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December 2018
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Dates for your Diary

Tuesday 4th December - Christmas Fayre – 2pm to 9pm

Saturday 15th & 22nd December – join us for mince pies and carols (see page 3). In addition, there will be a quiz on 22nd.

Saturday 26th January 2019 – Coffee Morning on the ‘Winter of ‘47’. Click here for more information.

November 100 Club

No. 80 Margaret Cook £20
No. 14 Val Sykes £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.


At the recent AGM it was decided that the annual subscription would remain at £6 for standard membership and £25 for Vice Presidents.
Membership renewal is due in January. Payments made payable to Abertillery & District Museum Society and posted to ADMS, Market Street,
Abertillery NP13 1AH.

There were two changes to the Committee; Bernard Jones who stood down as Treasurer last year is now retiring from the Committee entirely.
He has been replaced by Vice President, Miss Lucy Harding. Farewell and thank you Bernard, and welcome Lucy!

New Postbox

New Postbox Until recently, any post sent to the museum would have to be delivered to the Metropole Theatre (upstairs) as the museum had no letterbox!

Now though we have our very own mailbox so finally we are able to receive our mail direct.

Please note the museum will be open on 22nd December but will then close for Christmas, reopening on Saturday 5th January 2019.


Christmas Pudding – Stir Up

Sunday by Kath Taylor

Christmas pudding By the time you are reading this article ‘Stir Up Sunday’ will have come and gone. This year Stir Up Sunday was on November 25th and is an old tradition dating back to Victorian times when cooks would spend the last Sunday before Advent ‘stirring up’ their Christmas Puddings. Everyone took a turn at stirring whilst making a wish. Did you know the pudding is supposed to be stirred from East to West in honour of the wise men who travelled to Bethlehem?

Christmas pudding is the traditional end to the British Christmas dinner. Christmas pudding originated as a 14th century porridge called‘frumenty’ that was made of beef and mutton with raisins, currants, prunes, wines and spices. Also previously called ‘plum pudding’ when plums or prunes were used and ‘figgy pudding’ when the pudding contained dried figs. Maybe you remember the verse from ‘We wish you a Merry Christmas’ which begins..’O bring us some figgy pudding, O bring us some figgy
pudding’..etc. I can hear you all bursting into song as I type!

Once ‘stirred up’ and put into a covered pudding basin, Christmas Puddings require a lot of steaming, around 6-8 hours. I well remember as
a child, the kitchen ceiling being covered with large water droplets, and all the windows in the house misting up as the pudding seemed to be steaming away for ever.

These days of course, Christmas Puddings are readily available in the shops. A couple of years ago a celebrity chef even introduced one with a
whole candied orange at its centre. This sounded rather decadent and not quite traditional though I understand it is very popular and a bit different.

Many people prefer a lighter dessert after their traditional Christmas dinner but me...I look forward to the Christmas Pudding especially if
it’s brought to the table flaming in brandy! Yum!


Mistletoe Holly and Mistletoe have long been used to decorate our homes at Christmas, but where did the tradition originate…?

Long before the days of Christian Christmas, people gathered evergreens in December and decorated their homes and temples to drive away evil spirits and remind them that spring would soon come with new green growth. Some early Christian leaders disapproved of carrying on this heathen custom, but others wanted to continue, giving it Christian meaning. Their view carried the day. In the 15th century one writer noted that in London, ‘Every house and every parish church is decked with holm (holly), ivy, bays…whatever is green.’

Holly, or holm as it was once known, was given all kinds of Christian associations. Some told the story that a holly tree stood, bare of berries
which the birds had eaten, outside the stable where Christ was born. In honour of Christ’s birth, the tree straightaway bore buds, flowers and berries, all in one night! In the carol, ‘The Holly and the Ivy’, the prickly holly leaves represent Christ’s crown of thorns while the red berries the blood shed for us.

Mistletoe was part of pagan New Year ceremonies among the druids in Britain and some churches are said to have banned it for that reason, but many church accounts in England in the Middle Ages show payments for mistletoe to be used to decorate the church at Christmas. In York Minster there was a special mistletoe ceremony, where wrong-doers in the city could come to receive a pardon. In England mistletoe is also linked with kissing. In olden times, a berry had to plucked and given to each girl
kissed and when all the berries were gone, the kissing had to stop!

Christmas Cracker Jokes

How do NASA organise a party? – They planet!

Why did the scarecrow win an award? – Because he was outstanding in his field!

Why did the shark swim in circles? – because it had a nosebleed!

The School Choir

Choir cartoon In September 1970 I started at Abertillery Grammar school. I never really liked that school so when I heard that the school choir would be putting
on their annual Christmas carol concert at St Michaels Church, I wanted no part of it. My friends tried to persuade me to join but it entailed staying after school hours for choir practice and I didn’t want to stay a minute longer than I had to! I soon came to regret that decision however when I found out what upbeat, foot-tapping songs were involved!

The choir was accompanied by the school orchestra and both were trained by our very own museum member Mr Martin Budd, who taught
music at Abertillery Grammar and later at Nantyglo Comprehensive. The musical arrangements were all his too! That December in 1970, the choir sang to a jam packed St Michaels Church and I was in the audience singing along! Martin had arranged for the concert to be recorded and (vinyl) records of the concert were later sold in school (I still have mine).

The following year the entire teaching staff and pupils of Abertillery Grammar School moved to Nantyglo Comprehensive. I loved the new
school which was, even by today’s standards, way ahead of its time (see my article on Nantyglo Comprehensive in March 2017 edition of this newsletter) and I was amongst the first to sign up to join the choir! Choir practice started after October half term and hence forth this became my favourite time of the school year. The girls were divided into three voices; alto, soprano and descant while the boys sang bass (I’ve recently found out that there was a degree of bribery involved in persuading the boys to
take part!). The choir also included a group of‘Madrigal’ singers, a small group of singers who sang unaccompanied.

Now that the school had moved to Nantyglo it was decided that, in addition to the Christmas concert at St Michaels Church, a second concert would be held at Nantyglo school itself. So we would get to perform twice – I couldn’t have been happier!

My favourite carol performed by the choir was, and still is, Calypso Carol. Martin had a very clever knack of ‘building’ a song up such that the whole choir would start by singing the melody as one voice and then he would introduce the various parts bit by bit so that by the end there would be four groups singing in harmony. He also liked to surprise the audience
by starting a song off slowly then, when the audience were settling down for a slow melody, he would jolt them awake with a sudden change
of pace! His version of ‘Go Tell it on the Mountain’ is a classic example of this. He always said as long as you had a strong start and a strong end, the audience would forgive any errors in the middle! It must have worked as we always sang to packed out venues!

Musical note If you would like to hear Abertillery pupils of the 1970s performing a selection of Christmas Carols including Calypso Carol and Go Tell it on the Mountain’; then come along to the museum on the mornings of 15th & 22nd December and you can listen to the choir while enjoying a mince pie and coffee.

Two of the songs are also available to listen to on the Museum’s Facebook page.
Sally Murphy

Christmas Trivia

In Greek, ‘X’ stands for Christ, hence the use of ‘Xmas’.

The world’s largest Christmas present is the Statue of Liberty which France gave to the USA in 1886.

‘Jingle Bells’ was the first song broadcast from space when Gemini 6 astronauts Tom Stafford and Wally Schirra sang it on December 16th 1965.

Christmas trees usually grow for about 15 years before they are sold.

In Germany Heiligabend, or Christmas Eve, is said to be a magical time when the pure of heart can hear animals talking.

The largest Christmas pudding on record weighed 7231 lbs and took villagers in Aughton Lancashshire seven days to make.

Handel’s Messiah

Thanks to museum member Mrs Vera Smith for the following…

It was Christmas and for the first time Handel’s Messiah was to be sung in the village hall. Most of us are familiar with the words and music of
Handel’s Messiah’s great oratorio but old Yorkshire man, Bill Jones, had never been to a performance and he tried to persuade a friend to go with him to hear it but his friend declined. So Bill went by himself and the next time the old pals met, the following conversation took place:

"Well, cum on then ... how did you get on at Messiah?"

"Ee well!" said Bill "It were fair champion. I wouldn'ta missed it for all'tea in China. When I got there t’Town Hall were crowded. It were choc full o'folk and I had job to get seat but no wonder - it were all them singers -- they took up half the gallery, like. There was a chap larking about on t'organ although he weren't playing nowt in particular, just running his fingers up and down like he were practising.

Well, after a bit loads of chaps came in carrying fiddles, then they brought in t'Messiah - well, that's what I took it t'be. It were the biggest instrument on t'platform and it were covered in a big bag. Well, they took the bag off it and then some bloke rubbed its belly with a stick and you should have heard it groan! It were summat like a dying cow!

I was just thinking of going when a little chap came on, all dolled up in a white waistcoat and wi' a flower in his buttonhole, and everything were dead quiet. You could have heard a pin drop! He had a stick in his hand and started waving it about and all t’singers stared at him ..... I reckon they was wondering what was t'matter wi' him. Then they all started to sing
and they hadn't been going long before they was fighting like cats! I reckon he shoulda walloped one or two of 'em with that stick of his. First one side said that they were t' King o'Glory then t'other side said they were, and they went at it‘ammer and tongs, but it fizzled out and I've no
idea which side won.

Then there were a bit of bother about some sheep that was lost. I don't know who they belonged to but one lot of singers must have been very fond o'mutton 'cos they kept on singing "All we like sheep". I couldn't help saying to t’bloke next to me that sheep's all right in moderation but I like a bit o'beef mesen, and he looked daggers at me and said 'shhhh' so I

A lot o'wimmen stood up after that and a load of 'em looked as if they were ...... well ... getting' on a bit like, you know. Some of 'em must ha' been 65 if they were a day! They sang "Unto us a child is born" and t'chaps sang back"Wonderful" an' I thought t'mesen - Wonderful?
It's a bloomin' miracle!

After that they sobered down a bit and sang about a lass called Joyce Greatly. I've never heard of her mesen but the chaps had 'cos they all looked mighty pleased about it. Then some bloke got up and said he were the king o'kings, another one said he was and then, blow me, they all started arguing about it. I was getting a bit fed up when everybody stood up to see what was the matter and they suddenly shouted"Hallelujah ..... it's going t' rain for ever and ever". Well, at that I jumped up and made
straight for t’door. I'd 'ad me money's worth and besides, I was thinking that if it t’were going t' rain for ever and ever I'd better get home before
t’floods came.

Still, it was a real good do though - you shoulda come but, oh, I do hope they find them sheep!"

Delicious Leftovers

Latticed Turkey Plait

• 12oz Sage & Onion Stuffing (cooked)
• 8oz cooked turkey, finely chopped or minced
• 2 eggs, beaten
• 1 sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry

1. In a large bowl, mix together the stuffing and turkey.

2. Bind the mixture together by adding in the beaten eggs, keeping a small amount of egg back for glazing.

3. Unroll the sheet of puff pastry.

4. Lay the mixture down the centre of the pastry keeping well away from the edges.

5. Cut strips into the pastry down both sides (at right angles to the mixture) and then ‘plait’ the strips over the mixture to create a latticed effect.

6. Brush with the remaining beaten egg and cook in oven for 30 minutes at 200C.

Merry Christmas

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