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October 2015
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Diary Dates

Ongoing – WW1 Exhibition in the Museum

Saturday 10th OctoberCoffee morning with poems and readings by Margaret Cook

Monday 9th NovemberAGM  at 5pm

Tuesday 1st DecemberAll day Christmas Fayre to coincide with Winterfest

Fundraising September £356

September 100 Club

No. 101          Kath Price                    £20
No. 131          Chris Budd                  £10
No. 4              Sue Smaile                   £5

Coffee Morning – 10th October

Our coffee mornings are always popular and we are sure this next one will be another success.  Margaret Cook will be coming along to put her drama skills into action with a selection of poems and readings.  It promises to be a very enjoyable morning so please come along and bring a friend.  Entry £1 including tea/coffee and cake.  Donations of cakes would be much appreciated.

Annual General Meeting  

This has been arranged for Monday 9th November at 5pm in the Museum.  Please make an effort to come along – this is your chance to hear what has been going on over the last year and what is planned for the year ahead.  It is also a time for you to have your say, make suggestions and ask questions.  As ever, we are always looking for volunteers so this is an ideal opportunity to find out a bit more about the museum and how you might be able to help.

Christmas Fayre 

Last year this was arranged to coincide with Winterfest and we are doing the same again this year so please put the date of Tuesday 1st December in your diaries.  We are now taking in items for the usual stalls so please bring along choc bars (for crackers), goods for the Lucky Dip, bottles and tins, good bric a brac, toys, bathroom items, craft items, (and cakes nearer the day).  We also need helping hands.  Keeping the museum open all day requires a considerable amount of manpower and watchful eyes so please help.  Contact Peggy at the museum.

Ash’s Mural Fund   

The large glass jars which we put out in the museum inviting donations towards the £1000 cost of the mural in the Ash’s shop display have been a big success and so far have attracted the sum of £684.  That is an impressive amount so thank you everyone for your donations.  We now have two thirds of the cost so let’s hope we can get the remainder over the next few months.

Museum Shop  

Just a reminder that we have a range of items in our shop which are just right for Christmas gifts and stocking fillers.  Come and have a look!



Henry was born at Monmouth Castle in 1387, a grandson of John of Gaunt, he was brought up at nearby Goodrich where he learned to read and write and prepared for his life as a soldier.

At 12 years of age he was made Prince of Wales.  He later brought about the downfall of Owain Glyndwr whom the Welsh thought was the rightful Prince of Wales.  Henry was crowned king at Westminster Abbey in 1413 following the death of his father. He became an astute leader and set his eyes on France where he thought he had a genuine claim to the French throne He arranged  marriage to Catherine, daughter of Charles VI, while secretly planning for war with France. He set sail for France in 1415 and with a depleted English army he arrived at Agincourt. After carefully positioning his men, the French were hemmed in and beaten largely because the English archers were able to shoot their arrows  from the superior long bows.  Henry lost about 500 of his men while the French lost between 7 and 10 thousand men.  Henry showed little mercy to the remaining French. The famous battle of Agincourt was won in 1420 and the peace treaty of Troyes was signed thus permitting Henry to marry Catherine do Valois and, upon her father's death, assume the throne of France.  In 1421  Henry's son was born at Windsor and Henry had made adequate arrangements for him to be properly brought up to rule England. Henry V died in 1422 and buried with much ceremony at Westminster Abbey. Source: Shire Hall, Agincourt Square, Monmouth
The Roving Reporter  

Poetry Corner

Simonoe by Remy de Gourmont (tr. W Thorley)

Simonoe, the snow is white as the pure white skin   
Of thy two knees or the whiteness under your chin.

Simonoe, thy hand is cold as the white snow is;  
Simonoe, thy heart likewise is as cold as this.

Only a kiss of fire turns the snow to rain,                
And only a farewell kiss makes thy heart fain.

The snow is sad on boughs that the tall pines bear;
Thy brow is sad in the shadow of thy gold hair.

Flight-weary, thy sister the snow sleeps there like a dove;    
Simonoe, thou art my snow and my heart’s dear love.

Flounces, Collars and more

Have you visited the museum in Honiton in East Devon?  It’s not unlike our own museum in that it is quite small, is free to visit, and has a range of exhibits to tell the story of the town from prehistoric times to the present day.  Whereas our museum holds a lot of information on the coal mining history of the town, Honiton is famous for its lace.  It was once the lace-making capital of Britain and the museum prides itself on having a world class collection of British lace.  Honiton lace (there are many different sorts of lace) was first made in the locality in 1560.  The town’s fortunes rose at first, then fell in the 1800s when machines were invented firstly to make net and then lace.  The industry received a boost when Queen Victoria ordered her wedding dress and veil to be made of Honiton lace but declined again as lace fell out of fashion and as the children who made up such a large proportion of the workforce eventually received the schooling to which they had long been entitled by law.  The lace samples in the wall cases and drawers of Honiton museum are exquisite.  I was able to see for myself just how intricate the old lace is.  A couple of years ago, in the even smaller museum in nearby Budleigh Salterton, I bought a lace bookmark having been struck by the fine workmanship depicting oak leaves and acorns.  In the museum at Honiton I bought a small (very small!) piece of genuine antique lace and when I put the two together I could see that the stitching in the antique lace was minute by comparison with the more modern lace.  The effort and skill that must have gone into making the antique lace was impressive.  But behind the beauty of the lace flounces, collars, parasol covers and other items, there was a darker story.  The wall boards explained that children as young as five had to work twelve hours a day in the lace schools, that people were poorly paid for their skill and there was no alternative work, that a truck shop system operated in the town…..there was more and it all made distressing reading.  Commercial lace-making in and around Honiton ceased a long time ago but it is still a popular hobby with regular classes and lace-making groups.  The lace collection in Honiton museum includes some of these modern pieces.  The quality is such that, for example, one local lace-maker was commissioned to make a lace jabot for the Speaker of the House of Commons – it took her 500 hours! If you are near Honiton, the lace collection is certainly worth seeing.  And if you are in this area, you could always pop along to the museum at Budleigh Salterton and get yourself a lace bookmark.     
Jen Price
Local Voices

Technology in the 1950's

My first office job was located in large premises divided into five or six offices relating to various uses, e.g. boss's office, typist office, post room etc. In the office where I worked was a mini telephone exchange, This consisted of a box about 14 ins. by 9 ins, with a series of about six levers and a handle at the side which could be rotated. Depending on which office was needed, the appropriate lever would be depressed and the side handle rotated  An outside line was similarly depressed by a  special lever and the handle rotated  Eventually an outside operator would say ''What number please'?' The reply would be the town one wanted with the number. I do not recall there being codes like today. The outside telephone exchange was situated where it still is today. That was technology then, what a difference today with photos being taken on mobile phones.  


As a child I remember having my own skipping rope which consisted of two handles with the rope being threaded through the knob on the top......much like today's skipping ropes. I also remember skipping ropes made from plaited pale straw (I think) which one could get free from the greengrocers, as these ''ropes ''  tied up the orange boxes from abroad. A knot was placed at each end to stop fraying and two girls would each hold one end and turn. The one outside had to jump in and skip to various ditties. e.g. ''My mother said if ever I should play with the gypsies in the wood. If I did she would say ''What a naughty girl to disobey.'' Another ditty was “ I called on my sweetheart, her name was Miss Brown. She was having a bath and she could not come down. I said slip on something, come down in half a tick, she slipped on the soap and she did come down quick''. If we were short of a  player to turn one end, we tied that to a lamppost and managed that way. In those days children of about 9 were allowed out to play even when it was dark. When it was time to go home our mothers would shout our name in a very loud voice and off we would go home


As a teenager, my parents were quite lenient when I went out to the dance etc. I do not remember them ever saying ''Be home by?'' I obviously did not overstretch the time as I cannot remember ever being reprimanded. They were quite happy for me to go dancing a couple of time a week but I remember my Dad saying I did not have to get DANCE MAD.               
The Roving Reporter

Fourteen Locks

I imagine most of us have visited 14 Locks at High Cross at some time and marvelled at the work that went into their construction.  A couple of the locks have been restored but the flight as a whole is in rather a sad state at present.  The Visitor Centre there has a small exhibition and a couple of short films which tell a little of the history of the locks and canal.  Did you know the locks rise 167 feet in half a mile?  That each lock holds about 50,000 gallons of water?  That in the 1820s the flight of locks was so busy, even at night, that gas lighting was installed?  And who designed 14 Locks and the remainder of the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal?  I didn’t know but I do now – it was Thomas Dadford Junior.  He lived from 1760-1801 and is buried at Llanarth near Abergavenny.  His father was also a canal engineer and it is from him that Thomas Junior leant his engineering skills.
Dadford, who was born in Wolverhampton, began his remarkable engineering career at just 16 and was appointed engineer of the Monmouthshire canal in 1792.  In 1795, he embarked on the Brecknock and Abergavenny canal.  His designs for the two canals included not just the flight of 14 locks but also a four-arch aqueduct over the River Usk at Brynich near Brecon and the massive embankment carrying the canal over the River Clydach at Gilwern - significant engineering features  These were tremendous achievements which have stood the test of time.

Book Corner

“A Gift of Sunlight” by Trevor Fishlock published by Gomer, price £25.00.

This is the first book dedicated solely to the lives of the Davies sisters – Gwendoline and Margaret Davies – who are best known for the art collections they bequeathed to the Welsh nation.  The National Museum in Cardiff houses works by artists such as Monet, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Renoir and Rodin thanks to the generosity of the Davies sisters.  They were the granddaughters of the great industrialist and philanthropist David Davies of Llandinam.  The sisters were fabulously wealthy but for all their wealth and privilege, they were shy and haunted by love.  This book recounts their involvement with the Red Cross in World War One and their love of beauty – something we can all share through the works of art they gave us.  When you walk through the art galleries at the National Museum, the names of Gwendoline and Margaret Davies crop up time and again.  Now we can learn more about their lives.


Obituary David Thomas

Picture of David thomasPeggy and I first met Mr David Thomas when he came to the old museum. He was Mrs Andrews (a founder member and secretary of the museum society) nephew he told us how that as a young boy he pulled the seed drill we have on display sowing turnips used to feed the cattle on his aunts farm at the old church.

David was born on the 15th of March 1926 in Mount Pleasant Farmhouse Llanhilleth, Monmouthshire. His mother said she could hear the lambs bleating outside.

His father, Tom Thomas was the son of a Cardiganshire farmer but taught himself English and won a Queen's scholarship to University College, Bangor. He came to the South Wales valleys in 1905 to work as a teacher.
When King Edward VIII toured South Wales in 1936, the tour during which the King said "something must be done" when he saw the plight of the unemployed mine workers. David's father had the honour of showing the King around his school and David was there, waving his little flag. In 2011 he could still recall that visit and could describe the King in detail, even down to his orange complexion.

David's mother, Margaret was the daughter of a local farmer. She was a talented painter but sadly her fiancé was killed in the First World War.
David had a country childhood, spending all the time he could at his grandfather's farms. The family had been farming in the area for hundreds of years, his grandfather Edward owned two adjoining farms and rented a third. Theirs was a family of farmers stretching into adjoining areas like Mynyddislwyn, Abertillery and as far as Usk and Raglan. They were a 'dynasty' in the area, and much was made by the dotty old aunts of being one of the 'old families' who were there before the Valleys were industrialized. It was a traditional hill-farming life; in addition to sheep they had dairy cattle and delivered milk around the area.

They also grew crops like oats, barley, potatoes and swedes. Horses did all the heavy work and David loved working with the horses on the farm; In his bungalow in Leominster a framed photo of ploughing horses in harness took pride of place. He would drive the sheep up the mountain to graze, and drive them to market (on foot through the traffic!). He would also have to go and retrieve lost sheep and spend hours searching for them on the mountain. His grandfather would then offer him some derisory sum like sixpence for his pains (David said the hill farmers would 'give you anything except money' He would take a horse and cart up the mountain and gather rushes, and his grandfather would use them to thatch the hayricks. His grandfather would also get him to climb trees (not caring if he was wearing short trousers and if it was hawthorn and he got all scratched) to throw magpies' eggs out of their nests.

The spent grain from the local brewery was used to feed the cattle, it was David's job to spread it out on the cow house floor with his feet, he would get his leather shoes wet and get told off by his parents. When he got older he would gallop his grandfather’s horses on top of Llanhilleth Mountain. This was his special place and it is where his ashes will be scattered at his request. David used to say "My idea of perfection would be riding a pony on the mountain with a couple of dogs running behind going sheepherding for my old grandfather.

He would proudly say "I can milk a cow, shear a sheep, and shoe a horse."
He attended Newbridge Grammar school and despite claiming to be a late developer, he did admit that he was always in the top half of the scholarship class. He was studying English, Geography and History in the sixth form when he volunteered for RAF aircrew. Having passed the medical he was transferred into the Army as the need for aircrew had declined. He enjoyed his time in the South Wales Borderers despite having to have a long spell in hospital in Egypt battling against polio. He followed in his father's footsteps and did his teacher training at Bangor, where he was part of an exceptional academic year made up of many ex-servicemen. His first teaching job was in Coventry, where he met his wife Kathleen, a student at Coventry Teacher Training College. Kathleen, or Kate as many people will know her, was a remarkable lady who had won a scholarship to the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and trained as an actress before starting on her teaching career. David and Kate married in 1954 and set up home in Gloucester where they both had teaching jobs. Their daughter, Sian was born in 1958.

David became a teacher in Essex, Leicester and Cheshire, eventually becoming a headmaster of a large junior school in Altrincham. David was a traditional teacher and head master, believing strongly in the 3 Rs, (particularly his own passion, reading), getting record numbers of state school pupils into direct grant schools like Manchester Grammar. But he also took great pains with slower learners, banned corporal punishment in his school (as his father had done before him) David and Kate moved to Ullingswick in Herefordshire in 1983 after both retiring a year earlier. They enjoyed many years of retirement until Kate was taken ill and died in 2002.
He made regular yearly visits to Abertillery where he would visit old friends and the Old Church; he always came to the museum asking Peggy. “How much am I in debt?” he never was as he always paid his membership in advance. Siân Jennings his daughter who wrote this obituary has now become a member of our society following in her father’s footsteps
Mr Thomas or David as insisted we call him was a Gentleman in every respect of the word!

Don Bearcroft Curator

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