, the majority of those were Russian and Chinese. There were about a third of a million Americans killed and about half a million British with 7 million Germans killed.

Did you have any relatives or friends killed in the war?

No, but I will always remember the sinking of our ship ‘HMS Hood’ on 24th May 1941 by the German ship ‘The Bismarck’ as there were lots of people from Abertillery on board. There were only 3 survivors out of 1400 men on board. Three days later on 27th May 1941, we sank the Bismarck in retaliation for the Hood.

What can you tell me about the blackout?

No-one was allowed to show any light from their homes and if they did they would get a knock on the door from the air raid wardens. Buses and other vehicles had to have their headlights shielded and pointed to the ground. Once when I was coming home from Newport College during my apprenticeship I jumped off the bus at my stop and went smack into a lamp post in the pitch black!

Is there anything else you can tell me about the war?

Yes, whilst war is a terrible thing, in some ways we prospered because everyone had work. My father had been unemployed for many years before the war but suddenly there were jobs for everyone, mainly in the pits which were then worked flat out.

The above interview took place in 2002 between Sarah Murphy, then aged 12, and her grandfather Tom Wayne. Sadly Tom passed away in July 2014. We are grateful to Sarah for the above piece which is sure to spark memories among some of our older readers.

Easter traditions

Painting and hiding eggs is a relatively new idea in Britain. In Hong Kong the Chinese children and their parents dig in the sand on the beaches to look for their Easter eggs.

In Austria the tradition came from fasting. Prior to Easter Day they boiled and painted their eggs and kept them for Easter Day festivities. From these old days came the tradition of ‘Eierpecken’ – two people hit their hard boiled eggs against each other. The person whose egg does not break is the winner and takes both eggs.

Does anyone know the origin of the Easter Bunny or the Easter Bonnet Parade?
The Roving Reporter


End of an era

Living in Davy Evans Court we have had a daily view of the demolition of the Arena Club. People also remember it as The Snooker Club, most people of our age will remember it as the Palace Theatre and Cinema. As the building came down features of its past were revealed, the roof at the Arcade end was clearly shown to rise up to allow for the upstairs gallery and the projection room.

The seating upstairs cost more than the downstairs, we used this mostly when the downstairs was full or Peggy and I felt like a treat. The stair walls had large pictures of famous film stars hung on them, I remember the photographs of women were larger than life and beautiful, the women in the audience no doubt thought the same for men, such as Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart and Alan Ladd.

Going in was the time when you could buy sweets and treats in the cinema shop or ice cream from the usherettes tray when the film had started.

When I was a small boy I had to accompany my mother on Saturday nights to one of the four cinemas, the choice of film was hers, usually a horror film for a young boy, such as “Gone With the Wind”. You had to go early to get a seat as the people came not only from Abertillery but also from surrounding towns. People came by train and I can remember hoards of them coming down Station Hill to the Empress, Pavilion or the Gaiety, it was not unusual to be queuing for second house. I can also remember standing in the pouring rain, the smell of wet mackintoshes and umbrellas. On reaching the entrance being told; 1 st and 2 nd house are full. We would then go to a picture house that had seats left, not necessarily together and the film would not necessarily be a love story, it may be more to my liking John Wayne in “Sands of Iwo Jima”.

The Arena Club

Saturday morning pictures were a children’s show with cartoons and cowboy films, Roy Rogers and his horse Trigger (Roy also known as the Singing Cowboy) was the favourite. I was not that keen on these mornings as you could not hear due to the screaming and shouting that went on. Very often there would be a commotion going on with boys being chased by usherettes and the manager around the cinema, this was because boys would let their friends without paying through the emergency door. The Palace showed two films a week they changed mid week. When I was attending Night School at Abertillery Technical School, on an afternoon shift we were allowed to work a 10am until 5pm shift. There was an Elvis film playing as the first film and not wanting to miss it I called for Peggy I would have to miss night school but we would not miss Elvis!

Demolition of the Club

The Gaiety started life as an arena where events such as boxing matches were held before it was used as a cinema. It had an unusual design feature being built on piles made from oil drums filled with concrete over the River Bear LogoEbbw. This was a drawback as during heavy rains or if a tree came down the river and became stuck in between the piles the water would rise, getting your feet wet was a minor problem, it was the rats trying to get away from the flood who would be running about over your feet and everywhere.


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