If you are stuck for ideas for Christmas presents or stocking fillers why not pop along to the Museum and see what the shop has to offer.
Fund raising November - £571
The Christmas Fayre made £469.
A big thank you to everyone who helped.
100 Club – November
1 st No.91 Alf Stone £25
2 nd No. 86 Joan Cook £10
3 rd No. 18 Renee Morgan £5
AGM Monday 6th December
Please be sure to come along – you will all have received the agenda and accounts. This is your chance to hear all that has happened throughout the year, including behind the scenes, and to find out how much work goes into keeping the Museum running smoothly. It is also an opportunity for you to ask questions and make suggestions – this is your AGM and we look forward to seeing a good turnout.
On 7th December the Museum will follow a Victorian theme with a display of Victorian toys, and we will be selling items from the Museum shop.
Please help – we need helpers as ‘stallholders’ as well as contributions.
Annual Dinner 21 st January
This will be at the Top Hotel in Llanhilleth. Please contact Roy Pickford to book your place.
Knitting for Charity
Marge Selway and Enid Dean have been busy knitting and crocheting children’s jumpers and blankets for a charity which ships them out to Afghanistan – imagine the weather we have experienced in early December but without warm clothes. If you’ll knit them, I’ll post them.
Monday 6th December – Annual General Meeting
Tuesday 7th December (pm) – Winterfest ; the Museum will have a stall with a Victorian toy theme
Friday 21 st January 2011 – Annual Dinner at the Top Hotel, Llanhilleth
Saturday 29 th January 2011 – Coffee morning “Then and Now” by Don Bearcroft
The Museum will be closed for two weeks over Christmas and the New Year. The last day of opening will be Saturday 18th December and the Museum will open again on Tuesday 4 th January 2011.
Christmas was an interesting time because they’d be busy in the bake-houses baking Christmas cakes. I used to love to call in at my gran and uncle’s business coming home from school watching them icing the cakes. Later on, nearer Christmas, the bakers would have a day when the public could bring their cakes in for baking. They were always very nicely done in the big steam ovens there and I remember my mother always used to make big tinloafed-sized cakes and we’d take these down after lunch and the bakers then would put them in the oven and keep an eye on them. You used to pay sixpence or something for the baking so the bakers would eventually have a pound or two for their pains. Later, on Christmas Day, they did the same thing with poultry. It was a common sight to see people walking down with a big cooking tin with a chicken or turkey covered over with a nice white tea towel. Nine, half past nine, on Christmas morning people would start going down. They would pay the baker about a shilling or sixpence a bird. They seemed to do better in the bread oven than in the stove at home and, of course, you didn’t have to worry about it. There was always a lovely smell when they were baking bread or cakes and on Christmas morning you could smell the poultry cooking when you came up the road from the square to Woodland Terrace.
‘Carol Singing for Sweets’
We didn’t have the money for sweets. We had a ha’penny every Friday and we had to spend it in our own shop. We never had the ha’penny in our hand so we used to look for the biggest thing which was usually a lucky bag. Lou Poole used to have a shop in the square (in Aberbeeg). Well he was a little old man, a bachelor, and it was a magic shop, it kept everything. At Christmas, when we went out carol singing – and we really did go carol singing, we’d give ‘em their money’s worth – we’d end up with a couple of shillings and we’d come back to Uncle Lou’s. It was always well lit up and there was a place for you to sit outside. We’d take out all this money and we’d share it out and get a 2oz bar of chocolate for Mam and two ounces for Dad.
‘…Keeping Warm at School’
There were no after-school activities at all but at Christmas time we did have a party but we always had to sit at our desks to have this bit of cake. We used to0 have free milk when we were in school and during the winter they used to put these crates of milk in front of the fire to warm it so it was always a bit, ugh, tepid and in the winter the ice used to come and I always remember the tops sort of popping off because of the ice. There was a coal fire – that was all that used to heat the schoolroom – and the teacher used to sit mostly in front of it and we never felt any of the heat!
(The above articles were taken from the book ‘Voices of Abertillery, Aberbeeg and Llanhilleth’ which is on sale at the Museum).
The Great Snow 1947
The recent spell of freezing temperatures and snow will doubtless have brought back memories of winter 1947 – some articles for next month’s Newsletter perhaps? Coming just two years after the end of the Second World War the country was ill prepared for such harsh weather conditions. The snow began on 21 st January and within hours the roads and railway lines across South Wales (and elsewhere in Britain) were completely blocked. The mining industry had not recovered from the privations of war and so even before the start of the severe winter weather coal was in short supply. Trains and lorries struggled to get the limited stocks available through to the power stations. Many of the power stations simply ran out of coal and had no alternative but to shut down but that meant power cuts at a time when electricity was badly needed. The Government reluctantly agreed to cut domestic supplies to just 18 hours a day. This action, although necessary, is popularly thought to have caused discontent with the Labour Party and their subsequent poor showing in the 1950 elections. Radio broadcasts were also cut and the new TV service was suspended for a time. Newspapers were reduced in size and many ‘non-essential’ magazines were closed down. Shops and schools were shut.
There are a few photos of the 1947 Great Snow in another of the local history books (The Archive Photographs Series) on sale in the Museum. The photographs show people queuing for milk at the Cottonwood Café (former post office), snow at the corner of Church street and High Street, and St Paul’s Church Cwmtillery (whose bell is in the Museum).
Old Welsh Customs
Many countries have a custom for letting in the New Year. In Wales it was thought that it was bad luck if the first visitor in the New Year was a woman and the male householder opened the door. If the first man to cross the threshold was a red haired man, that was also bad luck.
A pre-Christian custom associated with the end of the Christmas season, formerly carried out in all parts of Wales but mow almost disappeared, is that of the Mari Lwyd (Grey Mare). A horse’s skull with false ears and eyes attached, along with reins and bells, covered with a white sheet and decorated with ribbons, was carried around from door to door accompanied by a party of people. Initially, poems were recited by those outside and those inside responded in verse and refused to let the Mari Lwyd enter until the battle of words was won. The parties gained a bad reputation for drunkenness and vandalism and so the exchanges of poetry and insults were dropped and replaced by the singing of carols. There are a few pockets in Wales where this custom is being revived.
Books for Christmas
The Tonypandy Riots 1910-1911 by Gwyn Evans, David Maddox Price £19.99
This book contains over 250 photographs and discusses the bacvkground to the strike, the confrontation with the police outside the colliery, the looting of shops, and the role of Winston Churchill in sending in the military.
Wales – 100 Places to See Before You Die by John Davies Price £29.95
A comprehensive volume with full colour photos. The book encompasses historical sites such as Manorbier Castle, engineering feats such as Pont-cysyllte bridge, and tourist attractions such as Portmeirion.
Aled Jones’ Favourite Christmas Carols by Aled Jones Price £16.99
A book with a difference which includes a number of favourite carols brought vividly to life with Aled's personal reminiscences of singing them and thoughts on why each is so special. Accompanied by the history of the words and music, and for nine of the carols the sheet music for piano.
‘Spirit of Christmas’
I have a list of people I know
All written in a book
And every year at Christmastime
I go and take a look
And that is when I realise
That those names are a part
Not of the book they’re written in
But of my very heart
For each name stands for someone
Who has crossed my path some time
And in that meeting they’ve become
A treasured friend of mine
And once you’ve met some people
The years can not erase
The memory of a pleasant word
Or a friendly face
So when I send a Christmas card
That is addressed to you
It’s because you’re on that list
Of people I’m indebted to
And you are one of many who
In times past I have met
And happen to be one of those
I don’t want to forget
And whether I have known you for
Many years or few
In some small way you have a part in
Shaping things I do
This, the spirit of Christmas, that
Forever and ever endures
May it leave its richest blessing
In the hearts of you and yours.
Once again December and all it brings is with us, snow, cold, our AGM and Christmas.
The year seems to have flown by this is mainly due to all the activities the museum is involved in, perhaps we need an extra month!
The table shows the work done by our Documentation Teams: Card Index files, Artefacts, Photographs, and Computer Database files; and Documents.
Also; The café is staffed every day we are open, the cleaning of the museum, maintenance of the cases, setting up exhibitions, dealing with visitors, groups and working to ensure the school visits are successful.
This does not include the: fund raising events, museum trips, meetings attended, such as Communities First, Aberfest, Royat Twinning Association, Wintefest and many more.
All this work is done by our dedicated band of volunteers.
Next year will be as busy as 2010 with new projects planned together with more activities.
The first project; due to Jennifer’s hard work we have received a grant from biffaward towards the new Royal Oak pub and the Community Council gave a grant towards the project which includes the Carmel Street Chapel design these will be located in the schools area.
Alan came and collected mannequins to start work altering them for the new pub design and he will start work on the Prince of Wales Public House display in the New Year.
In conclusion I would like to say:
That the success of the museum is due to the volunteers who run it, I always take this opportunity to thank them but on this occasion I believe that the Museum Inspectors report which was done secretly say’s all that has to be said about our museum and its volunteers. We could not have had a better report if we had written it ourselves and what is more you all deserve it.
I never take it for granted that I will be re-elected to the post of curator at the AGM as life is never certain. My not being there on the night illustrates this point.
As however I was re-elected I thank you for your confidence and support and by the Grace of God, next year, 2011 will be my 20 th year as curator of Abertillery & District Museum will be even better. During those 20 years I have had the pleasure and privilege of working with you to achieve what we have today. We have gone through many trials and hardships and have overcome them all, which I believe has made us stronger.
We have become a family with the love for the museum binding us together, like any family we have sometimes had our differences but as a family we sort them out ourselves and woe-betide anyone else who tries to interfere with us!
As for the future we have a new design starting in the New Year and younger members joining to continue our work, bringing their new skills to the museum.
I also believe that to remain strong we must continue to do things for ourselves as much as is humanly possible. To start to rely too much on other people will make us week and apathetic, this does not mean that we cannot turn to others for help if we think it necessary or when the time arises.
This of course is the Museum Bulldog in me speaking. A bulldog’s job is; “To Guard and Protect” and that is how I have always seen my role as curator.
Thank you all and especially Peggy for her love and support
Happy Christmas and a healthy and Prosperous New Year.
Don Bearcroft, curator