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October 2012
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29th October at 6.30pm

Please note this date in your diary and please come along. This is an opportunity to hear what has been happening in the Museum, including the work that goes on behind the scenes, and an opportunity for questions and to talk about what is envisaged for the forthcoming year. We have lost a number of valued members, including Officers, over the last year and so we will need to fill those posts. We need, in particular, a Secretary, Programme Secretary, and an Events Secretary. Can you help? Do you know someone who might be interested in one of these posts? We also need more helpers generally and anyone (any age, old or young) who can spare a little time will be warmly welcomed.

See you on Monday 29th October at 6.30!

100 Club – September

No.92 Margaret Phillips £25
No. 99 Peggy Bearcroft £10
No. 5 Jen Price £5  

Fund raising September - £322 

Diary Dates

Monday 29th October at 6.30pm AGM at the Museum

Monthly Wednesday lectures to be resumed when we find a Programme Secretary

Christmas Fayre

Yes, it’s that time of year when we have to start looking ahead and although Christmas is a long time off, we need to book a venue and date for the Christmas Fayre. This is a reminder to start collecting cardboard rolls for crackers (and chocs or something to go in them), as well as all the other items we need for the various stalls including toiletries, toys, tins and Christmas crafts. This annual event always makes a significant contribution to our funds and as a voluntary museum, every penny counts. We will also need helpers to man the stalls. Please help make this event a success!

If you have ideas for other fund-raising events, please let us know.  

Poetry Corner

“Calon Lân / A Pure Heart”

The words of this Welsh hymn were written in the 1800s by Daniel James to a tune by John Hughes. This English translation was provided by Teresa, daughter of Mr Arthur Lewis.

I don’t ask for a luxurious life
The world’s gold or its fine pearls
I ask for a happy heart An honest heart, a pure heart.

Chorus A pure heart full of goodness
is fairer than the pretty lily
None but a pure heart can sing
Sing in the day, sing in the night

If I wished for worldly wealth
It would swiftly go to seed
The riches of a virtuous, pure heart
Will bear eternal profit.


Evening and morning, my wish
Rising to heaven on the wings of song
For God, for the sake of my
Saviour To give me a pure heart.


I did not ask a life that’s easy
Gold and pearls so little mean
Rather seek a heart that’s joyful
Heart that’s honest, heart’s that clean.


Heart that’s clean and filled with virtue
Fairer far than lilies white
Only pure hearts praise
God truly Praise him all the day and night.


Why should I seek earthly treasures
On swift wings they fly away
Pure clean hearts bring greater riches
That for life eternal stay.


Dawn and sunset I’m still searching
Reaching on a wing of song
Give me Lord, through Christ my Saviour
That clean heart for which I long.

Note: Calon Lân has been adapted to suit other lyrics including “ A Miner’s Lifeguard”, “Life’s Railway to Heaven”, “The Weaver’s Song” and “I Will Sing the Wondrous Story”.  

Alfred Russell Wallace – an Usk man

The name of Alfred Russell Wallace is much less well known than that of Darwin and yet Wallace too, came up with the theory of evolution, and at the same time as Darwin. Darwin had been working on his theory for some twenty years when he received an essay from Wallace, who was in Indonesia at the time, setting out a broadly similar theory. This prompted Darwin to make his own theory public and in July 1985 the first papers on natural selection were read aloud at the Linnean Society in London – one from Darwin, the other from Wallace. Although both men announced the theory at the same time, Darwin’s publication of ‘On the Origin of Species’ the following year made senior scientists take notice and Wallace slipped into relative obscurity. Indeed, this unassuming man always referred to the theory as Darwin’s theory. Wallace’s name still survives in the ‘Wallace Line’ – an invisible line separating Australia and Asia with their very different species (e.g. marsupials and non-marsupials), although at the time the reason for the difference – plate tectonics – was not understood.


Who was Wallace? Well, for one thing he was a man of Gwent, having been born in 1823 in Llanbadoc just outside Usk, although when Russell was five his family moved to Hertford with their large family of nine children. Russell was a good scholar but his family was poor; formal schooling ended at the age of thirteen and to a large extent he can be described as ‘self-taught’. On leaving school he joined his brother who introduced him to surveying which sparked an early interest in geology and the natural world. A lack of surveying work in 1943 saw him take up a teaching post in Leicester where he met Henry Bates, also a keen naturalist. The pair read about Humbolt’s and Darwin’s travels in South America and set about arranging their own trip. They decided to go to the Amazon and collect animal and plant specimens. Neither had private means and so the trip was to be funded by the sale of duplicate specimens sent back to England. Wallace spent four years in the Amazon Basin and although most of his specimens were lost when his ship sank on the return journey, he continued with his travels and research, spending several years in the Malay Archipelago. He died in November 1913.

Wallace wrote many papers and books and his name has been recognised and celebrated in the scientific world even though he is largely unknown to the general public.  

Local Voices

Zion Miners’ Chapel Llanhilleth Reunion Service 29 th July 2012 and the Institute

The following is from an account of a visit by Mr Arthur Lewis who stayed at the Top Hotel that weekend.

Before dinner I walked along High Street to Horseshoe Bend and saw the derelict pit head baths I had once used, but could not see the pit surface for trees.

Sunday morning we travelled to Big Pit to meet the Curator and reminisce about the time I spent at the Pit before and after it became a museum, including the BBC programme with Melvyn Bragg.

Sunday evening I attended the Service at Zion Chapel. The reunuion service remarked about the Red Ash and Black Vein seams, and the Llanhilleth Workingmen’s Institute and its benefits to miners and their families. We then travelled to Llanhilleth Institute accompanied by ex Councillor Jim Watkins, NUM Lodge Chairman Six Bells during my later time as Colliery Manager. During the concert I sat at a table with family and Jim Watkins and later Cllr Bartlett, Mayor of Blaenau Gwent. Already at the table were two sons of ex Llan miners, one father had been a member of the mines rescue team and the other father had been in the St John Ambulance Brigade the same time as me.

Monday morning I revisited the Institute, now run by Blaenau Gwent Council, and saw the alterations opened by Prince Charles. I noticed ‘The Clock’ was silent; it used to be the pride and joy of my uncle, Bob Evans, who became the Institute Caretaker after working as a miner in Llanhilleth Pit. It acted almost as a ‘Big Ben’ for Llanhilleth. I noted the war memorial at the entrance and later walked around the playing fields.

Monday evening my family and I received a very warm welcome in the Rolling Mill Abertillery by the Abertillery & Blaina Rotary Club, of which I was a member from 1966 representing Llanhilleth achieving high honours, but now the highest by being made a ‘Life Member’. I was able to say to the Rotarians and their wives, that Morf and I never really left them, as I wore the presentation wristwatch they gave me in 1996, every day.

I was once told, after a mining accident at 19 years of age at Llan Pit “You will never work underground again”. How wrong.
W. Arthur Lewis O.B.E. , B.Sc, Mining Eng.

Who was at the Museum in 1974?

With the 2012 AGM coming up at the end of the month we thought you might be interested to know who was running the Museum back in 1974.

President – Mr W G H Davies
– Mr Sam Rogers & Mr Ben Morgan
– Councillor Brinley Evans
– Mr T M Phillips
– Councillor W F Deasey
Assistant Curator
– Mr A J Deacon
– Mrs G E M Andrews
– Mrs C Griffiths, Mrs A J Deacon, Miss M Thomas, Mrs A B Thomas, Mrs G Kibby, Mr T Phinemore, Mrs W G H Davies, Mr C Darlington, Mrs G West-Gardener
– Mr G J Jenkins  

Something to read

We are all familiar with the railway tunnel under the Severn, and the need to pump out huge volumes of water from the tunnel each day, but what else do you know about this engineering marvel which opened for regular passenger service in December 1886? Did you know, for instance, that when it was built, at 4 miles and 624 yards, it was the longest submarine tunnel in the world? Work had started on the tunnel in 1872 but it was beset by problems and in 1879 Thomas Walker was brought in to see the project through to completion. He wrote a book called “The Severn Tunnel – its construction and difficulties 1872-1887”. Considering when it was written, it is a remarkably concise and readable book. It necessarily contains some technical detail -Thomas Walker clearly had a passion for pumps - but it also tells the human story of this engineering feat. Walker’s account, first published in 1888, was reprinted in 2004 complete with photographs and illustrations, by Nonsuch Publishing and is available in your local library although you may have to request it rather than find a copy on the shelves.

On a related note, the Pump House at Sudbrook continues to pump out the tunnel – apparently 50 million litres of water are pumped out daily. The pumps are now run by electric motors but the Pump House previously had some impressive steam engines. One of the former beam engines can be seen in the grounds of Swansea City Museum.

Museum Matters

"Diamond Weekends”

As John Denver song goes “Some Days are Diamonds and Some Days are Stone” , some weeks were of stone but it was definitely diamond weekends!

It started with our flat warming party in the Day Room at Davy Evans Court. The entertainment began with the young children who made up “The Troop”, these are a group of children who performed individual acts, and they were really excellent, the oldest was 11yrs old.

One of them goes up London once a month where she studies music and also has to compose her own songs. Not bad for a 11yr old!

The next act was The Belly Dancers who were called the Aberbelles, they were so enthusiastic the children and an 80 year old lady got up and danced with them, we all enjoyed the night.

Belly Dancers

The following weekend was the gospel and testimony show given by Bobby Ball arranged by our Salvation Army. Bobby Ball was born in Oldham and was in the show business as a child.

Bobby BallAs he got older he thought he should get a "proper job" and so he went to work in a factory as a welder and it was here that he met his future partner, Thomas Derbyshire. By the end of the seventies they had toured the pubs and clubs enough to be in the right place at the right time to end up with their own TV Series.


From then on, the sky was their limit, success followed and everyone in the country knew who Cannon and Ball were. They were living the high life. By 1985 Bob was seeing parts of himself that he didn't like very much. Whilst starring in pantomime in Bradford, he spoke to the theatre chaplain, Max Wrigley about his life and his worries.

He told Max that he felt as though he had everything, yet had nothing. He felt empty inside. As much as he had it never seemed like enough, he was drinking heavily, spending a lot of time with different women and getting into a lot of fights. Basically, he knew that he wasn't a very nice person to be around. Max spoke to him, talked his worries through and passed on some reading material.

Bobby read a copy of “Journey Into Life”, he prayed and decided that this was the path for him. He realised that what was said and what he read made sense to him and decided to give his life over to Jesus and became a Christian. People around Bob at the time thought that this was a passing fad and that it would pass but Bob proved them wrong and stuck fast with his faith.

Bobby now takes 4 months out of his schedule every year to tour with a gospel show and speaks at various venues to spread the word. Bobby doesn't believe in preaching to those who have no interest, everyone has their own opinions on such matters but is happy to discuss his own experiences with those who want to listen. Not only was the show entertaining and funny his testimony was both valued and moving as it was spo ken from the heart.

On the Sunday we attended a Civic Service of Commitment and Thanksgiving held in St. Michaels Church.

Mayor Bartlett and his wifeThe Mayor of Blaenau Gwent Councillor Graham Bartlett and the Mayoress, Mrs Norma Bartlett attended together with Civic representatives and elected members of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council who committed themselves through God to serve the people they represent selflessly and in the common interest

The congregation was made up of Dignitaries, Councillors from other Authorities and representatives of local voluntary organisations.

The Mayors Chaplain Rev Patrick Coleman conducted the service, the Reverend Roy Watson Methodist Minister said prayers of than ks and the Blessing was given by the Bishop of Monmouth. Solo items were sung by Elizabeth Tiley. After the service the congregation retired to the Abertillery sports Centre where Elizabeth Tiley again regaled them with further renditions before the buffet began. The collection at St. Michaels Church and the raffle at the buffet were in aid of the Mayors Appeal, “Hospice of the Valleys Cancer Charity”. It was a wonderful experience to be there hearing our elected members of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council committing themselves through God to serve the people they represent, selflessly and in the common interest.

The weekend Saturday 29 th September was the Gala Concert commemorating 3yrs of the Twinning of Abertillery and Royat France. Bear logoPerformances were given by Abertillery Town Band, The Abertillery Orpheus Ladies Choir and the Abertillery Orpheus Male Choir. It was amemorable evening the French guests were treated to a magnificent performance by all those taking part. We are fortunate indeed to have such talent as we have in our town.
Don Bearcroft.

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