Cymdeithas Hanes Resolfen History Society

A web log for the Resolven History Society which publishes articles and stories related to Resolven and the immediate surroundings.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Who shot JFK. Will we ever find out???

Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive', Sir Walter Scott.

The above quote is often mistakenly attributed to Shakespeare, when in fact it comes from a poem by Sir Walter Scott on Flodden field. Yet, it is very apt to describe the fascinating talk given by Phil Davies on the ‘suspected’ assassin of President John F Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald. This was the third talk given by Mr Davies on the subject, yet the question as to who ultimately shot Kennedy is still very uncertain,

Mr Davies began his talk by stating that the poster advertising the talk had been incorrect and the “J”, might refer to Lee’s elder brother (Joke, Ed). However, in his view the assassination would rank with most of the world shattering events of the last century. He mused as to how the late twentieth century would have panned out had he not been shot. Possibly, there would not have been a Vietnam War, a Nixon Presidency, Watergate, Chinese détente or glasnost. He then turned the focus of his talk on to the mercurial Lee Harvey Oswald, on whom there is little evidence that he actually pulled the trigger.

Oswald was born in New Orleans in 1939, his father, Robert Lee Oswald, left his unstable mother and two older siblings. In the absence of a father figure, Oswald came under the influence of an uncle who was a minor figure in the New Orleans underworld. He in turn was known to Carlos Marcello, the father figure of the Sicilian Mafioso in New Orleans. Robert Kennedy, brother of JFK had attempted (unsuccessfully) to extradite Marcello to his native Colombia, and it is possible that this played a part in his assassination.

Oswald was rather a misfit as a child as well as being dyslexic. It did not help that his mother who worked as a care worker moved schools thirteen times, which did not help him make friends. He had an above average IQ ( 118) and was prone to seek attention, a feature of his character which would remain with him until his ultimate demise. It is also probable that he was influenced by the television programme “I have Three Lives”, which featured the “Reds under the beds scare”, of Joseph McCarthy. Oswald empathised with the victimhood exemplified at this time.

In 1954, Oswald returned to New Orleans and joined the Air Cadets, where he was trained by a rather strange character David Ferry. Ferry, suffered from alopecia, wore a wig and was a homosexual, yet was involved in the JFK shooting some eight years hence.  Oswald began reading avidly, especially military manuals and he also had an interest in the writings of Karl Marx. Ironically, he attempted to join the American Socialist Party at this point when also enlisting in the US Marine Corps. He trained in Mississippi and California where he was trusted with classified information. He was then transferred to Osaka, Japan, where the evidence points that he was in the process of defecting to Russia. He may have had a role in the downing of the U2 spy plane. In Osaka, Oswald became fluent in both Japanese and Russian , in addition he became involved with a beautiful geisha who inevitably was a Russian spy. Following a series of disciplinary incidents, Oswald was forced to leave the Marines and then began a bizarre series of events whereby he moved to Le Havre, London, Helsinki and then Stockholm. He gained a visitor’s visa to enter Russia and appeared on Russian television.

At first, the Russians viewed him as an embarrassment yet allowed him to overstay his visa when he slit his wrists in protest. Following a stay in a psychiatric hospital he went to Minsk, where the Soviets began to view him as a ‘useful idiot’. There he worked in a radio factory where he learned photographic skills, a skill which would help him identify fake photos when he was arrested after the Kennedy shooting. He married the daughter of a KGB Colonel, Marina. Yet, getting bored with life in the USSR he demanded to be sent back to the USA.

In 1961, Oswald and his wife arrive back in the USA, where he felt slighted that his return did not get much attention from the media. He then went to Fort Worth, Texas, where he was befriended by an oil magnate, a white Russian emigre who was also a covert agent for the CIA (he was not thought to be a material witness in the ultimate investigation into the assassination). Oswald then had a series of menial jobs and was very cruel to his wife who left him taking the two children with her. Oswald at this point buys two rifles for $29, using aliases and safe boxes in classic spy style. It is thought at this point that he tried to assassinate a right wing US general, whom he missed as an easy target, a doubt then arises as to how he would have been able to shoot Kennedy with crack accuracy. Bizarrely, he also left the USA for Mexico City where he visited both the Cuban and Russian embassy, Oswald even had time for an affair with a Russian attaché. Another twist to the tale is that five weeks before the assassination of Kennedy, the file held by the FBI on Oswald was ordered to be destroyed by J Edgar Hoover.

The events surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, on Friday, November 22, 1963, at 12:30 p.m., also indicate that Oswald, though part of the plot in some way, was unlikely to be the killer. To begin with he could not drive and took the bus to the centre of Dallas. After the assassination he took a taxi to his lodgings after a visit to the cinema, he also passes a policeman without arising suspicion. After lurking in a doorway it was a shopkeeper that alerted the Police to his whereabouts in the cinema. Despite the fact that the rifle belonged to Oswald there is no evidence that he shot it.

Taken to the Chief of Police in Dallas, he is questioned for 14 hours, yet there is no written record of the deliberations. The press were outside and on occasion Oswald was seen, where he referred to himself as a “patsy”, slang for fall guy. Later when attempting to be moved to the city penitentiary a series of unfortunate events gave Jack Ruby, an Italian Jew with connections to the mafia, a clear view of Oswald whom he shot dead. Ruby was arrested and the body of Lee Harvey Oswald was taken, ironically, to the same Parkland Hospital where the corpse of JFK lay.  

Lee Harvey Oswald arrested.
Jack Ruby
So who shot JFK? After three talks it is still a mystery. Even Donald Trump, who promised to release the files, found that some would never be declassified.

Mr Gwyn Thomas thanked Mr Davies for a most interesting talk.

The History Society will now take a break until September. The Annual trip has been moved to Saturday 20th October, and details will be available in the AGM on the second Monday in September.


Next Monday in the Church hall, a quiz in aid of the Christian Aid appeal will be held. If you were not at last night's monthly meeting, it would be great to have several teams representing the History Society to boost attendance at this worthwhile and annual village quiz.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The third installment in a trilogy from Phil Davies

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Hand in Glove

The meeting began on a very sad note as the death of committee member Mrs Jean Thomas was announced. Jean had been ill for some time and had served on the committee for many years. A minute’s silence was then marked in her memory. Our sincerest condolences go to our Chairman Gwyn on his loss.

The speaker this month needed no introduction since it was none other than Society member Mr Ken Thomas. Mr Thomas apart from being the dependable projectionist at Brynaman Public Hall for many years,had made his living as a training officer in the manufacturing industry. He explained that as much of his work had involved visiting various manufacturing works which guarded their secrets carefully he had signed the Official Secrets Act which prevented him from going into detail. To this effect he had produced a film on the glove industry of the UK, though originally in VHS format, the film had recently been digitalised. Despite the fact that he had written the script himself he had ensured that any claim on intellectual property had been settled before showing the film publically.

The talk began with a brief introduction to the clothing industry in the UK which was once enormous and had clothed the world, but was now largely a shadow of its former self. The Manchester area alone at the start of the last century employed over a million workers in textiles. Worcester was the centre of the glove industry and at its zenith employed over 50,000 workers.

The glove trade itself is ancient and its roots can be traced as far as the Romans. Gloves are essential in the protection of the hands against heat, cold, blades and disease. It was stressed that the Queen always wears gloves when meeting the public to protect her from being poisoned ( a fact which was made so real recently by events in Salisbury Ed ). The revolutionary change in the quantity of their production came with the invention of the sewing machine in the USA in the 1860s. It is normally assumed that this innovation was solely the work of Irwin Singer, however the originator of the sewing machine was actually a man named Elias Howe and indeed there was such bitter rivalry between the two, that they were given co-patency of its licence. The sewing machine whether driven by handle, treddle or water wheel speeded up production though it was still largely a manual skill until the 1960s. The trade for gloves dropped off in the second half of the twentieth century and its footloose nature allowed it to relocate to the cheaper west country of England around Yeovil, where Dent’s remained the sole manufacturer (now sole importer) of gloves in the UK. Owing to foreign competition from Asia no gloves are now produced in the UK, indeed the Glove Guild of the UK ceased in the early years of the present century.

The film itself was a gem and appeared far older than its fifty years. Some of the early handmade preparation could have been placed in the same workshop as the Anglo-Norman names given to the components of a glove. It was obvious that the workers were on a piece rate since they worked with both speed and efficiency. Even then, it was obvious that many of these practices were old fashioned and the late introduction of mass production was unable to save it. Nevertheless, the loss of hundreds of thousands of well-paid and skilled jobs done by both sexes was a crying shame. Mr Thomas was of the opinion that the glove industry alongside other manufacturing trades had been sacrificed by Mrs Thatcher in the 1980s in order to gain aerospace contracts with those very same far eastern countries.

Mr Trefor Jones, deputising for Mr Gwyn Thomas gave a vote of thanks to fellow “Brynamanite”,  Mr Ken Thomas for a most enjoyable evening.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Death of Jean Thomas

It is very sad to report the death of Jean early this morning, following a long illness. Jean has been a member of the Society for many years and has contributed immensely on the committee. Our sincerest condolences to our Chairman Gwyn Thomas on his loss.

Jean and Mary Rose at the annual dinner in 2012

Cydymdeimladau dwysaf Gwyn ar eich colled mawr.

Update: Jean's funeral is on Saturday April 14th at 9:30 in St David's Church with interment at St David's Cemetery at 10:15.

Monday, March 26, 2018

April meeting fits lke a glove!!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

What did the Greeks do for us? Quite a lot!!!

A report on the March meeting of Resolfen History Society

This month’s speaker was Mr John Richards of Neath,who has visited us many times. This year he took the Ancient Greeks as his topic. He admitted at the outset that this was a massive topic and he would only be able to scratch the surface. In essence, his talk might be summarised as “what the ancient Greeks left to us". Indeed, it was remarkable how much of our speech, culture, politics  architecture and even entertainment wend their way back to the early Greek city states.

Mr Richards began by looking at how the Greeks themselves were very nearly subsumed by the Asiatic Persian culture almost before they began. He asked the audience, who they would assume was the most important Greek of ancient times, several candidates were suggested from Plato to Aristotle, yet it was the little known Themistocles who had Mr Richards’s approval. The answer was simple since Themistocles had literally saved Greece.

Battle of Salamis 480 BC
Following the successful triumph at Marathon against the Persians, Xerxes returned some decade later in 480 BC with an army of a million men. They quickly took and sacked Athens, and the Greeks fled to the island of Salamis. Themistocles realised that the size of the Persian army was also its weakness since the supply chain on land across the Hellespont was too long. The army, which could metaphorically drink a river dry would have to be supplied by sea. Themistocles managed to get an informer to tell Xerxes that the Greeks were in a very weak position, yet the subsequent sea battle destroyed the Persian fleet.

Following Salamis, there flowered a Greek civilisation and cultural explosion in medicine ( hippocratic oath) , sport ( Olympic games) , mathematics, astrology, steam engines, architecture ( neo classical designs in modern buildings) and entertainment. These were later adopted and developed by the Romans, and even the customs of the churches owe a lot to the Greek theatre.

Mr Richards went on to describe Greek religion which was not worship as we would know it, but instead a trade off by means of sacrifice in order to gain advantage in life from the gods. The
Greek Theatre

Greek mask used in plays

word tragoedia which is supposedly reminiscent of a goat being taken to sacrifice, gives us the word ‘tragedy’. The sacrifice would take place at an altar or thespis and the dramatic gestures of the priest gives us the word ‘thespian’, to describe an actor. The Greeks were not averse to adopting other cultures’ gods and Dionysus an Asiatic god was readily accepted. Dionysis is known as Baccus by the Romans.Dionysus was the god of fertility and wine, later considered a patron of the arts. Hereputedly  created wine and spread the art of viticulture, so it is ahrdly surprising that he was a popular god with his festival around April time synonymous with phallic symbols and merrymaking. The three playsin massive outdoor theatres  associated with Dionysus included mainly tragedies by authors such as Sophocles and Euripedes. The plots were usually ghastly and gory and stimulated both fear and pity, much as a modern horror movie. The antithesis was the fourth play a comedy by Aristophanes involved a degree of lude merriment. The plots involved discussions,  logos before prologos and epilogos which are easily ientifiable words in modern English.

Mr Richards conlcluded his talk by showing slides of Greek architecture. The Acropolis and Partheenon were explained and the Greek theatres shape gave us orchestra , odeon and palladium.

Mr Trefor Jones thanked Mr Richards for a very enjoyable and illuminating talk.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

March Meeting