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September 2012
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100 Club – August

No.110 Margaret Evans £25
No. 45 Mary Roden £10
No. 96 Wendy Hill £5  

Fund raising August - £244

Best wishes in your new home

You will know from the last Newsletter that Peggy and Don Bearcroft have moved into a flat at Davey Evans Court. We all hope you will both be very happy there! Both work tirelessly for the Museum and we hope that more volunteers will make life easier and give them some much-deserved free time.

Mrs Enid Dean has also recently moved to the same housing scheme, and we hope she too will be happy in her new home.  

Diary Dates

Saturday 22nd September Coffee Morning (topic to be announced)

Monthly Wednesday lectures to be announced

What’s On?

The National Museum at Cardiff always has one or more special exhibitions to enjoy. If you receive this Newsletter early enough then you may wish to note that the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition runs until 9 th September. The photographs are stunning. If you miss that, then you can always check the website for the range of free events that are regularly on offer in the day, from music recitals, to guided tours of particular displays or a look behind the scenes.

Abergavenny Food Festival is on 15th – 16th September. This proves more popular each year with displays, demonstrations from top chefs, and all sorts of entertainment for old and young. Some events you have to pay for, but there are also some free events.  

Poetry Corner

“The Tump”

When I was young the old men sat
Up on the tump, we’d hear them chat
My old granddad, he was one
With his pipe out, in the sun.
Hankies knotted on their head
We gathered round to hear what’s said
Too old now to work the mine
No working clothes upon the line
But the stories that are told
Of collieries in days of old
Working in a three foot seam
Down their backs the sweat would stream
Explosions every pit had had
Talked about in voices sad
Back and fore from out the hole
Horses pulling drams of coal
Each generation seemed to say
‘Those boys don’t know they’re born today’
Horses came up once a year
Collier’s fortnight all would cheer
Barry Island by the sea
Or Porthcawl for you and me
In my throat I feel a lump I miss the old men on the tump.
Dagworth Orville Chambers  

Have you been to

Rowntree’s Chocolate Factory Village in York?

On a recent mid-week break to Scarborough, we were taken on a day trip to York. What a wonderful place that is. We paid for a professional guide to take us around on our coach. She explained the history of the Quaker area of York, where the man who gave us Rowntrees chocolate, built a factory producing chocolate bars of many shapes and sizes. One of the most popular chocolate bars made at the factory has been KIT KATs, of which millions are made every year.

He built houses for his workers with gardens, and our party were privileged to drive around this village. It was self-supporting in many ways. It had shops, a church, a hospital, doctors and dentists and also retirement homes - a retired worker left his house for the next worker and he himself went into sheltered accommodation. In this village of untold facilities there were no public houses because being Quakers their tradition was a ban on pubs.

This unique place is really worth a visit if you are anywhere near York.
Alf Stone  

Poor old Dandy

Who doesn’t have a soft spot for The Dandy! First published in December 1937 as ‘The Dandy Comic’, and aimed at both boys and girls, the notable difference between this and other comics was the use of ‘speech balloons’ instead of captions. It was published weekly until 1941 when wartime paper shortages forced it to go fortnightly, alternating with ‘The Beano’; normal weekly issues resumed in 1949. Desperate Dan did his bit for the war effort; he became a wartime hero in Britain, sinking German U-boats and fighting enemy planes with a peashooter.

In 1950 the comic changed its name to the rather more snappy ‘The Dandy’ and in April of that year it was the world’s biggest-selling comic with a circulation of 2 million.

The ensuing years saw the publishers introduce some changes to try and keep up with the times. In 1997 Desperate Dan temporarily ‘retired’ after he struck oil and sailed off with the Spice Girls. This news prompted uproar from fans all over the world and the publishers were forced to admit it was a PR plot to coincide with the comic’s 60 th anniversary. Over the years the comic absorbed other, less successful titles such as Nutty and Hoot, and introduced new formats including the use of glossy magazine paper rather than newsprint in 2004.

Britain has a rich comic book history and this was reflected by the special collection of Royal Mail stamps issued in March 2012, the set including a stamp featuring The Dandy. However, tastes change and sales of The Dandy have fallen to just 8,000. In August of this year the publishers announced that the last edition of The Dandy would be issued on 4 th December 2012.

The Beano, first published in 1938 has escaped the fate of The Dandy, at least for the moment. Desperate Dan was the lead character in The Dandy, while Dennis the Menace is the character most associated with The Beano. The publisher of both comics, D.C. Thompson, first entered the field of boys’ story papers in 1921 with Adventurer, The Rover, The Wizard and The Vanguard being issued in the 1920s, and The Skipper and The Hotspur in the 1930s.

In the 1950s comics aimed more specifically at girls came out, the leader being the imaginatively titled ‘Girl’, which was published from 1951 until 1964 when it was absorbed by the ‘Princess’ comic.

Early editions of comics, particularly those such as The Dandy are worth thousands of pounds so if you come across one in your attic, don’t put it out for recycling!

Electricity in the Aberbeeg Area

The ‘Gas from Coal’ works plant situated alongside Aberbeeg Road in the south west of the town of Abertillery supplied heating, lighting and cooking power to the town from the late 19 th century. Surrounding areas to the south like Aberbeeg and Llanhilleth were not so fortunate and it became necessary to await the arrival of electricity to serve these communities.

The early development of the industry was determined essentially by parliamentary legislation. The first piece of legislation was in 1882 with the Electricity Lighting Act, an Act often blamed for putting a millstone around the neck of the industry in that it favoured local authority ownership, stifling the more dynamic private sector. This Act established the rights of municipalities to develop their own supplies and enabled the Board of Trade to give local authorities preference over private companies if both applied for powers at the same time.

An 1888 Act established an initial structure in the industry which proved extremely difficult to change even though technical efficiency demanded it. Electricity generation came to be in the hands of a large number of small undertakings each with its own area of supply clearly laid down and could not go outside it. At the time this caused little difficulty as the principal system of supply was one of direct current generated by a slow speed horizontal engine and the effective radius of distribution of such a system was limited technically.

The favoured position given to municipalities meant that they came to dominate the industry in its earliest years but around the turn of the century developments occurred which challenged this position. The development of alternating current distribution, economies of scale in generating and increases in the use of electricity meant that the small scale undertaking was becoming increasingly inappropriate for future development. The Cross Committee reporting in 1898 recognised this and recommended that powers be granted to companies over large areas covering a number of local authorities. This started an important debate between small existing undertakings, mainly local authority owned and those trying to put into effect the ethos of the ‘power company’ supplying a wide area. Large consumers such as collieries often preferred to install their own generating plant and for this reason ‘power company’ organisations had great difficulty in getting their message across that their system would be more efficient and financially beneficial to customers.

The 1914 – 1918 War emphasised and made all too apparent the structural weakness of the industry and committees that were set up both during and after the war were unanimous in their condemnation of the state of the industry and stressed the need for reform. The result of this recognition was the 1926 legislation which established the National Grid in which Britain would become a single unified power zone with generation in the hands of a Central Electricity Board. The task of the Board was to coordinate production by concentrating it in relatively few highly efficient stations which were to be interconnected. The output of these stations was purchased by the C.E.G.B. at cost price and authorised undertakers could then demand a supply from the C.E.G.B. for distribution in their area.

Abertillery U.D.C was established as a statutory undertaker in 1910 and one of its early actions was to provide a power station to serve a fixed area in Aberbeeg and Llanhilleth. The plant was situated in Glandwr south of the footbridge over the River Ebbw and the original building remained until redevelopment took place recently. It was a self contained plant which consisted of a unit making producer gas and a gas engine to use it, driving a direct current generator. The gas is formed within this unit by passing steam and air over incandescent anthracite where the gas is produced by a chemical reaction between carbon in the coal and oxygen. Electricity cannot be stored so it is necessary to run the plant at all times when power or lighting is needed.

The Council formed an Electricity Department headed by Mr Dawson Thomas and a staff of electricians who apart from general maintenance also carried out wiring installations in houses and other buildings. An easy payment scheme was devised to cover the cost of wiring by an increase in the unit charge at the payment meter so that it appealed to most householders.

The arrangement was very successful and served the communities who had no access to gas and was only superseded by the more comprehensive service provided by the larger undertakings and the National grid.
Laurence Hale, April 2010

Something to read

Come Out Wherever You Are by Herbert Williams, published by Gomer price £7.99.

This is the story, now largely forgotten, of the escape by 65 German prisoners of war from a prisoner of war camp in Bridgend in March 1945. This dramatic account has been well reviewed.

Museum Matters


In the August Newsletter I mentioned that Davy Evans Court was named after Corinne Taylors father Davy Evans, M B. E. I also wrote that he was a member of Abertillery Urban District Council; this is wrong! He was a COUNTY COUNCILOR and also an ALDERMAN.

I apologise unreservedly to Corinne and her family and hope they will forgive my mistake.

I also hope that sometime Corinne will write a full account about her father who led a varied and interesting life.

Old TV setA new exhibit in the museum is an old television set which prompted me to write this article.. My first experience of TV was watching the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II on a television of this type at a friend’s house; I was not on my own as this short history shows.

The History of Television. In 1923 the Scotsman John John Logie Baird PhotoLogie Baird began developing a system by which television would be made possible In 1926 Baird enlisted the aid of Selfridges in London to put on public demonstrations of his equipment. In 1928 those amazed shoppers in the London department store were being invited to place orders for Baird's Television, with prices ranging from £20 to £150, on the understanding that they would be delivered as and when a service became available.

Baird's company was offered the use of facilities on London's South Bank. By 1932 the BBC allow regular experimental broadcasting. They offered Baird a studio in their newly acquired premises in Portland Place, W1. Studio BBC, Britain's first dedicated television studio, was housed in the basement of Broadcasting House, The BBC chose Alexandra Palace in Haringey, Greater London. Its position, high on a hill, made it the ideal place to place a transmitter that would cover all of London and many of its surrounding counties.

In front of camera was to be experienced Movietone News commentator, Leslie Mitchell, and female announcers Jasmine Bligh and Elizabeth Cowell were chosen from thousands of hopefuls who had applied.

"Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It is with great pleasure that I introduce you to the magic of television."

With those words Leslie Mitchell introduced Britain's first high-definition public television programme from Radiolympia. The date was 26th August 1936. Ronnie Hill wrote a song for Helen McKay called “Here's Looking at You”, which became the title of the show. Other Acts booked were, a performing horse named 'Pogo', The Griffith Brothers and Miss Lutie, The Three Admirals and the Television Orchestra, which had been hurriedly put together by Hyan Greenbaum. Baird and EMI transmitted the show from the studios to Olympia on alternate days. An estimated 123,000 visitors got their first glimpse of television in the viewing area at the show, with many more seeing it at Waterloo Station, which had been equipped with sets.

The next landmarks for the BBC came on, 12th May 1937, when cameras were sent to cover the Coronation of King George V1. The Boat Race (April 2nd 1938), the FA Cup Final (April 30th 1938) and Test Match cricket (June 24th 1938), were available to viewers in the comfort of their own homes for the first time. The next historic occasion to be broadcast on television occurred on September 30th 1938 when Richard Dimbleby was at Heston Airport to report for both radio and television on Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's return after his historic Munich meeting with Adolf Hitler. It was here that Chamberlain made his "peace in our time" announcement. A year later Britain was at war with Germany.

IT was taken off the air at the outbreak of war in September 1939, returning in June 1946. It was the only public television service in Britain from Alexandra Palace -which Gracie Fields had nicknamed 'Ally Pally'

The first ident,(Logo) nicknamed the "Bat's Wings".

This was an elaborate mechanical contraption constructed by Abram Games, which featured a tiny spinning globe in the centre, surrounded by two spinning "eyes", with lightning flashes to either side.

Old BBC logoThe launch of channel BBC2 saw the original channel renamed BBC 1 on 20 April 1964. On 15 November 1969, BBC1 began transmitting in colour; the event that did more to bring TV to the public was The crowning of Queen Elizabeth II on 2 June 1953. The most demanding television outside broadcast in its brief history, It was the Queen herself who agreed the televising of the event. Some 7.8 million people watched in their own homes, 10.4 million watched in other people's homes and a further 1.5 million watched in cinemas, halls and pubs.

The global appeal of British pageantry when Tele-recordings of the BBC's coverage were flown to the United States, where 85 million watched. German television relayed all 11 hours of the BBC's coverage, and a million people in France picked up the BBC pictures.
Don Bearcroft

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