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, October 11, 2011

Maes yr Onnen, Glasbury

The Society will be making a visit to the historic Maes yr Onnen chapel in Glasbury on Saturday, October 22. The visit is free to members and children and costs only £5 to friends of the History Society. Anyone who is interested in coming on the visit, which will also spend some time in Hay on Wye should contact Mrs Brenda Oakes or any other member of the committee. Alternatively, leave a comment on the website to indicate whether you wish to come.

Best wishes

Two of our most loyal members were absent from the October meeting, namely Mr John Rees our esteemed poster maker and committee member and Mrs Julie Hicks our Treasurer. Both John and Julie have been in hospital and we all wish them a speedy recovery.

The Titanic's Welsh links

This month’s speaker, Mr Tony Waters of Burry Port personified a very special enthusiasm for his subject, the ill-fated Titanic. He explained that we are now only one year shy of the centenary of the fate of the “unsinkable” ship which has starred in so many films and plays and become a feature of even the most casual of historical acquaintances. He explained that his interest had been started when he viewed “A Night to Remember”, the second feature film of the sinking of Titanic in the 1950s.
The main features of the story of the Titanic are fairly well known, however Mr Waters’ talk was to concentrate on the Welsh links to the ship. The first link was an industrial one, since Britain in 1912 was in the grip of a coal strike. One third of the maritime coal at the time came from south Wales, notably the steam coal of the Ocean Coal Company (Ed.) As Titanic was preparing to leave Southampton for Cherbourg on the 10th April 1912 it did not have enough coal, however the White Star Line was determined that the ship would sail. His was as much to do with the Line’s rivalry with Cunard as a concern for the passengers and by filching steam coal from other ships in dock, the Titanic was able to sail.
Mr Waters then looked at those of the 2,207 passengers who had Welsh links. These included a crew member O W Samuel (a relative of the Astleys of Samuel Leeder fame), and another crew member from Swansea, Wilfred Foley who survived in lifeboat number 13. Mr William J Rogers of Ynysymond near Pontardawe was a fugitive of justice as he had abandoned his wife for a rather nastier fate. There were at least three miners who were looking for new opportunities in the USA, two of these (DJ Bowen and Leslie Williams) were professional boxers who were to fight in the states and travelled first class. Among the professionals on board were Mr A W Leyson, a solicitor of Swansea and William T Stead a social campaigner who had interviewed Evan Roberts during the religious revival of 1904. Ironically Stead had also written articles on maritime safety!!
Probably the most well-known Welsh character on the Titanic was Harold Lowe, fourth officer on the ship who was famously played by Ioan Gruffudd in the most recent film Titanic. Lowe had inspected the lifeboats during the Titanic’s curt sea trials lasting one day, and played a heroic part in the marshalling of the lifeboats during the sinking. The Birkenhead rules meant that men famously did not get into many of the lifeboats, since the rule had been wrongly prosecuted as women and children only as against first. Lowe survived the travails of the sinking (and his pay was stopped by the company since his ship had sunk) and went on to become a commander in the naval reserve in the First World War. He is buried in Llandrillo yn Rhos, though his tombstone bears no mention of his heroics on Titanic. Only 712 passengers and crew survived the sinking of the Titanic and the fact that it reached this number was mostly down to Lowe.
Mr Waters also showed a number of genuine articles from Titanic which are worth many thousands of pounds.
Mr Gwyn Thomas thanked Mr Waters for an excellent talk.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Good news!! Dai St John is a champion once again

The Society has received an e.mail from Mr Lawrence Davies who has been writing a book on the bareknuckle fighters of Wales "Mountain Men". He has decided to put our very own Dai "bac y Vaughans" on its cover. A must as a Christmas present!! I reproduce his kind words from two e.mails below.

Dear Trefor,

apologies for the long delay, been a busy and slightly crazy time, the book on welsh boxing is finished, and is something of a monster, being 356 pages and with 60+ pictures and illustrations. I just wanted to let you know that I felt that it was important to acknowledge your invaluable assistance as well as that of the Resolven Historical Society, and so decided to feature Dai St John on the cover of the book, and your help within it.

In the course of writing this book I tracked down some interesting information and have sent you some pictures that I located of Dai, which I have also posted to the Debretts people for his relations.

I can't thank you enough for your assistance in the early days of researching this book, which gave me enough hope to start trawling through the microfilm in the libraries here there and everywhere.All being well, it should be available as of November.

Thank you so much for sharing this picture with me, what a thing to see, St. John must have been quite a man in his prime, I hope that on my next visit home I might be able to drop by and say hello, it would be nice to be able to visit the memorial to St. John. Strangely he stands alone in that he was remembered at all, most of the men I have been tracking have long been forgotten. It says a lot about the people of Resolven that they remembered what all of us forgot, that some of the greatest fighting men have come from Wales. I wonder if you know whether the graves at Belmont are still marked/maintained ? I did wonder throughout writing Dai's tale.

I hope in the future some enterprising Resolven landlord chooses to call his pub 'The Resolven Giant' and these remarkable pictures can be seen by all, hopefully he can now take his place alongside Jimmy Driscoll, Jimmy Wilde and all the rest, although I know as long as there is a Resolven Historical Society his fate is in safe hands.

Thank you for everything