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16 October 2014

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My Gran

By Mary Williams
September 2005, Blaenavon
A digital story from Capture Wales

Keeping the family together

Intent on keeping her family together, Mary's grandmother wouldn't let anything stand in her way.

"My Gran and I were very close, with me being the first grandchild. She would take me everywhere with her and I loved her dearly.

In the year 1912 my Gran's life was shattered when her beloved husband was killed underground. The manager of the pit brought his body home in a hessian sack and put a ten shilling note on the table. That was all she had left of him.

Gran was rather a colourful character. She wouldn't accept money from the parish at any cost and was determined to get a job so that she could keep her family together.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered, only recently, that in order to do this she had chained herself to some railings and demanded that the Blaenavon Company employ her although they never employed women. Gran was successful. She was given a heavy job weighing coal. As well as this she looked after her three bachelor brothers and her two children - no mean feat.

The day they buried my Gran was terrible with snow about four feet high. The hearse couldn't manage to fetch the coffin from her house so the funeral directors had to put the coffin on a kind of sledge. The many mourners managed to pull her to her final resting place to be with her husband.

I can remember sitting on my grandmother's knee. I can see her now with her flat cap and a little white pipe, pleasantly happy to be nursing me. I am still known as the granddaughter of Sarah of the coal yard. I am so very proud of her and her bravery in fighting to keep her family together."

Mary Williams

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I'm a retired social services worker.

What is your story about?
It's about my grandmother. I chose to tell this story as I am very interested in my grandmother's life.

What did you find most rewarding about the workshop?
The final films!

Your comments

"Very good read, and a very brave lady. Thought I was the only Avril Rogers who lived here." Avril Rogers Pontypridd.

"I really like reading stories from people who worked in the mines and their families and communities. I'm English, but my great gran came from Wales and now I live with my partner Martin. I really like living in Wales and I'm a writer and I just like reading real life stories of hard times and the strength people had working in those conditions." Lisa Madigan, Penarth.

"Very well presented, the story of a resident of Blaneavon so very much like those in "Rape of the Fair Country", people like that put the 'Great' into Britain. Sadly we will rarley see thier likes again."Lyndon Bishop, Griffithstown.

"Very touching story and a very brave lady.Mary told the story very well, very clear and easy to follow." Avril Rogers Pontypridd Mid Glam S Wales.

"A story of faith,love,hard work and strength of character. This sounds like my Welsh Gram who I adored." Nancy from the USA.

"Ernest holder my granfather and my dad both worked at Big Pit in Blaenavon. i lived in Garn-yr-erw, it was called the black ranks. I'm living in Cardiff now, i try to go up often to put flowers on my dad and my mams graves i love Blaenavon and I'm proud to be a Blaenavon person, love from Maria " to Mary Williams, I'm from Blaenavon.

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