Dates for your Diary
Saturday 11th November – Coffee Morning – Remembering Remembrance Day – 10.30am-1pm
Saturday 30th November – Christmas Fayre / Winterfest 4pm – 9pm
Saturday 14th December – Coffee Morning – Carols with Bethany Chapel
Tuesday 17th December – AGM – 5pm
Saturday 21st December – Coffee Morning – with carols by local Welsh folk group ‘Clerwyn’
October 100 Club
No. 50 Bernard Jones £20
No. 02 Denis Osland £10
Winterfest / Christmas Fayre
30th November 4pm – 9pm
Our Christmas Fayre this year will coincide with Winterfest as usual and the museum will be open from 10am as usual with the Christmas Fayre starting at 4pm. The switching on of the lights in town will take place at 6pm while outside the museum will be A&S Animal Encounters plus birds from Ebbw Vale Owl Sanctuary. Inside the museum will be puppets and storytelling plus of course our usual stalls. On that note we would be grateful to receive any donations of tins, bottles, chocolate bars, toiletries, cakes (on the day), bric-a-brac, toys, handicrafts, raffle prizes and items for our Christmas hamper, all of which will be very gratefully received! Please bring to the museum at your earliest convenience.
Gwent Archives Events
Gwent Archives (Steelworks Road, Ebbw Vale), is currently hosting an exhibition entitled ‘Journey to Democracy’. This free exhibition ends on 9th November and explores the political and social background to the UK’s road to democracy. Then on Thursday 5th December 10.30 – 12.00pm there will be a workshop on using and researching the historical documents held at Gwent Archives to discover the local history of Blackwood. This workshop costs £5 and booking is essential. To book or for more information on either event, telephone 01495 353363 or email email@example.com
We were very sorry to say goodbye to our volunteer Sharon Saunders a few weeks ago. Sharon started volunteering about 8 years ago when she came to the museum on work experience arranged by ‘Groundwork’ and has volunteered ever since. She became invaluable, getting involved in all aspects of museum life. Sharon will not only be missed for the work she did but she became a good friend to all our regulars – part of the museum family. She will be sadly missed. Luckily she has only moved to Ebbw Vale so we will be able to keep in touch and meet up occasionally. We wish Sharon all the best.
Money Makes the World Go Round...
....... or so sang Liza Minnelli in the 2002 film of the musical Cabaret!
At the dawn of humanity, bartering was used in lieu of money to buy goods. As early man began to rear domestic livestock, one of the earliest forms of barter included cattle and sheep, as well as vegetables and grain.
The first known currency was created by King Alyattes in Lydia, now part of Turkey, in 600BC. The first coin ever minted features a roaring lion. Coins then evolved into bank notes around 1661 AD. The first credit card was introduced in 1946.
I can remember, when going on holiday to West Wales as a child, my father having to visit his bank in Newport first to make arrangements to withdraw cash from the West Wales Branch should he require additional cash while away. This seems such an old fashioned concept now doesn’t it?
Banks used to seem hallowed, hushed places with lofty ceilings and people speaking in subdued tones. The usual way to withdraw cash from the bank then was to neatly write out a cheque, present it to the cashier carefully seated behind the counter, who would then hand over the required amount of money to the grateful customer. Can you remember this? Now if you need cash you’d probably look for the nearest cash point where no human interaction at all takes place.
Do you know though that, as people are turning away from cash in favour of more payment cards and online banking, the Royal Mint in Llantrisant is diversifying and expanding its offering by turning to jewellery making. Production of jewellery at the Mint, which ranges from cuff links to necklaces, began earlier this year and has now been on sale since July.
Many of you may remember a time before decimalisation. Remember the pound note; the half-a-crown; the two shilling piece or the three-penny piece (the thrupenny bit)? Who of you can remember the farthing? All history now but thought about with nostalgia no doubt.
So next time you hand over some cash when buying an item give a little thought to the fact you are using a method of payment that’s been around for thousands of years.
There again you may choose to go cashless as you quickly tap your card on the card reader and ‘Bob’s your uncle!’ You may end up spending a few ‘bob’ too!
An old ‘Thrupenny Bit’ - this design was used as the basis for the new 12-sided one pound coin.
Royal Mint Experience
The Royal Mint Experience is open to the public 7 days a week. For more information telephone 0333 241 2223 or use the link below:
‘Dippy’ the Dinosaur
The skeleton of ‘Dippy’ the diplodocus from the Natural History Museum in London has been touring the UK and now it is the turn of Cardiff. It is on display at Cardiff National Museum until 26th January 2020. Entry is free. For information on opening times etc telephone 029 2057 3339 or visit https://museum.wales/cardiff
A Tale of Two Horses
At the museum, you may have noticed a box of hats for visiting children to play with. Amongst them is my old riding hat (see picture below). If that hat could talk, it could tell a tale or two...!
As a teenager growing up in the 1970’s I always fancied trying horse riding and so when the opportunity arose to try pony trekking at a stables on the mountain above Hafodrynys, I jumped at the chance.
It was to be a guided trek and I was part of a large group. It took a while to get everyone mounted on suitably sized horses and my mount was a spirited young chap called Trampas. Apart from the occasional ride on a donkey at the seaside, this would be my first time in the saddle.
I was sitting on my horse waiting while others were being allocated mounts when Trampas decided he had waited long enough and he broke rank and took off at a gallop across the adjacent field with me hanging on to the saddle for dear life! There was a fence at the end of the field and I could feel Trampas readying himself to jump it but fortunately one of the stable hands had seen my plight and, in a scene straight out of ‘Bonanza’ had come galloping to my rescue! He managed to rein in the horse before we reached the fence, otherwise I might not be here to tell the tale. You would be forgiven for thinking that that would have been the end of my riding days but no, far from it, that was my first visit of many to that stables and I always asked for Trampas!
It was not long before me and my riding-mad friend Elizabeth were regulars up at the stables. Once we had gained a bit of confidence, she and I, armed with a packed lunch, would hire out the horses for the whole day and ride for miles, just the two of us. Looking back I wonder how prudent it was for two children, I would have been around 14, Liz a year or so younger, to be in sole charge of two animals that weighed far more than us, roaming alone on top of isolated mountain tops. Remember, of course, there were no mobile phones in those days! But they were different times and we never gave a thought to what dangers we could encounter. But that was about to change...
Back in the 1970’s, weather forecasts were nowhere near as accurate as they are today. One winter’s day, we set off as usual, me on Trampas, Liz on her horse and took our usual route along well trodden paths. Our destination was a little village on the outskirts of Pontypool. There was a pub there which resembled a saloon from an old western movie, which had a wooden bar outside to tie your mount to. Here we would dismount, tie up the horses and, with a lemonade and a packet of crisps purchased from inside, we would sit in the beer garden and eat our lunch before starting the return journey back to the stables.
This particular day though we never reached the village. We must have been over half way there when it started to snow. At first we were not too concerned but soon the snow started to hide the grass and realisation dawned that we could no longer see the path! Somewhat alarmed we thought it best to call it a day and turn around and head back but we couldn’t even see where we had come from! Our tracks had already disappeared and we became totally disorientated. Not only that but we had not dressed for such extreme weather and were starting to feel cold and alone and very vulnerable. The snow started falling more thickly and the wind picked up and we found ourselves caught in a blizzard. With visibility now almost non-existent, we started to feel somewhat panicky, the mountain we had grown to love had suddenly become a very forbidding place. We roamed aimlessly for a while, hoping against hope we were going in the right direction and then we spotted a pylon. We knew the pylons ran parallel to the path we needed and, as long as we kept them on our left, it should take us in the general direction of home. And so we used them as a guide and kept moving from pylon to pylon.
We knew at some point we would need to leave the pylons and head off to the right in order to get to the stables but we had no idea when to make that turn. Fortunately our horses did – they say animals have a built-in homing instinct and so when they started to pull to the right, we put our faith in them and allowed them to take the lead. And take us home they did. Never had I been so glad to get back to the stables where a warm, dry stable awaited our horses and a hot drink in front of the fire for us as we waited for our parents to collect us. It didn’t put us off riding but it did make us realise just how dangerous and unpredictable ‘Mother Nature’ can be!
Education Committee 1926
The museum has a wide and interesting range of documents in its care, including a bound collection of carbon copies of letters from the Secretary to the Education Committee in Abertillery for the second quarter of 1926. Here are a few of those letters.
24th March 1926 to Mr J R Williams, Dairyman, Bryn Ithel
“I beg to inform you that my Committee have decided to continue the provision of meals to school children during the time the schools are closed for the Easter Holidays, 1926.
It is intended to accommodate the children on one centre – Brynhyfryd Infants’ School – and I shall be glad if you will deliver all milk ordered during the period 1st April to 12th April, to this School.”
7th April 1926 – copy of a letter sent to the Committee.
“I beg to inform you that my child Thomas Charles White age 7 years received a serious accident at the Llanhilleth School on December 14th 1925.
It was playtime & the children were all playing in the school ground. My child fall (sic) over a wall about 3 or 4 Feet High. A number of nails were on the ground. He pitched on his head and a nail went in. He was taken to the Hospital, and has been there ever since seriously ill. As you can understand, it has been a heavy cost to me, as wife and myself have had to visit the hospital once & twice a week and nourishment to be found. I have been unemployed 16 months since the water broke in at the colliery with exception of temporary work for a week now and then. I have a family. I think the Committee could help to bear this cost – and I thank you in anticipation.”
This letter was sent on to the Allied Assurance Co. Ltd by the Committee.
The child died a few days later and there was subsequently a claim for compensation and a letter from the father asking for early settlement and help with funeral expenses, the father saying he didn’t know what to do as he had been unemployed so long. In early June the insurance company instructed the Council’s solicitors to pay Mr White £25 without admission of liability.
15th April 1926 – letter to the Headmistress, Cwmtillery Girls School.
“With reference to your letter of the 15th instant, I am forwarding the necessary order to The Singer Sewing Machine Co, but I shall be glad if, in future, you will notify me when the sewing machine requires attention, so that the Order may be issued before the work is done.”
16th April 1916 – letter to the Headmaster, Blaentillery Mixed School.
“The number of attendances entered by you on the Return for the year ended 31st March, 1926, is 168,060, whereas the total taken from your Monthly Returns amounts to 168,059.
Please let me have, by return a statement showing the number of attendances for each month during the year in question.”
(A number of similar letters were sent to other Heads).
27th April 1926 – letter to the Headmaster, Central Boys School, Abertillery.
“In reply to your letter of the 31st Ultimo, I beg to inform you that waste paper baskets are supposed to be provided out of the allowance for school requisites.”
11th May 1926 – letter to Blaina Industrial & Provident Society.
“I beg to enclose herewith a cheque for £21-3s-4d, in settlement of the enclosed accounts for boots supplied”.
These were boots issued under the “Necessitous Children’s Boot Fund.”
The letters give an interesting snapshot of life in those difficult times and reflect the hardship being suffered locally as well as showing the minutiae of the work covered by the Committee.
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