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May 2012
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Well done, Don!

Abertillery Community Council Awards – on Wednesday 18th April our Curator Don Bearcroft was invited to Llanhilleth Institute for a Community Council Awards evening. Unfortunately he was not well enough to attend, so I was ‘volunteered’ to attend and collect his award for him. I was impressed by the number and diversity of people receiving these awards from young teenagers to older groups of volunteers who serve the communities of Abertillery District. A very pleasant evening was had by all. Margaret Dyer

Don has worked tirelessly for years for our Museum, and continues to do a stirling job despite health problems. The award was a well deserved recognition of his efforts and the members and supporters of the Museum Society send their congratulations.

Diary Dates  

Wednesday 6th June – ‘Behind the Scenes at the Patent Office’ – by Gail Ashworth, 2pm at the Museum  

Mrs Jeanette Fulton USA Vice President of the Museum

For several years the Museum has periodically received a substantial donation from Mrs Jeanette Fulton. The Museum appreciates the interest and donations Jeanette Fulton gave to Abertillery and District Museum Society. Mrs Vera Smith has written the following account of the events that resulted in Jeanette sending such donations.

“While a pupil at Nantyglo Grammar School in 1941, we were encouraged by our English teacher to correspond with children of our own age in America. My friend Betty Evans (later Wayne) and myself corresponded with two sisters – Jeanette and Annette Fox from Ocean Springs, Mississippi. In about 1955 they visited England with other girls and were employed at the American Embassy. While in England they visited Abertillery where they were shown all the sights amongst which was an underground visit to Cwmtillery Colliery with which they were most impressed. They all stayed at the Bush Hotel but with the usual Welsh hospitality, my mother entertained them and they inevitably left with a tin of Welsh cakes (bakestones). On their return to America the correspondence flourished. Annette married and had two daughters. These children were Junior Girl Guides and as I was very involved with local brownies and guides, many Girl Guide books were exchanged. In about 1968 she came to Abertillery on a tour and while visiting Bath, came again to Abertillery. Our pen pal correspondence still flourished. I sent her items I thought might interest her, amongst which were Museum Newsletters and a poetry book by Gordon Rowlands. These things pleased her very much. Over these later years the Museum has received several donations and she was ultimately made a Vice President. Sadly I have not had any contact with her since 2010 despite exploring the internet. Just recently, Bernard Jones received a cheque for $5000 from Jeanette’s solicitors. She had passed away but had set up a trust for this amount for the Museum in 1994.

I am sorry to lose such a caring faithful pen friend.
Vera Smith 2012

100 Club – April 2012

No. 133 Vera Greaves £25
No. 12 Glad Davies £10
No. 19 Tom Wayne £5

Gwent County History

The final volume of this wonderful history of the County is nearing completion and is expected to be published next spring. The book, Volume 5, will deal with some momentous events including two World Wars, the depression, the shifting of the balance of the economy with the decline of heavy industry, and administrative changes. The book will also deal with the life and leisure of ordinary people and the changes in the landscape of town and country. There will be over 40 illustrations, some in colour and will illustrate daily life as well as iconic structures such as Newport County hall and the Severn Bridges.

The Titanic

This ship has been in the news lately as it is the centenary year of its sinking and there are special events around the country.

Gelli Groes Mill at Pontllanfraith has a part to play in this sad story because it was from the mill that amateur radio enthusiast Arthur Moore picked up what is believed to be the only land-based reception of the distress signal from the stricken liner.  

Monthly Lectures

The Ralph Robinson Memorial Lecture at the start of the month was a fascinating talk on ‘Conservation’ – a subject dear to the hearts of all our members and supporters. For a variety of reasons numbers were disappointingly low so please make a special effort to come along to the June lecture which will be given by one of our own members – Gail Ashworth. Details on the front page.  

Poetry Please

‘Ode to a Pill’

Little pill, here in my hand
I wonder how you understand
Just what to do, or where to go
To stop the ache that hurts me so?
Within your covering, lies relief
You work alone, it’s unbelief.
You sink in regions there below
As down my throat you quickly go.
But what I wonder little pill
How do you know where I am ill?
And just how do you really know
Exactly where you have to go.
I’ve got a headache that is true
My broken ribs need attention too.
How can anything so small
End my aches in no time at all.
Do you work alone, or have a crew
To do the good things that you do?
I’m counting on you mighty strong
To get in there where you belong
Don’t let me down and please don’t shirk
To do your undercover work.
So down my throat be on your way
And end my aches for another day.
Don’t take a wrong turn is my plea
I can’t take another ‘till after Three.
Vera Smith

Change in Hair Fashion

Years ago youngish men were devastated when they started to go thin on top, but now they purposely shave their heads.

Do you remember mature grey haired ladies had a blue rinse!! Yes, young girls dye their hair today in weird colours, but a blue rinse on an elderly lady seems ludicrous now.
The Roving Reporter 

Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal – 200 years old this year

The Act of Parliament required to build the canal was obtained in March 1793 and it provided for the making of a navigable waterway from Brecon to Pontymoile, where it would also join the Monmouth Canal which went to Newport. It also included permission for the building of several connecting tramways (horse-drawn railways).

Old Canal PictureThe canal was opened to Brecon on Christmas Eve 1800, thus connecting the town by water and tramways to Gilwern, Beaufort, Clydach, Glyngwerny and other surrounding industrial areas. Coal, limestone, timber and many other goods were brought up the canal to Brecon and goods taken down the canal included agricultural goods such as hay and vegetables as well as woollen and leather goods. Brecon’s old brewery shipped barrels of ale and porter (a dark brown malt liquor favoured by London porters) down by boat to the industrial valleys.


In March 1802 work started again at Gilwern and the canal was completed to Pontymoile in 1812, where it joined the flourishing Monmouth Canal, which ran to Newport (and the sea), with a branch going to Crumlin.

A full programme of events to celebrate this 200 year anniversary began in February and if you go on the internet you can readily access the busy list of events lined up at various venues including Llangynidr and Fourteen Locks at High Cross. One event coming up in June may be of particular interest. On Sunday17 th June between 10.30 and 5.30 the village of Llanfoist will be holding its traditional National Open Gardens event. This year you can travel from one impressive garden to the next not only on foot but also by canal boat! The day promises to be fun and with plants and refreshments on sale. Tickets from Llanfoist Village Hall – adults £5, children free.

More June Events

Sunday 3rd and Monday 4th June Abergavenny Steam, Veteran and Vintage Rally in Bailey Park, Abergavenny Adults £6, OAPs £3. As well as displays of engines and vehicles there will be a variety of stalls and family entertainment.

Saturday 16th JuneMedieval Fayre at the Tithe Barn, St Mary’s, Abergavenny. Turn the clock back and imagine what life was like centuries ago. There will be a selection of medieval themed stalls and events.

Saturday 23rd June - Classic Car and Vehicle Show 10am – 3pm at the car park off the Foundry Bridge, Abertillery. The event promises cars, motorcycles, buses, live music and fun for all the family.

What Happened to my School?

I attended Arrael School when it had a nursery and every afternoon each child had a canvas bed to lie down on. There was also a giant rocking horse which I am sure under today’s ‘ELF’ and ‘SAFETY’ would not be allowed. I went through every class at this school until we could, if we wished, sit for Abertillery Grammar School exam, which was called the ‘eleven plus’. This was during wartime, so when the air raid siren sounded, we all assembled in the lower region of the school, where Miss Annette, our school cleaner, gave us her living accommodation until the ‘ALL CLEAR’ sounded.

We all walked to school in those days and even had a drink of spring water which oozed from the green banks.

I have fond memories of my primary school days but sadly MY school no longer exists.
Alf Stone

Museum Matters

Work Placements







The opening letter is one of the many that we have telling us how much they enjoy working and learning with our volunteers. Some have joined the society and still come in on the odd day to work.

Our museum has often had work experience students but due to the unemployment we have now taken on placements, these are long term unemployed who have failed to obtain jobs. Not surprising as there are few jobs to be had and the constant applying for work with no result in some cases demoralises the applicant who then lose their confidence. At first it was the young people who came but now that has changed to the more mature long term unemployed. For the museum the placements are better than the schools work experience due to the fact that once they have learned the different jobs they become helpful, whereas the schools work experience only spend a few days which takes up time teaching them and then they go back to school.

Volunteer helping with a school group

They have ideas about the type of job they would like, one applicant has a Chemistry Volunteer SharonDegree, took a job “Shop Fitting” by night. As he said, “it’s a job with money. One young girl has passed all but one module in a Long Distance Lorry Driver this was searching her lorry for illegal aliens. Dale who has joined the museum applied for a pre-nursing course, he had to sign off the dole to do this and unfortunately due to lack of support for the course it was cancelled and he had to sign back on. He is hard working and interested in the museum and can be left in charge of the museum when needed. Sharon comes occasionally even though her placement is finished; her cheerful helpful attitude is a tonic for all who meet her.

We try to make their time in the museum as interesting as well as a learning experience; this is quite easy due to the many and varied jobs that have to be done e.g. 

Don with two volunteersDocumentation when Items are donated to the museum, (Entry Forms), Accessions Log, Card Index, and marking the artefacts with numbers, also safe storage and display.

Computerised records; the information is transferred from the cards to a data base. This programme “Catalyst for Windows” is specially designed for museums by the Modes Users Association and is a standard used by most museums in the country.

Comma Net is a photographic Archive programme developed for museums, libraries and archive groups.Photographs are entered onto the hard drive by means of a scanner; it allows names of places and people to be added to the photographs with a facility to enter text or a voice file telling the story of the Volunteerphotographs.

It can link photographs of a particular person that are on file moving from one to another. It also allows for Storyville, telling the story of a person’s place or object.



  • Welcoming visitors, working with school groups, disabled and Outreach groups.
  • Learning the history and the significance of artefacts on display.
  • Routine maintenance of the museum, installing new items in the museum.
  • General cleaning of the museum and organising storerooms.

It is heartbreaking seeing these people These are only a few of the placements we have had in our museum.
Don Bearcroft Curator

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