Monday, October 10, 2016

For a Friend: Pontycymer and Connectedness

The jury seems to be out on the spelling of this town's name. is it Pontycymer or Pontycymmer? It's pronounced, as well as I can tell, Punt-tee-COME-er. I googled the pronunciation and have to tell you, the online pronunciation is wrong according to how we were told it is said by the people who live there. The spelling is also debatable, being spelled with a single or double m almost interchangeably. I understand that the single m is the correct spelling, but the other persists. For more on Welsh pronunciation, look here.

This side trip was made for an online friend whose father was born in Pontycymer. I looked on the map and saw that this town was about an hour out of our way, one way--and the only way out seemed to be to backtrack the way we'd come in. But we had all day to get to our next destination, and we were intrigued by the town's history as a coal mining town and its location so far up the Garw valley. So we set the SatNav and off we went. The way there took us close to Cardiff, the capital of Wales. We really did not want to go there; neither of us enjoy cities, particularly large ones at rush hour.

Fortunately we just skirted the city's edge, and then we were off on narrow, twisting roads, where we feel more comfortable. The SatNav map often looked like this:

We did find the town, though, right after we passed through Pantygog (I love Welsh placenames).

The road basically deadends into the mountain ahead, that was mostly shrouded in fog when we were there.

It was a busy morning in town, and not easy to find parking. We found a 20-minute space, and were worried about getting a ticket, but locals assured us we'd be okay for at least an hour. Whew.

A wide variety of shops line the streets; this one with the wide doorway made me wonder if it led to the old livery stables.

A small park, planted with three young trees, stands at the entrance to town. I walked up to look at it, and found it was a touching memorial to a recent Mid-East war soldier.

We stopped in a shop with collectibles of all kinds and met owner Wayne and his mother, Glenys Steel. She was full of stories about the town, and Wayne and Larry talked motorcycles. What fun we had there! I came out with a spoon for my West Virginia friend and a book and a plaque for me. Again, I could have filled the car, but I was being astonishingly careful for a change.

Glenys told us about a memorial to victims of a mining disaster at the Lluest Colliery on August 18, 1899, so we kept an eye out for it on our way out of town. Somehow we missed it on the way in.

Across the road from the memorial, Larry pointed out the old road leading to the mine.

The memorial is a simple, old-fashioned mining cart, the type used when miners pulled them by hand, loaded with coal. A brass plate lists the names of the men killed in the mine.

So many, so young. you can read their names on this website.

Part of the old mine loading area across the road. There are pictures of what this mine looked like on this webpage.

 As we left Pontycymer, green hills once again embraced us. Healing, somehow, after the sadness of the memorial we'd just visited.

 Many Welsh miners moved to America seeking a better life, and many of them ended up in West Virginia and other Appalachian coal-producing states.  Glenys gave me contact information for the town's historian, which I have passed on to my friend. This out-of-the-way trip was time well spent, meeting new friends and realizing how linked we all really are.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


Mac n' Janet said...

Interesting post, each time we visit Wales we struggle over the pronunciation of names

Brian said...

We have a Facebook page for the last colliery in the valley
Garw Colliery, the last pit in the Garw Valley
Hope you enjoy.
I live away from there and was nice to see your photos

Brian said...

Garw / Ffaldau Colliery, the last pit in the Garw Valley

Granny Sue said...

Thank you, Brian! I will check on that webpage. It's a fascinating history.

wniddim ? said...

the correct spelling for pontycymmer is with two MM`s the reason the sign post has only one is because bridgend council thought they could save money by only putting one M on the sign and because of the sign it has caused some confusion with the spelling of the village .

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