Newport – The Green Meadow Burial Ground – Myth, Mystery and Renewal

Our August talk was given by Stephen Lyons.

Although the original title was ‘The Black Vein Disaster’ and about the coal mine disaster at Waunfawr, Risca on December 1st, 1860 the talk in fact was a forensic examination of the reporting of a disaster and how history is so easily misinterpreted and misrepresented. It used facts and reports to show how myths are formed and misinformation is assumed to be correct. The talk put the record straight and recounted how the Green Meadow Burial Ground has been rediscovered and cared for.

The Blackvein colliery opened in the early 1840s and then for the next twenty years it suffered regular accidents leading to fatalaties due to lax security. However the infamous disaster in 1860 was on a much greater scale. It is thought that 142 (or maybe 146) died. The speaker showed how this is uncertain as subsequent news reports varied tremendously on the number of dead and even the names of the victims. Furthermore men who died from their injuries after the disaster may not have been included in the total.

A plot was donated by Lord Tredegar for the burial of the dead but many preferred to take the bodies back to their homes (which for many was to Somerset). The memorial stone at the Green Meadow site adds to the confusion by stating that fifty out of 142 were buried there (which is definitely incorrect). Unfortunately the site was allowed to go into decay until our speaker led a group trying to renovate it.

Newport – Following WW1 through School Log Books

Rhiannon Phillips, who is employed at the Gwent Archives in Ebbw Vale, was our speaker on 25th September. She started with a quick survey of the information available to members at the Archives.

She then used an undervalued resource, School Log Books, to trace events in the locality during World War One.

It was interesting to learn of the difficulties recorded by Head Teachers at the time. There were regular staff shortages caused by the call-up of male teachers and the loss of female staff who were needed for medical care and other wartime tasks. Irregular attendance of pupils was also a problem with pupils being required to help with agricultural needs and also often leaving to take up employment in, what were for them, well paid jobs and needed to help the domestic finances in the absence of fathers away at the Front.

Rhiannon took us through the years until the final celebrations when victory was achieved.

Unfortunately a weakness for family historians (as opposed to general historians) was that log books rarely named individuals- simply stating ‘an old boy’ or ‘a former teacher’. Actual naming would, of course, be more helpful in tracing the activities of our ancestors. Nevertheless it is an interesting source of information which certainly gives a feeling for the period

Blackwood – Research Evening – 12th Feb

Blackwood Branch research evening is on Tuesday, February 12th at 6.45pm in the staffroom of Blackwood Comprehensive School. The branch has produced many local CDs and a range of other CDs are available. Also there is access to Ancestry and Find My Past. A warm welcome is assured.