Glamorgan’s Blood: health and welfare records in the coal industry collections – Ocean and National Magazines

The current cataloguing and conservation of the National Coal Board and pre-vesting colliery company records held at Glamorgan Archives has been made possible by a Wellcome Trust Research Resources Grant. The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to improving health and as such one of the project’s main aims has been to improve access to records related to medical and welfare issues. In this series of blog posts project archivist, Louise Clarke, highlights some of the types of material that you are able to find on this topic within the coalfield collection.

Ocean and National Magazines

The Ocean and National Magazine series are magazines written for and by the coalfield workers. They contain articles, cartoons and news from the collieries, providing a snapshot of life in the coalfield in the 1920s and 1930s. Each magazine also contains Welsh language content.

With features on pithead baths, hospitals, welfare and recreation, the magazine can be used to see what provisions were available for colliery workers in the 1920s and 1930s. Many of these topics are also represented in cartoons within the magazines.

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Plan of Park Colliery Pithead Baths, Feb 1929 edition (D1400-9-2-2)

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Photographs of Pentwyn Cottage Hospital Treorchy, Feb 1929 edition (D1400-9-2-2)

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Pithead Baths at Park, May 1929 edition (D1400-9-2-5)

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Cartoon – ‘Scenes That Are Brightest’ – the pithead baths, Dec 1933 edition (D1400-9-6-12)

With such a variety of topics, these magazines are an amazing resource and Andrew Booth, one of our volunteers, has recently completed an index to the magazines, making them searchable on our catalogue (ref.: D1400/9).

Andrew has also written a series of blog posts highlighting some of the topics that can be found within the magazines.

Glamorgan’s Blood: Health and Welfare Records in the Coal Industry Collections – Accident and Compensation Registers

The current cataloguing and conservation of the National Coal Board and pre-vesting colliery company records held at Glamorgan Archives has been made possible by a Wellcome Trust Research Resources Grant. The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to improving health and, as such, one of the project’s main aims has been to improve access to records related to medical and welfare issues. In this series of blog posts project archivist, Louise Clarke, highlights some of the types of material that you are able to find on this topic within the coalfield collection.

Accident and compensation registers

The dangers of working in the coal industry are no more apparent than in the contents of the accident and compensation registers within the National Coal Board and pre-vesting date colliery collections.

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Accident and Compensation Register, Western Pit, 1902-1904 (D1400/1/1/1)

The above image is an example of an accident and compensation register from the Ocean Coal Company Ltd Records (ref.: D1400). This volume from Western Colliery dates from 1902-1904 and a typical entry records name, occupation, age, address, cause of injury, and amount of compensation paid. In the entry shown on this page, John Clark, a doorboy, aged 14, suffered an injury when a pit horse suddenly moved, pulling an empty coal dram over his foot. Door boys or doorkeepers were commonly young children. John Clark here was 14, but in the early half of the 19th century there were instances of children as young as 6 in this role. Their job was to open and close ‘air doors’ to allow air flow around the mine. Fatalities in this job were all too frequent as it was easy for doorkeepers to slip and fall under heavy drams. With this in mind, it appears that in this case, John Clark had a lucky escape with just an injured foot!

With many of these volumes going into detail about how accidents occurred, the injuries people sustained and the compensation they received, these volumes can be used for a variety of research topics concerning the health and working conditions of those working in the mining industry. Colliery accident and compensation registers within the scope of the project date from 1902-1951. Please note that access to material less than 100 years old may be restricted.

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

The Ocean and National Magazine, 1935: Why Doesn’t Someone Localise our ‘Snakes and Ladders’ Board?

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

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In 1935 The Ocean and National Magazine printed a series of articles with the question ‘Why doesn’t someone…?’ In August the subject of this article was the idea of a localised version of the board game Snakes and Ladders. A plan of the board is shown on one of the pages, and there were also 20 locations with instructions as to what to do when they arrived there. Anyone who knows the area around the Rhondda valleys might find the locations and their instructions quite amusing.

Snakes and Ladders_edited 

  1. Stag Hotel – Hard to Start. Must score six or ask for a glass of water. Otherwise miss two turns.

 

  1. Red Cow – Meet a friend and stop. Miss one turn and go back to 1.

 

  1. Swamp – Save sheep’s life but run over goose. Jump over one (number).

 

  1. Lungi’s Ice Cream – Forget the game, discuss Abyssinia and have a cornet. Miss two turns.

 

  1. Pentre Police – Absent-mindedly wish the Sergeant ‘A Merry Xmas’. Go back two.

 

  1. Prudential Office – Arrested by agent who pushes you back three steps – for life.

 

  1. Bridgend Hotel – Meet old friend who tells you about his operation. Miss four turns.

 

  1. Ystrad Station Exit – You are run over by an ‘Echo’ boy. Go back six to get your breath.

 

  1. Estate Office – You pay your ground rent before time. Leap 4 for joy.

 

  1. Ton Co-op – Mistaken for football coupon-seller. Arrested for three turns. Move back to No.5.

 

  1. Windsor Hotel – Stop to recover. Withstand temptation to have a ‘Corona’ and move forward three steps.
  2. Ton Police Station – Miss three turns through forcible attendance at court. Details censored. Go back two, and watch your step.

 

  1. Ton West End – Invigorated by odour of river. Move forward three – quickly.

 

  1. Pentwyn Hospital – Make detour down the marble steps. Meet young probationer. Lose twelve turns, but take short cut to No.3.

 

  1. Nantymoel Junction – Withstand temptation to take a girl-friend along new road. Skip six.

 

  1. Cwmparc Junction – Invited to a pithead bath. Shock entails loss of four turns.

 

  1. Ocean Offices – Mistake it for a Salvation Army headquarters and miss two turns reviving.

 

  1. Pengelli Hotel – Enter in error. Fall in river (hidden trap) and go back to 14.

 

  1. Surgery – Having plenty of time you sit to wait for your next bottle of medicine. You are taken back to 12 feeling better.

 

  1. Park & Dare Institute – Home at last! Fall asleep. See Mae West and call and see her some time.

 

Andrew Booth, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

The Ocean and National Coal Magazine, 1934: Reflections on Armistice Day

D1400-9-7-11 Page 375

The year 1934 marked the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War, and for the November 1934 edition of The Ocean and National Coal Magazine, a large section was devoted to thoughts on that war and on the prospect of war in the future.

D1400-9-7-11 Page 371

The magazine opens with a guest editorial by Lord Davies of Llandinam, the patron of the magazine (Davies normally only wrote editorials at Christmas).  This piece starts with Davies’ recollections of how the War was dealt with at the time. Lord Davies likens the idea of going to war to a time when disputes in civilian life were solved by fighting, either in a duel or a battle. He then points out that in civilian life these had been replaced by the principles of law and order, but that there appeared to be no such system for disputes between nations, until the creation after the War of the League of Nations. However, not even that organisation was immune from criticism from Lord Davies, who claimed that …we have helped to turn it into a debating society.  He predicted that there would be another war in Europe, which would come with no warning, and could only be stopped by both a Tribunal and a police force.

Photo 6-Bombs were dropped and no damage was done

Over the next few pages, employees of the collieries owned by Ocean and National gave their recollections of the War, all with the intent of persuading the readers that peace was a better option than war. Some photographs are also printed, two of them showing buildings in London that had been bombed. One poignant photograph shows a collection of dead soldiers under the heading ‘Crisis Over!’ In addition to the photographs a pair of newspaper articles, reprinted from the Daily Express and Le Matin, refer to the horrific events that took place during the War.

Photo 7-War Fever Crisis Over

The final section of this dedication to the War begins with a cartoon depicting a giant man labelled ‘War’ being zapped by aircraft belonging to the International Police Force. The cartoon is titled ‘A Direct Hit!’ with the cartoonist, Mr Dick Rees, commenting, Sooner the better!

The final article of the anti-war feature is titled ‘The Oldest Racket’, subtitled ‘Wanted! – A New Police Force’, where the case was made for the formation of an International Police Force, either as a replacement for the League of Nations …or its effective reinforcement by the addition of the power which enables the Council to enforce its decisions. This proposed Police Force would be discussed in detail in the December 1934 edition.

Cartoon 4-A Direct Hit

From this point until the final issue in the collection at the end of 1936, the magazine adopted an anti-war rhetoric. Although the Second World War had not happened by then, 1936 had seen the start of the Spanish Civil War and before that the Italian invasion of Abyssinia (Ethiopia) in 1935 and the Japanese invasion of the Manchurian region of China in 1931.

Andrew Booth, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

The Ocean and National Magazine, 1932: Cardiff Office Personalities

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

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Cover, June 1932, D1400/9/5/5

With many articles and contributions featuring Ocean Coal and United National staff, the magazines were relevant to the readership. In 1932 the magazine started including cryptic descriptions of staff in their Cardiff offices. No prizes were offered for the solution of the riddles and at no point were these people named. Extracts from these fun teasers are shown below:

No.1, June 1932:

He served in the senior service during the war and came out none the worse for his experiences. Probably as a result of this service he is said to be as good a yachtsman as we have amongst us. We have two on the Staff.

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Cardiff Office Personalities, No.1, Without Malice Afterthought, D1400/9/5/5, p.184

No.2, July 1932:

This is a side of him which few people know, but during most dinner hours in winter he may be seen cycling up Bute Road, en route for the public library, and we understand that his part – although a small one – in a recent amateur dramatic performance in his own town was admirably done. Knowing him as the possessor of a charming light tenor voice, this does not surprise us in the least.

No.3, August 1932:

Holding a responsible position on the Staff, he rather gives the impression of thinking that this is a job in which he has been specially called by Providence, much as a man feels the call of the Church, and, indeed, in so far as it provides ample scope for a display of genuine tact and politeness to all, Providence could not have made a wiser choice. All who remember the Montgomeryshire Hospitals’ Fete at Llandinam a few years ago will realise how these latter qualities were then brought into prominent relief.

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News from the districts heading, D1400/9/5/5, p.203. Each edition of the Ocean and National Magazine featured news from individual collieries, under the heading ‘News from the Districts’

No.4, October 1932:

Far from being a moody individual in the accepted sense of the term, nevertheless his mood is apt to change so quickly that he presents somewhat of an enigma to many and possibly lays himself open to a certain amount of misunderstanding and misjudgement.

No.5, November 1932:

His reputation here, although not sought exactly ‘in the canon’s mouth’, was nevertheless considerable, for thanks to his experience as a chorister he was called upon to take an active part in concert party and similar work behind the line. Our Treorchy friends who still cherish happy memories of ‘Captain Mack’, can well imagine that the morale of the troops in the Salonika area was kept well up to scratch.

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Magazine pages demonstrating some of the subjects covered in the magazines, D1400-9-5-8

No.6, December 1932:

(An Imaginary Interview)

You know, I cycle fifteen or twenty miles a day back and fore to work, and pass two or three of my posters on the way. Oh yes. And I must say they don’t look too bad, either. I was only saying to my wife the other day that when our boy grows up I think we’ll put him to sign-writing or in the advertising business. There seems to be money in it doesn’t there?

Andrew Booth, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

The Ocean and National Magazine, 1930: Tour of Northumberland, Durham and Yorkshire Coalfields

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

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Cover of January 1930 edition, D1400/9/3/1

Many contributions to the magazine include technical and scientific articles concerning coal mining processes. One such feature appeared in 1930, with a series of articles from a party of then-current or former members of Ocean’s coal mines in south Wales, concerning the tour they made of the coalfields of north east England.

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Group taken at Seghill Colliery during tour of collieries of north-east England, D1400/9/3/1, p.13

Machinery and mining techniques are discussed within the articles, with L. Phillips, Manager, Nine Mile Point Colliery, discussing, in January 1930, how machines were being used in the north of England to assist miners. He remarks that using machines in a coal mine was not as straightforward as using machines in steelworks or tinplate mills or car factories, but notes that over 22% of the total coal produced at the time was cut by machinery. He discusses the types of conveyors used to deal with the large quantity of coal cut by the coal-cutters and how perfect cooperation between officials and men is needed to ensure the efficiency of this system.

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Sketch plan of face and belt truck conveyor, D1400/9/3/1, p.9

Coal mining methodology is also discussed in the February edition by Ben Phillips of Park Pit. Within his article he compares methods of working the coal seams in south Wales and the north-west of England. He discussed the board and pillar and long wall methods. He notes longwall had been introduced …as the result of the exhaustion of the thicker seams of coal in the Northern coalfields… and writes about the variations found within both methods.

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Methods of working compared with South Wales, D1400/9/3/2, p.45

At Ashington Colliery, Daniel J. Thomas, Newcastle-upon-Tyne (formerly engaged in the Engineers’ department, Treorchy) comments that at Ashington Colliery his group had the pleasure of lighting a cigarette at the coalface, within 10 feet of an electrical coal cutter. Although impressed by the use of electricity at Seghill Colliery, he was disappointed when he visited the colliery, as …although electricity was solely used they did not generate any. Other collieries within the coalfield of north east England were also benefitting from the use of electricity. When Thomas’ team visited Haworth Colliery, they were able to see a pair of electric winders, capable of raising 7½ tons of coal per wind from a depth of 1000 yards.

Differences in working practices were also mentioned. In one particular article from the January edition, Daniel J. Thomas, a former Treorchy engineer based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, comments on the strange shift times of the miners at Usworth: …some men went in at 5am and others at 11am.

Through these articles readers would have been able to gain an understanding of the technical side of mining and the similarities and differences in the working practices of the south Wales and northern England coalfields.

Andrew Booth, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer