Brynmawr Historical Society
The Brynmawr Historical Society was founded on Wednesday, 6th March 1974 at 7.30pm at Brynmawr County Primary School, Clydach Street, Brynmawr, Breconshire when eleven like minded people met and agreed that a historical society be formed.
On 1st April 1974, Brynmawr was absorbed into the Blaenau Gwent district of the new County of Gwent and on the 10th April 1974 the society agreed to call itself North East Blaenau Gwent Historical Society.
As the years passed most people referred to the society as Brynmawr Historical Society and at an Annual Meeting held in May 1987 it was agreed to change the name to “Brynmawr Historical Society”.
For years the society carried on without a full constitution but at the Annual Meeting of 1988 an official constitution was agreed and published, the object of the society being: “to foster interest in all aspect of the historical development of the district in particular and the wider world nationally and internationally by organising lectures, discussions and visits both cultural and social”.
From small beginnings the Society has at the present time reached a membership of almost one hundred and so in this, the 25th Anniversary year, let us hope it will continue to flourish well into the next century.
(To the memory of Edwin Lewis Jones, founder member 1927 – 2005)
The following is a copy of a speech found recently, it was written and delivered by Edwin Lewis Jones (Edwin Jones), Brynmawr, upon the 25th Jubilee of the “Brynmawr Historical Society”, it gives an insight into the history of the society and at the time he was it’s President . In 1997 he was elected Chairman of the “Blaenau Gwent Heritage Forum” for 1997/98 an organisation in which he was deeply interested and was a strong supporter from the time of it’s inception in 1995. Edwin is no longer with us, having passed away January 2005. The “Brynmawr Historical Society” continues and has at present 143 members of which eighty plus attend lectures every month, coming from many parts of Blaenau Gwent. The holidays abroad still continue as do the short breaks and day trips
– it is rewarding to know the life of the society goes on with the help of the people who remember Edwin.
“This is indeed a unique occasion in the history of our Society. A Silver Jubilee Dinner.
Whenever Silver Jubilee is mentioned my mind is taken back to the time when King George and Queen Mary celebrated the Silver Jubilee of their accession to the throne. I remember it so well because I was unable to take part in school celebrations or see the decorated shops and houses of Brynmawr because I was in bed with measles, but I can remember my sister bringing home my Jubilee Mug and shining new silver shilling dated 1935. I remember thinking then, that twenty-five years was a very long time and that the King and Queen must be very ancient indeed. Now, I am older and I hope a great deal wiser, I realise that as we grow older time flies by so much more quickly. I cannot believe that it was twenty-five years ago that following a discussion with Michael Scott Archer of Brynmawr Comprehensive School and discovering a mutual interest in local history, we decided to call a meeting of those interested in forming an historical society.
About twenty-five people turned up for that inaugural meeting and many more offered their support. We met in the old Woodwork Room, which was across the playground from the school hall of Brynmawr Junior School, which is now Ysgol Gymraeg and where we still hold our meetings. It was agreed at that meeting to form a “Historical Society” with Mr Michael Scott Archer as Chairman, yours truly as Secretary and several others as committee members.
At the first committee meeting a programme of lectures was drawn up and it was decided to call ourselves “The North East Blaenau Gwent Historical Society” but after a few years it was decided to change the name to “Brynmawr Historical Society”.
Why Historical and not History ? the reason was that Brynmawr History restricted us to the immediate area whereas “Historical” widened our scope to discuss subjects on a local, national and international level.
Amongst our early lecturers were Trevor Rowson and Max Joynson. In 1978 we were entertained by John Edwards of “Talk Tidy” fame and this was more or less at the start of his public fame as a broadcaster and author. A frequent lecturer was Richard Keen of the “Welsh National Museum” and who is now a member of “The Welsh Heritage Trust”. Another regular was Ray Bowen of Dinas Powis who when contacted by phone usually enquired “What do you want me to talk about?” His talks on the “Railways of South Wales” were fascinating and his slides on “Railway Architecture” were an eye opener, especially when a glamorous lady dressed in a bikini would grace the screen and his comment would be – “Just to keep your attention!” – “That’s a picture of the daughter of the station master of Pontllanfraith.”
Dr Gwyn Alf Williams, Professor of History at Cardiff lectured to us on two occasions and what gripping stuff – Regretfully, Gwyn Alf is no longer with us, but the memory of those lectures will stay with us.
The son of a Carmarthenshire vet who became Conservative Member of Parliament for Monmouth, John Stradling Thomas talked on his experiences from boyhood to life as an M. P. In order to keep the balance we had a lecture by Michael Foot at that time the Labour Member of Parliament for Blaenau Gwent, who reviewed a then recent publication on “The Last Rising” Peter Jones of Tredegar could almost be a member of the society by the number of excellent talks he has given us and of course, he is always proud of the fact that his grandfather was “Morgan the Boot Factory” who once lived in Alma St., Brynmawr and owned the factory in which the Quakers set up the Brynmawr furniture making enterprise in the 1930’s.
Our visits to historical sites within the British Isles have been a strong feature of our Society - some just day trips, but some extended visits such as those to York, Canterbury, Portsmouth and Dover and of course our extra long visit to Southern Ireland in 1996.
Our trips to the Continent began through some of our society being members of the “Gilwern Beer and Wine Club” which ran its first Euro visit to the Mosel area in 1985. The driver of the coach was Dai from Merthyr and our overnight stay en-route was in Brussels. We travelled through the “Red Light District” three times because Dai said he had lost his way. After the second time round several of the men on the coach were begging their wives to change seats so that they could sit by the window.
Following that tour someone in the wine club said “Why doesn’t the Historical Society run a trip to Europe” and as a result our first truly historical trip 1986 was to the D.Day Beaches of Normandy and the surrounding area. From there on our Continental Visits alternated between Wine and History; Rheims 1988, Trier 1989, Heidelberg 1990, Dijon 1991, Angers 1992 and so on. Regrettably, the Gilwern Wine Club ceased to be a while ago but we still have a link with them in the gavel and block which they presented to us.
In 1998 we had a most successful visit to Brittany; with a visit to Carnac to see the standing stones and our most recent 2nd visit to Trier was a great success as far as the places visited were concerned; but since we had all been looking forward to our stay at the “Deutsher Hof Hotel” I must say it was a great shock and disappointment to be told that our hotel had been changed.
We have now reached 1999 nearly at the Millennium. The new committee has yet to meet to plan the programme for next season. They will be considering the ideas submitted at the Annual General Meeting.
My hope is that the Society will continue to go from strength to strength – There were times in the early days when our membership dropped to around the twenty mark and I can remember Annual Meetings where everyone who turned up was elected as an officer or committee member. Today our membership is around the 100 mark. Where many societies have struggled and ceased to exist, our society is stronger and more successful than it has ever been. Let us look forward and hope that the Brynmawr Historical Society will continue long into the future. I would now like you to raise your glasses and drink a toast “The Brynmawr Historical Society”.
Submitted by the late Pearl G. Jones. President, Brynmawr Historical Society.