Davies the Ocean: 130 years since the incorporation of the Ocean Coal Company Ltd.

David Davies, often cited as the first Welsh millionaire, was responsible for the development of railways within Wales and was also the man behind the creation of Barry Docks. Alongside these enterprises, he also found success as a colliery owner, earning the nickname “Davies the Ocean” for his development of the Ocean Coal Co. Ltd, which was incorporated 130 years ago in April 1887.

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David Davies [DCOMC/30/3/78]

Davies entered the coal mining business in the 1860s, first hitting coal in April 1886, 15 months after the sinking of his first colliery, Maindy Colliery in Ton Pentre, Rhondda. In 1867 David Davies & Company was formed and new sinkings continued in the Rhondda for the next ten years. Davies won a worldwide market with his Ocean Steam Coal and his collieries continued to be a success. The whole enterprise became the Ocean Coal Co. Ltd, incorporated in 1887, with Davies controlling the main portion of the capital.

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Extract from Park Colliery annual return for the year 1889 [D1400/2/2/1]

Records of the Ocean Coal Co. Ltd survive at Glamorgan Archives and have recently been catalogued as part of the Wellcome Trust funded Glamorgan’s Blood project. The records span the date range 1889-1944 and can be used to provide insight into the running of the financial side of the business through records such as annual returns and pay books, and the practical side of the business through illustrated volumes depicting sections of the coal face. The records can also be drawn upon to give a glimpse into working conditions, with accident and compensation records providing first-hand accounts of the dangers of the mining industry through entries relating to the Ocean Coal Collieries Maindy, Park, Dare, Western, Eastern, Garw, Lady Windsor, Deep Navigation and Avon.

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Geological cross section showing the working face at Park Pits [D1400/4/2/1]

Paybooks and accident and compensation registers provide an insight to the lives of those working at the coal face, but an understanding of the people involved at the higher level of the coal industry can also be gained from a volume of royalty and wayleave payments within the collection. Royalties and wayleaves were the payments made to the owner of the land being worked by the colliery company and the volume gives an indication of how much money individuals received simply for the use of their land. Contrasting this volume with the colliers’ paybooks and accident and compensation registers within the collection serves to highlight the difference that existed at each end of the pay scale.

The collection also contains Special Rules issued to the Ocean Collieries Coal Co. Ltd. under the Coal Mines Regulation Act of 1887, which demonstrate how the government were legislating the mining industry in the late 19th century. These documents show the relationship between the individual Ocean collieries and the H M Inspector of Mines, and they also tell us something about the Ocean Coal workforce. The documents are written in both English and Welsh, indicating that a proportion of the workforce were Welsh speakers only. The fact that the company had the documents published bilingually shows that they understood this and were keen for the whole of the workforce to adhere to the rules.

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A page from the Special Rules issued to the Ocean Collieries Coal Co. Ltd. under the Coal Mines Regulation Act 1887 showing bilingual content [D1400/4/3/2]

The records of the Ocean Coal Company Ltd are an important resource for David Davies’ success as a coal magnate and as a primary source for workings of the coal industry in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  The Ocean Coal Company Ltd’s records, and those of its predecessor the David Davies Company, are now available to view on our catalogue, Canfod. See references D1400, D1402 and DX316 for detailed listings of the records that the Archives holds.

£250 Reward: The Story of the Cardiff Jewel Robbery of April 1920

One of the many unusual items to be found at Glamorgan Archives is a poster, approximately 2ft by 3ft, produced in 1920, offering a £250 reward for information leading to the arrest of …the thief or thieves… who had broken into a jewellery shop in central Cardiff [DCON/UNL/333].  Issued by the insurers, Messrs Cunningham and Gibaud, and the Chief Constable, David Williams, the poster asked anyone with information to contact the Cardiff City Police on Cardiff 3213.

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The raid took place on the night of 27th April 1920, when thousands of pounds of jewellery was taken from T W Long, Jeweller and Diamond Merchant, of 2 St. Mary Street, Cardiff. The story of the burglary and the subsequent hunt for the culprits is told through the records of the Cardiff City Police held at the Archives. The reward poster, which was sent to police forces throughout the country, listed the items stolen. They included gem rings, gold bracelets, gold cigarette boxes, pendants and lockets. The scale of the robbery can be seen from the detail in the poster. The number of gem rings taken alone was over 170. The initial police assessment of the value of the property taken was £5000 at 1920 prices, which would be approximately half a million pounds at current prices. This figure was subsequently revised by the Insurers to £2000 but it was still a major burglary. However, public attention was captured not so much by the scale of the robbery but more by the daring approach taken by the raiders in breaking into the jewellery shop. The details are provided in the crime report filed by the Cardiff Police on 28th April 1920.

Mr Thomas William Long, Jeweller, 2 St Mary Street reported that his premises at the above address were entered sometime between 6.30pm on the 27th and 9am on the 28th instant and stolen therefrom a large quantity of Jewellery …of the value of about £5000.

The premises were examined by Chief Detective Inspector Harries, Detective Inspector Hodges, Detective Sergeants Little, Pugsley and Evans who found that entrance had been effected by climbing a wall about 25 ft high at the entrance to the Cardiff Market (Old Arcade entrance) Church Street, apparently with the aid of a knotted rope, 20 feet long, on the end of which was fastened an iron hook, then climbing on to the roof of Messrs Cross Bros premises, lowering themselves 10 feet on to the roof at the rear of Mr Long’s premises, then forcing a window on the same floor, with the aid of a jimmy and thereby gaining full access to the Shop.

The articles were taken from cases and shelves in the window. A jimmy, a pair of chamois leather gloves and electric torch were found in the shop and another jimmy of the roof of the Market.

Mr George Atkins of 18 Talygarn Street, Assistant Manager of the Central Market found the rope (referred to) hanging on the wall in the entrance to the Market at 8.30am on the 28th April 1920 also a gold ring which was returned to Mr Long.

The records set out the action taken by the police on discovering that the shop had been broken into. Officers were despatched to check city centre hotels, boarding houses and the railway station in the hope of identifying anyone staying in Cardiff, or leaving early on the morning of the 28th, who might have been involved in the robbery. The whereabouts of known criminals from the Cardiff area were examined and also men who had completed work on the shop some months ago. The police took statements from several passers-by, one of whom reported seeing …two men in the doorway, looking through the peep holes in the shutter. One of them was 50 years of age, dressed in corduroy trousers and a cap. Another report also referred to two men. …one of them appeared to turn his face from my view. He was about 5ft 8 medium build, very dark complexion and had the appearance of a Foreigner and wore a Light Rainproof Coat and Trilby Hat.

It took Mr Long and his staff over a week to compile a full list of the missing jewellery, but as the details emerged they were passed immediately to police forces throughout the country with a request that they check jewellers and pawnbrokers for the stolen goods. Police forces were also asked to provide details of known shop breakers who had gained entry is a similar manner. A surprisingly large number of names with photographs were passed to the Cardiff Police by other forces, and each name was followed up to establish their whereabouts on the night of 27th April.

It seemed that within days there had been a breakthrough. Sergeant Little, one of the officers called to the premises, reported that he had received information from an ‘informant’ some time ago that three well known shop breakers from the Birmingham area were targeting T W Long’s and planned to break in overnight by scaling a nearby roof.  Although the information had been provided some years ago the Cardiff Police asked their colleagues in Birmingham to track down the three men. In addition, the equipment left at the scene of the crime was sent to Birmingham for examination by detectives to establish whether it was similar to that used by shop breakers in that city. Correspondence in the files show how the Cardiff Police worked with the Birmingham and Lancashire Forces to track down the three men but all were eventually ruled out.

As might be anticipated, the owner of the shop wrote several letters of complaint including one, dated 7 June, to the Lord Mayor. Long clearly expected his premises to be checked by the police every hour during the night and considered the policing of the city centre as far too lax. In response, in his report to the Watch Committee, dated 14 July 1920, the Chief Constable admitted that, on the night of the 27th the plain clothes police officers who patrolled the centre had been off duty as they were due to sit a promotion examination the next day. However, while this was unfortunate, a uniformed officer, Constable Frank Biston, PC 11, had checked the premises on 3 occasions during the night but had been called away to attend to the shop of Messrs Pearse and Jenkins, Saddlers, in Quay Street which was found to be open. Williams referred to Biston as …a reliable man who has served in this district without complaint for 23 years. However, he did concede that …the failure to discover the hanging rope in the market entrance is admitted and regretted… but it …would be easily overlooked in a general inspection of the building.

It had been anticipated that, in the months that followed the robbery, items of jewellery would begin to be identified as they were sold and so generate further leads. The records show that several items similar to those listed as stolen were reported. In September, Chief Detective Harries and Mr Silver, a member of Long’s staff, travelled to Newcastle to identify 2 ‘platinum gold alberts’ passed to the police by a local jeweller. However, as with other reports, including a ring found at Barry, the items could not be conclusively identified as jewels removed on the night of April 27th.

For almost a year the crime remained unsolved and the reward unclaimed. The Cardiff City Police must have been almost ready to put the case on the back burner, until early on the morning of 11 March 1921:

…Constable Frederick Pickett, No 32 ‘A’, observed a knotted rope attached to and hanging by an iron hook from the coping over the entrance to the Central Market in the Old Arcade.  He immediately reported the matter at the Central Police Station. Almost at the same time Messrs Long’s premises – No 2 St Mary Street – were opened and it was reported that they had been entered.

It was carbon copy of the original burglary with entry gained again by climbing onto the lavatory roof of the Old Arcade public house and then traversing the market roof to break into the back of 2 St. Mary Street. The police report filed on 11 March did, however, tell us a little more this time about how the burglars, after scaling the market roof, broke into the second floor of 2 St. Mary Street and from there into the main shop:

From the flat roof a descent of about 20ft to a sloping roof was made by means of a rope secured to holes bored in the woodwork under the lead covering of the flat roof. At the side of the skylight was a window of Messrs Long’s premises. This window was secured by an ordinary catch and was easily forced by means of a jemmy giving access to a workroom on the second floor. The door of the workroom was secured by a small padlock and was similarly forced. Outside the door was a staircase leading to the first floor on which is situated a show room and lavatory. On the staircase from the first floor to the shop is a heavily padlocked steel gate which is in the full view of observation holes in the shutters. To avoid observation here the thieves broke through the floor of the lavatory to the workroom below. From here ingress to the shop was barred by another steel gate which was however not so prominent as that on the staircase. The padlock of this gate was forced by means of a specially prepared jemmy. The stolen property was taken from the window and show cases. [Crime Report, A Division, Cardiff City Police].

The burglars were well prepared and the report confirmed that they left behind:

One jemmy, one brace and bits, a steel three wheel tube cutter (American make), two hack saw blades, a knotted rope with an iron hook attached. The hook is semi-circular and roughly fashioned.

In all, £3000 worth of jewellery was stolen including …gold watches, watch bracelets, watch wristlets, alberts, signet rings, brooches, necklets, cigarette cases, cigarette boxes, links, bangle rings set with diamonds, vanity cases and one or two sets of pearl studs.  Yet again it was an audacious burglary that baffled the Cardiff Police.  Much of the action taken the year before was repeated, along with the investigation of a number of colourful sounding characters including ‘American Frank’. However, again it was to no effect. On this occasion Long reported that a clock had been moved by the robbers and there were hopes that fingerprints would provide a clue to the identity of the thieves. However, the report from the Director of Criminal Investigation at the Fingerprint Branch, New Scotland Yard confirmed that the only prints found were those of Mr Long’s staff.

There appeared to have been a breakthrough when a badly typed letter was received by the police, naming the burglar:

This is the second time he has done the same shop. If you make enquiries … he left London by the 5 train and got to Cardiff about 9 and before 9 the next day he was back in London again. Signed Ex pal of his.

On another occasion, detectives from Cardiff questioned a prisoner in Dartmoor who claimed to know the identity of the robbers. On both occasions the information was found to be false. There was a hope of progress when, in September 1921, an 18ct gold watch bracelet was identified in London and returned to Mr Long. Unfortunately the London jeweller, who had paid £7 10s for the watch, did not have a record of the seller and could only say that it was …a man age about 35/40, height 5ft 9 or 10, complexion sallow, hair and moustache dark, dress; dark clothes believed bowler hat, carrying a brief bag.

It was possibly a case of shutting the stable door after the horse had bolted when T W Long and Co reported, in June 1921, that they had improved their security with the introduction of a grill system at the back of the premises. They had also supplied the police with a key to the side door of the shop. For their part the Cardiff Police agreed the following actions, set out in a letter to the Acting Superintendent, ‘A’ Division, from the Deputy Chief Constable on 4th June 1921:

Elaborate precautionary measures have been taken by Messrs Long and Company to protect their premises against shop breakers….The Night Plain Clothes Patrol Constable within whose patrol the premises are situated, will be handed nightly by the Officer in Charge of the Plain Clothes Patrol a key which will enable him to gain access by the side door in Church Street. This door will be always locked after entering and leaving. Upon satisfying himself that everything is in order the Plain Clothes Constable will record his visit in the book provided (sent herewith) and which will be found on a desk in the passage and left there as a record.

At that point the trail goes cold. Almost two years later, one of the last letters on the file, dated 26 March 1923, confirmed that both crimes remained unsolved. Possibly a case for Poirot or even Holmes?

Tony Peters, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

St David’s Day

On 1 March St David’s Day is celebrated in Wales, providing schools and communities with an opportunity to mark the occasion by holding parades, dressing in welsh national costume, singing and celebrating all things Welsh.

From head teachers’ entries in school log books (the head teacher’s diary of daily events in school) we can see that from at least the beginning of the twentieth century St David’s Day was an established part of the school calendar with the morning timetable revolving around lessons on the life of St David as well as singing competitions, recitals and often dramatic sketches on welsh history and folklore.  In the afternoons the children were given a half day holiday.

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Local education authorities even issued advice on what should be taught on St David’s Day, publishing pamphlets giving teachers a potted history of Wales and listing suitable patriotic songs to be sung.  During the first world war education authorities were particularly keen for schools to celebrate the day and a 1915 leaflet from the Welsh Department of the Board of Education shows how the emphasis is on patriotism, serving one’s country and using the occasion to boost national morale (ref. GD/E/39/14,15).

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Some local organisations arranged formal dinners to commemorate St David’s Day.  The Cardiff Cymrodorion were one such group, welcoming the Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin as the quest of honour at a dinner held at Cardiff City Hall on 1 March 1927 (ref. D183/13,14). Entertainment was provided by the Herbert Ware Orchestra of Cardiff (advertised as winners at the Royal National Eisteddfod at Barry, Pontypool and Swansea), a harpist and the Cowbridge High School for Girls Choir.  In 1928 the quest of honour was David Lloyd George and dinner was a grand affair with many courses, some welsh dishes such as cawl were served and one of the puddings was given a welsh twist ‘savarins a l’Ananas a la St David’!

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Wearing the national costume of Wales is one of the ways in which the day is commemorated, especially by school children.

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Glamorgan Archives has many prints and photographs showing ‘welsh ladies’ in costume. By the nineteenth century the costume had developed into the one which we are now familiar with, the tall stovepipe style hat, flannel skirts and shawl.  It is an image which was used on tourist souvenirs from teacups, postcards to handkerchiefs!  One of our Victorian scrapbooks (ref. 1989/164) has some beautiful watercolours of ladies in traditional welsh costume with the colours as vivid today as when they were first painted.

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Dydd Gwyl Dewi Hapus from Glamorgan Archives!

A Fine Romance

Hail! genial season of the year

To faithful lovers ever dear

Devoted be this day to praise

My Anna’s charms in rustic lays

Now billing sparrows, cooing doves

Remind each youth of her he loves

My heart and head are both on flame

Whene’er I breath my Anna’s name

These lines were penned by a Captain Bennett in a Valentine poem written in 1818 to Mrs Wyndham, also named as ‘Anna’.  The poem can be found in our Fonmon Castle collection (ref. DF/V/133) and runs to 78 lines of rhyming couplets, far weightier than the snappy valentine messages found in cards today.  In the poem Captain Bennett gives full vent to his romantic side, evoking images of Cinderella and her Prince, praising Anna, including her ‘fairy feet’, as well as casting doubt on the suitability of her other suitors, one of whom he names as ‘Tredegar’s Lord’.  He also describes writing Anna’s initials or ‘cypher’ in the sand with a walking stick, which although the waves may wash away ‘the darling name’ could not ‘blot that cypher from my heart!’

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So who were Captain Bennett and Anna, and did their story have a happy ending?  Although the poem is part of the Fonmon Castle collection it also has references to Dunraven, an estate near Southerndown owned by the Wyndham family.  A little detective work has revealed that Anna was the daughter of Thomas Ashby of Isleworth, London and Charlotte, daughter of Robert Jones of Fonmon (hence the Fonmon connection).

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Anna was first married to Thomas Wyndham of Dunraven and Clearwell Court in the Forest of Dean (MP for Glamorgan), but he died in 1814.  However, Anna remarried in July 1818, only months after the poem was written.  Her new husband was a John Wick Bennett of Laleston, presumably ‘Captain Bennett’ the sender of her Valentine.  It appears his poetic efforts had not been in vain and perhaps helped sway her towards accepting his proposal!

Finding references to ‘love’ and ‘romance’ in the archives can be a difficult task as they are not terms usually found in catalogue descriptions!  However, there are many stories of romance to be found, whether hidden in private diaries or in letters, especially those written when lovers were parted and they were the only means of contact between them. Wartime, especially, led to the separation of many and we have several stories of romance which blossomed during difficult times.

Sister Isabel Robinson found love when she worked at the Red Cross Hospital in Cardiff in 1916.

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Whilst she was nursing there she met and married Daniel James Dwyer of the Australian army. He was recovering in the hospital from a head wound he suffered in action in France.

 

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The couple later settled in Australia at St. Kilda, Victoria but returned to England where Isabel died in 1965.  Isabel’s photograph album is held at the Archives and includes photographs of staff and patients at military hospitals in Bridgend and Cardiff (ref. D501).

One of our most important collections relating to the Second World War are the many letters written by Pat Cox of Cardiff to her fiancé, Jack Leversuch, who was serving overseas in the forces (ref. DXGC263/2-32). Throughout the war Pat sent regular letters to Jack giving him her news.  Jack kept all the letters he received from Pat and brought them home with him when he finished serving overseas.

 

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The letters give personal details of the couple’s courtship as well as describing how Cardiff was dealing with air raids, the black out, evacuation and rationing.

Valentine cards also appear in our collections.  Many nineteenth century cards were handmade and beautifully coloured, sometimes decorated with intricate cut outs.  During the latter part of the century commercially printed cards appeared, although to our modern eyes these are also beautifully decorative.  Here are two examples of Victorian valentines (ref. DX554/18/3,9), both edged with feathers.

 

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Do you have any old documents, photographs or valentine cards?  Please let us know as we would love to add them to our collection.

 

 

‘I’ll sing a song of heroes true’: A Tribute to the Glamorgan Constabulary by PS Caleb Morris

 

 

The Glamorgan Archives holds a large number of items that tell the story of the Glamorgan Constabulary from its creation in 1841. One of the more unusual items is a poem penned by Police Sergeant Caleb Morris (PS 175) in 1918 entitled, ‘A Tribute to the Glamorgan Constabulary’. At the time, Morris was 48 years old and past the maximum age for military service. Originally from Pembrokeshire, he had joined the Glamorgan Constabulary at the age of 24 in 1894. He was a well-known figure in the Abernant area and was promoted to Sergeant in 1915. He figured regularly in the pages of the local press, giving evidence in criminal cases heard in the local courts. Morris, however, was also known in the community for his talent in writing verse. There are several newspapers reports in this period of events where the audience was entertained by ‘topical verse’ and ‘verses of welcome’ delivered by Caleb Morris. This was a talent that he used in good effect when, in 1918, he produced his ‘Tribute to the Glamorgan Constabulary’.  His aim was to celebrate the men of the Constabulary who had joined the armed forces to fight in the Great War. Several hundred men from the Constabulary left their posts to join the forces and 92 lost their lives.

The poem is reproduced in full at the end of this article. It tells the story of specific events, including the desperate attempt to hold back the German advance in the early months of the war. By and large, however, it majors on the deeds of specific men. For example, Fred Smith, who was a Police Inspector at Bridgend at the outbreak of the war, and also known for his exploits on the rugby field playing for Cardiff and Bridgend. Fred had extensive military experience, having fought in the Boer War as a Regimental Sergeant Major in the Glamorgan Yeomanry, and was awarded the DCM. During the Great War, as Lieutenant Colonel Smith, he commanded the 16th (Cardiff City) Battalion of the Welsh Regiment and was awarded the DSO. After the war he returned to the police force with his appointment as Chief Superintendent at Gowerton.

The verse also tells the story of one of the legendary figures of the Glamorgan Constabulary, Company Sergeant Major, Dick Thomas. Dick Thomas had joined the force in 1904 and was promoted to Sergeant and stationed at Bridgend in 1913. He was widely admired as an exceptional rugby player for Bridgend, Mountain Ash and Wales. In particular, he had the distinction of playing in the first Welsh side to win the Grand Slam in 1908. He is remembered as one of the heroes of the assault by the Welsh Regiment on the heavily defended German positions at Mametz Wood on 7 July 1916.

One of the most poignant stories is that of James Angus, originally from Brecon. Angus had joined the Glamorgan Constabulary in 1893 and was stationed at Barry and Abercynon. Like Fred Smith, he had military experience. His father had fought with the South Wales Borderers in the Crimea and James Angus had served with the Grenadier Guards in the Boer War. In 1914 he joined the 16th Cardiff City Battalion of the Welsh Regiment. Promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, he was Acting Commander of the 11th Battalion of the South Wales Borderers when he died, tragically, in a swimming accident in September 1917.

The verse also deals with events on the home front, commending the men, like Morris, who had to stay in Wales but, nevertheless, were doing ‘their bit’ to win the war. In addition, there is a lengthy tribute to the Chief Constable, Capt Lionel Lindsay, for his leadership during the war years. Lindsay had first joined the Constabulary as a Superintendent in Merthyr in 1889. He succeeded his father, Henry Gore Lindsay, as Chief Constable in 1891 and held the post until 1937.

The poem ends on a fairly sombre note, telling the story of the thousands of women who dreaded the arrival of the post each day in case it brought news of the death of a loved one. Delivery of such letters and telegrams would have been a familiar occurrence in local communities across Wales. No doubt Caleb Morris would have feared for the life of his only son, David, who was in the Merchant Navy. David was an officer on ships owned by W J Tatem and Co of Cardiff.  As far as we know, he survived the war but not without a number of scares. In May 1918 the Aberdare Leader carried details of his return from India on the SS Madras. The convoy had been attacked on both the outward and return journeys by German submarines and had lost six ships. It was reported that … one torpedo missed the bow of Sec Officer Morris’ ship by only a yard or two and struck the next ship which was alongside.… [Aberdare Leader, 18 May 1918].

Copies of Caleb Morris’ tribute were printed by the Western Mail and sold at 3d a copy. They were enormously popular and, in June 1918, it was reported that £67 11s had been raised, suggesting that over 5400 copies had been sold. The proceeds were passed to the Welsh Prisoners of War Fund. Caleb Morris served in the Glamorgan Constabulary for 26 years and retired in March 1920 aged 50.

Tony Peters, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

 

A Tribute to the Glamorgan Constabulary

Respectfully dedicated to Captain Lionel Lindsay, MVO, Chief Constable

I’ll sing a song of heroes true,

Known to you as ‘Men in blue’.

The gallant members of the Force

Are never wanting in resource;

When Britain’s sword flashed in the light

For Belgium’s liberty and right,

The brave Glamorgans honour bound

Exchanged their beats for battle ground.

Four hundred men as true as steel

Knew how to march with toe and heel;

They knew their rifle and their drill,

A dauntless band with iron will.

These men that would not break or yield

Could now command upon the field.

A smarter lot of army men

Was never known to human ken.

They hailed from Porth and Mountain Ash,

That ‘Scrap of Paper’ made them rash.

They left Bridgend and Aberdare,

Took up their guns and did their share;

From Briton Ferry jovial Ben

Rejoined his unit there and then:

And now a captive with the Hun,

May God be with him when alone.

From Port Talbot, Pentre, Barry,

On their journey did not tarry.

Every Hamlet, Town and Village

Were responsive to the Message.

Men from all the Shire’s divisions

Joined the battle of the Nations.

A spirit moved within each breast

That hurried them to do their best.

With solemn vow and eager heart,

Determined all to play their part.

Never yet had they been thwarted

In a venture once ‘twas started.

Ere the middle of September

Many crossed the Straits of Dover;

Forward march through France and Flanders,

Till they met the Goosestep dancers,

‘Got in Himmel Donner Wetter’,

Blood was running there like water.

The BEF with wounded arm

Gave Kaiser William the alarm,

His dreams of Paris and Calais

Evaporated on that day.

 

The soldiers said, and still repeat,

That Angels fought in that retreat.

Like lightening flash or human thought

A modern miracle was wrought;

The British caused a German rout;

Attila’s millions turned about.

The Huns retreated to the Aisne,

A sorry plight for men so vain.

Many a policeman’s blood was shed,

And some were numbered with the dead.

Among the men who crossed the foam

To fight for Country, King and Home,

Was Colonel Smith of football fame,

To-day he plays the sterner game:

Fred was mentioned in despatches,

How he fought the cruel Bosches;

His clever tactics foiled the foe,

His merit won the DSO

May further honour be in store

‘Till Smith commands the Army Corps.

 

Another star looms on the view,

A credit to the Men in Blue;

Brave Colonel Angus made a stand

That brought distinction and command;

A Grenadier to the core,

He won his spurs against the Boer.

As true a man as wore a sword

Or stood before the German Horde,

But sad to me ‘tis to relate

How Angus met his mournful fate;

For when he was with honour crowned

A message came that he was drowned.

For acumen and gallantry

His name will long remembered be.

 

Another hero, strong and tall,

A master with the gloves and ball,

A football player lithe and bold,

An International of old.

He won his cap for strength and dash-

I mean Dick Thomas, Mountain Ash;

As Sergeant Major at the Front

Was in the van, as e’er his wont.

Poor Dick is numbered with the slain,

And buried on a foreign plain;

He met his death with smiling face,

‘Twas worthy of a gallant race.

 

And Corporal Jones of Cynon Town,

Who joined the Guards and won renown;

A man of truly valiant worth,

A giant he, in length and girth;

He won a medal for his pluck,

But lost a limb, what bitter luck.

Poor Jim will never march again

To music of a martial strain.

 

Could I but weave as Poets can,

I’d sing a song to very man.

All deserve their names to glitter

On a shield in gold and silver;

One and all without exception

Are worthy of the British Nation.

Many a gallant deed was done,

The twentieth part will ne’er be sung.

Behind the lines the crosses tell

How brave Glamorgans nobly fell.

Many are to-day for valour

Numbered on the Scroll of Honour;

For ‘Robert’s’ always in the van,

A soldier, constable and man.

 

Three hundred men were left at home,

They could not sail across the foam.

The DSO and DCM

Will ne’er be won by one of them.

They too deserve a word of praise

For arduous work in anxious days,

Willing service to the Country

Yet may win a star or bounty.

Their patience, tact and courtesy

Disclose inherent chivalry.

 

Our gallant Chief, and friend in need,

To all of us a friend indeed;

The martial mien his Giants bear,

A triumph to his special care.

Every man a Drill Instructor-

Aye, and ready for the Sector.

There’s not a Force throughout the Realm

With better Captain at the helm.

His ancient lineage, gentle birth,

Add lustre to intrinsic worth.

A Chieftain he whose loyalty

Was honoured by our Royalty.

The deeds he’s done since war began

Are worthy of the Lindsay Clan.

A valiant Chief of noble heart,

To King and Country plays his part;

And when his men return again

They will not seek his aid in vain.

His name will ever revered be

For honour and fidelity.

 

Another Gentleman we know,

Brave Colonel Williams, DSO.

A man respected in the Shire,

Descendent of a noble sire;

Grandson and a worthy scion

To ‘Alaw Goch’ of Ynyscynon.

He early won his King’s reward

As Captain of the Celtic Guard;

Before this War the Welshmen had

To wear Grenade of Gaelic pla’d,

His love of Wales and his Nation

Brought to pass the Welch Battalion.

(Ye Giant Welshman, service seek,

‘Cymru am Byth’, go! Don the leek;

When a Teuton you encounter

Make him eat the leek for dinner;

Treat him as the bold Glendower

Treated Pistil for his bluster.)

When War is o’er and Peace shall reign

May he come back to Wales again,

For Wales can ill afford to lose

The man that won that Cross at Loos.

 

I’d love to touch a finer chord,

If but the Muse with my accord,

For now I tread on holy ground

Where the bereaved are to be found.

Ye women brave, whose hearts have bled

For husbands, sons and lovers dead;

Yon brave Soldier-sons of Gwalia

Sleepeth in that Grand Valhalla.

My inmost soul with pain is strung,

I can’t express with human tongue,

The pain and sorrow that is wrought:

Though glory won, ‘tis dearly bought.

There’s not a herb, however good,

That ever has or ever could,

Or great physician’s healing art,

Can heal the wounds of broken heart;

There’s only One, the Lord above,

That knows the depth of woman’s love.

All through the watches of the night

They never sleep till morning light.

They watch the postman from afar,

The door is left upon the jar.

The mother peeps behind the blind

And prays that fate at last is kind.

The Postman passes with a will,

The Mother’s heart is standing still.

Sometimes the truth is grim and hard:

Her boy lay buried  in the sward.

O what is sorrow? Who can tell?

‘Tis only them that love too well.

The anguish, pain and poignant grief

Beyond the conception and belief.

God of Mercy, stretch forth Thy palm

And give Thy children healing balm.

Caleb Morris, PS 175. Abernant, Aberdare

Burns Night in Cardiff

On 25th January, the birthday of Robert Burns, Scottish people across the world will be celebrating Burns Night.  Here in Cardiff, festivities were traditionally organised by the Cardiff Caledonian Society, whose members would gather together for their annual Burns Night dinner.

The Cardiff Caledonian Society was founded in 1886.  Its aims were to promote social and friendly intercourse among Scotsmen resident in Cardiff and District, which included organising dinners and social gatherings; to aid deserving Scotsmen and their families who may stand in need of the influence and assistance of the Society, and to encourage educational schemes in Cardiff amongst persons of Scottish nationality. The heyday period for the society was during the 1920s and 1930s.

The records of the Cardiff Caledonian Society, held at Glamorgan Archives, include a series of programmes for Burns Night celebrations (D677/3), an annual event in the Society’s calendar.

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The programme for the 1924 dinner, held at the Bute Salon in Cox’s Restaurant, Cardiff, includes a traditional Scottish Bill O’ Fare.  On the menu was Kail Broo, followed by The Haggis wi’ Champit Tatties, A wee bit o’ the Lammie’s Mither wi’ Red Curran Geelie, Tatties roastit or b’iled, an sproots.  For dessert?  Rabbie’s Ain Pudd’n, Tremlin Tam, App’l Tert or Fr’it Salad.  And all topped off with Cups o’ Cowfie.  Quite the feast!

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The Haggis was the highlight of the Bill O’ Fare and would be piped in and addressed by one of the guests.  There were also several toasts during the evening, including the traditional toast to the lassies, and their response.

 

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Alongside the programmes are two ‘Scottish Passports’ issued to guests attending the Burns Night event and including the programme and menu for the evening (D677/4/2)  The lassies who attended the celebrations were also presented with a souvenir containing a greeting and a song (D677/4/3).

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It was common practice to invite the Prime Minister to attend the celebrations, and the society’s files include correspondence with the Prime Minister’s Office (D677/5/1).  In 1929 Ramsay McDonald was invited, but politely refused as it clashed with the Five Power Conference at Chequers.  Burns Night telegrams were received by the Society from King George V (D677/5/1), who always congratulated them on a successful evening.

We hope that all the Scottish people in Cardiff and across south Wales have a wonderful Burns Night on 25 January.

Glamorgan’s Blood: Dark Arteries, Old Veins

Here, are the stiffening hills, here, the rich cargo
Congealed in the dark arteries,
Old veins
That hold Glamorgan’s blood.
The midnight miner in the secret seams,
Limb, life, and bread.

– Mervyn Peake, Rhondda Valley

Mervyn Peake’s poem, Rhondda Valley, describes coal mining as the life blood of the Welsh Valleys. Indeed, the rapid growth of the coal industry during the 19th century led to the development of a whole new society in South Wales, with a focus on the local colliery. As such the South Wales coalfields have an important part to play in our understanding of the Industrial Revolution and of the history of Wales and Britain more generally.

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‘Pride of the Valleys’ [DNCB/64/60]. New communities developed in south Wales with a focus on the local colliery. Between 1901 and 1911 south Wales absorbed immigrants at a faster rate than anywhere else in the world except the USA.

This significance means that the archival records of the coal industry are also important as primary documentation of South Wales’ heritage.  The National Coal Board (NCB) collection at Glamorgan Archives spans the 19th and 20th centuries, documenting the development, changes and decline of an industry synonymous with South Wales, and charting the impact of the collieries on the lives and health of the people who worked in the industry. It is with this in mind that Glamorgan Archives have now begun the ‘Glamorgan’s Blood: Dark Arteries, Old Veins’ project to catalogue and conserve the NCB collection and the records of its predecessors through the assistance of a Wellcome Trust cataloguing grant.

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‘Pneumoconiosis, The Deadly Dust’ [DNCB/64/53]. Once catalogued, the NCB collection will enhance the possibilities for research into the health and social welfare of the mining communities of south Wales.

The NCB collection is varied in scope and content, from wage books and large scale colliery plans to photographs and accident report books. All of these records are important in their own way as representations of how the NCB and individual collieries operated. We can discover first-hand accounts of the dangers of working in the mines through entries in accident report books; learn about colliery disasters through official reports and enquiries; and understand more about the provision of healthcare and social wellbeing for miners and their families through records dealing with compensation for industrial illnesses such as pneumoconiosis, and documents concerning the introduction of the pithead baths to improve sanitation for colliers. The records can also show us how the collieries interacted with the workforce through material relating to subjects such as strikes and mineworkers unions. Overall, the variety of records within the collection serve to demonstrate the important, if not always happy, role of the colliery in the communities of South Wales.

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Current finding aids for the NCB collection are difficult to navigate and limit access to the collection

Material from and concerning the National Coal Board has been deposited at Glamorgan Archives on numerous occasions since the 1960s, leaving the Archives with over 80 separate deposits of material, all with varying levels of description, from boxes simply titled ‘Miscellaneous material’ to more helpfully categorised boxes with names of specific collieries already indicated. Although researchers can already come into the Archives’ searchroom to view material in the NCB collection, the 225 boxes, 470 rolls and 884 volumes are currently listed in a way that makes the collection hard to navigate and understand as a whole. The ‘Glamorgan’s Blood’ project will provide easier and greater access to the NCB collection through the creation of a comprehensive electronic catalogue (which will be available to search on our online catalogue, Canfod) and the physical conservation of damaged and dirty material.

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Our NADFAS volunteers have already begun the huge task of cleaning items from the NCB collection

Work on the ‘Glamorgan’s Blood’ project is now underway, with our team of volunteers already making a brilliant start on the cleaning of the volumes, and research being undertaken by the project archivist to build up a knowledge of the collection and the South Wales coal industry, in order to inform the organisation of the records. If you would like to find out more about the project keep an eye on the blog page and social media for project updates or contact us at glamro@cardiff.gov.uk.