Maesteg in old picture postcards

Maesteg in old picture postcards

:   Garfield Thomas
:   Glamorgan, Mid
:   United Kingdom
:   978-90-288-2040-1
:   96
:   EUR 16.95 Incl BTW *

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Fragmenten uit het boek 'Maesteg in old picture postcards'

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Maesteg obtains its name from the beauty of its surroundings. The Town Fairfield and its cnvirons are worthy of its name. Industrialisation came to the district over hundred years ago and not even the slag tips (landscaped today) were allo wed to diminish to any serious degree the inherent appeal and attractivemess of the natural prospect. The Industrial Revolution brought many changes to the Llynfi Valley. It was changed by a gradual process from Farm Lands and forests of great dimensions to Tin and Iron Works, with small coal shafts sunk here and there. The first works were erected in 1826 and in 1827 the Tramroad to Porthcawl was completed. Then, in 1831, a MI. James Allen established a Spelting Works at Coegnant, followed in 1837 by the New Works, sa called to distinguish them from the Old Works erected in 1826. With the influx of werkers, the demands for houses became acute and the various companies proceeded to build rows of houses at Garnlwyd, South Parade, Park Street, Princess Street, Pit Street, the bottom of Bridgend Road, Cwmdu Street, Shoemakers Row, Maesteg Row, Cavan Row, Charles Row and McGregor Row, John and Brown Streets, Duffryn Row, Treharne Row, Metcalfe Street, also in the area around the Spelters. Plus some substantial mansions for the Managers and Officials. The year 1830 saw marked prosperity which continued until 1847, when up to 1851 some works were closed and in 1873 furnace after furnace had been blown out and never restarted. Thus, the Tin and Iron Trade faded out. But the termination of the Iron Age saw the birth of the Coal Age. In the late 18th century th ere were pits at Garth, Llwydarth, Oakwood, Cwmdu and drifts at Ton-hir and No. 9 plus the Gin Pit. The pits at Garth and Oakwood were developed under various owners and later Col. North formed the Norths Navigation Company, who sunk pits at Caerau and Coegnant, a drift at Maesteg Deep and pits at Cwmdu (St. John's), Meanwhile, the Garth and Oakwood Collieries had been taken over by the celebrated Celtic Company and they flourished so much that in the succeeding years the population increased phenomenally from a few thousand to 30,000, with about 7,000 to 8,000 men and

boys employed in the mines. It was from the famous 2'9" seam with its high calorific qualities that the fuel for our Railways, the Royal Navy, merchant ships and the high speed trials of that grand old ship the 'Mauretania' were obtained, and the selection placed Maesteg high in the priority list of the worlds coal markets, and during the boom years night and day, mineral trains with their laden coal trucks poured into Port Talbot and Cardiff Docks to meet the world wide demands. Pay day was on Saturday and in the afternoons crowds from the Ogmore and Garw Valleys could be seen streaming down Neath Road from the P.T.R. Station and frorn the Afan Valleys via the G.W.R. Station. The shops were open until ten o'clock, some until midnight and I can vividly reeall the errand boys at the Stations shouting Pegiers or Liptons and other shop pareels etc., so that their customers could collect the goods they had purchased earlier before boarding their trains for home. They were sa late that they were called the 'Rodneys', Those were the days befare the Pit Head baths and canteens. When the men and boys would have to wash and change before the fires in -their dingy kitchens, in tin or wooden tubs made from casks sawn in half. Where their sweaty clothes were washed, repaired and dried ready for the next shift. Some of these small cottages are still in existence today, most of them modernised and occupied by the same proud families.

At this period people wereflowinginto the Town from all over the country to work in the were to behad alloverthe district, most houses taking in Lodgers. Around 1926 however, Maesteg and other towns depended on the mines for their livelihood, suffered severly from strikes and the so called economie blizzard, which hit the whole world and its population soon dwindled down to around 24,000. Mines were closed and in some cases dismantled, the young people and whole families we re directed or rnigrated in appreciabie numbers to other are as in their search for ernployment, some even abroad to America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The tragic spectre ofunemployment the 'Dole' stalked the land, leaving in its wake poverty, distress and hardship. The courage and forti-

tude however of the unfortunate victims of mass unemployment was something to marvel at, their destitution and suffering did not cultimate in despair. They lived in hopes that the mines would once again be working to full capacity, that new works would spring up and that thousands of their bread earners would once again be able to lift up their heads and earn their living by honest labour once again. Born of those economie soul destroying conditions, Unemployed and Social Service Clubs sprung up, there work hungry hands developed their new man and womenhood and showed their adaptability by and through their exhibits of carpentry, boot repairing, cookery, needlework, handicrafts, weaving, etc., th ere in their own Clubhouses, erected by their own hands, thanks to a grant from the Welsh Council of Social Service, they forgot for a time their daily worries and tribulations in their various activities, in particular the music lessons and choral singing and it was soon obvious that through their interest in their activities, character and self-respect were reborn.

But despite their tragic circumstances, Maesteg's contribution to the cultural and sporting world of Wales maintained its high standard and the richness of its traditions and cornmunity spirit. lts share in the musical, cultural, educational, political and sporting life of the principality is recognised the world over and not many other communities have such a splendid heritage of achievements. All of this was displayed to Her Majesty, the late Queen Mary, when on a 'Red Letter Day' in the history of the 'Old Parish' and the local unemployed Social Service Clubs they were at 'home' to their beloved Mother Queen at the Maesteg Town Hall and the Garth Club House, where she became deeply interested in their activities, folklore and the love story of Wil Hopcyn and the Maid of -Cefn Y dfa. The Garth Club were the pioneers of the unemployed and Social Service movement in their area and their Club House, designed by Paul Matt, becarne the model for all further buildings erected through the Welsh Council of Social Service. lt is interesting to reeall that the Social Service organiser concerned with Garfield Thomas in the birth of the Garth Club was Mr. Wynford Vaughan

Thomas, the world famous BBC and ITV Broadcaster and Commentator, a personality who still retains great interest in the Celtic Sporting Complex today. One of the Council's Instructors incidentally, Mr. Calvin Thomas, was the father of Wyn Calvin Thomas, also of BBC farne. The Town includes, Garth, Maesteg, Nantyffyllon and Caerau, all of whom have enjoyed periods of prosperity, progress and depression, about which much has been written by local historians, who have fully covered all aspects of life in the Urban District from times immemorial, and we are greatly indebted to them all for reminding us of our rich heritage.

I love this pleasant industrial community, nestling in the hills of Wales, for its spirit and courage and for its friendly, generous hospitality , for its community pride and the sincerity of its people. lts a town that proves that it is more than Bricks and Mortar that ITS PEOPLE that count in the long run. They speak their minds and expect others to be frank with them. There is such a wonderful sense of belenging and they have the ability to take it on the chin. Proved from my own experience of local and national strikes of five years on the dole, lock outs and the closing oflocal collieries. The way in which they rallied around to organise Soup Kitchens, the distribution of Cast of Clothing and Footwear, Carnivals, Variety Shows and street teas. Their patient acceptanee of strigent tirnes, the Means Test, the warm hearted hospitality of people sharing their last crust has to be seen to be believed, People one would expect to find halfbeaten into submission by circumstances, still full of spirit, full of hope for the future with windows still to be cleaned, doorsteps scrubbed, meals of a kind still to be served and a rainy washing day, still considered a disaster of the first magnitude. The evenings were spent around a tiny piano, lungs bursting in competition, singing songs and popular hymns full of 'hwyl'. When I was born into this community in 1903, the sheep browsed on the hillside, mostly taken over by the Forestry Commission these days, who carne down to rummage the dustbins, ravage the gardens and allotments, besides fouling the streets, which followed the lines up the

slopes of the valley like soldiers marching on parade. As in all mining valleys, life is and was slotted around the pit heads, to the winding gear of the coal mines and the drifts, which in those days were the sole souree of its daily bread and the mangers, overmen and firemen, lords of all they surveyed, labour was cheap and plentiful and the tongue had to be curbed. Today, the black and grey tips which once dominated the valley and all but one of the collieries and drifts with their coke ovens have gone - vanished. The collieries have been dismantled, the tips levelled or landscaped and other se ars covered with grassy mounds. Somehow, there is none of the poverty and depression other areas have suffered visible to any great extent, not many derelict buildings or shuttered shops, although we note a difference what with supermarkets, leisure centres, etc., the closing of our Miners Institutes with their imposing facades owing to the closure of the pits, the opulent size of our Public Houses, Bingo Hall and Social Clubs, the closing of our cinemas, because of the influence of the television on our lives, Some of our Chapels and Churches even in this materialistic age retain their impressive facades, pillars and vau1ted windows, despite seeming religious indifference. The Workmens Institutes, once our eentres of learning and recreation, are now Bingo Halls, Social Clubs, small factories or billiard halls. The railways are closed and the stations demolished to make way for roads or building sites. Embankments levelled and cuttings filled in. The drab exteriors of most of the old stone houses have been brightend with colourful fresh paint and improved beyond recognition. Others have been demolished to make way for Council Flats for the elderly. Today the grime associated with coal mining has disappeared, it does not intrude into peoples homes. Everyone is proud of the bright exteriors, gone are the old tin baths and tubs, the stone sanded floors and the rag mats and lino. In their place are modern bathrooms and toilets, carpets and central heating. Like most similar valleys, we have our market place, our square, War Memorial and Town Hall. The centre around which the old and the young congregate, the old to reeall

days of yore, old workmates and incidents long past, the young to ogle, whistle and sport with the brash nonchalance of their years,

Local Government came to Maesteg & District in 1858 and the first meeting of the then Cwmdu Board of Health was held in the Castle Hotel on the 26th June in that year, Minutes of that fust meeting are still in existence. But there are also records available which show that the Parish Administration was in existence as far back in history as 1776. The period when some of our misty legends and folklore first saw the light of day, a Mr. W.H. Buckland was duly elected Chairman of the fust board for the ensuing year 1858. Dwing to the rapid in flux of workers in an attempt to cater for them fourteen Common Loding Houses were set up with a Police Inspeetor in charge, whose initial steps was to have them registered under the local Health Board. Then with the formation of the Urban District Councils, progress became fantastic and work on rebuilding the old Town Hall, erected in 1881, was commenced and in 1914 the present Council Chambers were built. The Open Market,held weeklyon Fridays, became very popular and was classed as being one of the best in South Wales and the shopping centre, with its large stores and stately businesses, with its side streets and thoroughfares, and parking places, made Maesteg one ofthe outstanding towns in Wales and its friendly atmosphere a legend all over the Principality. It was also noted for its famous annual Sports and Horse Shows, held in aid of the Hospital which were whole heartedly and generously supported by every section of the community, young and old.

The early 19th century was a preposterous world of frills and parasols, extreme poverty, flamboyant wealth. A world whose society was sharply divided by the 'Haves and Havenots'. A world of Punch and Judy, sturdy gas lamps, bosterous slums, horse trams, cabbys, drays and horse and carts. A Society basking in the twilight world of an Empire, whose days of greatness were inexorably drawing to a close. When, the passing pageants included superlative Nannys in a class distinctive world wherein some were treated in a humbie

subservient marmer, others as equals and the rest with aesthetie noses in the air, not forgetting the regular Sunday Parades, of both sexes, in our main streets, On one hand an exclusive world of Mansions and posh houses for the rich and the bosses and streets of small dingy houses, where the ehildren were ragged and shoeless. Just some of the vague fleeting ehildish impressions. Sa in a peaeeful uneventful way the years of infaney sped away, then eame 1914 and four endless years of war, leaving only vague memories of moonlight nights and Zeppelins, of neighbours being sa much more friendly, of laboriously signing ration books, of soldiers marching, of tanks and saving certificates, of dim street lightning, of grave faces and voiees. Then, when the grim days and absence of dear friends seemed to be an accepted fact and a part of life. A sudden change, a mass surge of hysteria, of strangers embracing and waving flags, of whistles, bells and hooters, of shouting and singing bonfires and fireworks, parades and happy faces. The war was over, the mud and hell of the trenches and the futility of it all was ended. Crowds everywhere, wounded men in hospital-blue and others in khaki retuming home supposedly to a land 'Fit for Heroes'. Fortune telling, Table Rapping and Quiga Boards anything in an attempt to vainly coax psychic manifestations were on the up grade in the early twenties, abored and gullible cross section of the public indulging in regular evening sessions to the amusement of the sceptical. The poor and the working class still in a grove, life mainly consisting of work and sleep, monotonous and seemingly all to short.

In the Llynfi Valley the only places for recreation were those levelled and specially designed for play, by all sections of the community or by the Local Authority and the Miners Welfare Scheme. No praise could be high enough for the local rugby clubs, soccer clubs and the Miners Welfare scherne in particular and other organisations, who have provided their own playing fields and club houses. Such a feature of the wonderful community spirit of the 'Old Parish', The old have their bowling greems, the young their cricket and football pitches, their swimming pools, tennis courts and squash

courts, not forgetting provision for the children. As a Senior Citizen, nearly an Octogenarion in fact, I remember the Iack of those facilities, on playing on the einders and the levelled slag heaps of industry. The time when the old died in degregation, the poor unable to pay the rent thrown into the streets or sent to the workhouse, the siek suffered because they lacked the means to pay the Doctor or afford hospital treatment, and others cold charity like the 'parish' and this often depended on the condecension of the relief Officers. Today citizens of all ages in comparision live in relative peace and plenty, thanks to the much maligned Welfare State. But on a happier note, I remember the Annual Flannel and Fun Fairs, with their Flannel Stalls, the Roundabouts, the merrygo-round, dogems, swings, galloping horses, the organ music, coconut shys, huskers, cheap jacks, the quack doctors with cures for any ailment under the sun. The 'Highlight' of the week was the 'Hospital Night', when all the takings were donated to the local hospital. The childhood games of hopscotch, Whip and Top, Marbles, Hoops, Hook & Wheel, Hide & Seek, Kick the Tin, Catty and Dog, etc. The Tramps who sang for coppers in the streets and offered to carry the miners coal, tipped outside the houses, into the coal sheds for a shilling and a hunk of bread & cheese. Two, that came easily to mind were J ohn Quack and Happy Charlie, J ohn for his quick wit and smart repartes, Charlie for his long and close association with the local Rugby Club as their self elected Mascot. The BarrelOrgan, the hurdy gurdy man and his pet monkey. The scissors grinders, tinkers, umbrella man, the gypsies with their pegs and flowers, the rag-and-bone man, the cockle woman, and most popular of all the packman with a variety of clothing, households goods and footwear - a kind of club, all items available for a shilling a week. The most unpopular being the School Attenance Officer, dubbed by the children as the 'Kid Driver'. Who can forget the roaring coal fires with their shining black leaded grates and hobs, the gleaming brass skettles, etc., all polished with elbow grease? The horne made bread the dutch-oven, and the bakestone or the thrill of licking clean the dishes after cake and

pudding making? Hanging our Christrnas Stockings and after they had been filled, we children suspended judgement and kept an open mind. The nicknames - they also deserved a place in our history? FIOm Thomas the Milk, J ones the Post, Evans the Bread, all a matter of identification. In the old days they grew into a cult, comic, witty and sometimes crue!. Such as Mrs. Double-Yolk (Mother of Twins), Joe Peg-Leg, WillBread, later after meeting the Prince of Wales Will 'Upper Crust', remarks which are not funny in black and white, but irresistabley funny and comic in actuality. Who can forget the Singing Festivals, the Gamanfa Ganus, the Big Meetings with special Preachers, so well attended, only the early birds got seats? Then what has happened to our Sundays? The Sabbath during rny boyhoed was a day of Worship. The entire community set aside one day in seven forworship. By law allplaces of business and amusement were closed and dressed in our Sunday best, clothes kept only for Sunday wear. We attended Church or Chapel in the morning and evening and Sunday School in the afternoons, with their Annual Teas and games, all combining every Whitsun for a mass singing Parade through our streets. The St. Patrieks Day Parade with their Bands, Banners and Marshals on their prancinghorses, etc. Today it seems modern families regard such regime as dull, boring and regimental, so we see our Churches and Chapels half empty or closing their doors. But I look back on those Sundays with a certain nostalgia, even though perhaps we children had our moments of rebellion. I knowand appreciate that those Sundays laid the ground work for the more moral and spiritual concepts that rule our adult lives. Something we should be proud and truly grateful for. Not that we weren't full of mischief, but never destructive. We played 'Knock the Door' and ran away, we may have been pests in many ways, and if we were caught it was 'Instant Justice'. No juvenile Courts - it would be a lash with the policemans belt or cape across the legs or backsides and it would be no use complaining to our parents. We were always told serve you right, behave yourselves next time. That is how we were taught to respect law and order! To mind our behaviour.

Finally I must mention my pleasant thoughts and memories of our old Family Grocers & Provision Merchants. Our Butchers, Bakers and Milkmen with their Daily Deliveries, Friends, Councillors and Philosophers to their Customers. The menfolk had their pubs for drink and gossip, the women their family shops. Despite large families th ere were no daily vislts to the shops. Goods were ordered and paid for on a weekly basis, and were delivered by errand boys after school hours or at the week-end on their carrier cycles or handcarts. Additional shopping was only needed if they ran short of some particular artiele or unexpected visitors arrived ..

1 used to look forward to Pay Day and the visits with rny mother to the shop to order the weeks goods and pay for the week before. Armed with her sovereign or half-sovereign we would go along, I would be enchanted by the exquisite, delicious, mouth-watering smell of the shop. Particularly the aroma from the Coffee Grinding Machine and the habit of my mother of tasting the cheese, butter, etc., before placing her order, and to receive when the last weeks bill was paid a large bag of broken biscuits, which made the grocer my friend for Iife. That with the frequent visits to the Market on Market Days with the usual calls at the Faggots & Peas Stall, for what was in those days a treat in gastronomy, was the highlights of my boyhoed days,

We lads were also delighted and enjoyed the keen competition and rivalry amongst our fathers in gathering the manure dropped by horses (the main souree of transport) on our highways, They would sit on their doorsteps like runners on their marks - with buckets and spades, ready to gather it in before it even touched the ground. But were not so happy when the job as so often happened was passed along to us. We were not so keen to get off the mark.

So it is with pleasure that I remember the childish patter that never palled, the happy fun and laughter whieh despite some difficult economie periods lightened our days, Yes! Friendly memories of happy care free days, although our elders must often regarded me as an unmitigated nuisance at times.

1. The village Cross and Monument to Wil Hopcyn and the Maid of Cefn Y dfa, with in the background the 'OId House'. The tavern in which Wil wrote and sang his odes and songs, including the one about his lost love 'Bugeilior Gwenith Gwyn'. The Cross and Horse Mount was erected by a committee of the Maesteg Cymrodorian Society, in 1927, to commemorate the romance.

2. Showing the 'before' and 'after' pictures of the marvellous magical transformation on the sites of the Slag and einder Tips and that of the Ce1tic Colliery, which amazed the Duke of Edinburgh, showing in the foreground the Bowling Green, Cricket and Rugby pitches and in the background the landscaped tips and pleasant housing estate.

3. Mr. A.T. Minhinnick, the Area General Manager of the Coal Board, supported by Mr. A.D. Edwards, Chairman of the Maesteg U.D.C., and Police Inspeetor Parry setting alight the Towns Bonfire at their Fireworks Display.

4. DI. Bell Thomas, the senior partner in the famous team of Physicians and Family Doctors Thomas & Kirby at Maesteg in the twenties. Also DI. Ralph W. Thomas at a presentation. Dr. Ralph followed his grandfather and father in the role of family Doctors and now his son Dr. Noel in turn adopts the family mantle.

5. Members of the old established Maesteg Town Cricket Club. One of the oldest, if not the oldest, cricket clubs in the Principalty, taken in 1889.

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