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April 2017
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Diary Dates

Ongoing – WW1 Exhibition in the Museum

Saturday 8th April   -  Coffee Morning Easter Bonnet Competition and Easter Quiz

Oxford House Industrial History Society -Industrial Archaeology Conference Saturday 29th April.  £19 including lunch. Tel 01633 264819

Saturday 20th MayCoffee Morning with Whitsun Walks photos and memories

Annual Dinner – 15th May Ty-Ebbw Fach

Saturday 1st July Aberfest (the museum will be putting on an event)

SeptemberRalph Robinson Memorial Lecture  (date to be fixed)

Please call at the museum for updates.

Fundraising March - £260

March 100 Club

No. 11             Vera Smith                   £20
No. 99             Peggy Bearcroft        £10
No. 33             Jean Colwell               £5

Easter Bonnet Competition & Quiz

Don’t forget to put Saturday 8th April in your diaries as that is when we have a coffee morning with an Easter Bonnet competition and an Easter Quiz.  Please come along and bring a friend.

Annual Lunch

The Museum Society’s Annual Lunch will be on Monday 15th May at Ty Ebbw Fach, Six Bells.  Please arrive at 12.30 for lunch at 1.0pm.  The cost will be £12 to include a two course lunch, guest speaker and quiz.  The main course choices are roast beef, lamb, chicken or a vegetarian option.  The restaurant will have a selection of desserts available on the day.  This is always an enjoyable event so please call at the museum or contact Peggy Bearcroft to make your menu choice and pay your money. If we have spare places we can offer them to non-members in due course.

Museum Faces

Volunteer Dave Parker at work scanning photographs for our archives.

Volunteer Dave Parker

Local Voices

Copenhagen 1953 (Part one)

When I lost my father, Tom Wayne, in July 2014 I was faced with the daunting task of emptying his house.  I had lost my mother, Betty Wayne (nee Evans), some 18 years earlier.  We don’t tend to imagine our parents having a life before we were born so my find immediately got my attention….!

Every year at Christmas we received a card from a lady called Tove Tinnerup.  I knew she lived in Denmark but never questioned the relationship, something I now regret.  Then, when emptying the house, I came across a photo album and inside, a small journal, written in my mother’s handwriting, of a trip she’d made to Copenhagen in August 1953 – 6 years before I was born. She would have been 24.

I discovered that my mother (who was courting my father at the time), had travelled to the Danish capital, Copenhagen, with a friend Betty Arndell.  Betty Arndell (also now deceased) had been an occasional visitor to our house during my childhood but I had had no idea that they had gone on such an epic adventure together!

On Saturday 8th August 1953, my father had driven them both to London where the two Bettys caught a train to Harwich in Essex and from there, a ship called the Kronprinsesse Ingrid to Esbjerg on the west coast of the Jutland peninsula in southwest Denmark, arriving at just after noon on Sunday 9th August.  Geography has never been my strong point, and it wasn’t until I decided to track her journey using the Internet, that I realised Denmark comprises over 400 Islands, some of which are uninhabited.  At Esbjerg they disembarked the ship and boarded what my mother describes in her journal as a ‘boat-train’.  This ‘boat-train’ took them over land and water (the train actually pulled on board a ferry according to her journal) and took them directly to Copenhagen on the Danish Island of Zealand.  Here they were met by Tove Tinnerup and friend Else, who both lived in Copenhagen.

Over the next twelve days, Tove and Else introduced the two Bettys to their homeland.  They went bathing in the sea (‘and got sunburnt’), visited the famous statue ‘The Little Mermaid’ as well as Tivoli Gardens, Grundtvigs Church (shaped like a church organ), Frilands open air museum, and more castles than I have room to mention here.  They also went on a day trip to Sweden. By using the wonder of ‘Google Earth’, I was able to see all these monuments for myself and even ‘pan around’ for a 360º panoramic view. I spent a very pleasant afternoon following in my mother’s footsteps.

But this still didn’t explain how my mother knew Tove.  I knew she was still alive as a Christmas card duly arrived from Tove in December 2014.  I found an address amongst dad’s things and wrote to her to explain that dad had now passed away and asked how she knew my parents.  I didn’t have long to wait.  Here is an extract from her letter –

‘In the summer of 1947, a teacher living in my parents house, had to take care of a team from the World Friendship Association.  The team was going to Great Britain and she recommended me and my friend (Else) to join the team.  We came to Abertillery where we stayed with the Arndell family in Six Bells.  Your mother and Betty Arndell came to visit me in the summer of 1953 and in 1956 I returned to stay with the Arndell’s again and visited your mother and met your father’.

Also with the journal and photo album were a number of postcards my mother brought back, depicting the things she visited, plus a postcard she had posted home to her nephew which shows a picture of the Kronprinsesse Ingrid (see below).

Kronprinsesse Ingrid

In part two next month, read my mother’s journal in full. 
Sally Murphy

Museum Archives

Aberbeeg Hospital – Fifty Years

The following account is taken from an article written by Miss D.B. Penberthy and Mrs V.B.Cook in 1972.

During 1904-5 the townspeople of Abertillery expressed their wish that a hospital be built in the area.  The Manager of the Temperance Hotel (later Oak Street Social Club) suggested a Cottage Hospital and this was supported by individuals and many local collieries such as Arael Griffin, Vivian, Old Gray, Penybont, Cwmtillery and Roseheyworth. At this time the nearest hospital was at Newport.  A committee was formed and collections began in 1918-19.

Two sites had been suggested – Cwm Farm Road and Aberbeeg. Both had disadvantages – Cwm Farm area was subject to subsidence whilst Aberbeeg was considered too far from Abertillery but this was the site eventually chosen, with the land being donated by the Hanbury Estate.

Two Newport men were chosen to design and to build the hospital.  One notable feature of the design was the way the functional areas such as kitchens were at the front of the building while the two 22-bedded wards looked out over the landscaped grounds and adjoining forest.

Contributions started at a rate of 1d for every £1 earned and when the foundation stone was laid in 1920 quite a large sum had been amassed.  The hospital was officially opened in September 1922 by Councillor Thomas H. Mytton, Chairman of Abertillery & District Hospital Committee 1916-1922.

The article points out that in the period between the laying of the foundation stone and the hospital opening, the General Strike of 1921 occurred.  Many contributions ceased, the main contributors at this time being local teaching staff.  The bank overdraft ran to £25,000 (equivalent to over £1 million today) but as each worker returned to employment they contributed double the amount – 2d per £1 – and when the National Health Service took over the hospital in 1948 it had a healthy surplus.  People had continued paying their 1d per pound to ensure they and their families could receive treatment at the hospital.

The hospital had a total of 44 beds and well known consultants in many different fields visited the hospital and carried out operations in its well equipped operating theatre. The hospital could deal with major operations and its casualty and X ray departments were well able to cope with the many mining accidents which occurred locally.  Plaques were placed in the two wards to commemorate Professor Gilbert Strachan who was the Consultant Gynaecologist and Obstetrician to the hospital for many years and Mr John Dunlop , a longserving Consultant Surgeon.  There were just 5 matrons over a fifty year period – Matrons Dowding, Curtis, Body, Watkins and Penberthy.

During 1921 the Hospital Linen League was voluntarily started.   This League was the sole supplier of every item of linen from sheets to dusters and they raised all the funds themselves.  The League also repaired all the linen.  This was all done on a voluntary basis, the volunteers even paying their own bus fares to the hospital.

In 1948 the hospital was taken over by the National Health Service, the Linen League was disbanded and a League of Friends was formed with many of the same faces. The purpose of the League of Friends was to provide ‘extras’ to the hospital and patients, and included a piano, individual overhead lights and wireless sets, televisions and curtains to name but a few. They also purchased coal for the boilers and provided tea for patients and visitors.  The majority of the money was raised by an annual fete. The first ambulance in the district, apart from the local colliery ambulance was also a gift to the hospital and was named Beatrice (as were successor ambulances) in recognition of the work for the League by Mrs Beatrice Green.

The facilities at the hospital were regularly used up until 1969 when reorganisation led to the hospital being used partly as a General Practitioner and partly as a pre-convalescent hospital, and the main theatre was completely dismantled. In 1972 the building was extended by the construction of two annexes to provide upgraded bathroom facilities.  Despite the changes over the years, as at 1972 there were staff who had worked at the hospital for between 20 and 37 years, one member of staff having completed no less than 48 years at the hospital.

Aberbeeg Hospital


Museum Matters

Early Eighteenth Century Sailors

At the end of March our grandson Luke returned after a 6 months deployment on H M S Ocean in the Gulf. All of our family were eagerly awaiting his return.   Here are a few facts about his ship and the Royal Navy: The first ship named Ocean saw action against the French in 1778 under the lead of HMS Victory, other ships with this name were to follow.

1778 HMS OceanIn 1778 the navy at this time was betteroff than the army. James II was head of the navy during his brother's reign; he had instituted reforms which were carried out in William's time. Since the days of the Armada Englishmen had always been proud of their navy and determined to keep it efficient. The preparedness of the navy for war depended on the condition of the ships lying in harbour in peace time. In 1697 rules were made for the care of these ships. Orders were made that: (Old English spelling)  each ship in harbour is to have a Jack and Ensigne always on board, to be putt forth on Sundayes and Hollydayes the Smoaking Tobacco in his Majesty's Yards and Ships is absolutely prohibited otherwise than over a Tub of Water. And forasmuch as the Harbouring of Women and Children on board his Majesty's Shipps in Ordinary may expose them to accidents as well as Inconveniences of other kinds; We doe hereby strictly forbid the Lodgeing or Keeping of any Women or Children on board the said Shipps on any pretence whatsoever."These rules were necessary because it was discovered that the caretakers of these ships were living with their families in the captains' cabins; in one case there was a complaint that "a great Shipp at Chatham" was "without so much as one man on board, only a Woman or two, who by the way are dangerous."   In another case it was found that the people in the Dockyard used to go by night and break up ships in order to get cheap firewood.                                   

By the end of Queen Anne's reign improvements had began, the navy as policemen of the seas. Many of the terrible pirates of the time, including the famous Captain Kidd, were caught and punished.

William and Mary carried out a great reform when they established Greenwich Hospital for seamen who had suffered in the service of their country. The old royal palace at Greenwich that had been used by the Tudor kings, was nowbeing neglected in favour of St. James's and Hampton Court. Mary's sympathy had been awakened by the sufferings of her sailors after the battle of La Hogue and she had the palace turned into a hospital.  The building was finished by Sir Christopher Wren as his subscription towards the building of the hospitalToday it is used as a naval collage and hospital school.

Other good works at the time were; Buoying and lighting of harbours and river mouths of Britain. The Eddystone  Lighthouse first built in 1695; a wet dock at Liverpool; in 1714 laws were passed concerning wrecks. Any ships commander who failed to help another in distress was fined £100. A reward was offered for the best way of finding longitude at sea. This reward led to the perfection of the chronometer, which has made navigation at sea to-day much simpler.

HMS Ocean

The wars with France gave great chances to sailors in ships called privateers to make discoveries. These privateers were allowed to roam the seas and to attack enemy ships and towns all over the world. Sometimes they were little better than pirate ships. One of the most famous privateer sailors was Captain Woodes Rogers, who went on a long voyage in the Pacific from 1708 to 1711. During this voyage he discovered a seaman, Alexander Selkirk, who had lived alone on the island of Juan Fernandez for nearly five years. Defoe made the history of this man the basis of his wonderful story,"Robinson Crusoe."

Don Bearcroft curator

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