|Blaenavon - A Family Story | Back ||
I am 14 years old and I attend the local High School down the valley in Abersychan. That is me in the middle! We went to UWIC university in Cardiff to take part in a competition about running a business. I am quite good in school but I think my parents put quite a lot of pressure on me. They say they want me to be the first person in our family to go to university - whatever the cost! 1
|This is our oldest family photo. It is my great great grandfather (Islwyn). I think he's the one with the cap and the moustache! He is wearing a jacket and is standing by the dram. The story made the newspapers because they got into trouble down the mine and the donkey pulled them to safety. He worked in a little drift mine not Big Pit. This must be about 1910. 2|
|When my mum was little she used to visit Blaenavon every summer to stay with her relatives. This photo was taken in the 1970s. Her dad Tomos brought his family back each year. That is how she met dad - from childhood sweethearts they married and became my parents! The photo is taken from the northern edge of town on the road that leads passed the Blorenge down to Abergavenny and the Usk Valley. 3||
Isaac (Ike) James Hayward (1874 – 1976) my great grandfather on my mum's side was the son of a miner from Blaenavon and went down the mines from the age of 12. He studied at night school in the Blaenavon Workmen's Hall and later became involved in trade union affairs. He was chosen as a union official and this brought him to London. He became the Leader until the London County Council (LCC) was abolished in 1965. The Hayward Art Gallery in London is named after him and he was knighted! 4
|My grandfather on dad's side (Geraint) was evacuated to Brynmawr in the Second World War. His parents (Idris and Mair) were in Swansea and the docks there were very heavily bombed. He left school when he could - he was about 14 I think and went down the mines. He married my 'gran' quite young and they never left Blaenavon - not even when the mines closed about 1980 and my grandad faced years of unemployment. Gradually lots of families have moved away and the town became like a 'ghost town'. 5||My mum (Sian) works for Torfaen council and in summer she works in the Tourist Information Centre. It is amazing where the visitors come from these days. It has made a real difference since Blaenavon was made a World Heritage Site in 2000. One year she got to meet Prince Charles (briefly). He had come to Blaenafon for the Official Opening of the National Museum of Coal Mining - better known as Big Pit. 6|
|My granddad (Geraint) was lucky because in
the 1980s he got a job as a guide at Big Pit. He is a good
talker and he loves showing people around. He's very intelligent and
probably could have been a lawyer or a teacher if the times had been
different when he was growing up.
He likes showing school parties around the deep mine best and especially
if they scream when he puts the lights out.
He always tells me to work hard but to never forget my roots. 7
|My dad (Gary) has a job in a factory on the Gilchrist Thomas Industrial Estate. Gilchrist Thomas invented the Bessemer converter to remove phosphorous from iron when making steel. His cousin Percy who tried it in the Blaenavon works. This invention in Blaenavon led to other steelworks opening elsewhere and ultimately to the end of steel making in the town. A funny coincidence don't you think. Anyway the industrial estate has a few small factories. My dad works for Vin Sullivan who has a unit on the estate and he supplies foods to hotels and restaurants. 8|