The Ocean and National Magazine, 1928: The Eisteddfod at Treorchy

The Ocean and National Magazine collection is an amazing resource for discovering what life was like for people living in the south Wales coalfield in the 1920s and 1930s. Published by the Ocean Coal Company Ltd and United National Collieries Ltd, with contributions by and for the workforce, this magazine series contains a wide variety of articles on the coal industry and its history, including industrial relations, employees, technology, culture and sporting events. Andrew Booth, one of our volunteers has recently completed the indexing of this fantastic collection. This is the first of a series of blog posts in which Andrew highlights stories from the Ocean and National Magazines.

1. preparations for the national at treorchy

Preparations for the National Eisteddfod at Treorchy, Ocean and National Magazine, Aug 1928, D1400/9/1/5

In the summer of 1928, the National Eisteddfod was held in Treorchy, the first time it had been held in the Rhondda. The Ocean and National Magazine dedicated their August 1928 issue to the event, with contributors discussing the upcoming festival and their favourite aspects of the event.

2. general view of treorchy

General View of Treorchy, Ocean and National Magazine, Aug 1928, D1400/9/1/5

Music is a key part of the Eisteddfod, and Humphrey G. Prosser wrote that he was looking forward to the Monday of the festival which would be …inaugurated with massed music in excelsis, for it is the day devoted to the interests of the blaring trumpet and booming drum!…and the air will be heavy with harmony from dawn till dusk! Discussion of music extended to the choirs, with much attention being paid to the outfits to be worn by the female choirs. Choral Chairman R.R. Williams noted that the main concern for them was the length of the sleeves of the women’s dresses. It was decided that most women would wear long sleeves, and that those who were wearing short sleeves …are only probationers …and are making valiant efforts to merit confidence so as to be accepted as full members and thereby be entitled to wear long sleeves.

3. treorchy eisteddfod staff

Eisteddfod Principal Officials and Special Correspondents, Ocean and National Magazine, Aug 1928, D1400/9/1/5

Education is a topic that often features in the articles of the Ocean and National Magazines and here in this special Eisteddfod edition H. Willow writes an article debating the question of what education is. When discussing education in relation to the Eisteddfod, Willow writes that the …educative purpose behind it could be said to make it unique. He goes on to make the point that using drama as an instrument in the teaching of language is of …tremendous value, and notes that the Eisteddfod pays a …large sum in terms of prizes to different types of writers and age group.

4. scenes at the proclamation ceremony

Scenes at the Proclamation Ceremony, Ocean and National Magazine, Aug 1928, D1400/9/1/5

In this particular year, the Arts and Crafts section of the Eisteddfod also added science to its remit. Llewellyn Evans, Honorary Secretary of the Arts, Crafts and Science Section refers to the addition of the Science section specifically due to the location, admitting it is a broad label, as it mostly concerns mining, local geology and geography, as well as the crafts associated with the coal mining industry.

Other writers were interested in how the Welsh language, culture and traditions could be kept alive outside of the Eisteddfod. One particular contributor discusses Urdd Gobaith Cymru, a society in which the Reverend T. Alban Davies had the intention of …building up as an enduring defender of the Welsh language and of Welsh tradition and culture. With every issue containing a least one article written in Welsh, the Ocean and National Magazine editors championed the Welsh language, not only in this special Eisteddfod edition but throughout the publication.

Andrew Booth, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

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People vs Progress: The Transition from Coal to Oil in Britain

At the dawn of the 20th century, Britain was the world’s leading industrial power. The first nation to industrialise, dominating a global empire and world trade.  Whilst noblemen had founded these colonies and spread Britain’s influence, the true source of the nations’ power was its’ coal mines, which at their height were producing 257 million tons of coal a year. Coal propelled her trading vessels around the world, gave life to the beating hearts of machines in the factories and powered the hulking warships of her navy.

However, a new fuel was beginning to emerge, one that would completely change Britain and the world forever; oil, the new black gold. It would make the British navy more powerful than ever, yet also more vulnerable, leading it to rely on foreign countries for its fuel due to a lack of oil reserves within British controlled territory. A speech made by Captain Bernard Acworth at the Cardiff Business Club warned against the country’s ‘dependence on oil fuel’ and led to a flurry of opinion pieces in the Western Mail concerning the use of oil over coal for naval ships.

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The extensive collection at Glamorgan Archives offers a window to this pivotal time in Welsh industrial history. Through volumes of newspaper cuttings we can discover the varied contemporary thoughts and opinions on the issue. One such volume shows, amongst many other topics, the discussions surrounding the replacement of coal with oil and hydrogenation.

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Other documents, such as a minute book of the Coal Research Committee, discuss schemes for the production of oil from coal in South Wales, primarily focusing on the feasibility and practicalities of opening plants using the hydrogenation and carbonisation methods to produce light oil (e.g petrol) and heavy oil (crude oil).

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However, this turned out to be fruitless, due to the complexities and high costs of the processes.

The biggest change though, would be to the lives of the hundreds of thousands of miners who would be rendered unemployed for the sake of progress, threatening to wipe out hundreds of small but deep rooted communities that had been providing the nation with coal for generations. Perhaps with this in mind contributors to the popular coalfield publication, Ocean and National Magazine, also spoke about this topic numerous times, with articles that kept track of the debate, never failing to promote the coal industry.

4. d1400-9-7-3 web ready

After 1914, the production of coal began to fall, gradually at first, but decreasing almost every year. Whilst the power stations were still hungry for coal, following the First World War one of the mines’ biggest customers, the navy, began to slip away and more followed as vessels around the world underwent the change. Through documents in the Archives, we are able to chart these changes and see how people reacted then adapted to this new threat.

Adam Latchford, Trainee