Hughesovka: Glamorgan and Donetsk

The 1990s brought a development of international significance which continues to this day. It began in 1984 Mr Iorwerth Rees, one of the Archives’ stalwart early volunteers, noted a baptism entry in a Tondu parish register for Alice Jane (aged 10) and Sarah Ann (aged 8) daughters of George Floyd, engine fitter. His address was recorded as Husoffka, Russia. Visiting now at Tondu.


Parish register


This was the beginning of a continuing commitment to trace and promote the Welsh connection to this industrial city, now Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. John Hughes, an inventor and entrepreneur originally from Merthyr Tydfil, was invited by the Russian government to develop iron production in the Donbas.




He acquired land and in 1869 established a company called the New Russia Company, Novorossuskoe Obshchestvo, to mine coal and iron ore, and produce rails, bridge sections, ships, armaments, and whatever else was needed. He recruited workers from the iron towns of south Wales and, with his sons, built an industrial settlement on the empty steppe.




The business was successful, after some early difficulties, and remained in the hands of the family until the 1917 Revolution. Although workers were attracted from all over the Russian Empire there was always a core of British employees, including many from Wales.




Photographs and family papers have been deposited by the descendants of John Hughes and his British workers to the Hughesovka Research Archive at Glamorgan Archives. Copies of related material held elsewhere is included, hence the title, among which are some items from the Donetsk Regional Archive, and Russian State Archive in St Petersburg collected on research trips in the 1990s when academic exchange began to be encouraged in the immediate post-communist era. I travelled to Donetsk twice. The first visit in 1990, funded by the British Council, was in the company of descendants of John Hughes and some of his British workers. It was a memorable trip, not least as we arrived, as our predecessors would have, at the main railway station in Donetsk only to walk into the arms of Professor Gwyn Alf Williams and his crew who were filming 2 programmes on the Hughesovka story. I returned with a smaller group in 1992 as a beneficiary of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, travelling part of the way with the last twinning tour from Cardiff to Luhansk, also in Ukraine, around 128 km to the east.


Donetsk002 crop


I was carrying an exhibition, developed with the Welsh Industrial and Maritime Museum, which had toured south Wales and was now being presented to the Museum in Donetsk. The boards were bigger than me but expertly packed by our conservator and arrived undamaged after a journey by coach, plane, taxi and train. When my group left for home I stayed on in St Petersburg to research Hughes’ correspondence at the State Archives and Museum, lodging with a local family, and supplementing my basic Russian with rusty O level French. The records were in English.


Hughesovka book cover


An illustrated booklet on the story of the Welsh in Ukraine is still available and the catalogue of the collection can be accessed on our website. Over the years there have been a number of collaborations to exploit and promote the collection. Currently we are assisting the Museum of Donetsk with digital copies of some of the photographic images to replace part of their collection which was badly damaged by shell fire during the current military conflict in the region.


Susan Edwards, Glamorgan Archivist

1984-1985 Miners’ Strike: Records of the National Coal Board

On 6 March 1984, the National Coal Board announced that it intended to cut 4 million tons capacity and 20,000 jobs within the year. Miners across the UK went on strike to save the industry and their communities. Nearly a year later, the strike ended with the miners returning to work, paving the way for the end of the Welsh coal industry.  Within ten months of the strike, nine collieries in south Wales had closed.


The papers of the National Coal Board held at Glamorgan Archives can be used to demonstrate how it dealt with the strike and the tactics used to encourage the miners to return to work.

Files in the Area Director’s record series contain correspondence, minutes, pamphlets, reports, statistics, memoranda, newspaper cuttings and journal articles concerning the strike.

One particular file titled ‘Mail Shots’ (DNCB/12/1/18) contains copies of all communications sent to mineworkers since the start of the strike at national, area and individual colliery level. The file also contains a copy of Coal News, March 1985, with return to work statistics used to encourage those still on strike to go back to work, particularly miners in Wales where only 6% had returned.

Viewing the National Coal Board records alongside other material in the Glamorgan Archives collection will enable research to be undertaken into all aspects of the strike.  Such records include, but are not limited to, the papers of the South Wales Women’s Support Groups (DWSG); papers of Councillor Ray T Davies, treasurer for the Rhymney Valley Miners’ Strike Support Group (D316); the 1984/5 diary of William Croad, a Senior Management Official, operating under the Manager and Undermanager, at Lady Windsor Colliery, Ynysybwl (D1174/1); Aberdare Miners’ Relief Fund Records (D1432), and press cuttings on the strike within the South Wales Police Constabulary Records (DSWP/49/7).

Image 1: Your Future in Danger, A letter from Ian MacGregor, DNCB/12/1/18 p.3

Image 2: A Message from Philip Weekes, 5th November 1984, DNCB/12/1/18 p.9

Image 3: Mardy Newsletter, DNCB/12/1/18 p.35

Image 4: Coal News, Mar 1985

The Ocean and National Magazine, 1933: Philosophy from the Mine

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 sixth of a series of blog posts in which Andrew highlights stories from the Ocean and National Magazines.



D1400-9-6-1 Cover

Colliery histories, sports, science and technology all have their places in the Ocean and National Magazines. Literature also features, with poems and other literary contributions. In 1933 the Ocean and National Magazine started printing a series of articles entitled ‘Philosophy from the mine’, by a writer referred to as ‘Maindy’. These articles consider mining terms and describe their literal and philosophical meanings.


Maindy’s first article, in the January 1933 edition discusses clean coal, explaining the importance of pit-head notices telling workers that …clean coal only must be filled. After explaining the economic reasons for workmen to fill clean coal only, Maindy then takes the term as an analogy of life in general, wondering whether people’s contributions to life (their actions, speech and thoughts) were ‘Filling Clean’. Maindy returns to the subject of clean coal again in the November edition, with the picking belt used as the metaphor.

D1400-9-6-1 page 13

In the next article, Maindy describes pointers and partings, as used on the mine’s rails, and how if they were used correctly and kept clean they would save time and unnecessary labour. Maindy again turns this into an analogy about life, suggesting that people have their own pointers in life and that if influenced properly these three pointers or judgments (judgments of the heart, judgements of conscience and judgements of intellect/reason), will lead people safely across the parting of moral challenges.

D1400-9-6-2 page 45

The pattern of using analogies continues in Maindy’s subsequent articles, with the March 1933 edition likening the props and rings used to support the work area to moral props and …rings of friendship. May’s issue compared the laws of construction to the laws of society in general, whilst in June the subject was …the boss, with Maindy posing the question, Are you ‘boss’ of yourself?


In July the ‘demon’ of gas in mines drew parallels to the ‘demon’ of war, while in August finding the correct balance in Weighing Machines was likened to maintaining the correct balance of forces governing one’s life. In October the ventilating fan was compared to some people who …don’t make a lot of noise, but their very presence exhilarates us.

D1400-9-6-10 page 316

Finally the December article looks at the sprag, a piece of timber pushed between the spokes of tram wheels as a simple method of braking. Here the sprag is likened to the control of the human mind, with Maindy writing, Like a good haulier or rider, always keep the idea of control in mind, and see, before you set out upon any of life’s roadways, that you are equipped to meet any temptation to moral ‘speeding’.


Andrew Booth, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

The Ocean and National Magazine, 1931: Impressions of a Voyage to Australia (and New Zealand!)

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 fourth of a series of blog posts in which Andrew highlights stories from the Ocean and National Magazines.

D1400-9-4-1 Cover


[Image: Cover, January 1931, D1400/9/4/1]


Alongside articles on the South Wales coalfield, the magazine also features other types of articles, including travel pieces. In 1931 and 1932 the magazine included a series of articles written by W.H. Becker, director of Messrs. Latch and Batchelor Ltd., Wire Rope Manufacturers, Birmingham, detailing his visit to Australia and New Zealand. The articles started in March 1931, and continued until August 1932.

D1400-9-4-3 page 89

[Image: The SS Empress of Scotland, leaving Miraflores Locks, D1400/9/4/3, p.89]


Becker starts his account with the voyage from Southampton to the Panama Canal. It had been Becker’s dream to visit the Panama Canal and through his detailed description of the seven hour journey across the canal, readers can see that he was not left disappointed. On completing the journey across the Panama Canal, the April 1931 edition continues with Becker’s journey across the Pacific Ocean, including the crossing of the Equator, where Becker describes the weather as being intensely cold. As his journey across the Pacific continued, Becker records meeting the inhabitants of Pitcairn Island and describes some of the wildlife that he saw on the journey.

D1400-9-4-4 page 121

[Image: A glimpse of Pitcairn Island and some if its male inhabitants, D1400/9/4/4, p.121]


After crossing the Pacific, Becker lands in Wellington, New Zealand. His article in the May 1931 edition sees Becker exploring Wellington, before crossing to the South Island of New Zealand and enjoying an exciting drive through undulating country, wooded valleys and two mountain ranges. He recalled the latter stage of the journey as not being very rapid, averaging eight miles an hour because of the bends in the road. He continued to explore the South Island in the June issue, visiting Nelson, the site of an earthquake that had struck in 1929.

D1400-9-4-5 page 162

[Image: A typical motoring road in New Zealand, D1400/9/4/5, p.162]


Still on the South Island, the July issue sees Becker visiting coal mines in Greymouth and timber mills in Hokitika. Numerous coal drifts were seen close to the road in the Greymouth area and the party stopped at one such drift to talk to a group of miners – discovering that some of the workers had come from Britain, including Evan Jones, a miner from south Wales!

D1400-9-4-7 page 231

[Image: A group of happy-looking coal miners, Greymouth, New Zealand, D1400/9/4/7, p.231]


The August and September issues see Becker climbing the Franz Joseph glacier, then taking the train to Christchurch. By the end of 1931 Becker is back in Wellington, where he visits the Houses of Parliament. Heading for Auckland, he describes Wairakei and the geysers within the national reserve.

D1400-9-4-11 page 398

[Image: Prince of Wales’ Feathers’ Geyser, D1400/9/4/11, p.398 ]


Although titled a ‘Voyage to Australia’, by the end of 1931 Becker’s account was still in New Zealand and it is not until the April 1932 edition that he gets to Australia, where he recounts having seen the Sydney Harbour Bridge nearing completion. The last article on the voyage appeared in the August 1932 edition.


Andrew Booth, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer


Image: Cover, January 1931, D1400/9/4/1

Image: The SS Empress of Scotland, leaving Miraflores Locks, D1400/9/4/3, p.89

Image: A glimpse of Pitcairn Island and some if its male inhabitants, D1400/9/4/4, p.121

Image: A typical motoring road in New Zealand, D1400/9/4/5, p.162

Image: A group of happy-looking coal miners, Greymouth, New Zealand, D1400/9/4/7, p.231

Image: Prince of Wales’ Feathers’ Geyser, D1400/9/4/11, p.398

‘God Bless the Prince of Wales: The Closing Ceremony of the Empire and Commonwealth Games, 26 July 1958

Much of the material held at Glamorgan Archives tells a story well beyond initial impressions of the item in question.  Take catalogue reference D1045/7/2 – a card, 12cm by 8cm, with the words ‘Admit bearer to Band Enclosure Cardiff Arms Park’ and stamped 26 July 1958. Closer inspection reveals that ‘bearer’ has been crossed out and replaced with ‘NCO and 10 Guardsmen’ and, in the top left hand corner, there is a heading ‘VIth British Empire and Commonwealth Games, Cardiff, 1958, Wales’.


A little investigation reveals that this was a ticket to the biggest event in town – the athletics finals and the closing ceremony of the Empire and Commonwealth Games. While a capacity crowd of 34,000 had crammed into Cardiff Arms Park for the opening ceremony earlier in the month, it was estimated that up to 43,000 had been shoe-horned into the ground on the last day. The guardsmen were members of the Welsh Guards and, along with their instruments, they would have been carrying the music scheduled for the ceremony including ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and ‘We’ll keep a welcome in the hillsides’. In addition, they were due to play the national anthem, given that the Queen was the guest of honour.

There was disappointment during the afternoon when medal hopes for the Welsh women’s 4x100yd relay team were dashed after they were disqualified in the semi-final for a faulty baton change. However, by the end of the afternoon spirits were high as the crowd had witnessed a wonderful battle for the Gold medal in the mile, won eventually by the legendary Australian runner Herb Elliott.

Late afternoon, after the last medal presentation, it was time for the Band of the Welsh Guards to take centre stage as it led the teams into the Arms Park. In no time at all the stadium was a riot of colour and noise as the teams and their flag bearers filled the ground and aircraft from the RAF flew overhead. There was some disappointment when it was announced that the Queen was not well enough to attend and had, instead, sent a recorded message to be relayed over the stadium’s tannoy system. However, the speech contained a closely guarded secret with the Queen’s announcement that, to mark the success of the Games, her son, Charles, was to be made Prince of Wales. The papers the next day reported that the news was greeted with …a mighty roar of pleasure that lasted nearly two minutes. Although, no doubt, the bandsmen were prepared for most things they may well have been surprised by what happened next, as the crowd broke into a spontaneous rendition of ‘God Bless the Prince of Wales’.

In comparison to the formality of the opening ceremony, spirits were high and one team member Bill Young, an Australian coach, had broken ranks to shake hands with the Duke of Edinburgh as he moved through the competitors. The hero of the week for Wales in the athletics had been John Merriman who had won the silver medal in the 6 mile race. Now, as the teams left the stadium, many linking arms as they sang ‘Auld Land Syne’, it was John who ran to the north stand and threw his Panama hat into the crowd. This started a wave of hat throwing reciprocated by several brown trilbies travelling in the opposite direction. All too soon the ceremony was over and with it a week that had also seen Cardiff host a festival of music, song, drama and dance. It had not been golden week for the Welsh team, although a respectable haul of 11 medals had been won. Yet there was no doubt that the Games had been a major success, with the national papers referring to Cardiff as a ‘Mississippi of pleasant sound and colour’ and labelling the Games ‘a festival of sport and more – a community of good fellowship’.

For Cardiff Arms Park, the scene of much of the action, it was back to business with workmen moving in immediately after the closing ceremony to prepare the ground for the next set of rugby fixtures. Their target was the red ash running track on which so many records had been created during the course of the Games, and within 24 hours it had been ripped up and removed. In addition, soldiers from the Royal Engineers were busy dismantling the temporary bridge built across the Taff to the carry the thousands of visitors to the Arms Park. The Games, though, did leave an immediate legacy with the inauguration, the following year, of the Welsh Games designed to provide the platform for an annual festival of sport.

As for the Bandsmen of the Welsh Guards, they had acquitted themselves well amongst all of the excitement of the day. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and say that they were ready for the rendition of ‘God Bless the Prince of Wales’. But how would you have fared? For future reference, here are the words.


Among our ancient mountains

And from our lovely vales

Oh, let the pray’r re-echo

God Bless the Prince of Wales


The ticket for the closing ceremony used by the NCO and the 10 bandsmen of the Welsh Guards can be found at Glamorgan Archives (ref.: D1045/7/2), along with other material relating to the Sixth British Empire and Commonwealth Games held in Wales in July 1958.


Tony Peters, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer


Cardiff Plays Host to the World

Amongst the vast collection of photographs held at Glamorgan Archives there are three taken 60 years ago that provide a clue to a grand event that gripped the city and the rest of Wales in July 1958 and ensured that, for 8 days, Wales was the focus of attention not just in Britain but across the globe.



The first is a photograph taken from St Mary Street looking towards Cardiff Castle. From a first glance the scene looks very much as it would have done in recent years, up until the pedestrianisation of the thoroughfare. Admittedly the cars and the clothes worn by those passing are very much from the 1950s but there are still recognisable shop signs, including a sign for the Louis Restaurant in the bottom right hand corner of the photograph and the Howells building in the centre of the photograph. But look more closely at the Howells Department store. On the roof you will see a giant bronze statue of a figure holding a javelin and just about to launch it – arguably – in the direction of the Old Library.


The second is a photograph of Queen Street again taken looking towards the Castle. Possibly not as recognisable as St Mary Street and High Street but you will spot a number of current buildings, if you look above the shop fronts, including the old frontage for Marks and Spencer and the bank with its columned front on the left hand side of the street. However, 60 years ago there was clearly something happening for the street is packed with people. In addition, a giant dragon is processing down the centre of the street.


Finally, there is a photograph of a large group of students standing outside the entrance to Aberdare Hall in Cardiff. Notice the range of national costumes including Welsh, Scots, the Pacific islands and Canada. In addition, some are dressed in a mixture of sporting garb including the fencer on the right. The give-away, however, is the sign being held in front of the Group – The Empire Games comes to Wales.


In July 1958 Cardiff hosted the Sixth British Empire and Commonwealth Games. It was a significant occasion. At the first Games held in Canada in 1930 the entire Welsh team had amounted 2 competitors (both swimmers) – just enough to provide a bearer for the flag and the one person to carry the ‘Wales’ placard at the opening ceremony. Ironically a Welsh man, Reg Thomas, won an athletics gold medal at the 1930 games but competing for England in the absence of a Welsh athletics team. Now, only 28 years later, Wales was hosting the Games with 36 countries and 1400 athletes and officials.


Over the coming weeks through the records held at Glamorgan Archives we will feature memories of July 1958 when Wales played host to the rest of the world. For those interested in finding out more about the Games, details will be provided of where the photographs and memorabilia can be found at Glamorgan Archives. So, starting with this article, the photographs featured of St Mary Street and Queen Street can be found under ref. 1998/68 and that of Aberdare Hall under ref. DUCAH/43/30.


Tony Peters

Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Seventy Five Seventy Fives

Glamorgan Archives is 75 this year.  We share seniority in Wales with our neighbour, Gwent: they were the first to set up an archive service (1938) but we were the first to appoint an archivist (1939).  The county showed impeccable timing with the result that our anniversary year will also be shared with two world wars and one national strike to name but a few of the major commemorations we will also be marking in 2014.

Glamorgan Archives

The first County Archivist, Emyr Gwynne Jones, soon moved on, becoming Bangor University’s Librarian in 1946.  He has had only 4 successors and this continuity of senior staff is reflected in the continuity of the service’s core function, defined by Madeleine Elsas in 1959 as: the task of preserving records, restoring them, collecting additional material about the geographical county, and making these records freely available.”

To celebrate our 75 years of care for the documents of Glamorgan we have trawled the lists of accessions and extracted the 75th deposit received in each year.  Some of them have been transferred, some have been removed from the Collection.  Some years fewer than 75 accessions were received.  All illustrate something about the history and development of local authority archive services in general and Glamorgan Archives in particular.  Archive staff will be blogging about the 75s throughout the year, either as single items or as categories. 

We hope you’ll enjoy reading our blog and we look forward to receiving your comments.