Six Bells Pit Disaster Memorial Day
The fiftieth anniversary of this tragic event is on Monday 28 th June when the new Memorial will be unveiled at the pit site. The whole day will be given over to various commemorative events as you will see on page 3 of the Newsletter.
The Ralph Robinson Memorial Lecture this year was given by Chris Barber who gave an impressive illustrated talk on Owain Glyndwr – now there’s a man with a lot of history, far too much to précis here but Chris has written a very useful book on the subject and so you may wish to turn to that. We are sorry to have to announce that the monthly lecture programme is to be discontinued, at least for a year or so, other than for the annual Memorial Lecture. We just aren’t getting enough people coming along to cover the cost of the room and the speaker. It’s a decision which will be reviewed but it is a necessary one for the moment. We are very grateful to Marge Selway who has arranged such a varied lecture programme over the years. The 100 Club will continue and new arrangements will be made for the monthly draw so please continue to support us.
No. 55 Judith Jones £25
No. 61 Glenys Lee £10
No. 51 Janet Pickford £5
No. 31 Margaret Gilson £25
No. 59 Ray Jones £10
No. 50 Bernard Jones £5
Monday 28th June 2010 – Six Bells Disaster Memorial Day at Six Bells and the Museum
Saturday 3 rd July 2010 – WW2 Children’s Street Party for Aberfest
Please call at the Museum for more information or watch the Newsletter for coffee mornings and other events.
The Museum will once again be laying on a WW2 children’s street party for this year’s Aberfest on Saturday 3 rd July. As ever, volunteers are needed so please see Peggy or Don if you can help with this fun event.
Fund raising May 2010 - £438
We raised £120 at the coffee morning last month. Margaret Gilson’s cake decorating skills proved a big draw and we are very grateful to her for giving up her time. The raffle raised another £123.
Rolls of Monmouth
Monmouth Museum has a display on the story of Charles Rolls to mark the centenary of the death of this motoring and aviation pioneer.
The used books we have for sale are regularly recycled and so we thought it was time for a clean sweep and the introduction of fresh stock. If you want any of the books now on the shelves, this is your last chance. Can you please help with bringing along fresh supplies of used books?
Wanted - secretary
Dennis Roles has been unable to continue as secretary and so we are looking for someone to step into his capable shoes, if only until a more permanent appointment can be made at the AGM in November. The post involves looking after correspondence but it’s not particularly onerous or time consuming and so if you think you can help, please speak to Peggy or Don.
This will be on Tuesday 10th August at 6.30pm at the Museum.
Discovery tour of central France
If you are interested in the churches, cathedrals and holy places of interest in Central France (starting in Paris, then going on to the Auvergne) then you may be interested in a coach trip which will be taking in some of the more well known sites such as Notre Dame in Paris, as well as some less known, but equally dramatic places such as the volcanic town of Le Puy, and the largest Norman Church in the Auvergne which is to be found in Brioude. As well as visiting religious buildings, you will have an opportunity to experience the culture, traditions and tastes of this beautiful part of France. The cost of the week long holiday, starting on 12 th September, is £599 which includes full board, accommodation, entrance fees, luxury coach, and the services of a courier and tour guide. The Managing Director of the company is a regular visitor to Wales and if you’d like more information please ring Suzanne Allen on 07528 609331 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
‘The Front Room’
I remember up the valleys
Perhaps you too would know
The front room was a special place
Where children couldn’t go.
On the floor a carpet
And brand new three piece suite
China in a cabinet
And things were always neat.
A fancy lace edged tablecloth
Upon the table lay
And even scatter cushions
Just waiting for the day.
A visit from an auntie
Unlock the front room door
Now you kids stay out of there
No mud upon the floor.
Dressed up in our Sunday best
Not yet allowed in there
The old man’s pot of Brylcreem
Was used upon our hair.
Then bone china tea set
Upon the table lay
In would come our auntie
And tea would soon be made.
Sandwiches cut edge to edge
And everyone polite
Sausage rolls and cream cakes
Soon would come in sight.
You had to be so careful
A saucer on your knee
I’d prefer my old green cup
It always suited me.
Down the road with auntie
And put her on a bus
Knowing in a month or two
We’d have the same old fuss.
With the visit over
Cleaning then took place
Door was locked and front room
Disappeared without a trace.
Dagworth Orville Chambers
Six Bells Pit Disaster Memorial Day - Monday 28th June 2010
Our Museum will be open that day between 2.00 and 5.00 p.m. but we need volunteers so if you can spare a little time to help, please contact Peggy or Don at the Museum. Don is arranging a display and a memory board and we hope to have a copy of the Lowrie painting of Six Bells which presently hangs in the National Museum in Cardiff.
On that same Monday there is a full programme of events following the service at the new memorial at Six Bells. The morning will be given over to a service and the opening of the new memorial, while the afternoon will take on a lighter note as you will see below. The timetable for the day is roughly as follows (please check nearer the time):
Opening service - middle plateau
10.15-10.30 Band music
10.30- 11.15 Memorial Service
11.15 - 11.30 Memorial visit and choir music
Pit party element - lower plateau, 11.30 onwards:
• Tea tents and music
• Children and youth activity areas
• Story telling tents
• Tours of colliery site
• Tours of Ebbw Fach Trail and cycle path
• Heritage bus tours in the locality
• Victorian Fayre
• Themed marquees
• Community centre
• Art displays
• Bethany - area for contemplation, memorial book, family tree/history research.
The five marquees will focus on the following themes:
• Food including tastings and displays
• Environment - demonstrations and hands on
• Heritage - information, replica mine to experience, displays from various museums including our own museum, films, art work, poetry etc
• Crafts - demonstrations and participation with wood carving, spinning and weaving, clog making, pottery, Welsh love spoons
• Memorial Story - exhibitions etc Other stalls will include an artist, Owl sanctuary, cycle tours, Territorial Army, 1960s vehicles and clothing. Our Museum will have a stall and we will be selling a CD of photographs relating to the Six Bells explosion - price £3.
These events will be taking place throughout the day and so there will be something for everyone -an opportunity to remember those lost and injured that day, and the way the community offered and still offers support to those affected. In 1960, the colliery employed over 1400 men of whom over 1200 worked underground.
The Memorial, popularly known as the 'Guardian of the Valleys', will consist of a 12.6m high statue of a miner of that era standing upon a 7.4m high sandstone faced plinth. The name, age and occupation of each of the 45 disaster victims has been laser cut into the corten steel band that surrounds the plinth. The memorial will tower 20m above the former Six Bells Colliery site.
SIX BELL MINING DISASTER
This month June 28th is the 50th Anniversary of the Six Bells Mining disaster. To commemorate this new memorial will be unveiled on the colliery site, the museum is taking part in this and also putting on an exhibition of photographs with peoples memories of that time. Here are some extracts from these reminiscences
On the 28th June 1960 I was the surveyor in the Marine Colliery, Cwm, with my office at Kendon Road, Crumlin. The devastating news that an explosion had occurred at Six Bells Colliery was phoned through to us. All the members of the survey department immediately volunteered to do what they could to help and within an hour we were all at Six Bells Colliery Office.
There were crowds of people, men and women, some with children, at the Pit Head. With a number of Rescue Teams on site, some already down the pit. Everything seemed so organised. We reported to the Central Control Room and given our instructions.
A large number of plans were provided to various people in the rescue teams etc. each plan showing the system of underground ventilation before the explosion occurred. I was given a small office in the main building. As the rescue teams came up the pit, the team leader would report in and indicate to me on the plan where each casualty was found underground telling me the lamp number of each one. At the time I didn’t have any names although I did think there was the possibility that a lot of my friends and work mates were involved, those whom I knew from my early days when I worked at Six Bells Colliery. I found out later that this was the case. When the ventilation was restored satisfactorily, it was decided to organise teams of surveyors to collect all the relevant information underground for the eventual enquiry.
Teams were organised for the underground work and teams of plotters and draughtsmen in the office to make the various plans needed. Three shift work was organised. I was a member of one of the underground teams, each team under the direction of an Inspector of Mines. My first shift underground was an unbelievable experience seeing conveyor belting thrown around like toilet paper and the sides of the roads covered with fine carbon dust, even metal labels had melted off the fire extinguishers. The force of the explosion had dislodged parts of the conveyors and other bits of equipment, debris seemed to be everywhere. It made me realise how dangerous mining work was. It took at least two weeks working three shifts to gather the underground information, each shift passing on the information to the next shift in the office. After which we returned to our own collieries.
Bernard Jones Mining Surveyor
It seemed as if all the neighbours were out wondering what had happened. I think everyone was stunned but did not know any details at the time. I was then anxious waiting for my husband to come home from Cwmtillery Colliery. I think when learning the next day of the terrible loss of lives, I really appreciate the dangers of working in the collieries. There had been accidents and deaths before but I think the enormity of this certainly affected deeply and made me more anxious for my husband. We heard the next day that my mother’s cousins were in the colliery that day.
One was killed (Sidney Moor), my friends father (Fred White who was the Under Manager was also killed).
The sun was shining, and having a four year child, a walk to the park and a visit to Nan’s house in Blythe Street was on the cards.
The visit over we started to walk back to Blaenau Gwent via Bishop Street and Stewarts Lane. Half way across Bishop Street the door of my Grandfathers house opened, rushing into the Street he was distressed because he had just heard the news that there had been an explosion in the colliery and two people were killed. He had worked in Six Bells Colliery until he was 72 He mentioned the names of Dennis Lane and Mr. Fred White the under manager both of whom I knew ,it seemed that the sun had gone in.
Stories were told later of men like my cousin Len who was on a warning for being late and living in Swffryd he had got up in time for the bus but the bus was early so he wasn’t in work. Of Don Powell who was changing to go underground when Roy Brown told him he had to go down so don’t change because he could do what Don had to do. Roy was killed in the disaster. My thoughts of the morning that God is in his heaven and all is right in the world had changed to “What a price to pay for Coal”.
My first job underground at Six Bells was to go with an electrician into the explosion district where new armoured cable was being installed. Our job was to make off two Junction Boxes to join them together. The under ground roadway, seemed darker and quieter than most roads. The old armoured cable was burnt and chard, there were chalk marks on the ring supports; where the victims were found. We came across some men working in a hard heading, driving a new road; the electrician went to speak to them, as we left one of the men shouted after us. “Don’t come back out with red hair”. (This was a reference to pigmentation of hair and skin by carbon monoxide gas). We gave him a suitable miner’s reply. We arrived at the place where the cables were and set to work, after quite some time when we were engrossed in what we were doing there suddenly came a loud bang, the roadway shook the ground rose beneath us, dust and stones fell from the roof. I jumped to my feet running as fast as I could.
Eventually the electrician who I was with caught me and brought me down with a rugby tackle. He told me the men working in the heading had informed him that they were going to fire some shots in the rock. Where we were working we were on an air bridge over the road the men were working and we would feel the effect of the shots being fired. (These air bridges were designed to collapse in the event of an explosion). One such air bridge did this in the disaster district this prevented the explosion going through the rest of the mine causing even more death and destruction). The electrician had not told me as he wanted to see my reaction. Anyway you can’t out run an explosion he said. I would have a dam good try! I replied after that we both saw the funny side and started to laugh.
Don Bearcroft Mining Electrician