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August 2013
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Lecture Programme

The July lecture was on ''The Story of the Hero of Newport Docks Disaster'' given by Monty Dart.  The afternoon involved a superb film presentation supported by a more detailed explanation from our speaker. Monty Dart had researched the story of this 1909 disaster using information from local newspapers and records held at the National Archives at Kew. Her husband Tom Dart made the film using photographs from their own unique collection and from Associated British Ports Newport. The disaster involved a collapsed trench in which over 50 men were working, the collapse also causing wagons, engines and cranes to topple into the trench. The horror of the disaster can be imagined as also the difficulty of recovering the men trapped below the tangle of timbers and machinery. This is where young Tom Toya Lewis became the hero of the day as he was small and courageous enough to be lowered into a narrow space to reach some of the injured men. The talk was very well received and the Society look forward to welcoming Monty Dart back for another riveting afternoon.

The next talk will be at 2pm on Wednesday 7 th August at Abertillery & District Museum in Abertillery town centre. The August speaker will be Anne Gatehouse whose talk is entitled “Newport Transporter Bridge”. Please come along; entry is £2 and tickets are available in advance at the Museum, or at the door (subject to availability).

Fund raising July – £166

100 Club June

No. 88 Matthew Price £25
No. 110 Margaret Evans £10
No. 70 John Selway £5

Diary Dates

Wednesday 7th August Newport Transporter Bridge by Anne Gatehouse

Wednesday 4th September Garden Birdwatch by Mick Bailey

Wednesday 2nd October ( TBA) Robin Williams

Wednesday 6th November Stanley Spencer War Artist by Pete Strong

Special Offer!!!

The Museum shop will shortly be offering fossils and crystals for sale. These will normally sell at £1 each but as an introductory offer, for the month of August only, you can buy 4 for £3 – a bargain!

Pompeii and Herculaneum

These two towns and their history have been the subject of a recent exhibition at the British Museum. Past President Arthur Lewis O.B.E. sent a copy of his Church’s monthly magazine with an article written by the Minister following his visit to the exhibition. It is an interesting article and is reproduced below.


I have recently been to the Pompeii and Herculaneum exhibition at the British Museum in London. Not knowing quite what to expect, I was a little apprehensive to say the least, as I thought it would be beyond me, as other than the names and the volcano erupting, I knew nothing. I would not claim to know much now that I have been but the experience of being there is still with me, The Volcano erupted in AD 79 over a period of twenty four hours, sending up a mushroom cloud loaded with molten lava which formed and dropped its contents over the towns/cities burying them under 17 metres of pumice, The communities were lost for over 1600 years and work still goes on discovering what remains .

What really struck me was how similar their lives were to our own, but of course theirs were hard and harsh. As I allowed my mind to enter the experience, I could feel their closeness. Many of the houses had shops underneath them and so the streets were bustling communities of life just as London was with many visitors from all over the world adding to the sense of energy, life and creativity. One of the shops was a bakery, and there was a mosaic showing the picture of the baker and his wife. She was a fashionable and elegant lady and they had obviously done well in their business but most amazing were the loaves of bread that had been carbonised and thus preserved: that’s what you might call a WONDER LOAF. There were plans of how houses were laid out which was not SO different from ours today. The toilet was next to the kitchen sharing the same waste which meant disease was rife .

Coal mining in Indonesia

Mr Arthur Lewis O.B.E. (see opposite) was born and lived in Railway Street, Llanhilleth. He started work in Llanhilleth Colliery at the age of 14 as a collier’s helper but subsequently took on more senior posts and went on to become Manager of Six Bells Colliery. He also involved himself in charity work, including working in Indonesia with the British Executive Service Overseas where he helped with the development of coal mining. Mr Lewis’s local MP wrote to him recently to say that although mining ceased in one location in 2010, coal mining (including open pit) was still being carried out at two other locations. The work carried out by BESO was clearly more longlasting than some aid programmes we hear about today.

Poetry Corner


I sometimes feel you near
watching what I do,

But I cannot disapprove,
for you still influence me
to follow the right path.

Feeling you are real,
I turn expecting to see you,
But you are from my past
intangible, out of reach for ever.

Once you held my hand
Took me on your knee,
hugged, consoled, loved me,
Infused me with life spirit,
until vanishing left a void.

Your image will not age,
stored with good memories,
Though I walk with others,
I sometimes feel you near,
watching what I do.

Gordon Rowlands, August 2006  

Your Museum Needs You

This is a regular but nonetheless genuine request for volunteers to help in the Museum. There are lots of ways in which you can help and so there is sure to be something to suit. For starters, call at the Museum for a chat.

As Editor of the Newsletter I would also be grateful for your contributions – memories, poems, news items, articles. Many thanks.
Jen Price

Book Corner

Daffodil Girls by Kitty Dimbleby

Kitty Dimbleby is a journalist who has visited the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan. She is also the wife of an officer in the Army who has tours of duty in these war zones. Since her marriage she has lived on the garrison base at Tidworth in Hampshire. The 2nd Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers are based there. This is the story of some of the wives, mothers and daughters of the officers and men of this Regiment.

The ‘girls’ range from Amanda, married to a captain who has moved up through the ranks to become the Welfare Officer in the Regiment. Rhiannon, married to the CO of the Regiment, Kirsty newly married to a young Lieutenant and expecting her first baby when he leaves for Afghanistan.

Mandy is married to the Regimental Sergeant Major. Duringg her married life she has made homes on nine different bases, sometimes at home and sometimes overseas. She has seen him off on five tours of duty to war zones and during these times she has taken care of the wives of other ranks, organising ‘get-togethers’ and ensuring that their lives are running smoothly.

Sarah is the mother of a young private killed while serving in Afghanistan. The daughters include Megan at 17 and her sister Bethan at 15 who have moved schools so many times and left behind many friends. They are happy now to be settled so that they can complete their exams but they also worry about their father.

Siân is a daughter of the Regiment but is also married to a soldier with her own daughter. Her mother is also a ‘daffodil girl’.

Donna is married to Craig, a private in the Regiment; both are in their early twenties and they have a 3 year old son. Craig was killed on a recent tour of Afghanistan.

Clare, who was a serving soldier herself, is now married to the Regimental Welfare Officer. He stays at home when the Regiment goes to war but Clare is often called upon to assist in dealing with the problems of other wives.

These women tell their stories, the highs and the lows. The joy of the homecomings either for a short R & R (rest and recuperation – 2 weeks in a six month tour) or the final homecoming when the tour is completed.

The lows are when the men go away. The deep sadness when the news of a death in action is released and when the bodies of those who have been killed are returned. This affects the whole base even when the deceased soldier is not someone one knows personally. Many of the wives feel they must attend the funerals to represent their husbands who are still away.

These are some of the stories of a group of strong women who are proud to support their men and are as brave and dedicated as any soldier.

Kitty Dimbleby works for Help the Heroes, as do many army wives. She has donated the royalties of this book to the charity. As Max Hastings says in his introduction, this is an insightful, deeply moving story of the bonds of friendship and the indomitable spirit of the heroines behind the army heroes.
Jean Colwell  

Radio Times

You may buy this publication regularly, or just once a year at Christmas, but did you know it has been running for 90 years? First issued in 1923 when public radio broadcasting was still in its infancy, the magazine retains its name even though it now also covers television programming. The Museum of London is holding a free exhibition to mark the occasion. Who/what do you think has featured most often on the cover page? The answer is Doctor Who.

More from The Gwent Historian

More extracts from the second edition of the Journal of the Abertillery Museum Society, September 1973, price 3d.

Richard Hanbury, the most able of the pioneer industrialists in Gwent, was sent to the Fleet prison in London by Queen Elizabeth’s Privy Council in 1597 as the result of a prosecution for debt initiated by the Tintern Wireworks Co. Hanbury made a large fortune, and among other bequests he left money to enable debtors in London prisons to obtain their release.  

In the first years of its existence strict orders governed the personal appearance of members of the Police Force. In Monmouthshire, beards were not to be more than 2 inches long.  

Happy Birthday Don

Our Curator Don Bearcroft celebrated his 70 th birthday in July! It’s good to seeing you looking so well, Don.


Frightful Accidents

Tom 'Toya' LewisLast month’s lecture, “ The Story of the Hero of Newport Docks Disaster” by Monty Dart was one of the finest our society has ever had! Monty’s husband used the photographs and her other research to compile a DVD, the result was as good as any BBC Documentary. Monty used this DVD to illustrate her talk, her husband being a direct descendant of Tom 'Toya' Lewis the heroic paper boy.

Newport Docks DisasterBefore they left she gave me a copy of a newspaper report of an inquest for me to pass on to our members. November 17, 1853

I thought that it should be available to a wider audience so I have used it for this month’s page 4.

An inquest was held on Friday at the Odd Fellows' Arms, Abertillery, near Bristol, a hamlet on the line of the Western Valleys Railway, on the body of James Anstice, one of the engine-drivers on the line, who met with a frightful death by an accident which occurred near Abertillery a day or two previously. It appeared that the deceased, who was usually esteemed a steady careful man, on the occasion in question, had driven up an engine with some goods to Aberbeeg from Abertillery, and had started on his return. On the line in this neighbourhood are several curves and also a rather steep incline of about I in 54, and by the regulations of the company it was required that in descending the incline the engine-drivers should turn off their steam, and proceed at a pace not exceeding nine miles an hour. The deceased, however, forgot his usual carefulness, disobeyed the rule, and started off at 8 speed estimated at between 40and 50 miles an hour. The result was that in turning a curve near Abertillery, the engine ran off the line, drawing the tender after it, and ran into a lot of trucks on a siding, smashing them all to pieces. It then proceeded a distance of 80 yards along the line, and in its progress the train broke up some sleepers, and the sudden jerk in crossing them threw the deceased man, Anstice off. His head was literally cut in two, his abdomen torn open, and his intestines dragged to pieces and scattered over the broken trucks and about the line, forming a spectacle shocking to contemplate. The stoker and breaks man who were on the tender, succeeded in holding on, but their escape was truly marvellous.

The jury after a patient and careful investigation returned a verdict,—" That the deceased came by his death through furiously driving a railway engine."

Another frightful and fatal accident also took place during the week, on the same line of railway, to a policeman named Samuel Jones. The deceased, it seemed, at­tended the works at Dock-street, Newport, at a point where three lines meet. An engine had come down one of the lines, shunted in a truck, and then gone by the switches to another line for another train, and the deceased, unfortunately, crossed the line at a time when the engine was in motion, He was struck down by a truck, and got so entangled in the wheels that his body had actually to be forcibly extricated by means of iron bars, and, notwithstanding that he was cut in two almost across the belly, and his intestines dreadfully injured, the poor fellow lingered an hour in dreadful agony before he expired. The jury returned a verdict of “Accidental death,” and recommended that all engines crossing switches or crossing roads shall use their whistles!

Don Bearcroft Curator


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