Thursday, 10 June 2021

Newsletter - June 2021

Hello everyone.

Annual General Meeting

The AGM of the Merthyr Tydfil Historical Society will be held at Canolfan Zoar at 2pm on Monday 5th July, 2021. This meeting is only open to paid-up members of the Society


Due to Social Distancing it is necessary for anyone wishing to attend this meeting to contact, as soon as possible, Steve Brewer by emailing


Nominations for Chairman, Vice Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer, Membership Secretary and Committee Members must be submitted, in writing by email to


As the vaccinations are kicking in and Covid is being controlled somewhat, restrictions are being lifted, and as a result, The Merthyr Tydfil Historical Society is hoping to resume holding lectures in September.

The Society is working closely with everyone at Canolfan Soar to make sure that everything will be in place so that things will be safe and all social distancing rules are followed. The staff at Canolfan Soar have done a marvellous job in getting things up and running in a ‘Covid safe’ way.

Our first lecture in September will be about Morlais Castle and will be delivered by Benedict Bray. Benedict is the grandson of Fred Bray of the famous Bray’s Sweets business (and son of Rev Dr Jason Bray and Laura Bevan (as was) of Merthyr), and he is currently studying history at Aberystwyth University. He has a passion for Welsh medieval history, and so he is looking forward to coming to talk to us.

Our first lecture will be held on Monday 6 September at Canolfan Soar at 2.00pm.

Please note that we have now moved our meetings to the afternoon to make it easier for people who prefer not to drive at night, and for those who rely on public transport.

See you all in September (hopefully)!!!!

Stephen Brewer


Blast from the Past!

A young Huw Williams and Len Deas & a 'very' young John Holley tidying Crawshay's Grave in Vaynor Churchyard.  Taken 41 years ago.

Dr Fred & John Holley


The Tabernacle Orchestra

If you ever wondered what people did before TV, Netflix, BritBox, Apple TV, YouTube,Cinema, etc., etc., the following may give you a clue as to how people “made their own amusement”. These are transcriptions of “Memories of the Tabernacl Chapel Orchestra”, both anonymous, which were found among papers when Tabernacl Welsh Independent Chapel, Perrott Street, Treharris, closed in 2018. These accounts must have been written at about the same time, (1950s, perhaps?) by two different people, or two drafts by the same person. 



The Tabernacle Orchestra was formed in 1889 and was called Tabernacle Temperance Orchestra. The first Conductor was Mr Lewis of Merthyr. The first record of any contributions being paid was July 16th 1897, when the band had 15 paying members. The next conductor was Mr James Garlick in 1901.   Then came Mr O Eynon, he joined the band in 1902, he became conductor in 1912. During his leadership the band increased its membership to 35 paying members, and got together a fine library of music, second to none in Wales for an amateur orchestra.

The first concert given by the orchestra was in the vestry on Good Friday, April 10th 1911, and £21/17/0 was taken at the door, and 2 Clarinets and 1 Oboe was (sic) bought.


The second concert was on Nov 17th 1915, when £50/16/0 was taken at the door, with tickets sold. Madame Alicia Cove was the soloist, the money mainly used to buy new Instruments and Music. The amount of work done by Mr Tom Andrews was tremendous. The band gave 59 Concerts in all, giving concerts through the war years as well as in between and after the wars, but the last war almost ruined the band because played (sic) (players?) were going away to work and leaving the band and not the same interest by the younger generation in orchestral music.


The best day in the life of the orchestra was when we won the prize at the National Eisteddfod at Barry in 1920. 


Another highlight was when we gave a concert at the Cardiff University, when there were many notable musicians there, as well as a large party of students. Another highlight was when Mr Morgan Lloyd, principal of Cardiff College of Music, conducted the orchestra in a concert at the Palace, Treharris. We also gave concerts in Talygarn and Talgarth, in the Sanatorium and was always well received. We gave Celebrity Concerts at the Treharris Public Hall, and always a full house.


After 1939, the Band started to go down owing to members leaving to work away, but the band kept going and then when Mr Eynon died, we were unable to get anyone to conduct the Band, but some of the band kept it going until 1970. I must pay tribute to Meirion Jones for the help he gave to get a band together, he helped to get players for the Cymanfa Ganu. I must also pay tribute to Mr Oliver Eynon, the conductor for many years, without any payment, of devotion to the band, from 1912 until he died. 





The Organisation

The Tabernacle Orchestra was an organisation performing its duties as a Musical Society accompanying the singing at the local chapel carrying the same name. It consisted with around 20 members playing each Sunday, morning and evening, and also all meetings that was carried on at the Chapel, such as Gymanfas and Preaching Services. The name of the conductor at the time I became a member was Mr Oliver Eynon.


He was a man who gave his all for the good of the Orchestra. He also became my teacher of the violin, the instrument I chose to learn. Included as members were such men and women who had as their just interest The Orchestra and all that went with it.


The Orchestra had a wonderful library of famous Oratorios, Anthems and every kind of books containing the best in Hymns which had been chosen as a part of every Gymanfa, all through the years, before my joining and during my membership.


The main practise night was a Friday and the Vestry was given for that purpose and it was always in print in the Notice Board at the Chapel. How we used to make such a big effort to be at those practices!


I was always told that it was formed to bring enjoyment to all and also giving delight to others in the District of Treharris. How I became a member was the push and good faith of my parents. Father being a flautist, he decided that I should learn the violin. I began by attending the Vestry and paying 6d a lesson to Mr O. Eynon, then on encouragement of Mr Eynon as Conductor to attend his private house and pay quarterly for latter advice from him. Having learnt a great deal more of the violin, I became a member of the orchestra at around the age of 9.


Being a member of Tabernacle Orchestra brought much pleasure and delight to me – always looking forward to playing at meetings and then came bigger things as Concerts. The Orchestra played for many Concerts during the “MINERS STRIKE”, and also every year keeping an appointment at TALGARTH SANATORIUM and TALYGARN MINERS HOME! On these occasions we were supplemented by other good players of instruments such as the Bassoon and Violins from as far as Mountain Ash, Merthyr, which were in the early days were carrying Orchestras of their very own.


Another personal and more up-to-date memory of the Tabernacle Orchestra can be found on the Melting Pot Blog, together with a photograph of the Orchestra in the 1920s, Merthyr Memories: Discovering Tabernacle Orchestra, Treharris by Christine Trevett.

Eirlys Emery


A partial snapshot of Merthyr in the sixties -

as remembered by a teenage country girl.


When I was appointed to work for, what was to become The North Glamorgan Trust in 1995, I remarked to some of my colleagues that it had taken me 30 years to get back to Merthyr and that in some ways it felt like coming home.


My impressions and experiences of living in Merthyr and attending Merthyr’s College of Further Education from September 63 to June 64 remain vivid in my memory. I was there as a student to undertake what was termed ‘A One Year Intensive Commercial Course’.


Initially, from September until December, I lodged with a school friend in Dyke Street. Every morning we made our way down the hill in Twynyrodyn, under the railway bridge and passing the Findus Frozen Food Depot. At this point we veered to the right passing through an area of partly cleared and demolished buildings. This area has since been developed into Caedraw School and the multi- story flats. We crossed over the river via the old, now demolished bridge into the area directly in front of the college known locally as the show ground being used occasionally for travelling fairs. Also, I am reliably informed, once used for the exhibition of a dead whale!


The panoramic view that could be seen in those days from the third and fourth floor classrooms which we used was quite different to that which might be seen today. More than 50 years ago it was evident that Merthyr was in a process of regeneration and development.  The current Civic Centre did not exist, there was no Bus Station, The Hollies and the Police Station were not built, along with many other buildings I could mention. On the Horizon, the White Tip was plainly visible and during the winter months when the light was fading the various lights of the ICI Complex shone out powerfully on the horizon.


Merthyr, at that time was a busy town, with a variety of significant businesses which were thriving and providing plenty of employment. Merthyr was optimistic, definitely on the up.


To be continued.

Ella Lewis-Jones


Washing the Front Door Step

Older members of the community will remember the days when women washed their front door steps regularly. A number of years ago I was given a bluing stone by my next-door neighbour Mrs Bronwen Pendry, sadly she is no longer with us. Bronwen explained the procedure for stoning, firstly the doorstep is scrubbed clean with soap and water and then rinsed, the next feat is to rub the bluing stone across the slate doorstep leaving in a white film, then finish off the task by wiping the slate slab with a clean wet cloth. 


I remember reading a story some time ago about an elderly lady called Mrs Jones, who became known for scrubbing her doorstep religiously every week. Mrs Jones lived in the same street since her marriage over 52 years ago. In her lifetime she’d seen quite a number of changes in the neighbourhood, the decline in health of some elderly neighbours and others who moved on for various reasons. As the years went by Mrs Jones became the longest residing resident in the street, with influx of the younger generation now living in the street Mrs Jones didn’t seem to have much in common with her new neighbours.


As life carried on by, Mrs Jones still kept up her regular routine of washing her doorstep once a week, this ritual seemed to cause the younger women in the street to make comment and Mrs Jones became the object of ridicule from the young neighbours, who thought Mrs Jones’ weekly ritual was out dated. They would whisper uncomplimentary comments about Mrs Jones, but her neighbours’ mockery had no affect on Mrs Jones, she carried on her household chore despite the opinions of nearby residents. 


Every week the women would make some comment about Mrs Jones clean doorstep, until one week, when one of the young neighbours noticed Mrs Jones doorstep hadn’t been scrubbed. This bit of gossip seemed to cause Mrs Jones young neighbours some amusement, the next week and the week after Mrs Jones doorstep still hadn’t been cleaned. The amusement of Mrs Jones young neighbours turned to concern and guilt, so the police were called, after breaking down the door of Mrs Jones house, the police found Mrs Jones lying on the floor, the coroner established Mrs Jones had died three weeks previously. 


Mrs Jones death affected her young neighbours in a way they didn’t expect, though they mocked Mrs Jones for her doorstep ritual it had become part of their street life. Unknowingly to Mrs Jones and her young neighbours she had became their responsibility, through the customary ritual of checking her doorstep, this became evident when Mrs Jones’ dirty doorstep triggered off a concern for her welfare, to which residents immediately called for the police.  


Our friends and family may not always appreciate some of our characteristics, but when a change in our behaviour patterns occurs it gives rise for disquiet signalling that something’s wrong.  

Carl Llewellyn - Chairman


What does this remind you of? 

A forerunner of Facebook, perhaps? And only 2s/6d to join?

This is an article in the Merthyr Express on 9th November 1946, page 5. I wonder what happened to this Association? 

By the way, a “conversazione” is defined as “a social gathering [predominantly] held by learned or art society for conversation and discussion, especially about the arts, literature, ...” A bit like the Merthyr Tydfil Historical Society, then...

Quakers’ Yard Grammar School



Former students of Quakers Yard Grammar School, scattered as they are. Throughout the country, will be interested to learn of the establishment of an Old Students’ Association attached to the school on a sound and permanent basis.

The “Merthyr Express” has received a letter from the Secretary of the Association, Mr D.W. Howells,       “Lynne Mara”, Beechgrove, Troedyrhiw, setting out the functions of the Association and its ultimate effort to renew old friendships and cater for social efforts.

Every student who has passed through the school has been circularised and an executive committee has been formed.

All old students are eligible for the membership at an annual fee of 2s.6d., and an associate membership (annual for 1s.) is offered to others than old students, who are wives or husbands of members. Strangely enough, the response from “exiled” old students, - some as far away as Canada, USA, Bermuda, and New Zealand - has been much greater than that of those living locally, and an appeal is made to the latter to respond by joining the Association as soon as possible.


The entrance fee is to be used to publish half-yearly magazines, which will contain news and pen pictures, with possibly photographs of old students, with any articles that any member of the Association may like to contribute. This will be a most effective link with old students who are not residents localA drama section is being formed under the direction of Mr. D. Gower James; a sports section will be directed by Mr W.T. Jones and Mrs N. Emery; and the social events will be supervised by Mr L. Conti and Miss Caryn Pontin.

To strike a poignant note. It is known that 26 “old boys” gave their lives in the last war - there may be more, and the Association would gratefully acknowledge information of others.

Eirlys Emery


Museum Update

Cyfarthfa Castle Museum & Art Gallery is now open!

We are pleased to announce that the Museum and Castle CafĂ© are now open to visitors. 

To comply with government guidance, we now have an online booking system in place for all museum visitors at: – the system is quick and easy to use and we have already welcomed back hundreds of visitors over the past few weeks.

There is still work going on behind the scenes as part of our reinterpretation of the Basement Galleries, which we hope to complete this summer - these galleries are still open as usual.

We have unfortunately had to close our temporary exhibition space due to unforeseen circumstance. However, we are busy planning new exhibitions for autumn 2021 and 2022.

We are always putting out new digital content on the Museum’s Facebook page and Wellbeing@Merthyr’s YouTube channel, including recent videos on Joseph Parry, Merthyr Tydfil High Street and Chartism in Merthyr Tydfil. 

Benjamin Price - Education and Interpretation Officer

Cyfarthfa Castle Museum & Art Gallery


Collecting Covid: Wales 2021


Between May & October last year, 1,019 individuals responded to Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales’ ‘Collecting Covid’ questionnaire.


Since then, Wales has undergone a firebreak, a second lockdown and a mass-vaccination programme.


The Museum is now launching this new questionnaire to capture your thoughts and experiences a year on from the start of the pandemic. 


By taking part, your story will become part of the national memory, ensuring that future generations will be able to learn about life in Wales during this extraordinary time.


If you’d like to learn more and take part visit: 

Eirlys Emery


Online Resources


Merthyr Tydfil Historical Society website

(Including a link to downloads of several local books)


Facebook Group – Merthyr Tydfil Historical Society


Twitter account - Merthyr Tydfil Historical Society @MerthyrHeritage

Keith L. Lewis-Jones - Webmaster


Future newsletters 

These will depend entirely on the availability of suitable content and you can all assist with this. If you would like to submit an item, be it a memory, anniversary etc., for inclusion, no matter how short, but not more that 300 words, please email it to

If you did not receive this newsletter digitally and would like to receive future newsletters directly to your inbox, please send an email to the above address.

Carl Llewellyn - Chairman