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.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A Report on the October Meeting

A Report on the October Meeting of Resolfen History Society

Mr Gwyn Thomas began his reign as Chairman of the Society by introducing this month’s speaker, Mr Meirion John of Cwmfelinfach, near Blackwood. He took the small mines of south Wales as his topic.

Some well known Resolfen Colliers

Mr John explained that his interest in small mines began when he had an accident underground in 1981. As part of his recuperation he took to walking the mountainsides around his home and was struck by the living archaeology in the small collieries.

He began with a brief history of the Welsh coal industry since nationalisation in 1947. Some 400 small collieries in the UK were deemed too small to be nationalised and providing they employed less than thirty employees were allowed to operate under licence. However since the 1994 Coal Industry Act, all mines were deemed privatised and the manpower limit was lifted.

The fortunes of the small mines, which now can literally be counted on the fingers of one hand, were dependent on the price of coal. There were dozens operating in the Western and Eastern outcrops of the coalfield in the 1980s however falling prices in the 1990s proved largely the death knell of the industry. It was also proving more difficult to find colliers and mining engineers who were willing to put up with difficult working conditions.

A small mine with NCB overalls? Presumably with Duncan Davies in the photograph it is the Lyn colliery or is it the Venallt? Can you name all the colliers in the photograph?

Mr John illustrated his talk with some DVD footage of working small mines in the Neath and Swansea Valley areas. He praised the mines for their innovation in customising machinery and their economy in production methods. The footage of pit ponies indeed revealed a bygone age even though the film was only a decade or so old. Recent developments in the Neath Valley such as the Unity pit and Aberpergwm offer some hope that the industry still has a future.

Mr Gwyn Thomas thanked Mr John for a most interesting talk and added that the images of working conditions reminded him of when he left the coal industry in the early 1960s.

Next month’s speaker is Mr Gerald Gabb who will speak on the Mumbles Light Railway.

P.S. The Coal House ( BBC 1 Wales) is an interesting experiment on life in a coal mining community in 1927. However , as Dr Elin Jones pointed out on the radio you cannot replicate rickets or perncious anaemia in three weeks. Like all reality shows the interest is really the people involved rather than the context their in.


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