Ongoing – WW1 Exhibition in the Museum
Wednesday 28th September at 6.00pm – Ralph Robinson Memorial Lecture “The Archaeology of Upland Gwent” by Frank Olding
August 100 Club
No. 88 Matthew Price £20
No. 110 Margaret Evans £10
No. 29 Verley Phillips £5
John and Marge Selway celebrated their platinum wedding anniversary on 25th August. What a special day for them and their family.
Ralph Robinson Memorial Lecture
As you all know, we are unable to support a monthly lecture programme but we felt it was important to continue with the Ralph Robinson Memorial Lecture and we are pleased to have Frank Olding as our guest speaker this year. Frank’s subject will be “The Archaeology of Upland Gwent” and it promises to be an excellent evening. Those who have heard Frank speak will know that he is knowledgeable and enthusiastic and is easily able to convey that enthusiasm to his audience. Please come along, you won’t be disappointed. Why not bring a friend?
Concrete is a building material we take for granted but we have some notable examples of its use in our locality. Take the Foundry Bridge, for instance. This was the first pre-stressed concrete bridge in the whole of Britain. It replaced an earlier, more conventional, bridge built in 1896, the first bridge to provide a proper connection to the two sides of the valley. The new Foundry Bridge, built by Robert McAlpine at a cost of £41,000, opened in 1951. There are some evocative photos of both bridges on the Abertillery Online website.
Then there is the Dunlop Semtex factory in Brynmawr designed by the Architects Cooperative Partnership and Ove Arup and Partners and built between 1947 and 1953 at a cost of £800,000. The main factory building, now demolished, was the first to receive listed status after 1945, on account of the nine complex concrete domes over the main production area – innovative for its time and a precursor of the later Sydney Opera House designed by Ove Arup. The remaining structure, the old boiler house on the opposite side of the road, and also listed, is a very distinctive building with its barrell vaulted shell, but sadly derelict.
What is concrete? Basically it is just rubble mixed with some form of cement. A dictionary defines it a little more precisely as ‘a building material made from a mixture of broken stone or gravel, sand, cement, and water, which can be spread or poured into moulds and forms a stone-like mass on hardening’. There is no single ‘recipe’ and it was in widespread use in Roman times, comprising a mix of volcanic rock and lime, – opus caementicium.
The Welsh Cavalry
The Welsh Cavalry is known formally as 1st The Queens Dragoon Guards, or ‘QDG’ in common use. It is the ‘first regiment in line’ of the British Army’s Royal Armoured Corps with a fine tradition of illustrious battle honours, stretching back to Waterloo and more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their role is light reconnaissance, using fast, modern vehicles – currently the Jackal. Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, who is their Commander in Chief, regularly visits them.
QDG soldiers are recruited in the south of Wales, from Shrewsbury southwards, so the names Evans, Davis and Jones crop up regularly and soldiers are given numbers after their names, so the Sergeant Major can distinguish them on the parade square. Regimental tradition includes the eating of a raw leek each St David’s Day, by the youngest subaltern!
The regiment is made up of three squadrons each about 120 strong and is currently based at Swanton Morley in Norfolk. Cardiff Castle is their official HQ, where the excellent “Firing Line” museum tells the story of the Welsh soldier, sharing QDG and Royal Welsh regimental history. A visit is highly recommended.
Apart from seeing their families, QDG soldiers are regularly in Wales. Recently, they have toured the region in their vehicles and taken part in the opening of the Welsh Assembly, during which the regimental mascot made his first appearance. He is a magnificent mountain pony named Trooper Emrys Forlan Jones, pictured here with Farrier Major Miles Davies.
As it is a cavalry regiment, all QDG officers carry their own swords when in dress uniform, except when the Queen is present. Their uniform shoulder epaulettes are made of chain mail, a throwback to the days when mounted soldiers needed protection from sword thrusts. The swords are embellished and personalised, as shown here.
If you would like to know about the Welsh Cavalry, they have a Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/TheWelshCavalry and a search on the internet will also find them.
There is a town in Beaucaire in Provence with a number of dragon sculptures and images. It is the Drac which lies deep in the River Rhone, a monster invisible to human beings and able to change its appearance. The medieval legend says that the Drac kidnapped a washerwoman and took her with him into the river to raise a son. Released after seven years, the woman was left with a strange power – she could see the Drac! She recognised it one market day and the Drac responded by putting out the woman’s eye. There are processions each year to commemorate this legend.
Here in Wales we have our own dragon legends.
In North Wales there is an old hill fort known as Dinas Emrys. There is a legend that the British King Vortigen, who fled to Wales from the Saxons, tried to build his castle here but every night, when work stopped, the tower fell down.
A wise old man explained to Vortigen that a new building needed a blood sacrifice and added that the blood must be of a young fatherless boy. Vortigen’s men returned with a young boy called Merlin. Just as Merlin was about to be killed, he claimed that he knew the real reason why the castle kept falling down. He explained that beneath the ground was a deep pool where two dragons lived – a red dragon and a white dragon. They fought each night and the struggle caused the castle to fall down.
The red dragon, which represented Wales, came to dominate the white dragon, which represented Saxon England, with resulting peace. For a while anyway.
Mrs Enid Dean, long a contributor to this Newsletter under the pen name of ‘The Roving Reporter’, died on 3rd August. She had written up a couple of pieces for the Newsletter and here they are.
“Jobs I have had”
Just prior to WW2, while still at school, I went to work in a café in Aberystwyth. The owner was Italian and married some sort of relative of my family. I went and worked as a waitress in their café and lived with them.
War had just begun when I left school at 16 to work in the local Food Office in Carmel Street.
In about 1944 I left to join the Land Army as a tractor driver. I hurt my back starting up a tractor with a big sort of handle and was medically discharged. I then worked at Barrell Bros in Six Bells.
I married in 1946, had a daughter in 1948 and for many years devoted my time to looking after the family. In 1959 my husband, Bert, had a very seriously broken back as a result of a mining accident and he was unable to work for several years. In those days, until an industrial injury had been proven and assessed, all we had was normal sickness benefit. It was very meagre and so with Bert home all day in a plaster cast but, in time, able to walk about and keep an eye on the children, I took a job with The Provident. I had to go collecting money from people who had borrowed from the Provident. I did not like this work but it earned an extra small sum each week and was better than nothing. I also, thanks to my next door neighbour, did relief work in Smiths Sweet Shop. I worked there in the lead up to Christmas and on Saturdays.
Then, after Bert was able to return to work, I found a job in accountancy at Goodes the Printers in Somerset Street.
Following that I ook a job as secretary in Colliers Garage where I stayed until I retired about 30 years later.
Abertillery is a town full of places worth mentioning:
We have a fully accredited museum.
We also have a Victorian Metropole Theatre which is used for a variety of musicals, plays and exhibitions.
Don’t forget our lovely Arcade and pedestrianised shopping centre full of shops selling both traditional and unusual items.
Tucked away in a corner is an acclaimed (both nationally and locally) printers – Davies, The Old Bakehouse Print. As well as many well known books having been produced by them, I understand that some national firms have commissioned printing jobs there.
A park to be proud of.
On the downside, it is a shame we have lost the lovely old Post Office with its sorting office underneath.
This is something of which Enid Dean was fond and which, as a chapelgoer, brought her comfort.
One night a man had a dream and in his dream
he reviewed the footsteps he had taken in his life.
He looked and saw that all over the mountains and
that he had travelled there was one set of footprints;
but over the plains and hills, there were two sets of footprints,
as if someone had walked by his side.
He turned to Christ and said “There is something I don’t understand.
Why is it that down the hills and over the smooth and easy places you have walked by my side;
but, here over the tough and difficult places I have walked alone, for I see in those areas
there is just one set of footprints”.
Christ turned to the man and said, “It is while your life was easy I walked along your side;
but here, where the walking was h
ard and the paths were difficult,
was the time you needed Me most, and that is why I carried you”.
Sunday dinner was always a roast dinner. The meat that was left over was used in various ways, including rissoles. Here is one recipe:
Boil some potatoes with a little chopped onion
Mash the potato and onion
Add minced cooked meat (preferably beef)
Add a beaten egg and season with salt and pepper
Shape into patties and coat generously with flour on all sides
Fry in hot fat to brown the outsides.
Delicious, hot or cold.
OBITUARY MRS ENID DEAN
Whilst Peggy and I were on holiday we received the sad but not unexpected news of the death of our fund raising secretary Mrs Enid Dean, known to everyone as Enid.
I first met Enid when we attended the extra mural lectures arranged by Cardiff University given by Dr Madeleine Grey (now Professor Grey) this was in the old museum at Abertillery library. After I was elected curator the numbers attending these lectures increased. With the help of Mrs Ann Maund Abertillery Head Librarian they were held in the reference room it was then that I became aware of Enid’s immense knowledge and her dedication whenever she became involved in a project or organisation.
When we lost our home in the library in 1996 Enid was our Fund Raising Secretary and she threw herself into the job with great enthusiasm. Not only did Enid approach the local shops and businesses for donations but she also wrote to people who had moved away to ask them for help. Enid was full of ideas for fund raising events, Beetle Drives, Chinese Auctions, concerts, 100 club and her favourite was quizzes of which there were many and varied. Enid had many other ideas that were used. Peggy would go to Colliers Garage where Enid worked and they would discuss these ideas. Martin Herbert the boss would say when he saw them, “another museum meeting”! But he never minded.
Martin became a Vice President and his wife Margaret continued his subscription after his death.
There is a large amount of work required setting up events such as the Christmas or Summer Fayre. She collected and packed up the lucky dips, and helped to price the items for many stalls.
Enid was a strong minded person who held and stuck to her beliefs, donating to good causes, giving me small donations each week for the Salvation Army.
As I have said Enid was a strong minded person and it was inevitable with my temperament we would clash on occasions, it never lasted long as we both were working for and had the benefit of the museum at heart.
When I was given an award Enid would be one of the first to congratulate me and whenever I was ill she always asked after me and told me that I work too hard and should take it easy.
When Enid moved into the flat next to us Peggy would go next door and have meetings much like those they had at Colliers Garage.
Enid went into hospital when I came out and we were on holidays when she passed away, after we came home I could not get the idea that she was no longer next door, I still cannot!
Enid was one of a kind, a person who worked hard for good causes and was loyal to her convictions.
I miss her more than I ever thought I would.
Don Bearcroft Curator.