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July 2017
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Diary Dates

Ongoing – WW1 Exhibition in the Museum

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

Sunday 23rd July Open Day at Clytha Park (themuseum will have a stall)

Saturday 9th September Open Day at the museum

SeptemberRalph Robinson Memorial Lecture  (date to be fixed)

New members wanted

The museum is keen to welcome new members. Membership costs just £6 per year and that gives you voting rights at the AGM, a monthly Newsletter and advance notice of events such as the book signing last month.  You will also have the satisfaction of knowing you are doing your bit to keep our community museum up and running.


Good items for sale on our stall at Clytha Park. Please bring them into the museum. We also need volunteers to help on the day.

June 100 Club

No.      96        Margaret Dyer              £20 
No.      88        Mathew Price              £10
No.      46        Mary George                £5      

Talk and book signing

The talk and book signing in June by art historian Dr Peter Wakelin was a great success. It was good to hear more about local artist Roger Cecil who died in 2015 and to see slides of some of his works held in galleries and in private collections around Britain.  Some of those in the audience had known the author and their personal memories added to the event as did the generous loan of some of Roger Cecil's paintings which were on display to complement those held by our museum.

Dr Peter Wakelin


In July 1979, my parents went on a holiday to Malta.  With them was my 16 year old sister, and good friends, Vera and Harry Smith.  Aged 19, I stayed at our home in Gelli Crug looking after an injured wild bird, but that’s another story.  It wasn’t the first time by any means that these folk had been abroad, but it was the first time they had gone self-catering, the first time via the substantially larger-than-they-were-used-to Gatwick airport and the first time, dare I say it,  without me to look after them!  A few days into the two week holiday, I received this letter which I still have to this day….!

9th July 1979, Flat 31 St Julians Court, Malta

Dear Sally,  I thought I could say more on a piece of paper than a postcard.  Well we are here but we almost didn’t make it! We arrived at the airport before Vera & Harry so we decided to check-in.  We were told to go through gate 19 opposite Lloyds Bank.  We we did this, as we thought, but we couldn’t see any number 19, so we had a drink while waiting for Vera and Harry.  They weren’t very long. 

Next thing, it came over the tannoy for 5 passengers travelling on Flight 884 to go through gate 19.  Well Vera and I went to the ladies, then Vera wanted to ‘phone her mother and finally did so after much difficulty, then I rang Brian. Eventually we rejoined the others.  Then for the umpteenth time, came the same message for 5 passengers and we were 5 so we decided to investigate.  Of course we discovered we hadn’t gone through Gate 19 and by this time the plane was overdue.  You should have seen us racing through – it seemed like miles – airport officials waving at us like mad.  They had these things like escalators only they were flat, I couldn’t run and jump on them like the others and was getting left behind.  Your father told me to jump on the blasted things only not quite so politely!

Well we finally got on board and there were people in our seats so the stewardesses had to re-sit those passengers before we could take our seats and all the time we were already taxiing to the end of the runway! Well when we arrived at Malta we couldn’t find our hired car, there were several Festa reps there but none were looking for Wayne or Smith.  Then one asked us if we were Doris – I thought he said ‘Tourists’ so I said ‘yes’.  This chap then took us to the flats but when we arrived we had the key for a family called Doris so we sat on the steps waiting for them to arrive but when they didn’t come the chap gave us their flat instead.
Anyway we finally went in and the first thing we did was make a cup of tea and your dad picked up his cup of tea and the cup fell to the floor and he was left holding the handle - we roared!

Although the letter ended shortly after this, the story of this holiday disaster did not!  When they returned home I found out that they very nearly set their hired car on fire after leaving newspaper in the windscreen in the hope of keeping the car cool.  My father had had reason to return to the car shortly after parking it to find the newspaper smouldering and about to ignite! One disaster averted - though the kitchen flat was not so lucky!  They returned back to the flat one day to find a note from the caretaker.  A ring on the cooker was faulty and did not turn off completely and they had left a chip pan on the ring…!  Needless to say the kitchen was black and the curtains destroyed! 

One last thing I must mention is that they frequented a bar run by a very miserable barman who rarely smiled.  Until, that is, one day Harry (who was only partially sighted)  knocked over a bottle of Pepsi.  The bottle proceeded to empty itself into Harry’s lap while Harry just sat there!  The barman couldn’t contain himself and roared out loud!

Malta holiday

Mother Betty, Sister, Alison, Vera and Harry, Malta 1979.  
Sally Murphy

Summer holidays

I remember as a child going on our annual summer holidays, just for a week and always to a resort on the south coast.  In those days (the fifties) we travelled by train - steam train - and our cases were sent ahead earlier in the week.  I still remember those journeys, my mother refusing to have the windows let down (remember the leather straps?) in case of smuts or, worse, in case I put my head out and had it taken off by a passing train. I also remember the scratchy material on the seats.
J Price

Book Corner    

In the light of the recent talk and book signing at the museum, this month we have to feature the book by Peter Wakelin entitled Roger Cecil: A Secret Artist published by Samson and Co, price £18.  This is the first full study of Roger Cecil, described as one of the great abstract artists of his generation, yet in his lifetime he was hardly known outside a circle of fellow painters. He was content to paint for himself, protecting his privacy and exhibiting rarely. If he did show his work, collectors rushed to acquire it. Among curators, he was a legendary figure. When his body was found after a police search in 2015, his death made headlines.

At art college in the early 1960s he was a star of his generation, but he walked out on a scholarship to the Royal College of Art and returned to practise on his own in the terraced house in Abertillery where he grew up. He devoted himself to painting, living simply and working as a casual labourer, opencast miner and art tutor while producing work of extraordinary beauty and sophistication. After his parents’ deaths the whole house became his studio. This book presents for the first time the extraordinary power and beauty of his work across his whole career. Comparisons can be drawn with great twentieth-century abstract artists but Roger Cecil sought to be – and was – remarkably uninfluenced. His reputation can only grow as his legacy is revealed.

Roger Cecil Book

Peter Wakelin is a writer and curator and an authority on art and heritage in Wales. He was formerly head of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales and director of collections at the National Museum of Wales.

Newsletters 1996

The Newsletters showed a full programme of talks and visits and a call went out for donations for Aberbeeg Hospital Fete in June (now sadly no longer held).  However, in May we announced that the rooms we used in the library for the museum displays and the lectures were to be taken from us and this is what we said: “Some of you may be inclined to fight the Council and seek to retain use of the Museum Room, others of you may feel that now is an opportune time to start afresh with new and bigger premises where Museum items can be more effectively displayed and stored. We cannot afford to be complacent, however, and in anticipation that we may well have to move, the possibility of other premises in the town is being explored. That way, we can establish more clearly what is (or is not) available and the costs involved, and feel confident that whatever decision is made at the end of the day is the right decision. This is your Society, now is the time to make your views known”.

Byautumn the business of packing up the collections to go into storage had started as we had to be out of the library by 30th November but we were hopeful of acquiring, with Lottery funding, new premises in King Street. A special meeting was being arranged to set up the Society as a ‘company limited by guarantee’ following which we could apply for charitable status. In the meantime we had a long list of fund-raising events and schemes ready to launch.

We were out of the library by November, the collection was in store wherever room could be found and we were running a mini-museum on Saturday mornings in the market hall. Who would have thought then that the market hall would become our permanent home?  A great deal has happened in the 21 years since our move from the library.


Have you looked at our Facebook page? You will find news of forthcoming events, photos and, a new feature, ‘Museum Object of the Month’. Please take a look!

New Acquisitions

The museum has recently been given one of the green glazed tiles from the fire station that stood on Castle Street from 1900-1987, now the site of Davy Evans Court.

Museum Matters

What is St Swithuns Day?

St Swithuns Day falls on July 15th every year according to tradition; whatever the weather is like on that day - whether rainy or sunny - it will continue for the next 40 days and 40 nights. St Swithin (or St Swithun) was an Anglo-Saxon bishop at Winchester Cathedral who died in 862. At that time Winchester was the capital of the kingdom of Wessex. He is believed to have been a trusted counsellor of Egbert, King of the West Saxons, and educated his son Ethelwulf who appointed him bishop. He was famed for his charity and church building. At his request Æthelwulf gave the tenth of his royal lands to the Church. Swithun made his diocesan journeys on foot; when he gave a banquet he invited the poor and not the rich.

He was made patron saint of Winchester Cathedral about 100 years after his death. Swithun's best known miracle was his restoration on a bridge of a basket of eggs that workmen had maliciously broken.while building a church. Swithin is derived from the Old English word for "strong" and St Swithin's symbols are; Raindrops and apples.  Apples still growing at St Swithin's day will ripen fully.

On his deathbed St Swithin begged that he should be buried outside the north wall of his cathedral where passers-by should pass over his grave and raindrops from the eaves drop upon it.                                   

More than a century later, on July 15, 971 Winchester monks removed his remains to an elaborate shrine inside the cathedral where pilgrims flocked, believing his bones to have miraculous healing properties. Legend has it that St Swithin wasn't happy about his body being moved. On the day of the removal, ferocious and violent rain storms arrived lasting 40 days and nights which apparently represented his displeasure. This story soon became folklore and now British people keep an eye on the weather on July 15. The superstition is expressed in the well-known rhyme.  

His body was probably later split between a number of smaller shrines. His head was certainly detached and, in the Middle Ages, taken to Canterbury Cathedral. Peterborough Abbey had an arm His main shrine was transferred into the new Norman cathedral at Winchester in 1093. He was installed on a 'feretory platform' above and behind the high altar. 

The retrochoir was built in the early 13th century to accommodate the huge numbers of pilgrims wishing to visit his shrine and enter the 'holy hole' beneath him. His empty tomb in the ruins of the Old Minster was also popular with visitors. The shrine was only moved into the retrochoir itself in 1476.

St Swithun's memorial shrine

Nothing remains of St Swithin's shrine which was destroyed during King Henry, VIII's Reformation but there's a memorial to him at Winchester Cathedral.



Rain on St. Swithin's day 'blesses and christens the apples'.





Is there truth in it? The Met Office says there has not been a record of 40 dry or 40 wet days following St Swithin's Day since records began in 1861. According to the Royal Meteorological Society there is a tiny grain of truth to it. The weather in the UK often sets into a pattern around now, which only begins to change from the end of August as autumn nears. It states on its website: "The middle of July tends to be around the time that the jet stream settles into a relatively consistent pattern.

St Swithin’s Day, if it does rain                           
Full forty days, it will remain,                                  
St Swithin’s Day, if it be fair,                                  
For forty days, t’will rain no more

More weather proverbs are: -                    
"Rain Rain before seven, fine by eleven".                        

The UK's rapidly changing weather caused by the westerly flow off the Atlantic, according to the Met Office. Rain early in the morning will have often moved on as midday approaches.

"Red sky at night, shepherd's delight. Red sky in the morning, shepherd's warning". 

Red sky in the evening indicates high pressure is on its way from the west, meaning good weather is approaching. Dust and small particles get trapped in the atmosphere by the high pressure and blue light scatters making the sky appear red. A red sky in the morning means the good weather has passed, and a low pressure system bringing rain and wind is Bear logolikely to be on its way.

Don Bearcroft, curator.  
(July 15th is my birthday.)


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