Category Archives: Local History

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Photos: Postcards from the past

These are some photos, mainly of Mountain Ash, that I have collated over time. Most are interesting for the detail of the people they show. I have added some close-up detail where this interests me.

Click on an image to enlarge it.

The quality is not always very good, and the colourisation is not to be taken seriously.

(Note: Due to ill-health and poor eye-sight this is my first post in a year: I hope that my health is now improving so I will be able to resume to some extent activity on the site.)

The Bridge, Mountain Ash, postmarked 1904

The text on the reverse of the postcard appears to state that the sender of the postcard is the gentleman leaning against the wall.

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Ivor Hill: The Boy Soldier Who Went To Sea

On Friday 1 October 1915, the Cosmo Club, Mountain Ash, held an evening to honour one of its own: Private Ivor Hill. He had been invalided home following his experience with the South Wales Borderers at Gallipoli. One can only imagine the pride of his father, George Hill, when he entered the club room that evening with his son. The room had been decorated and there were fifty members present to honour the young soldier. There were toasts, songs, and a clog dance in which Herbert, Ivor’s brother, took part. Ivor’s father proposed a toast, to the “Army and Navy”, and Ivor breathed the air of regard from those older than himself.

Pte Ivor Hill

Private Ivor Hill

He was a showpiece at a club proud of its contribution to the war. He was also only 15 years old, having been 14 at the time of his enlistment. That he was so young seems surprising given the official minimum age of 19 for recruits to serve overseas but his story is not exceptional: estimates as to the number of “boy soldiers” in the British Army during the First World War run as high as 250,000. Continue reading

Photo: Royal Mountain Ash Glyndwr Concert Male Choir

Royal Mountain Ash Glyndwr Concert Male Choir

The Royal Mountain Ash Glyndwr Concert Male Choir. (Click to enlarge – opens in a new tab.)

I was pleased to find this photograph of the “Royal” Mountain Ash Glyndwr Male Choir. I am not sure when the photograph was taken: the “Royal” indicates it is post-1922, which I think could be safely inferred anyway, but by how many years is unclear. It certainly has a different character relative to the 1919 photograph that accompanied my earlier post, Glyndwr’s Mountain Ash Male Choir.

I intend to continue the task of completing a history of the early years of the choir under Glyndwr Richards’s charge, with the first American tour of 1908-9 as a suitable “end-of-chapter”. Unfortunately, ill-heath has put that, and so much else, on hold. In fact, I think I only posted three articles during the whole of 2015. If nothing else, I hope to improve upon that in the coming months, albeit less ambitiously than I would like.

Mountain Ash: Photos from World War One

During the First World War, the Aberdare Leader printed photos of local men, and women, who served in the armed forces. Each issue carried such photos along with details of their experiences. Focusing on Mountain Ash and Penrhiwceiber, I have collated some 130 such photos, along with as many articles as I can find relating to those named, amounting to some 23,000 words. A full index is provided via the World War One menu above, or here. As the photos below show, the quality is not good but, in conjunction with the biographical information available, I think they are of interest and value to family and local historians.

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Nursing staff at Mountain Ash in the 1960s

Lorraine Owens, second from left

Lorraine Owens, second from left, also Nurse (later Sister) Parfitt, back row on the right, and Sister Jenkins, bottom row on the left.

The above is a photo of nursing staff at Mountain Ash hospital, probably taken in the 1960s.

My auntie Lorraine is in the photo, second from the left. She was a very caring and professional nurse, and was awarded best all round pupil-assisted nurse for Merthyr Tydfil and Aberdare area in 1959.

One of the saddest times in her nursing career was when she was called to assist in the Aberfan disaster in 1966. What she saw and dealt with broke her heart, but she never spoke about it.

Also in the photo are Nurse (later Sister) Parfitt (at the back on the right) and Sister Jenkins (bottom row, on the left).

My auntie Lorraine Owens lived at Victoria Street, Miskin, and later married and moved to Cardiff. She died last year.

The Surgery at Mountain Ash

“It was an agreeable and easy-going life, but after a few months I realised that I was being starved of experience … it became obvious that if I wanted to better myself, I should have to find a post where there was more to do.” (p14, The Surgery at Aberffrwd)

In 1908, a young doctor named Francis Maylett Smith gave up a post in an English country practice to work in a colliery town in the heart of the South Wales coalfield. He spent several years at a busy practice in the town, a time recounted in the book, The Surgery at Aberffrwd, edited by his nephew, Denis Hayes Crofton, and which was published in 1981 by Volturna Press.

Mr Crofton places the location of Aberffrwd – which is not the name of the actual town – “somewhere in the triangle between Hirwaun, Pontypridd and Merthyr Tydfil.” Names of individuals have also been changed.

Reading the book with a local eye, it is evident to me that the colliery town of “Aberffrwd” is Mountain Ash in the Cynon Valley. I have collated some census and other evidence relating to the surgery during the time of Dr Smith’s memoir that helps to identify the town and some of the individuals mentioned. I shall use the “Aberffrwd” names for the purpose of considering the book, with the actual names, and supporting documentation, at the end of this post.  Continue reading

Mountain Ash, 1887

Mountain Ash 1887 Map

Mountain Ash, 1887

 

I will be writing an article on the outbreak of enteric fever that primarily affected Miskin, Mountain Ash in 1887. In the meantime, I thought I would post this map of the area that formed part of the official report by the Medical Officer of the day.

Miskin, as can be seen, is composed of only a few streets at this time, though it was to grow. Joseph Keating, in his autobiography My Struggle For Life, comments that when he returned to the valley in the early 1900s, to his family home in Newtown on the opposite side of the valley, that he was dismayed to look across the valley to find houses where once there were fields.

Glyndwr’s Mountain Ash Male Choir

Mountain Ash Choir, 1919

Glyndwr’s Male Choir, Mountain Ash, Wales, Fourth American Tour, 1919 (click to enlarge)
Standing, left to right: J O Jones, M.E. (President), J N O Williams, Rhys Thomas, Hy. Evans, D. Teifi Davies (Tresurer), Stephen Jenkins, Tom Davies (Secretary), Geo. Anthony, D Pennar Williams, D J Davies M.E. (President).
Sitting: M J Edwards, Sydney Charles, B Davies (Chairman), T Glyndwr Richards (Conductor), W Evans, L.R.A.M. (Accompanist), Gomer David, Dd Lewis.
(Names sourced from p123 of Bernard Baldwin’s Mountain Ash and Penrhiwceiber Remembered in Pictures.)

“The famous choir from the Welsh colliery town of Mountain Ash will give a concert before the King and Queen . . . at Windsor Castle tomorrow afternoon.”
(The Times of London, 17 April 1922)

The Mountain Ash choir of this period, and earlier, is well-known for its travels and for performing for the occasional head of state. All I know of them is that they maintained a level of success over several years, this coinciding with the stewardship of Glyndwr Richards. The above photo states that 1919 was the occasion of their fourth American Tour, their first, I believe, being in 1908 when they performed for President Roosevelt. On the 1919-1921 tour, they performed for President Harding.

The Times article goes on to say that most of its members were coal-miners and that the choir had formed in about 1904. Professor T. Glyndwr Richards’s stewardship of the choir is such that they are frequently referred to as Glyndwr’s Mountain Ash Male Choir. Not everyone felt that the success was deserved: a correspondent in a later Times article finds the choir in fine voice individually but lamentable as a choir, with the “worst possible arrangements”, out-of-tune singing and constant vibrato.

The tours of America were not only notable for the success of a choir from a small industrial town but led to the choir being recorded in 1909, 1920 and 1926, with a record being released in 1926. This is available on youtube thanks to a collector of old records. Continue reading

Daniel Hartley — The Preston Giant, 1825-1862

The Giant Brothers - A waxwork of Daniel's dead infant brother was also exhibited

The Giant Brothers – A waxwork of Daniel’s dead infant brother was also exhibited

I came across Daniel’s name when I was walking through Aberdare old cemetery. The headstone, though small, was not just the usual recitation of dates and the promise of the then-living to remember the deceased; this was an obituary etched in stone.

The headstone of Daniel Hartley, Aberdare

Daniel’s headstone

“In memory of Mr Daniel Hartley native of Preston in Lancashire who died suddenly on the 26 Nov. 1862 at Mountain Ash, Aberdare, Glamorganshire, aged 28 years The well known fat man who had travelled and been exhibited for the last twenty years through every town in Great Britain. Deceased had six perfect fingers on each hand, and six perfect toes on each foot. He weighed a little before his death 30 stone but when in full health he weighed 37 stone.”

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The Lentons of Aberaman

Arthur and Samuel Linton of Aberaman were well-known names in the cycling world of the late 19 century. Some years ago, I was asked by a descendant of Samuel Linton to investigate the history of the family name as, despite all the references to the Lintons, the name was actually Lenton. My report was passed on by the descendant to a historian interested in the brothers so that the “correction” could be made. For any who might be interested in the family history of the Lentons/Lintons, this is the report that I wrote. Continue reading