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November 2021
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Dates for your Diary

Sat 13th Nov - Armistice Day  - Coffee Morning
Tue 23rd NovAGM 11am
Sat 4th Dec  - Winterfest 2pm – 6pm
Sat 11th Dec – Coffee Morning – Quiz/ mince pies
Sat 18th Dec – Coffee Morning - Folk music Christmas recital

Museum opening times

The Museum is open to the public, free of charge:

Thursday* to Saturday               10am – 1pm

October 100 Club

This month’s prize numbers were drawn by a very special visitor.  Audrey Formon is now 89 and living in Nottingham but she lived in Abertillery until she was 14.  She visited the museum on 23rd October; her first visit to Abertillery for 75 years! The lucky winners this month are:-

No.  99             Peggy Bearcroft                   £10
No.  56             Gay Fisher                              £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.


Photo of Don Bearcroft It is my sad duty to report that our Curator of many decades, Don Bearcroft, has passed away.  It is fair to say the museum would not be the success that it is today if it were not for him.  His sheer hard work and tireless efforts, together with wife Peggy, shaped this museum into one of the best small independent museums around.  Page four of this newsletter was always written by Don ‘The Bear’ until August 2018 after which it became too much for him.  He will be greatly missed at the museum and we send our deepest condolences to Peggy and family.

Winterfest/Christmas Fayre

Saturday 4th December 2pm – 6pm

Winterfest this year will be a muted affair compared to previous years, ending earlier at 6pm rather than the usual 8-9pm.  Any donations of tins, bottles, chocolate bars, toiletries, bric-a-brac, toys, handicrafts, raffle prizes and items for our Christmas hamper, would be very gratefully received!  Please bring to the museum at your earliest convenience.


Our annual general meeting will be held at the museum at 11am on Tuesday 23rd November.  All are welcome but only those who are paid up members will be eligible to vote.  Members will receive their voting papers shortly.

Return of Coffee Mornings

We have three coffee mornings planned (see Dates for your Diary above), the first of which will take place on Saturday 13th November and will be to mark Armistice Day.  Cost is £2 (£1.50 for members) to include hot drink and cake.

The Final Frontier

Photo of William ShatnerWilliam Shatner, AKA Star Trek’s Captain James Tiberius Kirk of the USS Enterprise, at the grand age of 90, has boldly gone where no actor has gone before into space!  On October 13th, Shatner blasted off aboard Amazon boss Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin capsule, the New Shepard, (named after Apollo 14 astronaut Alan Shepard) and in so doing made history by being the oldest person to reach space surpassing even Willy Funk who went into space in July this year aged 82.  For a few minutes he was able to unbuckle his seat harness and experience weightlessness.  For Bill Shatner, who has enjoyed a long association with NASA thanks to his acting role as a starship captain, it has meant a lifelong dream has come true albeit it was only an 11 minute trip.  May he continue to live long and prosper!                        
Sally Murphy

The Famous Five

Enid Blyton is not a popular children's author these days but back in the fifties she was a bestseller.  I loved her books, especially those featuring The Famous Five and I still like a good mystery story so maybe it started back then. Why am I telling you this? Well, I was on holiday in Dorset recently and came across a leaflet for 'The Enid Blyton Trail'.  It seems that Enid Blyton and her husband were very fond of Dorset and usually took a family holiday there at least three times a year, regularly staying at the big hotels in Studland and Swanage.  It was the Dorset landscape that provided the inspiration for the setting of many of her Famous Five books.

Corfe Castle
Corfe Castle

I can't remember the stories now but the leaflet points out that, for instance, the dramatic hilltop ruin of Corfe Castle was the inspiration for Kirrin Island which featured in many of the Famous Five stories including "Five on a Treasure Island" when gold was discovered in the castle's dungeons. Clavell Tower is believed to be the inspiration for the tower in "Five Fall into Adventure" and Brownsea Island featured as "Keep Away Island" in "Five Have a Mystery to Solve". 

Clavell Tower
Clavell Tower

Dorset is a lovely county to explore and now that I realise I have actually been to many of the places on the Enid Blyton Trail it has made this last holiday all the more interesting (like Enid Blyton we regularly holiday in Dorset but unlike her we don't stay in the best hotels). This year, for the first time, we took the steam train that runs between Corfe and Swanage; now The Famous Five must have done that trip!
Jen Price

Corfe Steam Train
Corfe to Swanage steam train

Editors note:  Many thanks to Jen for this.  Enid Blyton is by far my favourite children’s author and I have read just about everything she has ever written as has my daughter.

The Tolpuddle Martyrs

Dorset is a county with a rich history – a lot of Bronze Age burial cairns, the largest and most complex Iron Age hillfort in Europe at Maiden Castle, Norman castles, medieval field systems and much more. Fast forward a few centuries and you can also see that the county played an important role in social history and workers' rights. This is simply but boldly explained in the Tolpuddle Martyrs' Museum in the small village of Tolpuddle. Who were the Tolpuddle Martyrs? They were six very brave men who dared to stand up to their masters and the divisive class system of the time to campaign for better wages. This was 1834 when most agricultural labourers earned starvation wages of around nine shillings a week; indeed those families probably would have starved if the wives and children did not also work to help bring in some extra money.

Faced with the prospect of their scant wages being cut, the six men banded together in order to strengthen their position and demand better wages;  to that end they swore a secret oath as members of the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers. The local squire, frightened by this attempted show of solidarity, called for the men to be arrested on the grounds that swearing a secret oath was against the law. The trial was a travesty of justice as the law forbidding secret oaths was not one that legally applied to the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers. However, this was a time when the establishment was prepared to do all it could to preserve the status quo and the notorious Judge John Williams condemned the men to seven years as convicts in Australia.  It was an overly harsh sentence for the alleged crimes and the Judge was open in his explanation that it was intended as a deterrent to others who might wish to follow suit.

The journey to Australia in the convict ship was horrendous and some of the men suffered atrocious conditions on arrival in Australia. Meanwhile, back in Britain there was a public outcry at the unjust trial and the harsh sentences meted out and in the face of a massive protest, the Government eventually issued free pardons in 1836. Those pardons took a long time to reach Australia, with the men returning between 1837 and 1839.  Most of them later decided to emigrate to Canada.

The trade union movement has long recognised the role played by the Tolpuddle Martyrs and annual rallies and other celebrations have been held in the village for many years – a tradition which persists with plans already in hand for the next Festival in 2022. The event is invariably attended by several thousand people including leading trade unionists and politicians.  The picture below is of the Tolpuddle Martyrs day 2005.
Jen Price

Picture of Tolpuddle Martyers Day 2005

By Dave Headey, CC BY-SA 2.0


Vacuation cards Recently the museum has been pleased to welcome back school visits with WW2 being their topic of interest.  While looking for objects related to the war to show them, my hubby, Gareth Murphy, came across an intriguing card game.  Entitled ‘Vacuation’ it was first printed in 1939.  The copy we have at the museum is a reproduction of the original but it is easy to imagine this being played by children around the country to pass the time at air raid shelters while perhaps also preparing them for becoming evacuees.

Clive Sinclair and the C5

You may have read in the papers that Sir Clive Sinclair died recently aged 81.  Sinclair was a successful inventor; one of his inventions being his ZX Spectrum computer which sold millions across the world, bringing affordable home computing to the masses.  But think Sinclair, and most will remember him for his C5 car which, I hadn’t realised until recently, was actually manufactured at the Hoover factory in Merthyr.

Picture of a Sinclair C5
By Prioryman - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

The 3-wheeled single-seater car went into production at the Hoover plant in 1984 and there was much excited anticipation of what would be an early modern electric car.  It was launched on 10th January 1985 but was very poorly received.  It was just 174cm/69” long, 74cm/29” wide and 80cms/31” tall and had a 12V battery with a range of 20 miles and a maximum speed of 15mph.  It had a luggage compartment of just 1 cubic foot (0.028 cubic metres) and was incapable of reversing.  To turn the vehicle around required the driver to get out, pick it up and point in the required direction!   These factors, combined with its lack of protection from the elements not to mention its close proximity to the ground, made it the butt of many jokes.  Being so small and difficult for other vehicles to see, it was deemed unsafe and impractical.  Because of its association with Hoover, it was rumoured to be powered by a washing machine motor though this was not the case of course.  Priced at £399 only 5000 of the 14,000 produced were ever sold and when Sinclair Vehicles went into administration after just a year, Hoover was owed 1.5 million pounds.  These days though the C5 is quite the collector’s item!
Sally Murphy

Sourced from:

Wikipedia and BBC


You can now beat the scammers by calling 159.  Anyone getting a phone call claiming to be from their bank is advised to hang up and dial 159 to check if the call is genuine.  Check the previous call has been disconnected first though as scammers tend to keep the line open (call a friend first or better still use another phone).  So far Barclays, Halifax, Bank of Scotland, Lloyds, NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland, Ulster Bank, Santander and Starling Bank have all signed up with TSB joining in January.   Currently it is a year-long pilot scheme but if successful it could become permanent and hopefully other banks and building societies will also join the scheme.

Now On Display

The Empire Electric Trouser Presser which featured in last month’s newsletter is now on display in our ‘Washday’ case.  Take a look on your next visit.

Empire Electric Trouser Presser


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