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July 2014
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Ash’s Shopfront Display

Our new display is open for business following the official opening in mid-June. The opening ceremony was introduced by our chairman, Peggy Bearcroft, and was followed by short addresses from Mrs Elizabeth Wiles representing the Ash family, Tracey Davies representing Biffa Award, and Don Bearcroft the Curator of our Museum. Mrs Ann Rossiter (Ash family) then cut the red ribbon and the display was open for business. We have explained the background to the new display in an earlier Newsletter. It was an event that was much enjoyed by the members and invited guests who attended the ceremony and the buffet afterwards. The Ash’s shopfront is a real asset to the Museum and we hope that the display, and the new Museum shop inside, will attract more visitors. We are very grateful to Biffa Award -  a multi-million pound fund which awards grants to community and environmental projects across the UK. The fund’s money comes from landfill tax credits donated by Biffa Waste Services and since 1997 they have awarded more than £145 million to worthy projects. Biffa Award funded most of the cost of the new display, but the Museum paid for the mural at the back of the shop and we are trying to raise £1000 to cover the cost. So come along to the Museum, visit the new display, spend some money in our shop, and perhaps also give a donation towards the mural. We look forward to seeing you.


Our June lecture by Pete Strong had the intriguing title of ‘The Murder of Kymin Bet’ – a tale of dark deeds in Monmouth in the 19 th century. The story itself was gripping but we also learned a great deal about life and policing and the justice system (or lack of it) in those times. It was a fascinating talk and we also had the opportunity to act as jury and come to our own verdict – a different one from that which the original jury had arrived at. The July talk at 2pm on Wednesday 2 nd July at Abertillery & District Museum in Abertillery town centre is entitled ‘Swan Rescue’. Non-members are welcome; entry is £2.

Fundraising for June £359.

Diary Dates

Wednesday 2nd July 2014 Swan Rescue by Ellen Kershaw

Saturday 5th July Aberfest Day (the Museum will man a stall in the town)

Thursday 24th July 2014 50th Birthday Buffet at the Museum (Members and invited guests only)

Wednesday 6th August 2014 A Brief Look at Vietnam by Jen Price

Wednesday 3rd September 2014 - The WW2 Blenheim Bomber Crash at Abersychan by Ken Clark

Wednesday 1st October 2014 – Introduction to Rag Rug by Jane Dorsett

Wednesday 15th October Into the Abyss, Gwent in 1914 by Pete Strong

Wednesday 5th November 2014 The Mysterious World of Bees by John Holden

Happy 50th Birthday to Us!

Our Museum Society is 50 years old this year. Who would have thought then that we would have the wonderful Museum we run today. It is an occasion to be celebrated and so at 2pm on Thursday 24th July we will have a 50 th birthday buffet. This event is for members and invited guests only – one of the many benefits of being a member of the Museum Society. We will have musical entertainment as well as refreshments. The afternoon promises to be very enjoyable so please come along and enjoy the food, music and memories.  

A Smile

A smile costs nothing, but gives much.
It enriches those who receive,
Without making poorer those who give.

It takes but a moment,
But the memory of it sometimes lasts for ever.
None is so rich or mighty that he can get along without it,
And none is so poor but that he can be made rich by it.

A smile creates happiness in the home,
Fosters good will in business,
And is the countersign of friendship.

It brings rest to the weary,
Cheer to the discouraged,
Sunshine to the sad
And it is nature’s antidote for trouble.

Yet it cannot be bought, begged, borrowed or stolen,
For it is something that is of no value to anyone
Until it is given away.

Some people are too tired to give you a smile.
Give them one of yours,
As none needs a smile,
So much as he who has no more to give.

Author Anonymous  

“Old Soldiers Never Die”

This is the title of a World War 1 commemorative event to be held at Salem Chapel in Blaina on Tuesday 5th August at 7.30 pm. The event will feature readings to remember Frank Richards of Blaina and author of “Old Soldiers Never Die”. The evening is being presented by Nantyglo and Blaina Town Council and Gwent Western Front Association. The presenter will be Steve Taylor and the evening will also feature Ebbw Vale Male Choir. This promises to be a wonderful evening. Tickets are free of charge but must be obtained in advance. Please ring the Gwent Western Front Association 01291 425638.  

£1000 needed

We need to raise £1000 for the cost of the mural in Ash’s display. Ideas welcomed, as are more volunteers!

100 Club June

No. 18 Renee Morgan £25
No. 70 John Selway £10
No. 73 Enid Dean £5

Welsh Memorial in Flanders

The year 2014 will mark the 100 years since the outbreak of the First World War. At least 20,000 men of first language Welsh perished and even more from industrial South Wales. Not a village or town in Wales was unaffected. Most of the casualties occurred in Flanders, especially Passchendale, where the 38 th Welsh Division, a brainchild of Lloyd George, lost so many including poet “Hedd Wyn”.

Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Ireland and in 2007 Scotland, all have Memorials in Flanders to honour and remember the fallen of those countries. Wales as yet has no such memorial but has launched a campaign for a monument which will take the form of a “Cromlech” – an edifice common to Celtic peoples including in Wales. It consists of three large upright slabs, with a large flat slab on the top surmounted with a large bronze red dragon. It will be inscribed “To all persons of Welsh descent who gave their lives here in Flanders between 1914 and 1918”.

Hanson Aggregates in Pontypridd have donated the stone and currently have three pieces suitable for the cromlech. Further pieces are awaited to complete the memorial which is to be assembled as soon as possible in order for dedication to take place on 16 th August 2014, with the Royal British Legion providing an honour guard of outriders as the stones leave the quarry.

The Welsh Memorial Pin shows the Welsh Dragon and the Flanders Black Lion, with a Cromlech in the middle mounted with a Welsh Dragon, and under the Cromlech are the words “Remember” and “Cofiwch”. The people in Passchendale and Langemark have donated a plot of land and will landscape it in readiness for the erection of the Memorial. Donations are needed to help ensure the Memorial is erected as soon as possible.

Please speak to Don Bearcroft at the Museum for more information.

Membership Campaign

We need more members (currently just £6 per year), more volunteers, more fundraising events. There are many benefits from being a member, including entrance to special events. Please join!

Welsh Miners’ Victory Gala Day

This is an outline of the programme for the gala day at Pontcanna and Sophia Gardens on Saturday 9 th June 1973.

Demonstration from the Civic Centre

Assembly address by Mr Jimmy Reid (UCS Shop Steward)

Presentation to Lodge Officials who have given 25 years’ service or more to the Union, and Sport Personalities. The founder members listed in the programme included:

John James Adams, 88 at the time. He started work at Cwmtillery Colliery on his 11 th birthday on 25 th September 1895 and worked until his 65 th birthday.

Alf Ball born in 1880 and started work at the age of 9 in the Henwaun Colliery, Blaina where he suffered a serious accident at age 16, fracturing both thighs. He later worked at Roseheyworth Colliery and left mining in 1922 following another serious accident.

Jim Minton born in 1882 and started work at age 12 at South Griffin Colliery Blaina for a wage of 12s 6d a week.

Brass Band Competition

Tableau competition

Gymnastic display

Seven a Side Rugby Competition

Jazz Band Competition

Five a Side Soccer Competition

Children’s Sports

Folk dancing

Selection of South Wales Coal Queen

Arts & Crafts Exhibition in Pavilion

The 1973 meet celebrated the 75 th anniversary of the formation and founding of the South Wales Miners’ Federation.

The price list for refreshments included:

Brown Ale 13d bottle

Gin 18d per tot

Tea 5d

Coffee 6d

Sandwiches 14d

Sausage rolls 7d

Were you there in 1973 or another year?

Letter from Clement Atlee, Prime Minister 11th January 1951

Dear Friend

Before Christmas the leaders of your National Union called on you to make a special effort to increase output and in particular to work on Saturdays. There was a fine response and I want to thank you for what you did then.

But I want to ask you to carry on with your effort right through the winter months.

We are still threatened with a serious shortage of coal. Apart from difficulties in our homes there is a real danger that industry may be slowed down. You will realise that this would mean unemployment for your fellow workers in other industries and hardship for their wives and families. It would also be a blow to our national recovery.

I am therefore asking you personally to do your best to help avoid this danger.

I ask you on behalf of the Government and of the country to go to work on every regular working day throughout the next four months, and to attend all the Saturday shifts for which your pit is open, or to work an extra half hour for five days, whichever is the custom in your district.

One final word, knowing you as I do I am sure that all of you will live up to the great tradition of your calling and provide the coal we need. The nation looks to you; I am sure that you will not fail the nation.

May I wish you and your family a happy and prosperous New Year.

Yours sincerely

C N Atlee

Old Remedies

The following ‘recipes’ were taken from the Tenth Edition of “700 Cookery & Household Recipes”.

Cure for Coughs and Colds – Equal quantities of onion, sugar and turnips. Slice the vegetables, put a layer of onions in a basin, cover with sugar, add turnips and so on until the quantity is used up. Set aside for 2 or 3 days, express the juice but do not bottle. A tablespoonful is a dose sufficient for an adult, and a teaspoonful for a child.

Embrocation for Rheumatism – Mix thoroughly ¼ pint each of turpentine, hartshorn, sweet oil and gin. Rub well in after a warm bath or when sufferer is sitting by the fire.


The legacy, June 28th 1960 

I started work at Six Bells Colliery in the first few months of the year after the disaster. The Anniversary always brings back my memories of my first experiences as an apprentice electrician of the mine.

When I first started I was taken by the electrical engineer to the plant maintenance office. To get there we had to pass electrical switchgear that had been used underground in the explosion district.

The engineer pointed to the metal cases called panels in which the switchgear was housed; it had white round rings painted on them, in the centre of which holes were bored. He told me that the panels had been sent to the scientific laboratories where gas had been forced into them through the holes and then it was ignited. This was to find out if they were F L P (flame proof) and would withstand an internal explosion without igniting any gas present in the outside atmosphere.

All electrical equipment including the armoured cables was tested to see if they were the possible cause of the explosion. The engineer proudly told me that all of the electrical equipment had passed the tests.

They were going to work the seam of coal in which the explosion had occurred and my very first job underground was in No 5 Pit where the explosion had occurred. I went with an electrician into the district where we were to make joint boxes on armoured cables so that they could be joined together.

We were descending the drift when we both stopped, not knowing why this part of the mine seemed darker to me. Bob looked at me and said come on and we carried on. As we came near to the place where the cables were we came across some workmen driving a heading for the new face. Telling me to wait Bob went up to speak to them.

The place where we were to work was through two air doors on an air bridge. These bridges are built to allow air to travel through the workings without short circuiting. They were designed to collapse in an explosion, this happened in the disaster stopping the explosion travelling through the rest of the mine. After we had worked for ½ hour making off the joint boxes on the cables there was a sudden violent bang. The floor shuddered under us, stones and dust fell from the roof. I was up on my feet running through the air doors, heading towards pit bottom. Bob eventually caught me and brought me down with a rugby tackle. He then told me that the men had warned him they were going to fire shots in their heading. He never told me.

Three men came out alive from the district; two were fitters who were having their food by an electrical transformer. They thought that the transformer had blown up. The other survivor was a wireman who I got to know after the disaster he never worked underground again. He was given a job repairing telephones and signalling equipment in a small building where he worked alone. He told me that he was also was having food in the 75 Horse Power Haulage sitting behind the haulage controller. His apprentice was working in the roadway erecting signalling wires and was directly in the path of the blast. He went on to say that when the explosion happened he could not see anything due to the dust, he crawled on his hands and knees feeling the tram rails as he went. He had no idea of which direction was out only a voice calling to him; eventually he came across a body who he knew to be his apprentice who was the youngest man to die that day. The wireman eventfully went to work in Ebbw Vale swimming baths.

The events of that day were ever present in our minds especially when the district was opened up and worked again. A methane extractor had been installed in the return road the 6 inch pipes used to carry the gas out had yellow bands with gas marked on them. Sometimes when the district electrician was away we on shift would have to take his place. I never liked doing this and found myself making my way out before finishing time. I felt ashamed of myself for acting this way and one day when I had done this I told the pit overman. You have nothing to be ashamed of, I have seen 6ft musclemen down on their knees crying and begging me not to send them into that district to do a job he said. I was never that bad just nervous of making a mistake.

Bear logoToday I would not be as afraid now as I am older with a much deeper faith which I found in the Salvation Army; at least I hope I would not.

Don Bearcroft curator

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