Resolfen History Society Christmas Members Night

Resolfen History Society Christmas Members Night

Some years ago the History Society made the decision to not have a formal speaker in the December meeting, owing to the many counter attractions during this festive month usually led to a lower attendance than usual. This year some eighteen members were present and hopefully the event was enjoyed by all.

The meeting began with a contribution by David Woosnam who had been researching his family tree. His family line despite being born in London was almost exclusively Welsh, as his family had moved to England during the 1930’s from the Garw valley as part of the huge movement of population during the Great Depression. His ancestry hailed from Llandinam, home of the famous industrialist David Davies, and also concurs with another demographic change as the rural population of Wales poured into the newly industrialised valleys of the south. However, when he and his Garnant born wife, Olwen, retired to Ewenny near Bridgend , his searches revealed that he was distantly related to his neighbour and also by marriage was related to the Llewelyn family of Resolven. 

Mrs Anne Morgan was the second contributor, and following on last month’s talk on Evacuees, she gave a fuller version of her experience as an evacuated child. Her father was a serviceman with the Welsh Guards at the outbreak of the second world war,and Anne spent her days being decanted from the South East of England to her grandmother’s house in Coronation Avenue. During part of this period she spent her time living with her mother in a huge mansion. It was fascinating to hear the difference in the standard of living encountered, with the mansion having many of the modern accessories which we now take for granted compared with the basic necessities in her grandmother’s basic though loving home. 

The third contributor was Trefor Jones who as a former head of a geography department and A Level examiner in Geography, decided to give a historian’s view of climate change. Mr Jones, showed by way of a powerpoint demonstration that changes (often very abrupt ones) are common occurrences in the geological record over the last two million years, when the earth has been subject to ice ages. Concentrating on the causes of climate change during the Holocene (the period since the end of the last ice age) he showed that periods of exploration and civilizations were coincident with warmer periods including the Roman Empire and the Renaissance. Whereas colder periods were usually periods coincident with war and famine, such as was shown during the last major cold snap known as the Little Ice Age, which ended in the mid-19th century. Without straying into the modern more contentious man assisted climate change in the week of the COP global conference in Madrid, he ended by saying that until the mid-1980s, climate change was based on a “dry as dust” approach by pioneers such as H.H. Lamb, who analysed the numerical data for what had definitely happened, however the modern and very popular approach uses computer models which give a projection of what is likely to happen. 

The last formal item included a brief history of Christmas as outlined in the December edition of St David’s Church magazine. Contrary to common belief, Jesus is unlikely to have been born on the 25th of December, which may have more to do with Roman tradition and the fact that both Charlemagne (800 A.D.) and William the Conqueror (1066 A.D.) were crowned on that date. Epiphany, on the 6th of January would seem to be a more likely date. In addition, Christmas has oscillated from being a largely religious to a largely secular revel, on several occasions. Indeed the Puritans including Oliver Cromwell in the 17th century banned Christmas for many years. Central to this is the fused character of Father Christmas and Santa Claus. St Nicholas was a bishop in what is now Turkey in the fifth century and spent the Christmas period doing good works, Father Christmas on the other hand is a secular character from the 18th century (usually portrayed in green) and is associated with the drunkenness and excess of the festive period. The fusion of both, may have more to do with marketing during the 19th century (possibly the red coat belongs to a well-known cola brand) and has lain the base for our modern version of Christmas.

Members’ night concluded with the annual quiz accompanied with mulled wine and minced pies. This year, it was decided that the teams would keep their own score, this led to a shambles (the wine?) and the chocolates for the winners was distributed between all the members!