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April 2016
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Diary Dates

Ongoing – WW1 Exhibition in the Museum

There will be more events – call at the museum later this month for details.

March 100 Club

No.      Margaret Dyer              £20
No.      Sylvia Matthews          £10
No.      Ron Selway                 £5

Fundraising March - £319


We were very sorry to learn that Professor Gerwyn Griffiths died recently.  Professor Griffiths had been unwell for some time but we all hoped he would make a recovery.  He had been a valued Vice President and Museum Society supporter for many years and will be missed.


Some dates for your diary, arranged at a recent committee meeting.
Saturday 7th MayCoffee Morning to celebrate the official opening of the Royal Oak Railings Display.     All members are invited to this special event (for which there will be no charge) and we hope people will share memories and photos they may have of the Royal Oak.

Monday 9th MayMuseum Dinner (Lunch). This will be held once again at Ty Ebbw Fach in Six Bells and will be a lunchtime event with guest speaker.  If you would like to come along, please give your name to Peggy Bearcroft.

Saturday 21st MaySix Bells Pit Party. The museum will be having a stall at this event.

Saturday 4th JuneCoffee Morning with readings by Margaret Cook.  Those who have been to other readings by Margaret will know that we are in for a treat!  We are guaranteed a very entertaining and enjoyable morning.

Saturday 2nd July Aberfest including a ‘Father Christmas Summer Party’ in the space outside the museum. The museum will be putting on a children’s treasure hunt, serving refreshments and, weather permitting, running a museum stall outside the museum.

Wednesday 7th September at 6.00pm – Ralph Robinson Memorial Lecture.  More details to follow in due course.

All these events will need helping hands so please let Peggy Bearcroft know if you can help at one or more of these events to man stalls, bring cakes, or provide manpower.  The all-day events need a lot of people on duty so please help if you can spare a little time.  The events are appreciated by our members but they are also a way to raise much-needed funds for our museum and a way to raise the profile of the museum and encourage more people to visit.

Local Voices

Mr Arthur Lewis O.B.E. has had some health problems recently and we wish him a speedy return to full health.  Mr Lewis, who now lives in Essex, enjoys reading our Newsletter and recently sent in some articles for this and forthcoming editions.

Technicolour Ebbw

Having lived in Railway Street Llanhilleth for the first 30 years of my life (1922-1952), only some 200 yards from the River Ebbw, I well remember the colours of the water.  When the rivers Ebbw Fawr and Ebbw Fach joined at Aberbeeg the effluent from Ebbw Vale Steelworks, the Tin Works at Abertillery, and seven collieries, combined for all sorts of colours known to us in the “Fields”.

Between the top of Meadow Street and the Drill Hall was a substantial bridge over the River Ebbw providing access to the Salvation Army building, Commercial Road and, at the end of Commercial Road, the mountain path to Trinant and Pen-y-fan Pond.

Until the Llanhilleth Colliery Pit Head Baths were built at Horseshoe Bend, the bridge led to a dirt road alongside the River Ebbw, south to Crumlin, “Grails Rag and Bone Yard” and a huge “mansion” much used for Whitsun Walks’ get togethers.

Off this dirt road a secondary path led to Llanhilleth Colliery with a footbridge over the river providing access to the colliery surface.
The nearest bridge to the north was at Glandwr.

The new main road route to Llanhilleth Colliery Pit Head Baths, when they were built, passed by Dr Jack Bowen’s parents’ sweet shop on the hill.
I well remember Dr Bowen on Civil Defence standby duties during WW2 with us during the nights at the base rooms at Llanhilleth Central Hotel
Councillor/Mayor Mrs F Protheroe was my eldest sister and also lived in Railway Street.

Do you have any memories to share with us?  Please call at the museum or contact me, Jen Price, on 01633 482851.

Thank you.

Poet’s Corner

‘The Gurkha Soldiers’

The Gurkha Soldiers, in stature small,               
Come from the country, called Nepal.

They train so hard in their country,                             
So they can carry the renowned Kukri.

The pace they march, says it all,                              
About these brave men, from Nepal.

And when it comes to fighting grit,                             
We are glad they fight alongside the Brit.

The British soldier should take pride,                       
To have a Gurkha by his side.

And when their service is at an end,                              
We want to keep them, as our friend.  

So to the brave men, from Nepal,                                
We want to thank them, One and All.

Composed by Ex. Cpl. Geoff Nash RAMC
Standard Bearer R.B.L. Abertillery

Some Welsh Trivia

Did you know?

The world’s first message transmitted by radio in 1897 was sent from Lavernock Point to Holm Island – 3 miles away.

Mount Everest was named after the Surveyor General of India – George Everest – who lived at Gwernvale Manor (now a hotel) at Crickhowell. 
The Roving Reporter

Dale ChallengerMuseum Faces

Dale Challenger came to the museum on a placement and then found he enjoyed it so much he stayed on as a volunteer and has also served as a committee member.      


My Father’s Car – Episode 3

If you read the recent Newsletters you may remember my writing about my father’s Lanchester car – Betsy Blue – and then his soft top convertible – ‘the old jalopy’.  His next car purchased in the mid 1950s was what was then known as a shooting brake.  Like my father’s Lanchester, it was really just quite an old car then, but it would be a vintage car if it was still around today.  My baby brother arrived in 1955 and with two daughters plus a baby to transport about, the soft  top convertible car was no longer suitable for family outings – no such things as car baby seats then.

On my walk to school each day, my friend and I had to pass the local cemetery.  My friend’s Aunt lived in the cemetery house near the ornate main gates.  The Aunt’s son owned a dark navy shooting brake which was parked in the small lay-by nearby.  The car was very boxy in shape and had four doors for the driver and passengers as well as two doors at the back of the car which could be opened outwards, revealing a nice big space behind the back seats.  My father noticed this shooting brake as we were passing one day and remarked that it would seem to be the ideal car for him now, having to transport three children – the new baby could travel in the back space behind the seats!

When next my friend and I called at her Aunt’s cemetery house, I shyly mentioned my father liking the look of her son’s car.  Imagine my surprise when she said “Well, it is for sale”.  I scampered home to tell my father and without more ado, he contacted the owner and before you could say ‘Jack Robinson’, the deal was done and the shooting brake was ours.  Over several days, my parents pondered as to how they would transport my baby brother in his allotted back space.  Then, my mother had a brainwave.  The wicker washing basket!  And so it was that a lovely comfy ‘washing basket bed’ was made up for my brother who was then duly positioned behind the back seats and soon off we went on holiday to Saundersfoot, where my baby brother’s unusual mode of travelling was examined and scrutinised through the car windows by anyone passing by!

The car proved to be not terribly reliable.  If we went up any steepish hills, acrid dark fumes rose up ominously from the base of the long gear stick.  I feel sure we were all in danger of carbon monoxide poisoning but thankfully we survived the experience with seemingly no ill effects.  One outing in the shooting brake I well remember, is when we set off one bright summer’s day for Bristol Zoo.  This was before the days of the Severn Bridge and the only way of getting to the other side was to either take the ferry, go through the Severn Tunnel or drive up and around through Gloucester – much too long a journey for a day’s outing.  So we set off for Severn Tunnel Junction where my mother, my sister, my baby brother and I got out of the car and into a railway carriage.  My father then drove the car up and along the line of flat bed trucks which were attached to the train.  The car was secured to the flat bed truck with chains, my father got out, joined us in the carriage and we plus the car were transported through the tunnel to disembark at Pilning where the process of unloading took place and then we carried on to the Zoo.  I well remember the car windows being quite sooted up from its smokey journey through the tunnel.

I don’t remember us getting rid of the shooting brake but, as I got older, my father’s cars became more modern.  As he had to travel around South Wales and beyond for his job, he was lucky enough to be provided with a car.

Although I remember these more modern vehicles, they never seemed to have quite the same character as Betsy Blue, the Old Jalopy or the shooting brake.
Kath Taylor

Book Corner

Morlais by Alun Lewis, published recently by Seren, is an unpublished novel from the late 1930s of this renowned author.  The story is of a young boy growing up in the poverty stricken industrial valleys of South Wales.  Despite his lowly background his great desire is to be a poet and the novel charts his progress and the struggles he and his family faced.

What’s On – National Museum Cardiff

There is always much to see at our National Museum in Cardiff and this is one of the special exhibitions on at the moment:

Treasures – Adventures in Archaeology

There is a fee for this special exhibition but I am assured it is well worth the cost – Adults £7, concessions £5, 16s and under free.  The exhibition is described as a step into the world of famous explorers to travel on an adventure uncovering treasures from around the world.  The objects include not only ancient artefacts such as Egyptian mummies, but the hat, whip and jacket of Indiana Jones, crystal skulls and Inca gold!

Museum Matters

The demise of “F” Troop

Last month Bernard Hill who has been a museum volunteer since I was made curator decided that due to ill health he would have to relinquish his duties in the museum and also as deputy curator.

Bernard carried out his recent duties of opening and closing the museum, taking humidity and temperature readings in the cases, inspecting the museum gangways for obstacles and reporting any problems related to health and safety.

When we were in the old museum in the Abertillery library and I became curator there were a group of us who became known as “F” Troop. They did all the work required for the changes I made at that time. When we lost our home in the library and moved into storage it was “F” Troop who did the packing and unpacking in the various venues where we stored the artefacts. These places were, the Powell Street Methodist Chapel, the Metropole Cinema and office and also our home in Princess Street.

We were eventually offered a home in the Metropole dance hall which had become a Saturday market but had been closed. Before we could move the artefacts into the market hall it had to be cleaned. This again was done mostly by “F” Troop; setting up the old cases, arranging the exhibits was again done by “F” Troop under my supervision. It was very fraught on occasions moving irreplaceable artefacts. On one occasion a deputation headed by Sylvia Mathews approached me with a gift. It was a book entitled, “Workers and their Tyrannical Masters”.

We had to pack up and move our collection on a number of occasions. When the store we were using became unsafe everything had to be moved upstairs, this was on Christmas Eve 2000-2001. I became ill and in pain and Peggy and Bernard Dyer brought me home and Peggy sent for the doctor who wanted to send for an ambulance. I refused to go to hospital until I had seen my grandchildren on Christmas morning. Christmas afternoon I was taken to hospital, Peggy spent her Christmas in a side ward near me.

This was just one of the moves that had to be made after we moved into the Metropole.

The larger items in our museum in the early days were mainly moved by “F” Troop. It was an interesting site to see the Aberbeeg Signal box railway track diagram and desk being lowered out of the signal box window to the coal lorry waiting below.

The weight of pig iron in my cars boot lowered the back end until it was only a few inches from the floor. Other acquisitions that were given were; the marble counter from the Express Café a Chaffing machine and a black lead cast iron Fireplace.

All these items sometimes had to be moved with the other items whenever it was necessary to do so.

Recent acquisitions have also been heavy but fortunately they were delivered by the contractors but they still had to be set up once delivered to the museum. The date stone that was originally above the entrance of the Gelli-Crug School door was much larger and heavier than it looked in its original setting.

Date Stone

The round stained glass window took a great deal of muscle power and worry (for me) before it was set in place.

The wrought iron railings from around the roof of the Royal Oak Pub had to be sand blasted and painted and the roof of the exhibit strengthened before they could be erected. Lyn Davies who did the work was concerned that he got it right and was not satisfied until it was completed.

Royal Oak Railings

Don Bearcroft Curator

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