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May 2016
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Diary Dates

Ongoing – WW1 Exhibition in the Museum

Saturday 7th MayCoffee Morning

Date to be confirmedCoffee 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 

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.

Monday 13th JuneMuseum 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 contact Peggy Bearcroft to book your place and make your menu choice.

Saturday 2nd JulyAberfest 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 running a museum stall outside the museum.

Wednesday 7th September at 6.00pm – Ralph Robinson Memorial Lecture.  More details later

March 100 Club we had April last month

No. 4               Sue Smaile                   £20
No. 84             Corinne Taylor            £10
No. 101           Kath Price                    £5

Annual Dinner (lunch)

Please note that out of respect for the late Roy Pickford and his family this event will now take place on Monday 13th June.

Six Bells Pit Party                                    

This event, on Saturday 21st May should be fun  for all ages and the museum will be running a stall there in order to raise funds and to raise the profile of the museum.  However, we will need volunteers to help man the stall and transport the stall items at the start and end of the day.  Can you spare a couple of hours to help?  If so, please contact Peggy Bearcroft.
Get Well SoonMrs Mary Howarth has been in hospital after a fall.  We all hope you are soon up and about.

Fundraising April - £100


We were shocked and saddened to learn of the sudden death of Mr Roy Pickford.  Roy had long been a member of the Museum Society and had been a serving member of the Committee for many years.  He was regularly on duty in the museum and so he was a familiar figure to visitors and members.  Roy was always supportive of museum events and he was responsible for arranging several of our annual dinners. He also organised a number of popular coach trips for the Society in the days when our core membership was a bit younger and more active.  He will be sadly missed and our thoughts are with his wife and family. Don Bearcroft has written an appreciation of Roy in Museum Matters.

Local Voices

Mr Arthur Lewis O.B.E. enjoyed an article which Don Bearcroft wrote in his page 4 column some time ago, about Crickhowell.  Mr Lewis regularly visited Crickhowell and thought our readers might enjoy hearing about his visits there.

As a toddler during the depression years of the late 1920s, my parents would take me from Llanhilleth to Crickhowell – a trip that involved many bus changes.  At Crickhowell we would travel up to my Dad’s sister’s farm, managed by the Fishers, on the side of the Sugar Loaf above Abergavenny.

My father was good with horses and so he was welcomed to tend to the sick or lame farm animals.  Many were the times we spent haymaking and, when they were ripe, collecting whinberries on the Sugar Loaf.
Years later the Fishers moved to Markham for my uncle and two cousins to work in Markham Colliery. 

Many years later, when I lived in a tied house ‘Woodbank’ overlooking the colliery at Waunlwyd, it was a treat to drive up through Ebbw Vale, through Rassau and over the Common, down to Crickhowell to have a drink in the pub at the end of the river bridge, or picnic in the park.

Many years later, on Friday 11th October 2013, Crickhowell once again featured in my life as Abertillery & Blaina Rotary Club held their 75th Charter Anniversary Dinner at the Old Rectory Country Hotel, just across the bridge from Crickhowell.
Mr W. A. Lewis O.B.E.

Childhood Picnics

Mr Lewis’s article reminded me of the many times my Dad would drive us (my mother, my two brothers and me) on that same road over Llangynidr Mountain in order to have a picnic  on the mountainside looking over the glorious scenery below and beyond us.  We presumably had sandwiches and cake and my parents always made a fresh brew of tea using a portable gas camping stove that came packed in what looked like a blue biscuit tin, with a windshield incorporated in it.  That stove had lots of use – it came out on every picnic, whether on Llangynidr, alongside the river in Crickhowell, in the Forest of Dean or at Ogmore.  We were great ones for a picnic but those spots were among our favourites.
Jennifer Price


I was sorry to hear of the passing of Professor Geraint Griffiths.  I have a particular fond memory of him.  He was a customer at the garage where I was secretary and sometimes, while having a minor repair to his car attended to, he would come into my office and we would chat.  On one occasion the topic of Grwyne Fawr Reservoir cropped up and I told him of a book I had read of the village etc that built up while the reservoir was being constructed.  I told him I had loaned the book to someone but couldn’t remember to whom and the book hadn’t been returned.  I had tried to get another copy but was told it was out of print.  Some weeks later Professor Griffiths came into my office with a brand new copy of this very book for me.  I have never forgotten his kindness.
Enid Dean

“Make Do and Mend” price 3d

This booklet was produced by the Ministry of Information in 1943 and among its tips are how to look after garments needing special care, including your corset.


Now that rubber is so scarce your corset is one of your most valuable possessions.  Be sure first of all that it fits.  In particular, don’t wear one too small, as this stretches the rubber and puts too much strain on it.  Bones worn in the wrong place – either too high or too low – will break.  The greatest enemies of rubber are sunlight and grease.  Never let your girdle get really dirty.  Wash it frequently and, if you possibly can, have at least two corsets, and wear them alternately.  If you have one corset that you wear only on special occasions, wash it before you put it away again – in a cool, dark place, not in the hot cupboard.  Wear corsets over a thin undergarment, rather than next to the skin, so that they are protected from grease and perspiration.  Watch for the first sign of cracking threads, and mend at once.

Don’t pull or stretch your corset any more than you must.  A strong pull may be the quickest way of getting into a corset but it’s hard on the material.  Roll a boneless corset before you step into it, then unroll it over your hips.  If the girdle has bones or rigid supports, ease it gently into place, first on one side, then on the other.

If your corsets are back-laced or front-laced you will find they wear much better if you loosen the laces when you take off the corset, and tie the lacing afresh each time you put them on.

Gwent Historian

This was the title of the Journal the Museum Society used to produce and the following article is taken from Edition 4 in December 1974 (price 5p).

The Good Old days at Abertillery by Col. A.T.A Brown

“When we lived at Abertillery the death occurred of Queen Victoria and I remember our family going into deep mourning for her, and then we saw the accession to the throne of King Edward VII.

“Poverty and squalor existed in abundance not far beneath the surface of Victorian and Edwardian prosperity, but there was comparatively little of this in Abertillery which was enjoying full employment and phenomenal developments.  The wages of the working man were low, compared with the post-1945 period, but families were able to enjoy a fair standard of living with careful spending.  The system of payment in the mines for many years was on the ‘sliding scale’ principle, and at the end of each month an increase was awarded based on the profits of the previous month.  These in many cases took the form of a lump sum, and the settlement day was known as ‘Mabon’s Monday’.  This was generally a holiday for the collieries, and much of the bonus money was spent in the public houses and in the drapery and clothes shops.  The tinworks too was working regularly with overtime.  Tilney’s joinery works was booming through the demands of the developing building trade in the area.

“The general picture was one of prosperity, and consequently the town attracted many travelling shows and circuses.  Lord John Sanger’s Circus was a frequent visitor to the Tinworks Field, and Danter’s travelling amusements and bioscope came to Tilney’s yard.  This was the time when dancing girls performed outside the tent and music was provided by the automatic organ.  The films at this time were in their infancy and flickered considerably.  The best seats, to conform with the traditions of the music hall, were at the front.  There was a flourishing market-place with a large hall adjacent where the town balls and dances were held.  The Metropole was just a few steps away where plays, operas, and music hall turns were on the bill.  The old travelling theatre that put on the Victorian blood-and-thunder thrillers like ‘The Murder in the Red Barn’ was also a visitor to the town.  So there was plenty of entertainment and sporting activities to meet the tastes of the people of Abertillery” (from “The Way Ahead” published by the author, 26 Mornington Crescent. Felpham, Bognor Regis. 75p)

Monmouthshire Merlin 14th May 1836

“Monday May 9th Factories Act Amendment Bill”

Mr P Thompson, on moving the 2nd reading of the bill, said its object was to place the law as it stood on the 1st March, 1835.  After that period children under 12 years of age were restricted to working eight hours each day, and from 1st March, 1836, children between 12 and 13 were confined to the same hours.  His object, therefore, was to leave the law as it stood on the 1st of March last, and to permit children, after attaining the age of 12 to work twelve hours each day. By the reports of the inspectors it appeared that it would be impossible to enforce the law as it stands, and the opponents of the bill admitted that if it could be enforced, the consequence would be that all the children between 12 and 13 would be thrown out of employment.  He was not afraid to put the defence of his bill on grounds of humanity, and would affirm that it would be better understood humanity if children, who were up to the age of 12 restricted to 8 hours a day, were, after that period, allowed to work 69 hours a week.  He had consulted 48 medical men of eminence, indifferently chosen, of whom had given as their opinion that if the children were well fed and clothed the work would not be detrimental to their health.  The right hon. gentleman then alluded to the 10 hours Factory Bill, for adults, and said he would oppose it whenever, and in whatever shape it might be brought forward.”
Editor’s Note – The above is just a short extract from the article which can be read in its entirety on-line using the service provided by the National Library of Wales.

Bernard JonesMuseum Faces

Bernard Jones – Longstanding member and Treasurer of Abertillery & District Museum Soc.




Museum Matters

Obituary Roy Pickford

Roy PickfordLast month I wrote about the demise of “F” Troop, hard working volunteers some of whom are no longer with us. I did not dream that within a few days we would lose another whose hard work and dedication to our museum and who meant a great deal to Peggy and me.

Roy Pickford joined the museum society after we had been established in our new home. He became a committee in 2002, carrying out many duties, organising the Annual Christmas Dinner and many trips and visits. Roy was conscientious to the extreme. Everything had to go like clockwork for him.

The dinner place names were set out in the afternoon and everything checked ready for the evening. The visits he planned to the last detail, all of the bus times were set and Roy would be at the bus depot to give the driver his instructions before he set off. Roy worried about whether anything would go wrong but it never did.

Roy did his turn on duty in the museum when he also took the temperature and humidity readings and the duty Fire officer checking the emergency lighting. On the occasions when Peggy and I were away he arranged the duty rota. When visitors came into the museum Roy regaled them with his favourite topics, “Coal Mining or Rugby. If they did not know anything about them when they arrived they certainly did by the time that they left. That amount of attention is the reason why so many comments about friendly staff are in our visitor’s book.

I had more contact with Roy when I went out giving talks, Peggy normally accompanied me but as she had more work to do I asked Roy if he would accompany me, he agreed and he became a great help. The first visit he came on was for a museum talk at the Abertillery Salvation Army. As we were taking my props in he asked me, “What are you going to say?”
“I don’t know I replied I never do” he gave me a puzzled look. So I told him that it’s in my head and it’s only when I start to talk that it comes together. After he had attended a few events he began to realise what I meant.

 Once a new museum that was starting up asked me to give their members a talk on how we had achieved our new museum. It was too far for me to drive at that time so Roy took me in his car. We were introduced to their members and I was told there were a couple of councillors present. As I was talking a group at the end of the table began to look more and more gloomy and annoyed. Roy said “they don’t look to happy! No I said they must be the councillors. I was right!

On another occasion when my driving had become limited Roy and Sylvia took their car and we attended a lecture and tour of Grosmont Castle given by Dr Madeline Grey (now Professor Grey). Afterwards we had tea in the hall during which I tipped hot! tea over my lap. I tried not to let others see the stain on my white trousers by holding leaflets in front of me.
On our way home we put newspapers on the car seat to protect the cover; the tea which had been scalding hot when tipped now started to become ice cold, Roy always laughed at this memory.

These are a few of the memories I have of Roy his other friends will have many more.

The gap that he leaves in the museum ranks will be hard to fill. The saying that, “you never know the worth of water until the well is dry”. Is certainly relevant where Roy is concerned but those who knew him did appreciate what he did.

I would not be surprised that if there is a rugby match in heaven Roy will be watching or looking for a game, or even organising it.

Don Bearcroft, Curator

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