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December 2013
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Annual Dinner – Friday 24th Jan

As usual, the Annual Dinner will be at the Top Hotel in Llanhilleth. Menus will be available at the Museum so please call at the Museum to book your place and make your menu choices, or contact Peggy Bearcroft or Margaret Dyer. Please note that you will need to be at the Top Hotel at 6.30 for 7pm. Our guest speaker will be Alun Davies AM.  

Thank You Biffa Award!

Biffa Award has once again come up trumps and awarded us a generous grant which has allowed us to press ahead with commissioning a new display – an Edwardian toy shop frontage. The new ‘shop front’ will allow more of the Museum’s toy collection to be displayed, and the fascia board will carry the name of the long established family firm of S.M. Ash & Sons who continue to trade in the town after more than one hundred years. The display will use the space currently occupied by the Museum shop and the refit will allow the Museum shop to be reorganised for the benefit of the volunteers who run it and our customers.  

AGM 2013

The AGM didn’t attract a large audience but enough attended to allow the meeting to proceed. The three Company Directors required to stand down were re-elected and the Management Committee was also re-elected other than for Mr Ron Selway who stepped down as Vice Chairman – that role has now been filled by Nigel Daniels. Many thanks to everyone who attended the AGM or sent in voting and proxy forms. Those who came along will know that it was an opportunity to look back at what has been achieved over the last year, to outline our hopes for the future, and to say a big thank you to all those who help in some way.

Mr Ron Selway

At the recent AGM Ron Selway announced that he was standing down as Vice Chairman for health reasons. Ron has filled the role of Vice-Chairman very successfully for many years. We will miss his eloquent introductions and votes of thanks but are glad that we will continue to see him on a regular basis at the Museum.  

Diary Dates

November and December Teddy Bear Exhibition

Thursday 5th December – 10am at the Museum,Christmas Fayre

Friday 24th January 2014 Annual Dinner, Top Hotel, Llanhilleth at 7pm

Wednesday 5th February 2014 Rolls and Royce by Roger James

Wednesday 5th March 2014 The Tonypandy Riots by David Maddox

Wednesday 2nd April 2014Manufacturing Fine Bone China by David Woodliffe

Wednesday 7th May 2014 Military Band Archive and Music by Anne Gatehouse

Wednesday 4th June 2014 The Murder of Kymin Bet by Pete Strong

Wednesday 2nd July 2014 Swan Rescue by Ellen Kershaw

Wednesday 6th August 2014 A Brief Look at Vietnam by Jen Price

Wednesday 3rd September 2014 The WW2 Blenheim Bomber Crash at Abersychan by Ken Clark

Wednesday 1st October 2014 – Introduction to Rag Rug by Jane Dorsett

Wednesday 5th November 2014 The Mysterious World of Bees by John Holden

Teddy Bear Exhibition

Our Curator Don Bearcroft has put on a special exhibition at the Museum so if you haven’t already seen it, be sure to come along. The teddies are a delight and appeal to both youngsters and the young at heart.

Lecture Programme

The Museum’s 2013 lecture programme ended last month with a talk by Pete Strong on ‘Stanley Spencer, War Artist’. Spencer’s career as an artist spanned fifty years but his paintings and murals depicting scenes of wartime have been described as “the most powerful art to emerge from the carnage of the Great War”. Although Spencer witnessed some horrific sights as an orderly with the Royal Army Medical Corps, many of his paintings depict a more banal imagine of life in a military hospital. Spencer was something of an eccentric but his skill as an artist was recognised and in the Second World War he was commissioned as a war artist in the Clydesdale shipyards. All the images Pete Strong showed had a powerful effect on the audience and his talk was well received. There is a major exhibition of Spencer’s work at Somerset House in London (until 26 th January) and our own National Museum of Wales in Cardiff also has some of Spencer’s paintings.

The next talk will be at 2pm on Wednesday 5 th February 2014 at the Museum. The February speaker will be Roger Harris whose talk is entitled “Rolls and Royce”. Non-members are welcome; entry is £2 and tickets are available in advance at the Museum, or at the door.

Volunteers needed

We are always in need of more volunteers to help keep the Museum running and open to the public. If you fancy helping out for a couple of hours a week, please call in for a chat.

Abertillery Tommies’ Appeal

South Wales Gazette, 15 th December 1939

“Somewhere in Wales” Abertillery lads – members of “A” Company, 3 rd Mons – will spend a much happier Christmas if they have plenty of smokes, something interesting to read, something warm to wear and perhaps a few of the delicacies that might not find their way on to the mess room table in the ordinary way.

“A” Company is comprised entirely of Abertillery and district soldiers, and the Company Officer, Major J.F. Smith, through the “Gazette”, is appealing to Abertillery inhabitants to show in some tangible way their appreciation at the way in which local men have answered their country’s call in the present war.

Gifts of cigarettes, tobacco, books, socks, scarves, gloves, games – anything that goes to make Christmas a bit brighter for the troops – will be appreciated.

Superintendent Eugene Davies has generously agreed to receive any gifts that might be sent, and he will undertake to forward them to the Company Officer for distribution among the men.

Local Voices

A television programme recently looked at whether the site of the Battle of Hastings had been correctly identified. However, before the Normans invaded there were the Vikings to contend with. A regular contributor to the Newsletter, Mr Arthur Lewis, made a visit with his local history group to Benfleet and viewed the waterway to Canvey Island where King Alfred’s two sons defeated a fleet of Viking ships. The Battle of Maldon, where the Vikings defeated the English, is remembered in a park near Chelmsford where Mr Lewis now lives.

100 Club November

See January’s Newsletter.

Fund raising November

See January’s Newsletter.

Museum Shop

We have a good selection of gifts and stocking fillers at very reasonable prices. You are sure to find something to suit all ages and tastes and you’ll be supporting the Museum.

Get Well Soon

Rose Smith is unfortunately still in hospital and we send her our best wishes that she will soon be up and about.

Book Corner

As Christmas is approaching we are reviewing two books this month. They would make good gifts or you could treat yourself!

Y Plas: The Story of the Welsh Country House co-written by Sian Price, Mark Baker and Dewi Gregory, price £20.

This book is based on a recent S4C series in which a group of people stepped back to live as they would have in Edwardian times. However, the book also stands alone as it delves into the history of the Great Houses of Wales, the people who lived in them and those who worked in the houses and on the estates. Edwardian Wales is explored – from social life, school, politics and religion to industrialisation, culture and national events. The book also looks into the demise and recovery of the Welsh Country House and its legacy. It shines a light into a largely unknown aspect of Wales and gives the people of these grand houses and estates their rightful place in Welsh history.

The book has 120 pages and is lavishly illustrated.
Jen Price

Fighting on the Home Front: The Legacy of Women in World War 1 by Kate Adie.

Many books have been written covering many aspects of the First World War and there will doubtless be many more with the centenary of the start of the War in 2014.

Kate Adie tells the story of the people, mainly women, who remained at home. Previous wars had been fought in distant lands and had little effect on those left at home. In 1914, however, the sound of guns could be heard from across the English Channel. Later in the war there were the new flying machines carrying bombs, and people living near the East Coast were bombarded from the North Sea.

With the commencement of war, men were called on to enlist and women were urged to encourage this and also encouraged to fill the gaps left by their husbands, sons and brothers who had enlisted.

Women from all walks of life answered this call, working in factories as munitionettes, working on the land and joining the police forces as copperettes. Later in the war they went to France as nurses and ambulance drivers and joined the army and navy, heralding the beginning of women’s place in the armed forces as we know it today.

Kate Adie has thrown a new light on this period, showing how adventurous some women were. It was the efforts of those who met this challenge head-on which helped the suffragettes in their fight for women to be allowed to vote.
Jean Colwell

Poetry Corner

Christmas Thank You’s

Dear Auntie
Oh, what a nice jumper
I’ve always adored powder blue
and fancy you thinking of
orange and pink
for the stripes
how clever of you

Dear Uncle
The soap is
and such a kind thought and
how did you guess that
I’d just used the last of
the soap that last Christmas brought

Dear Gran
Many thanks for the hankies
Now I really can’t wait for the flu
and the daisies embroidered
in red round the ‘M’
for Michael
thoughtful of you

Dear Cousin
What socks!
and the same sort you wear
so you must be
the last word in style
and I’m certain you’re right that
luminous green
will make me stand out a mile

Dear Sister
I quite understand your concern
it’s a risk sending jam in the post
But I think I’ve pulled out
all the big bits
of glass
so it won’t taste too sharp
spread on toast

Dear Grandad
Don’t fret
I’m delighted
So don’t think your gift will
I’m not at all hurt
that you gave up this year
and just sent me
a fiver
to spend

Mick Gowar


Volunteers And “F Troop.”

Christmas has come again and another year is near its end. It is at these times that I think of past years and the events that happened during them, I think the most eventful years as far as the museum is concerned started in 1996 and our search for a new home. Once we attained this things should have been plain sailing, or so we thought! I am not going to tell of the catalogue of events and near disasters that we overcame, this was done in our 40 th Anniversary booklet. I am thinking of the members of the museum over this period, their dedication and love for our museum was the main factor in its survival.

One group of whom I have special memories are those who I referred to as F Troop it was they who I called upon for moving artefacts and heavy items, this happened not only on our move from Abertillery Library but also when problems occurred once we had moved into our new home at the Metropole. These were always urgent moves for one reason or another with little notice being given to the Troop, they always responded blaming me (good naturedly) to whatever was asked of them. Due to our built in obsolescence called “Old Age” some of “F Troop” are no longer with us and the others like me have mechanical problems which obviate us from doing what we used too, “the spirit is willing but the body is weak” Or 21 in the mind with a body of a 100 year old.

I have funny stories of those that are gone and also those still alive, I remember a time when we given a cast iron fire grate from a house on Crook Hill Cwmtillery, it was set into the house when it was built. It had an arched oven built of house bricks. Bernard Hill and I worked all morning until we could gingerly take it out. We were covered in soot and mortar, standing back to admire our work when a third member of the Troop arrived late; he took hold of one end and pulled it towards himself, CRACK! It was cast iron as I said; fortunately it was not too badly damaged.

BuildingThe most difficult job we had was removing the Track Diagram, Instrument Shelf and desk from Aberbeeg Junction Signal Box, donated by Rail track arranged by my son Lyn. The members of “F Troop” on this occasion were; Bob Pit, Bernard Jones, myself and David Rose with his coal lorry. To get the desk out two of the signal box windows had to be removed, the desk was still a tight fit and everyone except me were in favour of sawing the legs off. With a lot of effort it eventually got through the window and lowered onto the lorry. Next was the track diagram, it made of oak has a plate glass front and is long and heavy. It would not go through the window, so it had to be carried down the steps which are high and of a dogleg design.

The entrance door was onto a short platform at the top the steps descended at a right angle going on down to another dogleg. When carrying the track diagram out more than two thirds of it was over the railing where no one could reach, eventually it was turned and carried down the remaining steps. After all this the instrument shelf was an easy job. It was designed to come in two and as it was too long for the coal lorry we took it apart.

Building 2The Track Diagram, Instrument Shelf and desk from Aberbeeg Junction Signal Box is incorporated in the railway section of the museum. It is a popular feature by the children but even more popular with their fathers, pulling the signal lever, hearing and watching the trains progress.

It was well worth all the efforts.

It is always a worry about who will take over after our time but fortunately we have younger members who are as dedicated as we are, they are willing to learn and work hard for their museum I cannot speak highly enough of them. Two of them have been newly elected to the Management Committee Mike Purchase, Judith Williams. Councillor Nigel Daniels was elected to the post of Vice Chairman replacing Ron Selway, who after many years of sterling work has resigned due to ill health. Museum volunteers are a special breed, dedicated and hard working for what they believe in.

I named the old volunteers “F Troop” after the T V show of that name I think that the new volunteers will find their own name for their team as it is they who deserve to choose it.
Don Bearcroft

Bear logo

Merry Christmas and a happy new year



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