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Notes from the Amman Valley Chronicle
and East Carmarthenshire News

 

Contributed by David Smith  (Nov 2006 +)

Years currently included ;

  • 1930; 1931;1937;1938; 1939; 1944; 1945; 1947

 

1930

January 1930

Typhoid epidemic Garnant - 4 cases reported

Vincent Thomas aged 16 of Cawdor Cottages recommended for award for outstanding bravery in rescuing work colleagues in an inundation of water at Ceidrim colliery in November 1929. (received a gold watch eventually from  the Chairman of the Amalgamated Anthracite Collieries)

 Unemployment

  • Ammanford       638 men         37 women        3 boys
  • Garnant            877 men          19 women        2 boys

South Wales transport commenced a Brynamman - Swansea motor bus service on the 30th January 1930

Theft of pit props

  • A GW freight train en route from Pantyffynon to GCG  was shunted to the high level sidings at Garnant one January day - (at 4.55pm) whereupon Guard Simmons observed thieves throwing imported French and Norwegian timber from the 5 loaded wagons   being removed by a gang of persons. Rapidly seeking assistance from Garnant Stationmaster D Williams (at home at Garnant Villa) - one person was apprehended , charged and appeared in Ammanford Magistrates court - case not proven - (one senses that the man arrested was the "fall guy"of a large group who got away) -  but fined £1 for trespass and admonished by the Bench !

Burglary stated to be prevalent in Ammanford with the "Star Supply Stores"(the Waitrose of the day!) and Garnant Co-op being targeted.

20 Council Houses at the Beiliglas site at GCG reported as being under construction (Derwydd Avenue?)

Further railway trespass incidents reported by Detective Inspector Ledburn of the GWR police - endemic trespass at Parcyrhyn Ammanford with an 11 year old boy narrowly run over by the 1150 LMS express train.

 

March 1930

"Express Saloon service" commenced from Llandeilo to Ammanford to Swansea - running 6 services weekday and 4 Sunday - with fares of 3/6d & 2/6d respectively. Advertised as "luxurious saloons with maximum comfort and safety".

Ammanford Town council reported as being in serious financial arrears - up to £30,000 owned by ratepayers.

Calls to build a new Pantyffynon - Pontardulais road to relieve unemployment (later reported no funds available)

GWR employee committed suicide at the Cwmgorse sheds near the new station (not train related)

6,546 units of electricity provided from 34 tons of coal at the Ammanford Electricity Supply Company

The Amalgamated Anthracite Co reported a profit of £512 ,000 - monopolised 80% of  the Welsh anthracite trade - development of the Canadian trade was hampered by the lack of inward grain traffic to the UK (vessels no doubt backloaded with coal at reduced process which made Welsh coal competitive with more local Pennsylvania coal in the Canadian market). Globalisation is not a new thing ! The Depression was indeed cyclical across trade areas.

Reported that Cwmamman is a "Penny in the slot"council - as comparisons were made to gas meters with residents paying rates in dribs and drabs. (£1970 in arrears)

Erection of new loco sheds at Pantyffynon reported by the GWR in April 1930 - (part of Government loan scheme to pump prime the economy) - 64 jobs planned but 40 would be staff moved in. A request for housing was made to the local authority for the staff - and Council offered assistance - (subsequently revoked as no money available !)

Glanamman tinplate works closed due to lack of orders and 300 men lay off

New sewage system commissioned in GCG " in time for the gardening season"

SWT announced a new summer season bus service from Pontardawe - Aberystwyth via Cwmgorse and the Amman Valley - GCG pickup at the Cae Shop at 0925am - arrived Aberystwyth at 1245 and returned at 6.30pm. 8/9d return and tickets valid for a week.

"Stir at Gurnos"

  • LMS special anthracite train from Brynhenllys Colliery collided and demolished the level crossing gates at Cwmtwrch at 1215 am on April 17th 1930. Gatekeeper Pugsley stated not aware of the trains approach from the Berrington. Line cleared quickly but Divisional staff from Swansea attended to check the electric circuits. (one senses that disciplinary action followed)

GWR Express Day Trip to Barry and Cardiff - June 1st and July 6th

Brynamman dep 1030 / Garnant 1035 / Ammanford 1045 / Pontardulais 1105 / Felinfran 1125 and Skewen 1130 - return at 8.15 pm from Cardiff and 8.35 from Barry Town. Fares 4/6 d from Brynamman and Ammanford (this train would have been routed via the Vale of Glamorgan line via Porthkerry and Llantwit Major)

And as competition.....

  • Cheap flights in 3 seater planes for 5/- at Ynysdaelog Farm, Pantyffynon with a daring stunt display at 3 pm for 6d entry. (The AVC and ECA felt able to let the intrepid reporter take a flight who described in some detail the aerial views of the Valley for the impecunious many

 

July 1930

Garnant tinplate works shut with 200 laid off

Colliery engine driver killed at Cwmgorse - being crushed between the wagon buffers of a rake being gravitated under the loading screens.

 

August 1930

Jones Brothers of Aberystwyth introduced a 4 daily bus service from their base to Ammanford with 1 extension to Brynamman - at this time Ammanford had no less than 770 bus arrivals and departures a day (in this de-regulated era) - but bus crowding was endemic with reports of prosecutions for blatant crowding - e.g. 50 on a 26 seater bus for Garnswllt and 104 on 48 seat bus. The average fine was £2.

The Western Welsh bus company (in association with the GWR) began the long lasting Ammanford - Neath - Cardiff express service with 15 a day planned.

Bus wars continued - there were no less than 18 companies fighting for traffic between Ammanford - Brynamman and the Varteg. Rivalries were such that a court case judged on a stand up fight between rival crews during a meal break (chip shop break) on Christmas Eve 1930. Magistrates took a lenient view.

 

1931

January 1931

January 17th  - England versus Wales at Twickenham - special excursion arranged for 8.50 pm from Brynamman for 17/- return.

Another excursion from Llandovery provided a headline "arrested on Excursion Train at Pantyffynon"- where in a long account - the tale was told of the wife of a Penygroes chip shop owner planned her departure from the area - including taking here children to the grandparents at Brynamman - before diverting her husband to a pub for 15mins while she disappeared at the end of the evening with the takings from the business. (and a neighbour who was an unemployed coal miner)

Local PC Prout - (often mentioned in despatches) arranged to the 1240pm excursion train to be held at Pantyffynon and the errant pair were arrested on various charges - with pre-purchased tickets for London in their possession .
(The guilty parties were found guilty -fined £3 - and bond over for 12 months. One wonders how the domestic circumstances of the 2 parties were reconciled- if at all)  

 

 28th August

"Earthquake shocks in Ammanford"- at 8pm on a Monday evening a shock was felt - most keenly in the GCG collieries

 

 

1937

January 1937

Brynamman miners home on holiday from Kent coalfield

Railway traffic up - GWR announces traffic revenue up by £754,000 compared to 1936

Influenza outbreak

 

Feb 1937

Wales v Scotland at St Helens - 6th Feb - special train at 1215 from Brynamman for 1/6d return - unusually running to the LMS station at Victoria - and returning at 9.30pm - rare cooperation by the 2 railways.

Emigration from the district continues - stoppage of works at GCG notable.

Horses killed at Pantyffynon by the 5.20pm train - though local man bravely intervened to no avail

GCG Communist Party sent 10 guineas to the relief of the Spanish distressed miners

Television sets advertised at £60 - or a £1 a week - not many takers one assumes in the Amman Valley

Very heavy snowfall on the 23d Feb - 12ft high in places and 20ft at Tro'r Gwcw on the Black Mountain - 2 buses snowbound over the weekend and for a while no power of wireless. Cinemas closed and chapel services disrupted.

13 men employed on widening the GCG - Garnant road at Graig Road GCG on local authority sponsored scheme.

Raiding of coal wagons very prevalent - a GWR detective  chased a local man found on top of a loaded coal train at Garnant from wagon to wagon - even though a shunting engine was attached to the train - over 30 wagons and got his man ! The defendant had been unemployed for 11 years and was fined 13/9d

 

March 1937

Death of former GCG stationmaster Mr W J Williams of Garnant who had been the first SM employed when the line diversion was opened in 1908.    

Tramlines crossing the road at Gelliceidrim to be replaced by an over bridge - after 45 years of crossing on the level.

GCG men allowed to pick waste coal form tips - but not to steal from trucks - those caught fined 25/-

 

April 1937

Serious falls of takings at GCG Hall as a result of trade depression

Passing away of the first registered and certified midwife

Welfare Institute and Library Opened - cost of £8,500 by Findlay Gibson and Arthur Horne

Fine weather and spectacular heath fires.

An unconnected house fire in Brynamman - which was a total loss - highlighted the lack of hydrants.

Plans for the GCG Urdd Eisteddfod started with representations to the GWR that loaded passenger trains be dealt with at GCG Cross - as large numbers expected to attend.(Speaking as a rail operations manager this was unlikely due to steep gradients and no interlocked  signals for more than an odd trains or two)

8000 seat pavilion expected to be erected.

Scrap thefts from Cawdor Colly and a tram - owned by the UDC but buried in the River Pedol stolen.

Whit Monday - special cheap tickets - by the 11.52 and 3.14 trains to Ammanford for 9d.

 

May 1937

Maerdy Pit to re-open -"good news for GCG"

Coronation Day celebrations in full swing - and Steer Pit decorations described loyally as the best in Wales.

GCG Eisteddfod -"Amman Valleys Great Victory"

"A cultured democracy and simple Welsh homes"

"GCG certainly went gay for the occasion - banners and bunting everywhere and the Welsh Dragon and the Urdd Flag held a prominent place in the street and house decorations"

Mass procession - lined by 1000's of spectators - headed by 4 local bands were lead by I O Edwards - founder of the Urdd Gobaith Cymru.

An enchanting display of flowers in the Welfare Hall Gardens -

"GCG has never seen such a crowd of people - exemplary behaviour"   

The AAC floodlit the pithead gear of the Maerdy Colliery which was said to reveal unexpected beauty in the night - over 400 visitors descended the Steer Pit.

New council housing at Gate Street nearing completion.

 

June 1937

June 10th - 60th celebration of Carmel Chapel - membership now standing at 800 - special celebrations and tea.

 

July 1937

GWR boxing excursions - Larry Gains versus Harry Staal at Llanelli - on the 6th - 1/6d fare with a return at 1040.

Large number of snake eggs - and 3 live ones found in the tool box of the (working) colliery shunt engine at Gelliceidrim.

 

August 1937

Llandeilo Show - 26th August - fare of 2/- from Brynamman or 1/3d from Ammanford

Trade sanctions removed with Italy - and £321,900 of coal export orders received - with the Canadian market also good. Record outputs at Steer Pit and belt conveyers installed  

Telephone posts installed in Glyn Rd Brynamman - but no subscribers !

Property in Brynamman not selling - a house built for £800 now valued at £500

GWR Half Day Excursion advertised for Sept 5th for Bristol and Weston super Mare 9 - was empty on departure -"a sign of the times" - despite fare of 8/- to WSM or 7/- Bristol.

Acute local water shortage - miners working forced to wash in the river as domestic supplies turned off from 4pm - 7am daily.

Several hundred tons of iron ore - on slag heaps - picked by the unemployed and despatched by rail from Brynamman - A sign of rearmament?

 

Sept 1937

GCG Federation Hall opened - 16th September -" modern appearance with reinforced concrete lined by linthlin - 4 beams hold the ceiling - a maple floor with room for 400 and featuring cloakrooms , heating room and a committee room" -  for a mere £2,300.

Raven Pit announced as abandoned on Sept 30th.

 

October 1937

October 21st  - Maerdy Pit shut as a reaction to the devaluation of the French franc and over 35,000 tons of laden coal wagons in GCG

Cwmgorse colliery producing 2,500 tons a week and alleged to be "fully electric"

 

December 1937

"Brynamman is the only village in the principality with 2 stations and no works - GCG is more of an exception with 5 works open and no (passenger) railway station at all!"

Depression shown by the 16 shops closed in Brynamman from the Farmers Arms to the Penybont Bridge

27th Dec - local Brynamman run over and killed by a light engine returning off the 9pm passenger train - Driver Hopkins and Fireman Phillips of Ammanford stated in the pitch dark they saw and heard nothing. Verdict of death by misadventure.                

 

1938

January 1938           

2000 unemployed in GCG and Brynamman

GWR excursion Wales versus England at Cardiff - 6/9 return
Leaving Brynamman at 0745 - returning at 5pm or 8pm.-
Special vestibule restaurant car special Llanelly to Cardiff
Offering a tea and lunch service for 11/6d return inclusive (few takers one expects)  

GWR reports encouraging traffic levels - with monthly passenger workings up at £24k, goods at £36k and £27k - punctuality much improved

All Ammanford mines working - but much suffering amongst miners and families at GCG - reported that coal stealing was rife from wagons - especially over the Christmas period.

Reported that both population and school attendance / registration were declining

Major forestry schemes discussed for GCG and Cwmllynfell areas.

 

March 1938  

Wales's v Ireland at St Helens - 1/7 returns from Brynamman

East Pit still closed - sidings full of loaded wagons - over 6000 tons stacked on the ground - "how much longer is the slump to last" ...............

"GCG Luxury Coal" - apparently large lump coal from the machine cut Brynlloi seam was proving successful in markets and had even been exhibited in Paris museums!

Hopes of new colliery developments at the Baran colliery - described as an idea sit with virgin coal and good housing development land.

In the same vein - there some hope for a British Legion funded colliery at Brynamman.   

"Powell the Guard" passed away - long service of 46 years in local passenger trains and the GWR management sent a wreath.

 

April 1938      

"Many of the young people have left again for training centres and other work in English towns - Brynamman is rapidly becoming depleted of the young manhood  - there is nothing here for them in the way of a livelihood"

GWR Easter traffic arrangements included direct trains to Swansea and Cardiff for Welsh folk from Hayes / Southall etc - return "migrant " traffic.

Cheap excursions run on the 23d for the Lewis Eisteddfod at Liverpool for 12/6 - a gruelling day out but advertised as "by GWR route"

 

May 1938        

W Thomas of Rhosamman fined for trespass on LMS rly - 7/6 fine caught by Detective Perry from Swansea.

Welcome rain after a long and destructive drought - water saving measures and posters in place.

Only 84 children in Cwmgors School

Old Swansea tramcars used as bungalows on the Rhosfa Road  Brynamman                    

Swansea docks not returning empty coal wagons promptly causing cessation of mine shifts and work at the GCG pits - (sounds as if much of the 3000 strong wagon fleet owned by AAC was used as storage - in the hope of quick response to market needs - empty wagons therefore at a premium and the company did not wish to pay to out the coal to stock / ground as it would probably have damaged in the process)

 

June 1938       

However - a few weeks later - in striking contrast - the quiet of Brynamman was compared to GCG which was extremely busy with successive streams of wagons leaving with all kinds of coal for overseas markets - "what a pleasure it is to see the traffic - and the smoking stacks of the valleys"

 

July 1938      

 "the relaying of the railway track between Brynamman and Garnant stations is almost completed - judging by the enormous cost - the district is by no means finished industrially"

GWR excursion to the Royal Horticultural Show Cardiff - 8th / 9th July - 0745 from Brynamman for 6/9d

A very wet summer - cold - poor hay crop and little sign of a fruit crop either.

AAC reports excellent production - "since the deal with GKN, enormous changes have taken place - entailing considerable expenditure - a prosperous future seems to await the locality"

6 busloads of GCG Communist Party went to Porthcawl.

Runaway! - laden wagons ran away at 5pm on Saturday - derailing into the lamp room shed in front of the signal box at GCG - over £1500 worth of damage and many spectators turned out to see the effects. Damage spread out over 100 yards - no doubt considerable coal spilled.

 

Sept 1938               

"Diphtheria in the district"

 

Dec 22nd 1938   

Mr F W Ham - promoted from SM Pantyffynon to SM Burry Port - presented with a silver cigarette case and "good intentions" -  

 

1939

January -

Saron Colliery restarts after trade depression but 1800 men out elsewhere in the area. Maerdy coal though selling well.overseas

Cohen's of Ammanford having a closing down sale

England versus Wales at Twickenham 21st January  - (hopes of victory)

  • GWR special train  - Brynamman 1110               17/9
    • Garnant 1120.
    • Glanamman 1125              17/3
    • Ammanford 1135              17/3
    • Pantyffynon 1140              17/3
    • Return "as specified"- refreshment rooms open at Paddington for late suppers and teas.

January 19th

GCG cinema flourishing -despite cost of £15k -the owners was able to purchase new electrical plant and a sound system for £400.

No pits working in GCG -apart from Cwmgors.

 

Feb 4th

Wales versus Scotland at Cardiff - special train

  • 0745 Brynamman     fare     6/9
  • 0751 Garnant
  • 0754 Glanamman
  • 0802 Ammanford
  • Return at 5pm or 7.18

East pit reopened - Pantyffynon -"one sees nothing but idle collieries"

 

Feb 16th

"gangs of men raiding coal traffic at GCG colliery sidings - 20 tons stolen in one instance - arrest made at 0430 by PC Jones and 3 men fined 17/6d each.

New GCG primary school completed

GCG Welfare Hall declared profit of £46-13 for 1938 - profit invested.

ARP committee met at Cae Gurwen Hotel.

Emlyn colliery to shut

ARP shelters being manufactured at the Raven tinplate works

 

March 23d  -

Maerdy pit reopened - and announcement that pit head baths to be supplied.

Pantyffynon GWR glee society honoured to have Mr Walford Davies as adjudicator

GCG coal thieving gangs continue to be well organised and over a 100 tons stolen from loaded wagons standing in the sidings.

 

April 6th   

30,000 tons of coal standing in GCG sidings - all pits now working.

 

April 15th    

Lewis Chair Eisteddfod Liverpool

  • 0510 Brynamman
  • 0515 Garnant
  • 0520 Glanamman
  • 0525 Ammanford fare 12/6 Liverpool
  • Return at 1045 from Liverpool Central and 1105 from Rock Ferry - train would have been routed via the Central Wales line - Shrewsbury and Wrexham. A gruelling day out - not for the faint hearted.

Lesley's Stores opened at Quay Street Ammanford - basically a precursor to the self service supermarkets of the 1960s.

Sample prices

  • 2lb sugar 4d
  • wrapped bread 3d
  • Tinned milk 2d
  • cakes (8) 6d
  • Tinned peaches 6d
  • fruit salad 5d
  • Bachelors peas 4d
  • sultanas 4d
  • Margarine 2d
  • pineapple cubes 3d

Customers were allowed to circulated the store -load their requirements into baskets and have the totals "mechanically"computed at the till.

GCG collieries recruiting boys and demand for coal said to be good.

 

May 18th

Runaway freight train - the 1930 Shrewsbury to Swansea conveying 34 trucks of pig iron and a brake van left the Sugar Loaf tunnel at 2am with 12 wagon brakes pinned down by the train guard. Unfortunately the driver lost control on the downward gradient and the signalman at Cynghordy put the train into the sand drag where it piled up spectacularly - blocking the line for several days.

Retirement of Royal Train driver - Mr Meredith Jones who had begun his service as an engine cleaner at Garnant shed in 1894. Mr Jones retired from Carmarthen shed after 45 years on the GWR - having driven the Royal Train to Pencader in summer 1937.

Llandovery races - special fares of 3/5 from Brynamman and from Ammanford (2/9)

Dan Lloyd - Bandmaster GCG - retired form the coalface and took up occupation in the lamp room.

 

June 8th

Lead poisoning in GCG - water supply low due to drought and hot weather.

GWR announces full summer and holiday timetables - with the famous Cornish Riviera Express running in 4 sections - non stop to Par - but the Welsh element was limited to 3d class holiday specials to Aberystwyth via Treherbet and from Barry to Llandrindod Wells.!

 

July 20th

GCG primary school formally opened with free tea for 300 children thanks to the generosity of Watkin Williams of the Billiard Hall and W Marks (Shoe shop)

 

Aug 3d Visit by Jay Howells - son of John Howells of the Maerdy pit blacksmiths shop - Jay was a very well off man who had extensively surveyed in Canada for mineral companies and was in Great Britain to receive his fellowship of the Geological society.

 

Aug 10th

Holiday season in full swing with many local bus services running in duplicate -"Sun shone gloriously and the countryside is a vision of loveliness"

Party of Cwmgors miners in Paris for a week

 

Aug 19th

Cheap trips to Llandeilo for the agricultural show - 2/1 from Brynamman

GCG Pit boys on strike - all out accordingly - discipline on one of their members for carrying an oil jar on the conveyer system.

 

Aug 31st

Evacuees from London arrive as a result of the worsening international situation

 

Sept 7th

War headlines - tremendous rally in GCG and ARP preventions in full swing.

Fuel / gas and petrol rationed

Brynhenllys Colliery re-opened. (Idle since Dec 1938)

 

1944

March 2nd 1944 -

All GCG pits on strike - including Cwmgors and Gelliceidrim - 2,500 miners out on strike.

"coal situation suffers from acute difficulty - a measure of hardship must be accepted in order that military operations may be pressed forward" - Local Fuel Overseer, Ministry of Fuel and Power.

Gelliceidrim boys strike - sued by AAC - damages of £5/4/9 received and 350 tons of production lost - "bad feelings all round"

 

March 9th 1944  

"Under manager assaulted at Cwmllynfell colliery - assailant fined £3 + costs

 

July 27th 1944

"Fox trapped in GCG"

Trespassing fox got into the lamp room on the night shift - killed by attendants and later displayed locally

 

28th September 1944

Complaint to LMS railway regarding poor train services to Llandovery - "more trains required" - quoting example of wasteful wartime working in that the 9 am train from Tirydail returned as a light engine at 1400 with the driver / fireman and guard "spare" for 4 hours.

 

October 1944

Gelliceidrim close for 2 weeks for fear of water breaking into the workings

 

Nov 16th 1944

Another assault case against AAC managers dismissed

 

Xmas 1944

"No turkeys or poultry of any sort available in local shops"

 

1945

January 7th 1945

W Johnson - 72 - surface worker at GCG collieries killed en route to work by an engine in the colliery sidings

Lifting of blackout restrictions resulted in outbreak of catapult vandalism to local street lights in Ammanford and area.  

 

Feb 1st 1945

Heaviest snow seen for 50 years - seven feet deep - River Amman frozen and the road from Brynamman over the Black Mountain closed for a week - bus services limited accordingly through the area.

 

March 1st 1945

A 75 yr old Swansea man was struck and killed by the 7.40 pm Brynamman to Pantyffynon train between Glanamman and Ammanford - Driver William H Williams of Ammanford saw and felt nothing - the man's picture house business and book shop in Swansea had been destroyed by bombing ...

 

May 17th 1945

Crowding and bus shortages led to fights at bus stops - it was noted that bus traffic was up 20% and passenger mileage 33%

Ballet Rambert performing at Garnant (2/-6)

 

June 1945

GCG and Gelliceidrim collieries on strike - 2,500 tons of production lost

 

Oct 1st 1945

Additional LMS train at 1005 from Swansea Victoria to Shrewsbury and 1440 Shrewsbury to Swansea - with a connection from Llandeilo to Carmarthen off the morning train at 1005 and at 1820 off the afternoon train. Also a connection provided off the 0745 Craven Arms to Swansea train to Carmarthen at 1128.

 

November 1945

"Coal Sunday" - extra shifts worked in the Maerdy collieries increased tonnage above target.

 

June 5th 1945

N Williams aged 39 was killed by a goods train on the Raven loop line near Garnant - verdict of accidental death  - it was surmised that she may have been scared by snakes and therefore fell under the train.

 

1947

Sept 1947

Go slow at Gelliceidrim over small coal and wastage.