Author: South Wales Miners Library, Swansea University
Provider: South Wales Miners' Library
Interview of Wrthur, Will by Egan, David on 24th May 1973.
The interview forms part of Swansea University’s South Wales Miners’ Library collection.
1 audio file (8 min.)
Wrthur, Will: You know running up your shop bill and all that you see. Then of course war broke out and I think one of the biggest tragedies that could have happen to Glynneath, happened after September the 4th. A gang of youngsters got together and I think it was on September the 8th and they were going up to North Wales, I think it was to Wrexham to join the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, and for a day or two like that they were collecting their butties. Four of them were playing for the Glynneath Football Club, as I was, and three were three brothers, Gwilym, that was playing football with me, would be about 22. He was old as me, his brother 20 and then the other brother 18. About thirty six I think left Glynneath to join the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. Six refused to go, but they left two days earlier than the fusilier boys, because they went to walk to Brecon, from Glynneath to Brecon, they joined the South Wales Borderers, and my brother was the mouthpiece for this crowd. When I tell you he wasnâ€™t 17 it will give you some idea how young they were. Two of his pals of course, and three others walked to Brecon, and three of those boys had the D.C.M., my brother the D.C.M., bar, M.M. They went to the Dardanelles, of course, they went from the Dardanelles to different places, and two didnâ€™t come back. Of the thirty eight, I think, that went to the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, only seven came back. They all went the same morning on the Somme, in the big attack, on the Somme. These three brothers were three hauliers in the colliery, driving horses, and one of them was driving to me, that's Gwilym that was playing football with me, the other two driving in a lower district of the same colliery. And those three brothers went of course. They were in the same company. Their mother was a widow, and she lost the three boys all at the same time. Then there were three first cousins that went, and they didnâ€™t come back. So I mean Glynneath had a terrible shock, on that Somme attack, the opening of that Somme attack. Well now, during the war of course, I was away, the wife had gone to Cilfynydd to live with her parents.
Egan, David: You were away at that time, how much did you recognise the change in Glynneath by the time you came back at the end of the war?
Wrthur, Will: Well when I came back, I canâ€™t say that I saw much of a change because the people going to Chapel were going to Chapel, the people that were playing football had been the people playing football or interested in football before. Some, like myself, who had played in the army and had come home. So I mean, I didnâ€™t see a lot of change in the village. And of course in 1920 and 1921 we had that terrible â€˜flu, I think there were another 15 or 16 deaths or more in the village again, where families were taken away. So I mean, I canâ€™t say there was a lot of change, because the personnel of the collieries, in the main, appeared to be the same. There had been I'd say an increase in the manpower, in the numbers employed at Aberpergwm, the numbers employed at the Rock, the numbers employed in the Empire, and Iâ€™d say that there were more employed to up in what we used to call the British Rhondda Colliery, the Rhigos Colliery some called it.
Egan, David: Wages would have been much higher by the time you came back?
Wrthur, Will: The wages in South Wales was four pounds nine and three, hauliers four pound and ninepence, and labourers three pounds thirteen. The owners offered two pound thirteen for colliers, two pound five for hauliers, and one pound eighteen for labourers. That's what caused the strike of course.
Egan, David: The other thing related to the war, you were saying when you came back people were still going to Chapel, but had the war affected the Chapels in any way? I mean, was there a move away from the Chapel?
Wrthur, Will: Well no, I canâ€™t say that. Mind you, there may be men like myself that, as I told you before, had this feeling of doubt, I particularly had it, because I was brought up to go to, I was taken to the Chapel when I was say about two, two and a half years of age. And up to the time I went to Mountain Ash, just before the war I was going to Chapel three times on Sunday as a young man then, say when I was seventeen, eighteen years of age. And when I was thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, I used to be walking up through a street in Glynneath to the Chapel where I was attending with two of my brothers and sisters on my right hand and two on my left hand, they would be from about say, four years of age. And that happened every Sunday school.