They be­lieved in the place...’

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po­ten­tial and if we could up­root it and re­lo­cate it some­where like Ponty or Cardiff we’d be laugh­ing.”

I make a joke about ‘the road up’ and Gary sighs.

“The drive here isn’t great, that’s true, and for years they’ve whis­pered about build­ing a by­pass road along the old rail­way line that runs here from Abera­man. Not sure if that’ll ever hap­pen, mind, but it would be great – it would cer­tainly do away with the idea of Cw­ma­man be­ing per­ceived as a ghost town, be­cause it isn’t.

“Just look fur­ther up the vil­lage, they’re build­ing a multi-mil­lion-pound school” – based at the old col­liery site on Glana­man Road, the new pri­mary aims to merge pupils from the ex­ist­ing Cw­ma­man In­fants and Glyn­hafod Ju­niors by this Au­gust – “so the in­vest­ment is clearly there.”

It’s at that point I re­alise I’ve not seen my pho­tog­ra­pher in a while, not since he wan­dered off to take some more shots on one of the up­per floors. When I find him a while later – he’d been search­ing in vain for the equip­ment he left on “a chair some­where” not long after we ar­rived – I ask Gary if any­one’s ever ended up a bit worse of wear on a night out here and got lost in the bow­els of the build­ing.

“Yeah, there have been a few times when we’ve dis­cov­ered some­one some­where they shouldn’t be,” he laughs. “Luck­ily, it’s al­ways been be­fore we’ve locked up for the night, never the morn­ing after.”

As he sets the alarm and locks the front door be­hind him, Gary takes one last long look up and down the road be­fore head­ing home, a short walk away.

“I’ve been com­ing here since I was 12 – I’m 62 now – and I’ve al­ways lived in the vil­lage,” he says.

“I love it here, it’s beau­ti­ful, but it re­ally needs some­where like this, a so­cial cen­tre where every­one can go. And it’s not an old build­ing ei­ther – it wouldn’t take that much to get the place up and run­ning again. It’s like a phoenix, wait­ing for the chance to rise, at least that’s how I see it.

“Yes, some things about it weren’t work­ing, but all that can be eas­ily fixed. I just need some­one with vi­sion who can take hold of the ba­ton and run with it.”

A car drives by, there’s a beep and a wave.

“Maybe if you look at the big­ger pic­ture, shut­ting down was the best de­ci­sion we made,” says Gary.

“Be­cause some­times it takes los­ing some­thing to make peo­ple re­alise what they had. And that it’s been right on their doorstep all along.”

For more details about the auc­tion, which takes place at The Park Inn Ho­tel (for­merly The Moat House) in Llanedeyrn, Cardiff, at 5pm on Tues­day, Fe­bru­ary 13, go to www. see­landco.com

Cw­ma­man In­sti­tute’s hall

RICHARD SWINGLER

The ‘Stute back in the days of the mines

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