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Dates for your Diary

Saturday 28h SeptemberCoffee Morning - Victorian & Edwardian Children’s Clothes

Saturday 9th NovemberCoffee Morning – Remembering Remembrance Day

August 100 Club

No.  54            Gareth Murphy                       £20
No.  45            Mary Roden                           £10

If you would like to join our 100 club and be in with a chance of winning, it costs just £1 a month. Ask at the museum for further details.

At the recent Abertillery ‘Party in the Park’, the museum stall did well, raising over £100.  Thanks to everyone who came along and supported us.

Reverend Roy Watson

The Museum Society would like to wish the Rev Roy Watson a long, happy and healthy retirement.  He has served fifty years in the ministry, twenty-three of these in the Abertillery & District Circuit.  Roy has also been a minister for the museum for many years and has given his support in many other ways including becoming a Vice President and giving talks to the society.  We are pleased that Roy is happy to continue to be our minister for the foreseeable future.

Last month we said a sad farewell to long-standing volunteer, Judith and her husband.  She has sent me this message to share with you…

I am writing from a very stormy Swansea to thank everyone in the museum. Thanks to all those involved in my goodbye cream tea, those who did the preparing, those who came (more friends than l realised) and those who were unable to attend but sent their good wishes. I was overwhelmed by it all and your kind gift that is to get us a bench to enjoy our garden from.

Although we knew we were downsizing we brought far too much stuff. We are keeping the charity shop going and we still have boxes everywhere. I don’t think the car will ever see the inside of the garage.

We are finding our way around our new area and will settle in but we do miss all our friends in Abertillery and still call it home. It is such a boon with the internet magazine we can keep in touch.

Thank you all. Look after yourselves. Keep up the good work in the museum. It is a very special place. 
Judith and Alan

There’s Rosemary Update

Since last month, I have been contacted by two more readers, one of which was Jean Colwell who wrote… 

There's Rosemary bookI also have a copy of ‘There’s Rosemary’.  It belonged to my mother who was a teacher at Llanhilleth Infants School in 1969 when it was published by Monmouthshire County Council. I also have a copy of ‘No Seville Oranges’ which is also a collection of poems written by children in Monmouthshire Schools.  This collection was published three years earlier in 1966, also by the County Council.  It contains poems written by pupils at Abertillery Boys & Girls Junior Schools and Abertillery Grammar School.

I also heard from reader Pete Stroud, who told me that he had his poem published in the 1969 book and he has kindly given me permission to reproduce it here…


Children like playing with sand,
Playing with war,
Playing at war,
Playing with guns,
Playing with grief,
Playing with despair,
Children playing with war,
A game.
But they grew up.
They came to see
War is no game,
Or a game of hate,
It’s a game of real people,
Silent people,
Shouting in agony people,
Haven’t got time to shout people,
No chance to shout people,
Shouting people.
What a game, people!

Pete Stroud
Ebbw Vale Grammar School (1969)

Many thanks to both these readers for getting in touch and the existence of an earlier book by Monmouthshire pupils is certainly news to me.  Not even the museum has a copy though I have located one for sale on Ebay!  If any other readers have any more to add, please do get in touch.  Email me at

Staying on the subject of poetry written by children, teacher Jane Broadis put this clever poem on Facebook.  Written by a pupil in her year 6 class (known only by the initials AO), its meaning changes to the complete opposite when read from the bottom up…


I am stupid
Nobody would ever say
I have a talent for words
I was meant to be great
That was wrong
I am a failure
Nobody could ever convince me to think that
I can make it in life

But if you read from the bottom up…
I can make it in life
Nobody could ever convince me to think that
I am a failure
That was wrong
I was meant to be great
I have a talent for words
Nobody could ever say
I am stupid

Stay Safe On-line

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) have produced a free online training package for staff to increase their cyber security knowledge.

It is easy to use and takes less than 30 minutes to complete.  It is aimed at staff working in small to medium sized enterprises, but has excellent cyber security advice useful for day to day online safety as well as in the work place.  Click here to access the course.

Wish you were here…’

The History of Postcards

There was a time when, especially during the summer months, postcards from friends and family would regularly drop on your doormat, telling you what a great time they were having on holiday.  Sadly, it seems those times are now long gone but how did postcard sending first start?
The very first card (a plain one apparently) was sent as a bit of an experiment by someone to himself in London in 1840 but it wasn’t until 1870 that Germany got the ball rolling with an official tariff and so forth. Austria followed suit the next year and before long the trend spread to many other countries.

In 1894 British publishers were given permission by the Royal Mail to manufacture and distribute postcards which could be sent through the post.  In 1899 the size was standardised to 5.5 x 3.5 inches and in 1902 came the introduction of the ‘Divided Back’ with one section for a message and one for the address. Until then the message was simply squashed in somewhere, sometimes on the front of the card.

The well heeled and well travelled were, by the late 19th century, great users of postcards to show family and friends their holiday or travel experiences. Early postcards were prints from lithographs or woodcuts and the market expanded once photography came into its own and allowed relatively cheap prints to be made. As the railways expanded, travel became more accessible and cheaper and with seaside towns a popular destination, postcards then really came into their own and the demand for seaside postcards rose.

Who can think of seaside postcards without thinking of those saucy ones? We have all seen them, all chuckled over them, but how many of us have sent one? Hands up!

Can you believe that in the early 1950s the government thought these postcards were contributing to the moral decline of the country and there was a big crackdown.  You certainly don’t see many of them on sale now but they are highly collectable.

Postcard collecting is said to be the third most popular collectable hobby in the world! Did you know it is called deltiology?  Postcards are difficult to just throw away but sometimes we have to have a clear out even though maybe we are depriving others of the pleasure of their discovery.  Kath Taylor, who sometimes writes for our Newsletter, said that when sorting through her attic a few years ago she came across some boxes which had belonged to her father and they were full of postcards – she said it was fascinating to look through them.

We all enjoy receiving postcards although I am sure many fewer are sent nowadays with email and Facebook and the like being used instead. But there is something magical about getting a card in the post, looking at the view on the front then turning it over to see who it is from. And how often do you look at the picture and think ‘Now who can that be from’ before actually turning the card over to find out?  Sending them can sometimes be less easy as you search for that perfect card, try and find something to say other than “Having a lovely time here in ….” And then trying to find a post office because you’d forgotten to buy stamps in advance.  Happy days!

If you are a collector of postcards, the museum gift shop has a number of cards for sale of not only exhibits within the museum but also of things in and around Abertillery such as the old Abertillery Train Station and Six Bells Colliery.  Do pop in and have a look.

cwmtillery lakes postcard

Postcard of Cwmtillery Lakes, just one of a number of postcards on sale in the mueum’s gift shop.
Jen Price


‘Water, water everywhere nor any drop to drink’.  Maybe you  recognise this line from the famous poem, The Ancient Mariner, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.  Perhaps you studied  it at school.

The lines of this poem also caused  me to think about The Grwyne Fawr Reservoir nestled high up in the Brecon Beacons the dam of which was begun in 1912 and, following a pause in proceedings during WWI, was completed in 1928 to provide clean water for Abertillery and the surrounding areas.  There was a massive population increase as a result of the steel and coal industries and a supply of fresh water was desperately needed.  The Grwyne Fawr Valley is 1725 ft above sea level and was high enough to allow water to be gravity fed over 20 miles through a tunnel in the Coity Mountain to a holding reservoir at Cwmtillery.

If you visited the Grwyne Fawr Reservoir today you would have no idea  there were once over 400 men, women and children living there.  It’s a remote spot even now, but a village of construction workers and their families grew in the valley of Blaen-y-cwm.  There was a hostel, canteen, day school police station and hospital.  The only sign of previous habitation are the cement bases of what would have been some of the village buildings.

In addition about twenty men travelled over the mountain from Talgarth, a two hour walk, to work at the site.  They would work a hard ten hour shift quarrying the stone and then return home again over the mountain - a long, exhausting day by anyone’s standards!

The  seven mile road, specially laid up the valley, was unable to take the weight of the traction engines used for haulage so a railway was constructed to the side of the road and connected to the main line at Llanvihangel Crucorney.  Driving the locomotives up the road’s steep incline to the Grwyne Fawr dam  required considerable skill and apparently the engines and trucks derailed on several occasions.  A small tunnel was built into the wall of the dam through which the locomotives and trucks could pass.  A quarry inside the confines of the dam provided the stone for its construction.

The opening ceremony for the dam was arranged for 10th February 1928.  Over 300 people travelled to the top of the Reservoir in two trains.  Many local dignitaries attended, and an evening dress dinner at Abergavenny Town Hall brought a fitting end to the proceedings.

Today, Abertillery gets its water from Cwmtillery Reservoir and another reservoir near Tredegar but when you next turn on the tap or fill the kettle, spare a thought for those past residents of Blaen-y-cwm and all the efforts of the men who toiled to build the Grwyne Fawr Dam (pictured below and which is no longer in use) so that Abertillery could have a water supply.
Kath Taylor

Cwmtillery Reservoir

Photo by Martin Wilson, CC BY-SA 2.0,


The app that could save your life!

Police and the emergency services are urging everyone with a smartphone to download the What3words app.  This app uses a unique three-word address to identify the users position anywhere in the world!  It is accurate to within 10 square feet and has already been used successfully by Humberside Police to locate and rescue a person from a hostage situation and by South Yorkshire police to locate a man who had fallen down a railway embankment and these are just two instances of many.  So far 35 English and Welsh emergency services have signed up to the system.  This app, founded by Chris Sheldrick of Hertfordshire, will revolutionise  search and rescue so download today!

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