Notes of 5th September 2016 Meeting Main Topic – Group Projects Review

Geraint welcomed members back to this the Michaelmas Term. There was just one new member – Elizabeth Newman from the Old Vicarage at Dolau. Elizabeth has already completed a piece of work into the history if the Vicarage and the ‘goings on of an infamous past Vicar of the Parish – Rev. Richard Pugh. He was de-frocked due to scandals that it was felt better not to go into – Perhaps another time??

Elizabeth explained that the Monkey Puzzle Tree that has been a feature of the Old Vicarage garden since Victorian times was discovered to be dead, and has had to be taken down for safety reasons. She has engaged a carver to make a sculpture and much of the timber has gone to wood-turners.

Contemporary History Record – Lynda Price

Geraint asked Linda to report on her year in the history of Penybont and District. Linda has put together some beautiful scrapbooks that contain photographs, posters, and flyers, for local events. These were available and stirred a lot of interest within the group.

Llandegley School Records – Jenny

Geraint then reported on the project that Jenny has undertaken relating to the archives of Llandegley School. Jenny has been transcribing them so that the originals can be deposited with the County Archives.

(To a question on the status of the County Archives, they are currently in the process of moving to the Industrial Estate, it is providing a limited service direct to the public, but the new facility, once It is ready, should be very good.)

Unfortunately Jenny was nit well and so she was unable to tell us about how she has been getting along.  Geraint reported in the quality of the work being done by Jenny. She has been making notes alongside the transcription that reference things that are missing, the type of script, and if sections are unreadable. It will be an extremely useful and professional piece of work once it is complete.

The school records cover the period 1873 to 1953, though the school closed in 1977. There are other records of the work of the school including an acquisitions book that is quite interesting as it details the purchase of chalk and the range of materials used on a daily basis within the school.

Amongst the members present there were a few ‘old boys’ and ‘girls’ who were pupils at the school.

John A started in 1936 and conceded ‘it  was not all bad’! John remembered the war time evacuees from Liverpool who were billeted locally, some with his family. He had a particular memory that they were ‘tagged’ and he found this very sad. A particular highlight of his school career was the building of the school canteen when he was allowed off lessons to help make cement. The toilets were less than salubrious and involved burials in the garden twice a week. He remembers that there were 35 pupils in 2 classes. The infants, up to 8 years, were taught by Mrs Bull. The older children had Mrs Pugh. Mrs Pugh was a sister of the Bishop of St Asaph and Brecon. She was alleged to have had a ‘special’ relationship with the vicar – here again it is probably best to keep off this subject – Geraint agreed. Her daughter Eileen is still alive today. John had a particular memory of the distances that some of the pupils walked to get to school – anything up to 5 miles in all weathers. They and their clothes would regularly need to be dried out on the tortoise stove.

Mrs Higgins came as the school cook.  She was only 11 years when she started. Food was bought locally, though much of it was given by the local farmers. John’s family supplied milk to the school in 1/3 pint bottles. Geraint mentioned that the schools were, albeit run by the state, were seen as local charities and fund raising was a regular part of the school and community events. The harvest festival was a particular event that was part of the school calendar. John left school at 11 years just before the 1944 Education Act (Butler Act) raised the leaving age to 15 years.

Shirley’s school career started in 1954. Unlike John she and her 2 sisters enjoyed the school experience.  The teachers during her school career were Mrs Thomas and Mrs Evans, who was the wife of the Vicar. One of her memories was the punishment for swearing. A black mark was put on the tongue of the erring child. Shirley did, and passed, her 11+, which was a source of great pride for her, her family, and the school. She went on to the Grammar School with no preparation for this huge change. The first year was quite difficult.

Neil remembers that 14 was the age when most children left school after the Act came into force.

When Lynda joined the school the teachers were Mrs Duggan, Miss Williams and the cook was then Mrs Edwards.

Village Museum/Display – Geraint

Geraint was in confessional mood when he told of his spending of the proceeds of the slide show done earlier in the year. He spent the money on a set of display boards before he had discussed it with Richard who pointed out that he had mixed up Gross and Net profit and had forgotten about VAT! As a result he had to find, personally, and with some help from Richard, an additional £20.

The Boards are at the Thomas Shop where a cupboard will be made available with a view to working towards a ‘village museum’ at some point in the future.

Recording Memories – Judy

Initially called the Oral History Project, Judy said that some people were put off by the idea that anyone might be interested in their history of dentistry! Better is the ‘History of the Spoken Word’. It is not a new  idea – people have been passing on stories  for ever. Some have been turned into books. However most people do not record their memories and their stories in many instances die with them.

Recording is an easier method than writing but it is often difficult to get people to accept that their memories are worth recording, that they are in fact unique, of interest, and important.

Judy’s interest in recording stories started when she volunteered to do recordings for a Food Project being run by Ashfield. Judy was to learn that it is quite a challenging piece of work to undertake. Ashfield trained 15 people and she was the only person who fully completed her task.

The challenge includes:

  • Identifying new people
  • Setting aside time to do the recording
  • Transcribing the recording (This is more complicated than copying as in some instances this will not make sense)
  • Producing written summaries
  • Agreeing with the interviewee that they have been represented correctly

The format for storing the final material is also important. Radnorshire Museum carried out a project in 1977 when they recorded the memories of local people on cassettes. It is now not possible to listen to these cassettes as there are no longer machines to play the cassettes on, the quality of the recordings has degraded, and they have had to send them to a specialist company at serious expense to see if they can access them.

If we think that in 1000 years time people might want to access the recordings we are making it is impossible to have any idea what systems will be used. We now know that CD’s only have about a 5 year shelf life.

Writing the recordings up takes a lot of time – 1 hour of recording can take 10 hours to transcribe. Even paper degrades and so in the end Archive Paper is the best way to keep a record that will remain accessible to people almost  indefinitely.

Judy has found it best to have a topic to talk about. People find it much more difficult when they are given very open questions to answer.  The sort of question that works best is:

“Tell me about ….”

Judy would encourage everyone to record.

So far she has completed three recordings. She has prioritised older people but younger members of the community have much to add to local history.

Two short extracts from Interviews

  1. In one of the interviews with Ray Price he talked about his early experience of running the shop and of a particular instance that concerned a bullock and Epsom salts. He had a phone call from a farmer asking him if he had bey any chance some Epsom Salts for a Bullock that had swollen up to the point that he looked as though he was going to explode. Ray searched the shop and found that he had some 4oz tubs. The Bullock was saved and he had a customer for life.
  2. Ruby Griffiths spoke about family bread making during the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s . Ruby was the only daughter in a family of 11 children. Bread would be made once a week. A 72 lb bag of Spiller’s flour was put into a galvanised bath, mixed with water and 4 oz of yeast. After kneading the dough would be left for 1 to 2 hours to rise. There was a bread oven in the wall that would take 5ft long shafts of wood. It was hot enough to cook the bread when it was too hot to put your elbow in the oven. The dough was split into lumps and placed on the oven floor. The loaves were about twice the size of shop loaves today. She remembers it as very satisfying bread – unlike bread today.

Geraint thanked Judy for the work she had put into this important project and for her update. He has regretted not getting Tom Price to record more of his memories – he will have to wait until they meet again!!!

A discussion followed on the many ways in which words and pictures would be best held. Paper / Vellum / electronically  / web / cloud / Facebook.

Though there were concerns about moderating it effectively it was agreed that access to the materials would be enhanced by developing a Facebook Presence. Lynda agreed to explore setting this up.

Future Events

Geraint said that Frank Morgan had agreed to show some of his videos in an event similar to the slide show event in last year’s programme.

Shirley is leading on our next meeting on the 3rd October 2016 when she will talk on “The Lives of Agricultural Workers”

Derek will talk about Local Post Offices on 7th November 2016.


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