The Ocean and National Magazine, 1936: Reminiscences through a Time-book at Bute Merthyr

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

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Cover of Vol 9, No.3, March 1936, D1400/9/9/3

Stories from individual collieries also feature within the Ocean and National Magazines. In 1936 a series of articles attributed to ‘I.B.’ discuss the contents of an historical time-book found at Bute-Merthyr Colliery. The author describes:

…wiping away the quarter inch of grime that encased its front cover…an accumulation of 20 years… [and opening] up a field of reminiscences.

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Reminiscences through a time-book at Bute Merthyr, D1400/9/9/3, p.93

The articles talk about people whose names appear in the time-book, including some men who were still alive at the time of writing. He first notices the name of David Timothy, who was a Tipper, and tells us that Mr Timothy …is still alive and well at 93… and that he was still working at Bute-Merthyr at the age of 79, drawing the dole in the 1921 strike. Long service is also commended in the case of Thomas Griffiths, a Pumpsman whom the author recalls being told had the longest record of service at Bute-Merthyr, followed by his brother Dai Griffiths. Mr W.D. Jones, otherwise known as ‘Billy Jones, Reading Room’, is also mentioned for long service, working at Bute-Merthyr for over 50 years.

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W D Jones, long serving Bute Merthyr employee, D1400/9/9/7, p.236

The author also uses the time-book to draw attention to the role of the Bute-Merthyr workforce in the First World War, noting that 157 joined His Majesty’s Forces during 1914-16. In the May edition, a focus was put on those who had served in the First World War. The author recalls a number of men who went to serve, including John Candy. At 18 years of age, Candy, who had lost an eye and had a bullet track in his left arm, came back from the War and in October 1916 was registered as a weigher. The author then observes the names Peitre Arents and Louis Popilier within the time-book, commenting that these were …hardly names one could expect to see on a Time-Book associated with Welsh Collieries. This prompted a reminder that Belgian refugees lived in the area during the War.

In the April edition the time-book also prompts memories of deaths and accidents.  Seeing the name of Walter Durrant, a Pumpsman, revives memories of his death as a result of a snowstorm in 1925. Another name found is that of Thomas Llewellyn, who had been a drift workman, and the author is reminded of a tragic accident that befell Mr Llewellyn in 1896. A group of people had obtained detonators and powder which exploded, which cost Mr Llewellyn two fingers from his right hand.

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An example of a Pay Book from Bute Merthyr Colliery within the Glamorgan Archives collection, Jan-Nov 1926, D1411/2/1/16/1

These articles offer an interesting look at how historical documents can be used to prompt memories and tell the stories of those featured within them. The time-book that is referred to in this article does not survive at Glamorgan Archives, however other pay books from Bute Merthyr Colliery and other collieries can be found in the collection and are available to consult in our search room.

Andrew Booth, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer