Have you ever visited anywhere with one question, one burning question no less, that you don't get answered (yet) leads you into hours of amazing historical discovery?
Yes? No? Or maybe? Well, today, this was exactly where I found myself. Usually, you'd find me blogging about my Cakey Bakey Exploits, some other bits of crafty-ness, or maybe some general outdoors and garden 'stuff' ... Today was something so different, I must share it with you all.
I visited The Ebbw Vale Works Museum, well, the General Offices as it happens, on the off chance, as you do. In the foyer of the general building lay a plaque (above) and two photographs relating to Company Sergeant Major John (Jack) Henry Williams.
These three images are of the information that can be found to the left of the door in the foyer of the building.
I would like to thank the staff for allowing me to take pictures and for their hospitality.
Now, John Henry Williams (whom I shall, with utmost respect and admiration, informally refer to as 'Jack') was such an amazing WW1 war hero, that he had bestowed upon him, on the 27th October 2016, the honorary freedom of the County Borough of Bleanau Gwent. The thing was, and the thing I failed to understand, was why the County Borough waited to bestow this honour, in perpetuity, on this young man decades after he had died!
I was directed from the foyer area down past the archives room and into the Works Museum. As I walked the corridor, I could see small glimpses of that amazing stuff called 'history and enlightenment' peaking at me from there and abouts.
Now, this blog post will not enlighten you to much historical interest, but what I hope it does is give you a gentle taste of the delights that await you that could quench your thirst for knowledge. For, through the double doors, stood two gentlemen quite willing to answer as much as I had to ask. But, alas, not the exact question - the answer to that will be my next visit.
I asked my question and was directed to a display dedicated to 'Jack' and his fellow war heroes and comrades. Images of pre-war soldiers awaiting deployment, with faces that showed no fear of what they were about to experience, then images of wounded men with eyes so full of sadness, it was hard to comprehend! We can never comprehend.
I don't wish to dwell too much on 'Jack' because this post will simply run on forever, but I must tell you about this place!
The whole history, in pictures, adorn the walls of the steel works, both old and 'new', the 'stuff' salvaged and saved from the junk yards for us all to see. Like the iron works bell, cast in 1807 that rests in the fire place of the old General Managers Office. It intrigued me some, as Ebbw was spelled 'E-B-B-Y', I thought 'Maybe that's the old way of spelling it." - In that split second of a thought, my guide enquired as to whether or not I had noted the spelling mistake. 'A trick question' I thought, but alas, I was correct, E-B-B-Y should have been E-B-B-W.
The hours whisked by, case upon case of artefacts, old measuring instruments, beautiful decorated tins made with Ebbw Vale steel, ingots, badge pins ... Frame upon frame of the processes of steel making, from beginning right to end, the maps, the people, the homes, and the tales, all took up so little time I thought, but hours had passed me! It was exciting! I especially enjoyed the personal thoughts or maybe 'urban legend' as to why the Germans never bombed or hit the steel works - I urge you to find this out for yourself!
My accidental guide was Mr Daniels, and how did I know this? Well, I failed to participate in any introductions at my first meeting as I was focused on 'Jack' and his freedom of the County Borough, but he had enlightened me to so much, including his own bit of personal family history of a 'leaving' or retirement certificate, alas, one year off half a century.
His colleague, whose name I failed to acquire, was also a font on knowledge. I can't thank these gentlemen enough. What a credit the are.
Anyway ... I have so much information I want to share with you, but I know the volunteers at the Works Museum will do a far better job. Even if you're not interested in the industrial heritage of the valleys, you can't help but be intrigued by the social history of the folk from the valley. How they lived, how they worked, how they were paid even. I was like a sponge, the more I found out, the more I needed to know.
Alas, I could waffle on forever about this wonderful place and the knowledgeable people that work there, but I want you to see it for yourself. You need to feel the history you're looking at and soak up the knowledge as well as the atmosphere for yourself! Learning is a wonderful experience. Not coming from the Ebbw Vale valley and knowing nothing, I feel I have to return to learn more - I encourage and urge you to do the same.
You see, I simply cannot do this place of learning any justice. Have I mentioned that you have to see it for yourself?
I actually feel like I'd honestly love to work there.
Now, should Mr Daniels ever read this, and if he remembers me, he left me with a question in return for my own. I hope that I saw and have found part, if not all, the correct answer ... "Time Fleeth Away Without Delay."