A GROUP of men from Nantyglo have recreated a series of photographs they originally took back in the 1980s as a homage to their happy times growing up in the north Gwent town.

The men - Jon Avon, 56, Chris Preddy, 56, Gary Howells, 56 and Martin Sims, 57 - were boyhood friends.

Chris, Jon and Martin were all near neighbours on New Road, Nantyglo, and Gary lived a little further up the road in Queen Street, Nantyglo.

Chris, Jon and Martin attended Nantyglo Junior School and Gary attended Garnfach Infants then Coed Cae Junior School.

From 1976 they shared the same high schools, Hafod-y-Ddol junior comprehensive school, then Nantyglo Senior Comprehensive.

All but Coed Cae school no longer exist. The others have been demolished and banished to history and memory.

Chris Preddy said: "One of are connective interests has always been technology and creative pursuits. We were lucky to have an inspirational teacher in Nantyglo Comprehensive, Peter James, whose subjects were maths and computer science. He was also interested in electronics, chess and multimedia and had a darkroom in school and video equipment that was used to film school events, such a as performances and sports events.

"These extra curriculum activities were club based and the group of like minded students had a fantastic opportunity to experience these activities.

"Mr James also had his own light aircraft. Those who were interested could experience flights in the plane and also other activities at the airfield near Talgarth including gliding and parascending. You have to remember that at this time, 1979 to 1983, things like these were normally only available to students in fee paying schools. So we have always classed ourselves as fortunate for these opportunities."

At the time the original photographs were taken, Gary was the one in the group who developed his photography skills. He had a home darkroom.

Chris said: "Like many other valleys communities at the time, Nantyglo was one built on a proud and difficult industrial heritage, which created a unique bond, that has mostly dissipated since then.

"New Road, Nantyglo was a diverse entity during our formative years. We had a high portion of middle class professions - doctors, vicars teachers and police officers, alongside traditional working class occupations.

"Gary's father was a miner while my father worked at the Dunlop Semtex factory in Brynmawr as a fitter. Martin's father was a chief electrician at Ebbw Vale Steel Works and Jon's was an executive with South Wales Electricity Board.

"We had a wonderful childhood that was full of adventure and laughter, surrounded by interesting characters - something we have always held in high esteem.

"In the intervening years, things have inevitably changed, but we have always endeavoured to connect whenever we can.

"The idea for the photos was as an homage to those times. It was so good to revisit all those spots we spent so much time at all that time ago.

"The two big changes are obviously many of the locals have now gone, and the amount of trees that have grown in that time."

Martin becam an apprentice electrician with British Steel on leaving school and now lectures in electrical engineering with a particular interest in aircraft.

He is an accomplished microlight pilot and lives in Llanelli Hill with his wife and two daughters.

Jon studied Countryside Management and recently retired as manager of a country park in Devon. He now works part time as a warden on Dartmoor, and lives in Devon.

Gary has been in the civil service since leaving school and lives in Ebbw Vale with his wife. They have a grown up son and daughter.


Chris did a training scheme with British Steel when he left school.

He said: "This was at the time the industry was in decline, so there were no permanent opportunities. I then did a bricklaying apprenticeship with the local authority. Later I went to university and became a Mental Health Nurse, which I have done for the past 24 years, specialising in Child And Adolescent Mental Health."

He worked with British Forces families in Germany and Cyprus for 12 years.

He said: "I returned in 2019 and live in Cwmcelyn. I have three grown up children, and three grandchildren. I currently work in Merthyr."

He said: "All our families think we are crazy recreating these pictures, but they do like the fact we have all remained so close. Hopefully we can inspire others to revisit their childhoods and connections."

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