They believed in the place...’
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
The ‘Stute back in the days of the mines