Merthyr Historical Society Lectures
We are pleased to announce that, after almost two years due to Covid, we re-started our lecture programme in September. Our first lecture was on the subject of Morlais Castle and was given by Benedict Bray.
We have decided to move our lectures to the afternoon to make it easier for members who find it difficult to attend in the evenings, so our meetings will now start at 2.00pm.
Our lecture programme for the rest of the year is:-
Monday 4 October 2021
Monday 1 November 2021
Murder Most Foul - Murders in Merthyr Tydfil
Monday 6 December 2021
Rhydycar: Wales’ Most Popular Cottages
All fully paid-up members will automatically have their memberships carried over to this year.
Everyone is welcome.
A Hundred Years Ago
1921 was when -
Merthyr’s MP was Rhondda-born Sir Edgar Rees Jones, coalition Liberal and George V was king.
The Cyfarthfa ironworks closed totally.
The Coal Industry was re-privatised; the Black Friday Strike and lockout brought production to a halt, miners were forced to accept wage reductions.
In October "French Leave" – ‘The funniest play of the London season’, was on at the Theatre Royal, Merthyr Tydfil, ‘direct from the Globe and Apollo Theatres’.
The Merthyr Express had a section devoted to advertising for domestic servants.
Average life expectancy in Britain was 60 for men and 56 for women.
Jimmy Wilde, ‘the ghost with a hammer in his hand’, born Pentwyn Deintyr, Quakers Yard was in his last year as world flyweight boxing champion.
The War Memorial in Troedyrhiw was unveiled, secured by public subscription.
The Dowlais branch of The Irish Self Determination League built its own Irish Club; MI5 arrested a local on suspicion of being an IRA explosives courier; the Anglo-Irish Treaty, ending British rule for most of the island of Ireland, was signed in December.
The Merthyr Times, Dowlais Times and Aberdare Echo, published since 1912, came to an end.
The Socialist local newspaper, Merthyr Pioneer, founded by Kier Hardie in 1911 had Niclas y Glais as an editor and Sylvia Pankhurst (a friend of Hardie) as a contributor. This was the last full year of its existence.
Under the 1921 Licensing Act pubs could open for 8 hours on weekdays between 11:00 a.m. and 22:00, given a minimum 2-hour break in the afternoon.
I remember that……
- The strange multicoloured polygonal playing frame in the precinct. Whatever happened to that?
- Queuing as far as Burtons to go and see the first Star Wars film at the Scala (Temperance Hall)…..I was only 8 at the time, and I made my aunty take me to see it six times – I don’t think she ever forgave me.
- In connection to the above, collecting the plastic Star Wars figures. I remember buying them from a shop in the High Street called ‘Cards and Gifts’ (or something like that) – if I remember correctly one of the few places you could get them, and then being totally bereft when the building burnt down. My cousin and I would play for hours with the figures, re-arranging all of my parents’ house plants into various jungle ‘scenes’.
- Spending hours playing on the old coal-tips in Abercanaid (by this time grass-covered), and being traumatised when the powers that be took them away (not to mention my grandfather’s garden – a fact he bemoaned until his dying day), to build the extension to the Hoover Factory, and new road into Abercanaid.
- Being told never to use the subway under the road in Caedraw…..but being daring, and doing it anyway with the other local children, and being scared to death.
Caedraw in the 1970s. The subway can be seen at the bottom of the picture at the end of the bridge.
The Way to the Top.
In living memory, it enabled Bedlinog men who had enjoyed a pint on a summer Friday or Saturday evening in one of the Troedyrhiw pubs to find a convenient and safe way home. It was also the route followed by generations of tin carrying enthusiastic pickers who wished to sample the fruit of the best whinberry bushes around the Frog’s Rock.
On several occasions in the Fifties and Sixties it provided the location for some more lively and exhilarating entertainment. First held in Merthyr Tydfil in 1945 the Mitchell Trial was a national motorcycle competition. Staged at numerous locations throughout the County Borough the event attracted riders from throughout the United Kingdom, including such notable names as Sammy Millar and even Geoff Duke who was more famous for his exploits on road and racing circuits. On these occasions, spectators climbed the hillside to locate themselves at vantage points where they could watch the competitors test their skills over the track’s loose slabs and boulders.
On looking at maps of this locality it is interesting to the note the evolution of the trackway’s nomenclature. On the map of William Morgan’s farm surveyed in 1769, it is named as Rhiwgynrwg. In 1870 the Ordnance Survey named the farm as Troedyrhiw Cwmrwg and the top Pen rhiw gymro. On their 1900 edition this becomes Pen rhiw gymrwg. It was not unusual for the surveyors of the Ordnance Survey to misunderstand or misinterpret place names provided by the indigenous population. For the organisers of the Mitchell Trial this challenging section became Heol Cymro.
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Keith Lewis-Jones - Newsletter Editor