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 second of a series of blog posts in which Andrew highlights stories from the Ocean and National Magazines.
Welfare provision, society and culture are key themes of the magazines. Throughout the 1929 editions, this theme was highlighted through the discussion of Boys’ Clubs affiliated to the Ocean Area Recreation Union. Colonel R.B. Campbell questioned what happened to 14 to 18 year old boys once they had finished their shift at work (the age at which children could leave school was lower than it is today), if indeed they worked at all for …unemployment is rife. Campbell pointed out that only 1 in 5 boys belonged to a boys’ organisation, e.g. Boys’ Club, Boy Scouts, Boys’ Brigades. This article lead to a series of pieces discussing the role and success of boys’ clubs in colliery communities.
In March, an anonymous writer took up the thread of this topic, looking at the subject of hobbies, and how Boys’ Clubs could use them to the benefit of their members. Examples of hobbies thought to be beneficial included carpentry, metalwork, carving, painting, modelling, photography, gardening, nature studies, net making and stamp collecting.
In May, T. Jacob Jones highlighted the establishment of numerous boys’ clubs in a short space of time within the area covered by Ocean. While he saw positive aspects of his local club, notably that several activities and the library had been successfully maintained, he was keen to know if other areas run by Ocean were having similar success or not. One of his main concerns about the club was a lack of non-sporting activities, such as drama, music, debating, hobbies, reading and rambling. He also felt the clubs were …in danger of being isolated from the village life – the Church, the School, and the Social Unit.
In June, Ap Nathan was asked to publicise his ‘candid’ criticism of Boys’ Clubs. Furthering T. Jacob Jones’ criticisms, he wrote that too much emphasis was placed on games and sport and not enough on culture. However, unlike Jones, Ap Nathan saw the role of religion in such institutions as controversial. Within his article, Ap Nathan emphasised that the type of leader for these groups was key, stating: …what is really needed is not an able administrator or organiser, but a great lover of boys.
Money was also seen as an issue in the success of the boys’ clubs, with the Reverend D.L. Rees discussing the matter in the July edition. Again reference is made to cultural activities, however Rees refers to a Club that had tried to organise rambles and gardening, but they were not popular and were dropped. However, there must have been some success at organising cultural activities, for in September the magazine published the results of a drama competition, with entrants from Treorchy, Wattstown, Treharris and Nantymoel.
In October the magazine planned a series of competitions for the winter of 1929-30, split into the categories of Hobbies, which included Handicrafts, Drawing, Reading, Essays, Story-Telling and Recitation, and Drama, which involved producing a play.
Andrew Booth, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer