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


Davies the Ocean: 130 years since the incorporation of the Ocean Coal Company Ltd.

David Davies, often cited as the first Welsh millionaire, was responsible for the development of railways within Wales and was also the man behind the creation of Barry Docks. Alongside these enterprises, he also found success as a colliery owner, earning the nickname “Davies the Ocean” for his development of the Ocean Coal Co. Ltd, which was incorporated 130 years ago in April 1887.

1. DCOMC-30-3-78 David Davies_compressed

David Davies [DCOMC/30/3/78]

Davies entered the coal mining business in the 1860s, first hitting coal in April 1886, 15 months after the sinking of his first colliery, Maindy Colliery in Ton Pentre, Rhondda. In 1867 David Davies & Company was formed and new sinkings continued in the Rhondda for the next ten years. Davies won a worldwide market with his Ocean Steam Coal and his collieries continued to be a success. The whole enterprise became the Ocean Coal Co. Ltd, incorporated in 1887, with Davies controlling the main portion of the capital.

2. D1400-2-2-1, Annual return_compressed

Extract from Park Colliery annual return for the year 1889 [D1400/2/2/1]

Records of the Ocean Coal Co. Ltd survive at Glamorgan Archives and have recently been catalogued as part of the Wellcome Trust funded Glamorgan’s Blood project. The records span the date range 1889-1944 and can be used to provide insight into the running of the financial side of the business through records such as annual returns and pay books, and the practical side of the business through illustrated volumes depicting sections of the coal face. The records can also be drawn upon to give a glimpse into working conditions, with accident and compensation records providing first-hand accounts of the dangers of the mining industry through entries relating to the Ocean Coal Collieries Maindy, Park, Dare, Western, Eastern, Garw, Lady Windsor, Deep Navigation and Avon.

3. D1400-4-2-1, Geological Section_compressed

Geological cross section showing the working face at Park Pits [D1400/4/2/1]

Paybooks and accident and compensation registers provide an insight to the lives of those working at the coal face, but an understanding of the people involved at the higher level of the coal industry can also be gained from a volume of royalty and wayleave payments within the collection. Royalties and wayleaves were the payments made to the owner of the land being worked by the colliery company and the volume gives an indication of how much money individuals received simply for the use of their land. Contrasting this volume with the colliers’ paybooks and accident and compensation registers within the collection serves to highlight the difference that existed at each end of the pay scale.

The collection also contains Special Rules issued to the Ocean Collieries Coal Co. Ltd. under the Coal Mines Regulation Act of 1887, which demonstrate how the government were legislating the mining industry in the late 19th century. These documents show the relationship between the individual Ocean collieries and the H M Inspector of Mines, and they also tell us something about the Ocean Coal workforce. The documents are written in both English and Welsh, indicating that a proportion of the workforce were Welsh speakers only. The fact that the company had the documents published bilingually shows that they understood this and were keen for the whole of the workforce to adhere to the rules.

4. D1400-4-3-2, Special rules_compressed

A page from the Special Rules issued to the Ocean Collieries Coal Co. Ltd. under the Coal Mines Regulation Act 1887 showing bilingual content [D1400/4/3/2]

The records of the Ocean Coal Company Ltd are an important resource for David Davies’ success as a coal magnate and as a primary source for workings of the coal industry in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  The Ocean Coal Company Ltd’s records, and those of its predecessor the David Davies Company, are now available to view on our catalogue, Canfod. See references D1400, D1402 and DX316 for detailed listings of the records that the Archives holds.