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.

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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.

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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

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People vs Progress: The Transition from Coal to Oil in Britain

At the dawn of the 20th century, Britain was the world’s leading industrial power. The first nation to industrialise, dominating a global empire and world trade.  Whilst noblemen had founded these colonies and spread Britain’s influence, the true source of the nations’ power was its’ coal mines, which at their height were producing 257 million tons of coal a year. Coal propelled her trading vessels around the world, gave life to the beating hearts of machines in the factories and powered the hulking warships of her navy.

However, a new fuel was beginning to emerge, one that would completely change Britain and the world forever; oil, the new black gold. It would make the British navy more powerful than ever, yet also more vulnerable, leading it to rely on foreign countries for its fuel due to a lack of oil reserves within British controlled territory. A speech made by Captain Bernard Acworth at the Cardiff Business Club warned against the country’s ‘dependence on oil fuel’ and led to a flurry of opinion pieces in the Western Mail concerning the use of oil over coal for naval ships.

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The extensive collection at Glamorgan Archives offers a window to this pivotal time in Welsh industrial history. Through volumes of newspaper cuttings we can discover the varied contemporary thoughts and opinions on the issue. One such volume shows, amongst many other topics, the discussions surrounding the replacement of coal with oil and hydrogenation.

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Other documents, such as a minute book of the Coal Research Committee, discuss schemes for the production of oil from coal in South Wales, primarily focusing on the feasibility and practicalities of opening plants using the hydrogenation and carbonisation methods to produce light oil (e.g petrol) and heavy oil (crude oil).

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However, this turned out to be fruitless, due to the complexities and high costs of the processes.

The biggest change though, would be to the lives of the hundreds of thousands of miners who would be rendered unemployed for the sake of progress, threatening to wipe out hundreds of small but deep rooted communities that had been providing the nation with coal for generations. Perhaps with this in mind contributors to the popular coalfield publication, Ocean and National Magazine, also spoke about this topic numerous times, with articles that kept track of the debate, never failing to promote the coal industry.

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After 1914, the production of coal began to fall, gradually at first, but decreasing almost every year. Whilst the power stations were still hungry for coal, following the First World War one of the mines’ biggest customers, the navy, began to slip away and more followed as vessels around the world underwent the change. Through documents in the Archives, we are able to chart these changes and see how people reacted then adapted to this new threat.

Adam Latchford, Trainee

South Wales Coalfield Photographs – Mystery Solved!

Thank you to everyone who has been in touch with information concerning our previously unidentified collection of south Wales coalfield photographs. The response has been incredible and we really appreciate people taking the time to get in touch.

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Public response has enabled us to correctly identify this image as being of Roy Lewis, Face Electrician, D1544/1/16

The collection was transferred to Glamorgan Archives from ON at Fife Archives earlier this year and the photographs depict men working at Abercynon Colliery, scenes taken during the 1984/85 Miners’ Strike at Penrhiwceiber coal tips and views of derelict collieries. We had no information about the photographer and some of the people within the photographs were unidentified.

Following the media campaign, we now know that the photographer of the collection is Leslie Price, a former collier at Abercynon Colliery and keen amateur photographer. Mr Price came into the archive last week to talk to us about the photographs and discuss the stories behind the images and his passion for photography.

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Leslie Price, Photographer meeting Louise Clarke, Glamorgan’s Blood Archivist (image courtesy of Matt Murray, BBC)

Mr Price started taking photographs of the collieries in the 1960s. His aim was to tell the stories of the south Wales coalfield and its people. His images were featured in a number of exhibitions in Wales and throughout the UK, including at a mining museum in Fife, hence why they were found in Scotland.

Following responses from former Abercynon Colliery workers and their family members, we have been able to confirm, change and add names to the faces of those shown in the photographs. I am currently collating the information, ready to update the descriptions on our catalogue. Mr Price took these photographs shortly before the closure of Abercynon Colliery in 1988.

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Public response has enabled us to correctly identify this image as being of Terry Northam, Fitter   D1544/1/1

The coal picking photographs were taken by Mr Price at various times throughout the 1984/85 miners’ strike. The scenes were taken at Cwmcynon colliery tip, Penrhiwceiber. Some of the photographs show the derelict pit head baths, also known as the white house. Cwmcynon Colliery closed in 1949. Mr Price has kindly donated a further image from this series of photographs to Glamorgan Archives.

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The Coal Run, D1544/4/18

We would like to say thank you to Leslie for coming into the archive and providing us with the background to his work. We would also like to thank everyone who has been in touch with us. If anyone has any further information about the photographs we would still love to hear from you. The collection can be viewed on our catalogue under reference D1544.

South Wales Coalfield Photographs – We Need Your Help!

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V6 Boys (D1544/2/9)

Glamorgan Archives needs your help to identify photographs of the south Wales coalfield that were deposited at the Archives earlier this year.

The 79 photographs are an amazing portrayal of the south Wales coalfield. They comprise photographs of miners at Abercynon Colliery, c.1980; photographs documenting the closure of collieries in the 1980s; photographs of posters and signs displayed at various collieries; and photographs of families collecting coal from tips during the miners’ strike of 1984-1985.

However, little is known about the history of the collection. No details are recorded of the photographer(s) or the reasons the photographs were taken. The names of some of the men pictured in the images have been recorded, but that is all we know. So, we would love to hear from anyone who may know any details about the images, why they were taken and who took them.

The photographs were transferred to Glamorgan Archives by staff at ON at Fife Archives, who discovered the collection during the listing of the SCOTSPEAK oral history collection. The photographs were passed to the SCOTSPEAK project by the Cardenden Mining Museum, so it is thought that the images may have been on display at the museum and one time.

Thanks to the work of Iain Flett, Volunteer at ON at Fife Archives, the collection is now available to view in our search room (ref.: D1544), and digital images can be accessed through our catalogue Canfod http://calmview.cardiff.gov.uk/.

A section of images from the collection are shown below. If you have any information about the collection or any of the individual photographs please contact glamro@cardiff.gov.uk.

Louise Clarke, Glamorgan’s Blood Project Archivist

Portraits of Workers at Abercynon, c.1980

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Roy Lewis, Electrician (D1544/1/1)

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Mike James, Fitter (D1544/1/2)

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Alex Withers, Work Wear (D1544/1/3)

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Tony Morgan, Supply Road (D1544/1/7)

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Boss Pit Man (D1544/1/9)

 

Group Portraits of Workers at Abercynon Colliery

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Salvage Men, Abercynon 1989 (D1544/2/1)

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Lamp Room (D1544/2/4)

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Colliery Baths (D1544/2/5)

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Derek Williams, Danny Williams, Darell Dixon, Preparation Shift (D1544/2/6)

 

Pit Landscapes

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National Colliery, ‘Monuments’ (D1544/3/1)

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Lewis Merthyr Colliery (D1544/3/8)

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Coedely Colliery (D1544/3/11)

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Fernhill Colliery (D1544/3/12)

 

Collecting coal [at Cwmcynon Tip during the Miner’s Strike, 1984-1985]

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‘It’s a Good Job We Can Laugh’ (D1544/4/1)

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‘Helping Dad’ (D1544/4/7)

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A Man Pushing Three Young Boys in a Pram (D1544/4/8)

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Family Group Digging Out Coal (D1544/4/10)

Ceri Thompson notes that ‘the little girl in the colourful coat is Nathalie Butts-Thompson.  I interviewed her for GLO and she supplied me with that photo for the publication’.

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Children Collecting Coal (D1544/4/13)

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Two Children Filling a Sack With Coal (D1544/4/15)

 

Disused Collieries

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Merthyr Vale Colliery, Derelict Building  (D1544/5/5)

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‘Another Way of Telling’, View of Bedwas Colliery (D1544/5/8)

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Militant Miner poster titled ‘SAVE THE PITS!’ (D1544/5/10)

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South Celynen, View of Graffiti on Wall (D1544/5/14)

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‘Last Day Ynysybwl Colliery’, Handwritten Good Luck Notice from Lamp Room Staff [at Lady Windsor Colliery] (D1544/5/15)

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‘Only History Will Tell’, View of Abandoned Surface Building at Coedely Colliery (D1544/5/22)

 

Colliery Closures: The End of Era

The records of the National Coal Board and its predecessors held at Glamorgan Archives show the ups and downs of the coal industry in south Wales. Through financial records we see how large colliery companies such as Powell Duffryn and Ocean Coal were performing in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

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Page from Pit Summaries of Cost of Coal, Ocean Coal Co. Ltd, 1900-1905 (D1400/2/5/1)

Come 1947 and the Nationalisation of the industry we see records showing the huge investment and reorganisation schemes that those in charge of the National Coal Board thought would secure the industry for years to come.

Unfortunately the history books tell us that, contrary to the claim made on the Betws Drift Mine (Carmarthenshire) promotional leaflet, the future was not bright for the coal industry, as less than 50 years after nationalisation the UK coal industry had all but ceased.

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Betws Drift Mine, Colliery Leaflet, Jan 1984 (DNCB/5/1/5/2)

The records held at Glamorgan Archives show us the steps that the National Coal Board took in their decision making when it came to the closure of the collieries. A pit closure register dating 1948-1970 gives information on output, reasons for closure, number of personnel, number of people transferred or retained, estimated redundancy figures, negotiations with the National Union of Mineworkers, notices given to men and pit closure date. This overview of reasons for closure is supplemented by files concerning individual colliery closures, containing closure reports, minutes, correspondence, meeting minutes and profit and loss accounts.

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Page from National Coal Board Pit Closure Register, 1948-1970 (DNCB/67/5/20)

Press releases issued concerning the closure of Ty Mawr/Lewis Merthyr, Coegnant, Brynlliw/Morlais, Britannia and Aberpergwm can be found in the Public Relations department files (ref.: DNCB/5/4/1/1). In addition to this, there is also a public relations file containing briefing notes and correspondence on colliery closures and wage disputes (ref.: DNCB/5/4/2/1) and a file concerning colliery closures, containing various lists of collieries that detail the dates they opened and the date and reason for closure (ref.: DNCB/5/4/2/8).

Following closure, some colliery sites were to be given a new lease of life. A file dating 1977-1987 contains correspondence concerning the fate of Lewis Merthyr Colliery (ref.: DNCB/67/7/45). The file includes correspondence and plans relating to the colliery site along with correspondence concerning the sale of the land and proposals to turn it into a heritage museum. Some of you may have been to the site in its current form as Rhondda Heritage Park.

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Lewis Merthyr Colliery, c.1950 (DNCB/14/1/17)

The closure of the collieries was the end of an era and a way of life for those in the south Wales coalfield. To commemorate this way of life and the end of the industry, souvenir leaflets were published celebrating the achievements of the collieries on the eve of closure.  Examples from Penallta and Mardy Collieries survive within the Glamorgan Archives collection (ref.: DNCB/5/3/4 and DNCB/5/3/5).

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Souvenir Leaflet, Mardy Colliery Closure, 1990 (DNCB/5/3/4)

Our catalogue Canfod provides more information on these items and other records relating to the rise and fall of the coal industry in south Wales. Start your search with the DNCB collection and see where it takes you. The cataloguing of the NCB records is still in progress, so keep checking Canfod for new material http://calmview.cardiff.gov.uk/

Louise Clarke, Glamorgan’s Blood Project Archivist

Glamorgan’s Blood: Colliery Disasters

In October 1913, 439 miners and one rescuer died at Universal Colliery, Senghennydd following an explosion at the colliery. The disaster took place on 14 October 1913 and it remains the worst mining accident in the UK with regard to loss of life. Material within the Glamorgan Archives collection can be consulted to find out more about the responsibilities of the mine’s owners, Lewis Merthyr Consolidated Collieries, following the disaster.

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Statement showing compensation and funeral expenses paid for each individual killed in the Senghenydd disaster, DPD/4/11/2/4.

The papers of Lewis Merthyr Consolidated Collieries are nestled within the Powell Duffryn Collection (DPD). Documents relating to the Senghennydd disaster within the Lewis Merthyr papers include the proceedings of the Home Office Enquiry into the Senghennydd disaster and a transcript of the proceedings at the inquest on the bodies of the men who lost their lives in the disaster. Alongside this printed report is a handwritten statement of money paid to the families of the victims by Lewis Merthyr Consolidated Collieries Limited. This document records the names of all the individuals killed and how much money was provided by Lewis Merthyr to the families of each victim, including details of money provided for funeral expenses and compensation

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Summary statement of compensation and funeral expenses paid by Lewis Merthyr Consolidated Collieries Limited following the Senghenydd disaster, DPD/4/11/2/4.

Another colliery explosion represented within the archives is the Cambrian Explosion which occurred on 17 May 1965. Material under reference DNCB/11/2/1 contains correspondence concerning the Cambrian Disaster Fund, a log of events in the immediate aftermath of the incident, a draft of a letter sent by the chairman of the National Coal Board to the next of kin of those killed in the disaster and funeral arrangements of those who died in the Cambrian Explosion. The official report into the causes and circumstances of the disaster is also held in the archive (DNCB/6/1/4/10).

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Statement Made by Alderman D Murphy, Mayor Elect, launching a disaster fund appeal for the families of the victims of the Cambrian Colliery Explosion, 18 May 1965, DNCB/11/2/1.

Photographs give us an insight into being a rescue man, with images from the National Coal Board glass plate negative collection showing demonstrations of rescue apparatus and group photographs of the team.

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Ynysfeio Colliery No1 Rescue Team at Dinas Rescue Station, DNCB/14/1/3/1

Training like this can be seen in a certificate issued to Thomas John Jones by Brynmenyn Rescue for completing his rescue apparatus training in 1920 (DNCB/67/13/11).

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Certificate issued to Thomas John Jones by Brynmenyn Rescue Station for completing his rescue apparatus training in 1920, DNCB/67/13/11.

The negative collection shows us that a large number of men were also involved in general first aid, through images of Regional First Aid Competitions in the 1950s-1960s.

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Coedely Plant being judged at a First Aid competition in 1968, DNCB/48/4/177.

Another photograph, showing Mr Glenn Thomas, a member of the Mines Rescue Service, with a canary perched on him, reminds us of the vital role of canaries in ensuring the safety of those working underground (D1061/1/43).

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Mr Glenn Thomas, member of the Mines Rescue Service with a canary perched on him, Jan 1981, D1061/1/43

Through the official reports and paperwork we find out about the facts and causes of colliery disasters, but these types of documents do not show the pain the disasters caused the families of the victims. However, other material, such as these words written by Ap Lewis about the Great Western Colliery Disaster in 1893 (D253/2/37) can be used to demonstrate the personal tragedy experienced by loved ones following the news of a colliery disaster:

And like a furious howling gale

The dreaded news went through the vale,

Of the sad strange calamity,

Which took the lives of sixty three.

And rushing thither from all parts,

With gushing tears and heavy hearts

Came wives and mothers seeking they

Who long ere then had passed away

 

Glamorgan’s Blood Preserved on Glass

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The National Coal Board collection at Glamorgan Archives includes a large amount of photographic negatives on both plastic and glass supports.

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The glass plate negatives, approximately 5440 in number, feature a range of subjects, including images of tunnels, miners in action, equipment, pit ponies, medical centres, social events and other varied content.

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As part of the Glamorgan’s Blood project, this photographic material will be catalogued, cleaned, digitised, conserved and re-housed, allowing public access to these images.

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While the majority of the glass plate negatives simply need cleaning prior to digitisation, some display more extensive conservation issues.  A number of the plates are broken or have lifting or highly damaged emulsion (fig.5).  These issues will require more supportive housing solutions or more intensive conservation treatment.

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Figure 5

Undamaged but dirty glass plate negatives require cleaning prior to digitisation and re-housing.  Surface dirt on these items can contribute to long term deterioration and be visible on the digitised image.  It is important that the plates be properly cleaned before any further steps in the preservation process can be taken.

To clean the plates, first an air-puffer is used to remove loose dust and dirt on both the emulsion side and the glass side.  By using this tool, the emulsion side of the plate can be cleaned without risk of abrasion.  Next, cotton wool buds wrapped in fine tissue and dipped in a solution of water and ethanol (50:50) are used to remove dirt and grease from the glass side of the plates.  A final wipe, using a dry cotton wool bud, removes any streaks.

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Figure 6

The cleaned plates are then re-housed in folders made from material up to PAT (Photographic Activity Test) standards.  We use different sized folders for the varying plate formats to ensure a good fit (fig.6). The original packaging for these items was glassine envelopes, which is a type of highly calendared paper often found used for the storage of photographic negatives. Glassine is an inappropriate storage material as it yellows over time and can damage the photographic emulsion (fig.7).

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Figure 7

Once cleaned, the plates are scanned and a positive image is created.  This will then be added to the Archive’s catalogue.

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Figure 8

Broken glass plate negatives require housing which both supports the fragments but also keeps them separate to ensure the delicate emulsion is not damaged through abrasion between the glass shards.  The new housing incorporates cushioning plasterzote foam within an un-buffered card enclosure.  This new enclosure allows the negative to be safely stored and, if necessary, viewed without removing the individual shards (fig.8 & 9).  This simple housing solution can provide either temporary or long term storage, allowing for further repair treatment to be carried out in the future.

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Figure 9

The broken negatives will also be scanned and digitised, reducing the need for handling while at the same time ensuring public access to these wonderful images.

Stephanie Jamieson, Glamorgan’s Blood Project Conservator