Dates for your Diary
Ongoing – WWI Exhibition in the Museum (ends 11th November)
Wednesday 7th November at 3pm - Ralph Robinson Memorial Lecture "The Great War" by Martin Cook. Price £3
Monday 12th November at 5pm - AGM
Tuesday 4th December - Christmas Fayre - all day event and into evening
Saturday 15th December – join us for mince pies and festive music
Saturday 22nd December – join us for a festive morning of quizzing, mince pies and music
Saturday 26th January 2019 – Coffee Morning on the ‘Winter of ‘47’.
October 100 Club
No. 20 Judith Williams £20
No. 12 Mary Rogers £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.
We are sorry to say goodbye to our longstanding museum member Val Hanney who will be reading this newsletter from her new home in Spain. Val, who is emigrating to be nearer her daughter was presented with a Welsh Cwtch teddy bear to remind her of all her friends at the Museum who will miss her. We thank her for her support all these years and wish her well in her new life in the sun!
Our RAF coffee morning was very successful bringing in former serving members of the RAF. The talk was prepared by Chris Staples, typed up by his wife Alison and delivered by his father-in-Law and museum committee member, Trevor Cook, so very much a joint family effort! The talk was followed by a question and answer session and supplemented by a large array of aircraft photographs which had been taken by Chris himself. It was a very interesting and enjoyable morning.
On the Road Again
Jen and Judith have been out with their roadshow again to Penybont Care Home. This time it was washday.
The women remembered lines of beautiful white washing blowing in the wind and how it seemed so much whiter than today’s but what hard work! Monday was usually wash day. Cold meat and fry up was all ready after Sunday’s lunch so it was no stopping. (Jen told us statistically Monday is the driest day of the week). Up early to light the fire or fill up the gas boiler with water, to get the water hot. Then sort the clothes into whites and coloureds. Whites were always done first. Boiled or swished around in the dolly tub with just a couple of minutes with the ‘blue bag’ to give them that extra sparkle. Then a couple of rinses in clean cold water, through the mangle and out on the line to dry. Then the same with the coloured stuff and then finally, ‘the smalls’ along with hankies, socks and button-on-collars which were washed by hand often using the scrubbing brush and washboard.
The tin baths reminded nearly everyone of them hanging on the wall in the back yard and being used on bath night. Families of thirteen and eleven would bath in the same water on that night and one lady remembered if they weren’t careful the dog would jump in too and have to be dried with old sacking!
The smell of the Lifebuoy soap we had taken with us brought back memories of the smell of soaps. Some had used Fairy, others used Coal tar for both washing themselves and their clothes. One lady used Cuticure soap, I think she was posh! One man remembered he used “gypsy soap”. His family would go onto the mountain, peel off the top layer of moss and gather the sticky layer underneath, mould it into a bar and a small piece of this would give you a lather for washing the clothes and yourself.
We could not get the mangle into Jen’s car so we took a video of the one in the museum. It was remembered but watch your fingers, there had been some nasty accidents!
We had examples of the old wooden dolly pegs. They sometimes fell off the line on a windy day which could mean having to start again. I had a peg my mum had bought from a gypsy on her doorstep. It was crudely made. This reminded the residents of the gypsy woman calling at the house with baskets of pegs, heather or ribbons or lace all for a few pence or your fortune told. One man remembered his family had made pegs. The older ones had whittled the wood to the shape. Then the younger had smoothed the wood down with the striking side of a Swan Vesta Box before they were held together with a metal strip cut from the babies dried milk tin. He remembers being sent out from a very young age with a basket of these to sell at one old penny each or twelve for a shilling.
We then looked at the flat irons. Everyone had forgotten how heavy they were but remembered they were good doorstops. These were warmed by the fire and spat on to see if it sizzled and they were hot enough. We had a pack of Robin Starch. All collars and cuffs were starched but beware if mum was over zealous with it on your school collar by the end of the day you had a very sore neck.
The washing was all neatly hung on the clotheshorse at the end of the day to air. This reminded everyone of making a den with the clotheshorse and a blanket and everyone piling in. Jen said her grandson Billy still loved to do this. So some things never change but washday certainly has!
Mrs Irene Morgan, a long-time supporter and member of the museum, has recently passed away and we wish to offer our sincere condolences to all her family. She will be dearly missed.
My Little Feathered Friend
Last month, my old friend and museum member, Mrs Vera Smith, commented that I had made no written contribution to the last newsletter, so ‘Aunty’ Vera, this is dedicated to you…!
In July 1979, my parents Tom & Betty Wayne, my sister Alison, and Vera & Harry Smith all went on a holiday to Malta leaving me home alone at my parents home in Gelli Crug.
Just after they left, I found a young sparrow in the garden that seemed unable to fly but had no obvious injury. Afraid that a cat would get it, I picked up the bird and put it in our back porch. The porch was mainly glass with one door leading into the kitchen and another out onto the yard. A shelf ran along the back wall of the porch upon which sat a few house plants and, propped up against the shelf was a step ladder. So, while my family were getting up to mischief in Malta (see back issue July 2017), the job of caring for the bird fell to me.
We already had a pet budgerigar so I had plenty of bird seed in the house so I gave it a dish of seed, bread, nuts, a dish of water and a shallow box in which to sleep, all of which were on the floor. I checked on the bird before retiring that first night and at first couldn’t see the bird, then I noticed it snuggled up in one of the plant pots on the shelf! I was puzzled how it had got there, perhaps it could fly after all? I later found out that the bird had used the step ladder, hopping from step to step until it reached the shelf! After that, the bird shunned the box and chose to sleep in the plant pot every night of its stay.
Over the next two weeks the bird, who was getting stronger by the day, taught itself to fly using the step ladder. I would watch, fascinated, as it would hop up onto the first step and then flutter back down. Once that was mastered, it would hop up two steps and flutter back down. By the time my parents and sister returned from their fortnight’s holiday the bird could fly up to the shelf and back down again without using the ladder so it was time to set it free. I opened the door leading out onto the back yard and returned to the house, watching from a window. The bird flew down from the shelf and landed on the floor. It did not fly but instead hopped out of the door and then continued to hop down the yard away from the house. Then it stopped and looked back at me for a few seconds, as if to say ‘thanks for your help’; then it flew away and was gone.
The summer came to an end, the leaves fell off the trees and there was a definite chill in the air. I thought it time to help the birds out with a morning feed of bread and nuts. After a few mornings, the birds soon knew what to expect and would be lined up on the wall waiting for their breakfast. Of course as soon as I opened the door and went out into the garden, they would retreat to a safe distance and wait for me to return indoors before coming to feed.
Then one morning in late October, I opened the door with my feed in hand and, as usual, the birds flew away. All bar one that is; sitting on the wall was a small brown sparrow. He stayed there, just a few feet away, watching as I scattered the feed and before I was even back indoors, he was down and feeding. My little feathered friend had returned!
Christmas Fayre / Winterfest
We would like to make an appeal for donations for our Christmas Fayre on December 4th. We need items such as chocolate bars for crackers, tins, packets, bottles etc for our tombola stall and bric-a-brac for our white elephant stall as well as cakes on the day. All donations gratefully received, please bring to the museum ASAP.
The Christmas Fayre will, as usual, go on into the evening and there will be a story-teller inside the museum as well as a ‘Bucking Bronco’ and live animals outside the museum.
Stop Unwanted Mail
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ABERTILLERY WAR MEMORIAL
Located at the junction of Queen Street and Somerset Street, the town’s civic memorial to those who died in the First and Second World Wars is a striking monument. A soldier cast in bronze, holding a rifle with fixed bayonet in his right hand and with his steel helmet held aloft in his left, stands on a granite plinth. A bronze plaque adorned with a wreath of laurels, bears the names of the fallen. The memorial, designed by George Thomas of London, has been listed Grade II by Cadw as a well-designed and prominent First World War memorial.
Before the memorial was erected, Remembrance Day was commemorated at various buildings in Abertillery. Information available on the internet suggests that there was some disagreement over the nature of the memorial which should be provided in the town. In early 1920 a member of Abertillery Urban District Council spoke eloquently on the need for the town to provide a fitting memorial to the young men who had lost their lives in the war, and suggested some form of sculpture. Another member suggested a memorial in the form of a public library. A committee was formed to discuss the matter but progress was slow as discussions continued about the form and location of the proposed memorial. A public meeting was held in September 1922 and at this time the Council were still suggesting a memorial in the form of a building, perhaps an ambulance hall or a children’s ward at the hospital. While people were conscious of a desire to do something, it was against a backdrop of some 3,000 men in the town being unemployed and public funds being limited. A penny fund had already been opened and with time passing, the Abertillery Branch of the British Legion said ex-servicemen should choose the form of the memorial. Their choice was for a bronze statue on a granite plinth and suggested that if there were spare funds then that surplus could be passed to the hospital. There was still disagreement, some arguing that money should be spent on helping the victims of war rather than a statue but in the end the decision was taken to erect a permanent civic memorial.
Having decided on the type of memorial, there then ensued a lengthy discussion as to where it should be sited, two suggestions being Abertillery Park or Division Street. Some felt that the Queen Street site was too inconspicuous but that was the site eventually chosen in late 1924 and fund-raising started in earnest. The Council were responsible for carrying out some of the work at the site, a Cornish Quarry provided the granite for the plinth, and George Harvard Thomas was commissioned to provide the bronze cast of the soldier.
The monument was unveiled at a public ceremony on 1st December 1926 by Field Marshall the Viscount Allenby and hundreds of people attended. This moving occasion can be seen on the internet as the ceremony was recorded by Pathe News.
If you watch the above clip you will see some of the many people who attended and, as well as dignitaries near the memorial itself, a lady seated on a chair directly in front of the memorial wearing the medals of her three dead brothers – a reminder of the sacrifices made by local young men.
Changes have been made to the Memorial, not least the addition of the names of those who died in the Second World War. More recently, in 2017, a ramped access was provided to facilitate access by all.
The civic War Memorial is not the only memorial in the town to remember those who served in the World Wars, other examples include the rood and screen at the Parish Church, a memorial organ and tablets at Ebenezer Baptist Church, and the memorial gates at Aberbeeg Hospital. In our museum, near the café, there is a memorial to members of the former Liberal-Labour Club.
The memorial was retrieved from the cellar of the building near the Foundry Bridge and was carefully restored by volunteers at the museum, having first obtained specialist advice. Do look out for it the next time you visit the museum.
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