Seasonal Greetings from your new Newsletter Editor!
Keri (Thomas) has decided to relinquish his many duties associated with the Society; he is not retiring but has decided to devote more of his time to other family commitments. Keri’s all- round contribution included that of Chairman (2017-18) Vice Chairman of the Society for ten years , a period during which he served as Treasurer and Newsletter Editor, he also took the lead in successfully applying for grants from various organisations during that time. His energies will be greatly missed. In recognition of his dedication to the Society, he is being awarded Honorary Life Membership (sorry Keri no clock or watch)
Future proposals for The Newsletter are the publication of summaries of the talks held during the last season. These now follow (Sept-Dec), but please be aware that from next year, 2020, the Newsletter will only be forwarded (or delivered) to fully paid up members. As a reminder, membership fees are £8 per year and are due at the beginning of our season of talks in September. It is not too late to join! Our application form can be downloaded at the end of these pages, or you can pick up a form at one of our talks.
18th SEPTEMBER 2019, ‘THE PETERLOO MASSACRE’- Jeff Childs firstname.lastname@example.org
The Peterloo Massacre occurred on 16 August 1819 in which up to 18 people were killed and nearly 700 injured including many women and some children. The site was St Peter’s Field, Manchester, at which a peaceful rally of some 50,000 pro-democracy reformers were attached by armed cavalry on the orders of the local magistracy. According to Robert Poole, author of the recently published and definitive account of the massacre, ‘Peterloo’ was not an accident, it was a deliberate, pre-emptive act and a disaster waiting to happen’. After defining what constituted a ‘massacre’ and giving several well-known examples, the speaker explained the event fully particularly the key roles played by Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt, the demonstrators, the cavalry and local militia, the magistrates and central government. The wider political and socio-economic background was emphasized as were the authoritative studies of other contemporary historians (as well as the late E. P. Thompson), Shelley’s poem The Masque of Anarchy and Peterloo’s immediate and long-term legacies. Illustrations of the event and current images of the site, including the 2019 commemorations at which the speaker was present, were also highlighted.
16th OCTOBER, 2019
Our initial disappointment at learning that our speaker for the evening was unable to be with us was soon lifted by the arrival of Ioan Richard. This is not the first time that Ioan has helped us out at the last minute and we are indebted to his willingness, at the drop of a hat, to come to our aid. Ioan, of Craig Cefn Parc was a local councillor of many years, standing for Mawr ward, and also the first chair of governors of Ysgol Gellionen Clydach. He is President of Clydach’s History Society. We were highly entertained with stories of his experiences of serving as Lord Mayor of Swansea, pinpointing highlights in his political career interspersed with humorous anecdotal stories of personal mishaps (two odd coloured shoes!) His graphic light-hearted descriptions of many comic scenes as well as the more serious administrative duties he was engaged with, delighted an amused audience for well over the designated time of an hour. We extend our warmest thanks for your time and generosity of spirit. – HH
‘THE LAST DAYS OF THE WAR’- Gary Williams
On Wednesday 20th November 2019 a fascinating and thought provoking talk was given by Gary Williams.
Gary talked about the political and military issues surrounding the end of the World War 1. It was of interest that he included as well, the human and personal elements of this monumental event. Time was of essence when the political decision was taken to end the war. It was a race from the time the ink dried on the Document of Surrender to the fighting units receiving the news. It became very clear that many died right up to the final eleven am ceasefire. Just east of Mons, a Canadian soldier, Private George Price was waiting for the end of the war. At two minutes to eleven, he was killed by a German sniper. He was one of the very last casualties on the Western Front.
The British representative at the surrender talks was Admiral Rosslyn Wemyss. It was due to his insistence that a ceasefire could be achieved earlier than planned and his direct link to King George V, that many more lives were saved. His decision angered the Prime Minister Lloyd George, who wanted to announce the end of hostilities at 2.30pm. Wemyss realised that 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month had a strong poetic quality and would be significant. Besides, many lives would be saved.
That meeting in the railway carriage in Compiegne would change world history, and as we know, led in part to another catastrophic war.
Thank you Gary. It is hoped that he will return in the near future. His parting shot was to tell us that he could give a talk on the Zulu War.
Watch this space!! (Submitted by David Jones)
4th DECEMBER 2019 ‘THE GENTRY FAMILIES OF LLANGYFELACH AND THEIR ESTATES INCLUDING PONTARDAWE ‘ – Jeff Childs
This illustrated talk was based on the speaker’s recent published book on this theme and was held at Pontardawe RFC’s clubhouse. The ecclesiastical parish of Llangyfelach was at one time the second largest in Glamorgan and comprised four administrative districts – Clase, Penderry, Mawr and Rhyndwyglydach. Among the estates highlighted were Briton Ferry, Brinwhillach and Cefn Myddfai, Cilybebyll, Gnoll, Penllergare, Ynyspenllwch, Ynystanglwys and Ynystawe as well as those owned by the dukes of Beaufort, the bishops of St David’s, the Calvert Richard Joneses and the Calland, Gilbertson, Gwyn, Herbert, Lott, Morris and Popkin families. Emphasis was placed on the rise of some estates, the decline of others and the reasons for such changes. The entry of newcomers into the land market and the industrial nature of several of the estates were also underlined.
Our thanks are extended to Jeff for his continued support and contributions.
THE JUBILEE CLUB in lower Herbert Street Pontardawe was recently sold. It served as a social and leisure club for many years in the village offering a function room, lounge bar, and on the first floor, a snooker room and manager’s flat. Its future is as yet undecided. We would welcome any information on its history from members.
GELLIGRON HOUSE which latterly served as a social services centre has closed this year. Historically it is a very historic property/site in the context of Pontardawe which housed a number of the district’s notable individuals and families including Josiah Rees (associated with Gellionnen Unitarian Chapel), John Morgan (associated with the Primrose Coal Company and nominally Ynysmeudwy Pottery), John Gwyn Jeffreys and his son Howel Gwyn Jeffreys and for forty years (until 1950) Charles and Ellen Gilbertson and their family.
SWANSEA VALLEY HISTORY SOCIETY MEMBERSHIP FORM 2020
I/We wish to join/renew membership of the Swansea Valley History Society. The annual membership subscription is £8 and runs from September 1st – August 31st. If joining after 1st January, there is a reduced rate of £6 which covers you up to August 31st.
In applying for membership you give your consent for the said Society to hold in a secure place the details you provide with your membership application and these will only be used to contact you about issues relating to Society membership, or with information which could be of interest to members. Your details will not be passed on to any other organisations.
Payment by cheque should be forwarded to our Treasurer, Steve Williams at 5, Grove Road, Pontardawe, SA8 4HH: email@example.com
Payment in cash or cheque can also be made at one of our Society meetings -details to follow.
PROGRAMME FOR 2020
January 1st – New Year’s Day Walk
This year Jeff Childs will be giving us a ‘guided tour’ around Alltwen pointing out buildings and homesteads of historical interest. This annual event is always popular. Meet at 1pm to depart at 1.30 pm Pontardawe Rugby Club. Stout walking boots are recommended. Refreshments will be available at the Club following the walk.
Society meetings are held at The Cross Community Centre Pontardawe on the third Wednesday of each month. Talks begin at 7pm.
January 15th- ‘The River Tawe Part 2’ by Martin Jones
February 19th – ‘A History of the South Wales Transport Bus Company’ by John Adams
March 18th – The Tay Railway Bridge (Scotland) by Alan Underhill
April 15th – The Titanic – A memorial Cruise Re-Visited by Tony Waters.
The April meeting will comprise a short lecture followed by the Annual General Meeting
If you have any articles, notices or photographs of interest which you would like included in the next Newsletter, could you forward them on to me please, Helen Hallesy. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org : Tel. 01792 865451
We wish everyone a Very Happy Christmas and hope to see you all in the New Year.
Since the last Newsletter our sympathy and thoughts are extended to the family and friends of members who have recently passed away: Teifion Rees, who was one of the founder members of the Swansea Valley History Society, also Roland Murdoch who was a contributory author to the first 2 volumes of Around Pontardawe produced by Pontardawe Historians. He was also a former Treasurer to the SVHS.