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Welcome, Croeso!

Meetings & Events Meetings at LETS office or Blaengarw Hall (see notice in LETS window) at 2pm. 4th April Monthly Meeting 2nd May Monthly Meeting 6th June Monthly Meeting

Does anyone know of the event, or who these people are?

Stall and display will be present at the Heritage Conference to be held in Pencoed College from 10am on April 6th, at the Party in the Park outside the Braich-y-Cymer on 29th June, and at the Carnival at Parc Calon Lan on August 17th.

WHO ARE WE? The Garw Valley Heritage Society are a group of Additionally, it is intended to gather together in one local people who are enthusiastic about creating an place a vast collection of materials and personal archive of our valley’s industrial and social history. memorabilia, as well as recording where other items We are keen to record the progress and events in can be located and viewed. It is also proposed to the valley in pictures and notes from the 1800ʹ′s to create geographical displays to show where points ensure that this valuable and rich source of and places of interest are situated. information does not disappear forever.

The scope of the project is to cover the area We aim to develop exhibits and educational between Betws and Blaengarw; taking in the two material to enable the future generations to see parishes within the current parish boundaries. what was once a thriving industrial community, and In conjunction with other groups it is hoped to be to compare present day sights with historical views able to make the records available to the public and in a “Now and Then” theme. eventually to supply copies of particular pictures and written records if there is sufficient demand.

We are keen to borrow historical material so it can be indexed and maybe copied with the consent of the owner. We would be very grateful for anyone who has old photos, family reco!ections, funny stories, tales of excitement or adventures within the va!ey to join us and share the memories. Find us on Facebook!



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ST CEIN: A DARK AGE SAINT St Cein is known by several names: Cein the Virgin, Cein the Bright or Ceinwen (Cein the Fair). She was one of the six daughters of the 5th century King Brychan, who gave his name to Brycheiniog, or Brecon, in South Wales. One of her sisters was

After living here for some years St Cein made a pilgrimage to St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall and whilst there she caused a well to spring out of the ground at a village called Lametton, now called St Keynes. This well is reputed to have healing powers, especially for eye disorders. Water drunk from the well, according to local legend, also has the power to confer domestic authority on husband or wife, depending on which one after the marriage manages to drink the water first! The Poet Laureate Robert Southey wrote a poem about it, called ‘The Well of St Keyne’. St Cein also planted 3 trees that have great significance in Celtic culture at the site of the well: an oak, a sacred tree particularly for the druids, an ash that had powers to heal, and a wych elm,the symbol of relationships and fertility. It was while she was at St Keynes that St Cadog visited her and persuaded her to return to Wales. She was then known to have settled at the foot of a mountain, almost certainly the village formerly called Allt yr Esgair, later Eglwyskeinor, now Llangeinor, in the Garw Valley in Glamorgan. Here she stayed for many years and is reputed to have caused another holy well to appear at the foot of the mountain. Legend has it that she died on October 8th in AD 505, and that her soul was seen being lifted by two angels on a column of fire. She was buried there by St Cadog himself, who declared that ‘her face in death was as beautiful as it had been in life’. The church in upper Llangeinor is named after her. Other shrines to St Cein

Brecon Cathedral has a stained glass window depicting several saints, including St Cein Dwynwen who was to become the patron saint of petrifying the snakes. lovers in Wales, the equivalent of St Valentine. At an early age Cein decided to dedicate her life to Keynsham Park in Keynsham has a statue of a God, and refused many offers of marriage from the very nubile St Cein with ammonites. local princes. It is recorded that she travelled from Wales to the West Country and settled for a time in a place now called Keynsham, in Avon. On her arrival there she asked the local king for permission to establish a place to live and worship, but she was warned that the place was swarming with snakes and neither man nor beast could inhabit it. Cein prayed to God that every snake be turned to stone, and her prayer was answered. Today ammonites found in the area are believed by some to be those ‘stone snakes’ (This legend however is also attributed to St Hilda, Abbess of Whitby, some 200 years later).


St Keynes in Cornwall has the original holy well attributed to her. Cerrigceinwen in Anglesey has a church named after her. More recently a seated enclosure has been built outside the church of St Cein in Llangeinor. This has been designed by Gerald Jarvis of the Garw Valley Heritage Society, and has been dedicated to St Cein by local residents and interested groups, and on a clear day it is possible to see the route she might have taken to the coast and then across to Somerset. Submitted by Gerald Jarvis




WITH BEARDS FROZEN TO OUR COATS My father was John James Dimmick, and he enlisted in the South Wales Borderers in 1928 for 7 years with 5 years in the Reserve. During this time he was stationed in Portsmouth, Hong Kong and India. Whilst in India he served on the NorthWest Frontier as a Vickers machine gunner, bring back home a knife with the word Waziribad impressed into the brass handle, which is now in my possession.

make a hole in the sacks of grain he was carrying, so that by the time he reached the waiting truck quite a proportion of the grain had seeped out and been trodden underfoot. This was quite a risky thing to do as if the Germans had realised what he had been up to, depriving the homeland of vital food, then he would most certainly have been shot. My father, however, felt it was his duty to do something to help the war effort in spite of the fact Upon leaving the army in 1936 he went to work in he was a prisoner. the Powell Dyffryn coal mine in Llanharan, but Eventually the Red Army began to push the being in the Reser ves, he was called up on Germans back, and Thorn, along with other Polish September 1st 1939 to the Colours and ordered to PoW camps, was evacuated, and so began what report to Brecon ‘at once’. became to be known as the Long March back to His regiment eventually arrived in France to join Germany, throughout the Polish winter. The the British Expeditionary Force, but as he waited German guards who accompanied the PoWs were to embark on a troop train he remembered what he themselves terrified of becoming prisoners of the had told my mother before leaving: ‘Don’t worry, Russians, which meant that if any prisoner became the Germans won’t kill me’, not knowing that at ill and collapsed in the snow then he was killed. My that very moment the Germans were planning to father was one who collapsed but in the nick of do just that if they could, by invading France. At time his comrades picked him up before he was the end of the so-called phoney war of course spotted and assured the guards that he was alright. Germany did indeed invade France and following some hard fighting my father’s unit was over-run by German tanks near Abbeville. What followed was truly horrific. My father and his comrades were lined up by the SS in front of a firing squad, but just as they were about to shoot a senior officer came forward and told them to stop what they were about to do. The men were eventually put into railway cattle trucks as PoWs and sent to Berlin, where they were given cabbage soup. They were moved on again, this time to Poland, where they were incarcerated in an old Polish fort, known as Thorn (Torun), which became their PoW camp.

On arriving in Germany my father was freed by the Americans, who billeted him with an elderly well-to-do German couple. The couple were told that if he was not well looked after they would be shot. It was the only time, my father recalled, that he ever slept between silk sheets! When he returned to Britain and was reunited with my mother he told her all about his experiences, but the only thing he found in his pockets as a momento of those times was a piece of the black bread he was given as a PoW in his survival pack issued for the Long March.

“We marched with our beards frozen to our coats” During his time there my father was used as a farm he recalled, as my mother threw the black bread on labourer, helping to send food back to Germany, the fire! and whilst engaged in this work he would often By David Dimmick

The above item features an episode #om World War II, but next year sees the anniversary of the start of WW1 and the Society wi! be making up an exhibition of stories, reminiscences and photographs of Va!ey people who served in that war. If you can help us with any item or story that refers to that time, maybe #om someone in your family, then we would be pleased to hear #om you. Please get in touch via the website, or ring 01656 856091





FURTHER TO THE PREVIOUS ARTICLE ON JACK’S CAFÉ ... Further to the previous article on Non Ho L’eta came on. Had HAVE YOU VISITED Jack’s café by Ian Black, Gerald someone blundered in putting in OUR WEBSITE? Jarvis has written: the numbers? We argued amongst When Italy won the Eurovision ourselves and waited with baited Fu l l o f p h o t o s f r o m o u r archive and local stories and Song Contest in 1964, I was a 15- breath for our own selection. year-old boy growing up in the No! Not yet another repeat of memories, the Garw Valley Garw. Gigliola Cinquetti’s song! All eyes Society website is building up a collection of local stories of My friends and I used to gather t u r n e d o n c a f é o w n e r Ja c k past events and personalities. in the café for a steamed pie and Assiratti, who wa s beaming an espresso served from a huge proudly from behind his espresso It has a growing gallery of photos from our archive, and chrome and brass Cimbali Grand machine. Luce. The café was the only place ‘Sort it out, Jack’ we pleaded, but even a forum where you can c h a t a b o u t t h e G a r w ’s in Pontycymer with a jukebox, to no avail. one play for a tanner (6d), and ‘Nothing I can do until the bloke heritage. three for a bob (12d). We pooled comes to empty the cash out next our money to get the maximum week’ he replied. play out of our selections which included the likes of Bob Dylan, All requests for refunds were The Rolling Stones and the dismissed, so we trooped away Meet The Members leaving Jack smiling as he listened Animals. o v e r a n d o v e r a g a i n to h i s GERALD JARVIS One evening when all our pies victorious countrywoman. Gerald has lived in the Garw were steamed and the coffee since he left Cardiff with his freshly made, our selection was family at the age of 9. He has Gerald Jarvis due. Imagine our horror when worked at Christie Tyler’s and in the Ffaldau pit and MUGS AND CRYSTAL PAPERWEIGHTS FOR SALE t h e n a t F l e x t a n k b e f o r e retiring. Gerald has long had an interest in S.Wales history and enjoys researching local stories and sharing his enthusiasm with like-minded people via the website and at Va l l e y schools and exhibitions. BETHAN DALTON These display views of the Garw or pictures of various Garw pits. The paper weights come in a presentation box at £6 each and make an ideal gift, especially for those family members who have left the valley. .

few commemorative mugs with a Calon Lan motif and picture of Daniel James, at £5 each.

Delivery is free to a Garw address, The mugs also display Garw views postage elsewhere on application, and pits, and in addition we have a tel. 01656 856091 for enquiries.

Archaeology graduate and p r i m a r y s c h o o l t e a c h e r, Bethan grew up in the Garw Valley, spending most of her childhood “up the mountain”. She is particularly interested in the history of daily life: in the humdrum domestic lives of people in the past. Responsible for the Sociery’s website.

IN FORTHCOMING ISSUES..... The Garw Valley before coal mines, a local pit disaster, some local heroes, with more reminiscences and pictures of past times....



Issue 2  

Spring 2013