The power of the spoken word With the closure of Oakdale Colliery in 1989 the era of deep coal mines in Islwyn came to a close. However, their effect on the valleys is still being felt. Many clubs and societies were founded by the efforts of miners and their families.
The history of the South Wales valleys has regularly been passed on through word of mouth. However, as people get older we face a real danger that this tradition could be lost forever.
This was brought home to me recently by students at Coleg Gwent in Crosskeys who made a film about the Black Vein Colliery disaster, a pit explosion in Risca which took the lives of 142 men and boys in 1860. Sadly, this event has been largely forgotten with the memorial at the site becoming overgrown and only re-discovered in 2010.
The Independent Living Skills students (ILS), who were behind the film, are determined that those who lost their lives are remembered, attempting to raise money for a memorial plaque and bench at the site.
This week I gave a lecture to the Fleur-de-Lys history society about former Merthyr MP, SO Davies and the valleys communities in which he lived his life. Afterwards, everyone had memories about their experience of the mines. It got me thinking that unless we begin recording our experiences these stories will be gone.
When researching or reading history our first stop is old documents or history books which tend to focus on political giants and world changing events.. Very often it is the stories of people who lived through different times and experienced historical events first hand that bring that time back to life.
To me, in this age of I-pads, I-phones and other multi-media devices we have a unique opportunity to record the experiences of people which can provide us with a different perspective on our past, we just cannot get through a book or film.
If everybody took an hour to sit down with an older family member, neighbour or friend and record their life story we can give younger generations the opportunity to re-live our history and discover their heritage.
If more of us did this I hope the memory of all those who lost their lives in disasters like the Black Vein Colliery will be properly remembered by future generations.