Beauty is in the eye of the beholder!

Published: Thursday 2nd Jul 2015

Written by: Ginnie James

I seem to start a high proportion of my blogs with a statement about how lucky I am and this one is not an exception. Mid Wales truly is beautiful and as I was sitting out on the playing field of my daughter’s school as the family fun day was drawing to a close, looking out on the rolling hills covered in green trees that framed my view I was feeling very content.

Every day in work I write and talk about the stunning landscapes and most gorgeous places of Wales but a recent post on the Facebook page ‘A History of Wales’ reminded me that the industrial heritage of Wales is just as much an integral part of our country as out mountains and coastline. The post spoke of the 30th June 1986 being the anniversary of the day the last truck of coal was brought up from the Maerdy Colliery in the Rhondda Valley.

Coming from the South Wales Valleys and a mining family, my husband has talked about remembering the struggles of the miners and the impact of the pits closing in the 1980s. It’s not that I hadn’t come across the industrial history of Wales before; a primary school trip away camping to the Forest of Dean included a trip to Big Pit and the memory of going underground and experiencing a tiny sliver of what working life was like for the miners is still clear. However it wasn’t until I met my husband’s family that I began to appreciate fully the politics and the effect of the decline of the coal industry on whole communities.

When speaking to my Mum about this one day she started singing ‘Rhondda Grey’, a song by Max Boyce. Now, I had only come across Max Boyce in relation to comedic songs about Welsh Rugby and was surprised that Mum would even know who he was, but on listening to the lyrics I could understand how this song must have struck a chord with many in that turbulent time:

One afternoon from a council school

A boy came home to play.

With paints and coloured pencils

And his homework for the day.

We've got to paint the valley, Mam,

For Mrs Davies art.

What colour is the valley, Mam?

And will you help me start?

Shall I paint the Con Club yellow,

And paint the Welfare blue?

Paint old Mr Davies red,

And all his pigeons too?

Paint the man who kept our ball,

Paint him looking sad?

What colour is the valley, Mam?

What colour is it Dad?

'Dad, if Mam goes down the shop

To fetch the milk and bread,

Ask her fetch me back some paint-

Some gold and white and red.

Ask her fetch me back some green,

(The bit I've gots gone hard),

Ask her fetch me back some green;

Ask her, will you Dad?

His father took him by the hand

And they walked down Albion Street,

Down past the old Rock Incline.

To where the council put a seat.

Where old men say at the close of day

'Dy'n ni wedi g'neud ein siar'

And the colour in their faces says

The tools are on the bar.

The tools are on the bar.

And that's the colour that we want

That no shop has ever sold.

You can't buy that in Woolies, lad,

With your reds and greens and gold.

It's a colour you can't buy, lad,

No matter what you pay.

But that's the colour that we want:

It's a sort of Rhondda Grey.

They call it Rhondda Grey.

YouTube this and listen for the full effect!

In 2000 the industrial landscape of Blaenafon, which includes the National Big Pit Mining Museum, was designated a World Heritage Site and is absolutely well worth a visit. It may not be traditionally pretty but come with an open mind and beauty can be found in the most unexpected places. The landscape attests to a way of life that was so important to the development of the industry and empire of our island and a way of life that was hard but from which grew loving communities and will never be forgotten.

Ginnie James
Ginnie James



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