How the Valleys marked the festive season 100 years ago
Tom Houghton looks at how Christmas was celebrated in the Valleys 100 years ago this month, as well as some of the most eyecatching local news stories of the 1917 festive season...
THE spirit of Christmas has always been clear to see in the South Wales Valleys, but there are some notable differences between celebrations in the current era and 100 years ago – the days of the First World War.
As times have changed, kind deeds for the less fortunate have remained.
The Rhondda Leader reported on December 29 that in spite of the war and economic conditions, the Guardians of Pontypridd Union gave the wounded soldiers and patients at Llwynypia Homes the “usual Christmas treat” in the form of a dinner of roast beef and pork, potatoes and parsnips and plum pudding.
Each patient at the hospital was also given apples, sweets and tobacco.
“The corridors and wards at the Infirmary had all been gaily decorated with evergreens, mottoes and suitable greetings,” the report read.
The wounded heroes in residence there were “royally entertained”, it added.
One of the Rhondda’s main Christmas events of that year was the Cantata – a choir event – that took place in Tonyrefail.
The event happened on December 22, and despite the absence of the “unmissable” Guardian Davies, who had been in an accident earlier that day, it “surpassed itself”.
Despite the festivities, it was not all good Christmas news in the Rhondda Leader that year.
Among the reports of crime in the paper dated December 29 include a Christmas Eve burglary in Treorchy.
The report read: “A daring burglary occurred at the house of Miss Mary Davies, Collena Street, on Christmas Eve. “It appears that in the afternoon Miss Davies had raised a certain sum of her Post Office savings and deposited it in a chest of drawers in her bedroom.”
The story reported that evening, she left the house having secured the doors, but when she returned, the premises had been entered from the rear.
The burglars had searched her property, and £6 10s of her money, as well as a “quantity of cigars” had gone missing.
The report added: “A poker was found on the bed, suggesting that the unwelcome visitor must have been armed, and there were footprints on a couch, which further suggested that it had been used to expedite an exit through the kitchen window. The police are making inquiries.”
The Aberdare Leader’s opinionated Local Chatter section on December 29 said conditions of war at the time made it difficult to observe Christmas Day in “the old fashioned way”, but that “on the whole the spirit of Christmas pervaded most homes, especially our hospitals and cottage homes and other public institutions”.
On Christmas Day and Boxing Day in the town, the annual grand concert was held at Siloa Cong Chapel, as well as an organ recital at Ynysllwyd B Chapel.
On Boxing Day, the well-known organist David Clegg paid his third visit to Bethel Congregation Chapel in Trecynon, while there was also a competitive concert at Heol y Felin Chapel, and a “great musical event” at Cwmaman on Christmas Day.
But there was also plenty of petty crime.
In Aberdare, that included one by greengrocer and general dealer, Bert Short, reported in the Aberdare Leader on December 22.
Short, of 209 Cardiff Road, Aberaman, was summoned to Aberdare District Council after he failed to exhibit a list of prices of butter at his shop.
PC Bennett told the court in consequence of a complaint, he visited the shop and saw a boy named Clifford Jones being served with a pound of butter at 2s 4d.
The officer told Short he had received a complaint, and asked him where his price-list was, to which the defendant replied “that he only had a little butter to sell”.
Short, who pleaded guilty, said a price list had now been put up, and was fined 40s.
Elsewhere, a namecalling row between two women went all the way to court.
In an article headlined “Aberaman women’s squabbles”, it was revealed that Elizabeth Berryman had been summoned by Gertrude Chiplin for indecent language.
The pair lived in Margaret Street in Aberaman, and a lawyer defending Ms Chiplin said the language used had been “disgraceful, and he hoped the bench would do their utmost to discourage such conduct”.
The story ran that on December 11, she went to the defendant’s door, where her children were on the pavement outside.
She said Berryman used the language, before a witness answered and told her not to call her “rotten”, because “she was as clean as her”.
Berryman was fined 10s, with the parties bound over to keep the peace for six months.