Amgueddfa Blog: Diwydiant a Trafnidiaeth

Yn ystod mis Medi 2019, cwblhawyd gwaith atgyweirio, glanhau a phaentio ar offer weindio Big Pit. Gwyliwch y broses yn y ffilm timelapse isod.

Mae angen gwaith adfer ar yr offer i osgoi niwed a chyrydu. Mae’r gwaith yn sicrhau bod ymwelwyr yn medru parhau i fwynhau profiad tanddaearol unigryw'r Amgueddfa, a bod Big Pit yn medru parhau i adrodd hanes pwysig dylanwad y pyllau glo ar gymunedau, y gymdeithas a'r byd diwydiannol.

Mae'r ffilm hon am yr offer weindio yn dangos sut mae popeth yn gweithio:

Cefnogir y project gan Gronfa Treftadaeth y Loteri Genedlaethol a grant adfer gan y Gymdeithas Archaeoleg Ddiwydiannol.

Saturday 6th October 2019 8.30am

I took my breakfast cereal into the living room and looked out at the sky for any hint of what the weather might do. It had been raining and very windy for days, the remnants of hurricane ‘Lorenzo’ had been battering Wales all week. The sky was cloudy, a hint of drizzle against the glass and the weeping willow in our front garden was doing a samba.

Today I had more than a passing interest in the forecast as I had a boat trip planned for later that morning, in a very special boat.

The Ferryside Lifeboat to be precise, a 6.4 metre long RIB, the ‘Freemason’ which cost about £90,000, £50,000 of which was donated by the Freemasons, hence the name.

The crew had bought all new safety suits and gear and had offered the museum one of their old suits for our maritime collection. We jumped at the chance to acquire this very important piece of our seagoing history. One of the crew members is Mark Lucas who happens to be Curator of Wool at the National Woollen Museum in Drefach Velindre, Carmarthenshire and it was at his suggestion that the suit be donated to us. The lifeboat crew were running sea trials that morning and had asked me to go along to experience the conditions for myself and collect the gear.

We have three lifeboats in the National Collection, two of these have wooden hulls and in 2011 we collected a RIB (rigid hull inflatable boat) from Atlantic College in St Donats, where the original RIB design was created and patented by the college. So the fact that the suit was from a RIB crew made it even more special.

Eleven o’clock found us at the Lifeboat Station on the Towy Estuary in Ferryside. The Ferryside Lifeboat is an independent station, as are many around our coastline, and not funded by the RNLI. Just like the RNLI they are run by volunteers and rely on donations and grants.

The crew were gathering and getting changed into their ‘new’ suits and they had one for me to wear too. Now, getting into a ‘dry suit’ is no easy task, especially for a novice like me. To say it was a struggle is an understatement, and after ten minutes of performing like a contortionist and the ensemble heckling me that

‘people are drowning come on!’

It was then they decided that I needed a bigger suit. Hmm…

The weather by this time wasn’t too bad, a slight wind and light rain and the estuary looked fairly calm, this was indicated by the fact that the new ferry was sailing between Llansteffan and Ferryside.

‘That looks OK, not too rough’ I thought to myself, and it was OK in the estuary…

The giant Talus tractor pushed the lifeboat the ‘Freemason’ down the slipway and into the water. I was already installed by this point having been pushed unceremoniously over the rubber tube by the crew as I struggled to climb aboard in an extra 20 kilos of suit and gear. The rest of the crew climbed aboard (easily) and we set off.

As I thought the estuary was fairly quiet, but the coxswain pointed out to sea where I could see large white breakers rolling in over a sandbar which runs roughly from Laugharne to St Ishmaels.

‘That’s where we are going, it’s a bit lively out there, all good fun though’.

It was very lively. The crew put the boat through its paces doing figure eights and three-sixty manoeuvres, all at high speed whilst I hung on tightly and braced myself against the G-force of the turns. The boat will do 30 knots flat out, about 26 miles an hour, which doesn’t seem fast in a car on the road but in a boat is a different matter.

I kept thinking how brave these guys are to come out in all weathers and try and rescue people. The sea we were in wasn’t that rough and it was broad daylight. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like in a gale and in the dark.

Eventually we headed in and back to the comparatively flat calm of the river Towy. My trip was over and what an experience!

We headed for the Lifeboat Station and the crew presented me with a dry suit, life jacket, radio and GPS locator which are now part of the National Collection and on display at the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea.

A few years ago the chemical works BP Baglan Bay called me and said they were clearing out the offices as the site was closing and would I like to see if the museum wanted any objects for our Modern Industry collection?

I couldn’t wait to go and have a look, and as there was quite a lot to go through I took our museum van in the hope of a few accessions.

There were lots of photographs, some in frames, some big aerial photos too. There were overalls, hats and jackets with logos on them – just the sort of things that tell a great story when exhibited for displays.

There were tools specific to the industry and other bits and pieces like signs and gauges.

I loaded a few things in the van to take back to the museum so I could go through them to decide what we would like to keep and what should be returned.

But as I was about to leave they called me back and asked if I wanted the paintings? I hadn’t noticed these as they were covered in bubble wrap and stood against a wall.

One of the paintings was quite big, about 4’6”x 6’ (1.5 x 2.1m) and I couldn’t see the subject for the wrapping. The other was much smaller about 2’ x 2’6” (0.6 x 0.76m). I was told the bigger one was an oil painting of Baglan Bay at Night and the smaller one a watercolour of a power station. I put them in the van, got the paperwork signed and left for our stores in Nantgarw where I could spread things out and examine them properly.

About a week went by and I still hadn’t looked at the paintings as I had been going through all the other objects first.

When I did take the bubble wrap off I was really surprised by the quality of both paintings. The oil painting was really striking and the BP staff had told me that it had hung in the office since the 1960s.

I looked for a painter’s signature and then the real surprise hit me! In the bottom corner was ‘Vicari’.

Bells rang deep in my head, where did I know that name from? A quick internet search answered that. The richest living artist in the world. The official Gulf War artist. Artist to the Saudi Royal family. And born in Port Talbot. This fitted my collecting policy perfectly, being an industrial scene in Wales painted by a Welsh artist. The only snag from my point of view was that it could be quite valuable and BP might want to keep it.

I contacted them straight away and told them about the artist and its possible value. One of their directors, David, called me and told me that they were happy it would be going to the National Museum of Wales and he couldn’t think of a better place for it.  This generosity meant that we could save a national treasure for future generations.

So far we had treated the painting as if it were a genuine ‘Vicari’, but was it really?

I contacted the ‘Vicari’ website and sent them an image of our painting asking them if they could confirm if Andrew had painted it.

I checked my email every day. No replies. How else could we confirm this if they didn’t get back to us?

One sunny morning about three weeks later my phone rang. I could tell from the number it was someone in France calling. This was not unusual as we have many visits from French schools and as my schoolboy French is just about good enough to get by, my number was very often given to schools as a contact.

After answering with who I was, a deep, rich voice said:

‘Ah, Andrew here, I hear you’ve found the lost Vicari’

I couldn’t believe it! Andrew Vicari calling me from his home in France! To say I was flabbergasted is an understatement!

Andrew told me he had painted Baglan in the early 1960s and was really glad of the commission at the time (when he wasn’t so well known). We spoke for about half an hour about all sorts of things and he went on to tell me an incredible  story from 1966.

Andrew had painted a picture that was to be auctioned for the Aberfan Disaster Appeal and went along to the auction in Cardiff. Before it got underway, two burly men approached Andrew and said someone needed to talk to him in private. He was shown to a room and waiting there were two more men in sharp suits, looking a bit ‘dodgy’ (his words). These two told him they wanted to buy the painting, and asked how much did he want for it? He told them that it wasn’t his to sell as he’d given to the appeal and it was out of his hands. They kept on that they wanted it and he needed to get it for them. They were getting more and more insistent. After repeating that he couldn’t a number of times, they finally left, to Andrew’s relief.

It turned out that they were the Kray twins! He laughed ‘I’m one of the few people to have said ‘no’ to the Kray twins and lived to tell the tale!’

He told me that he was very happy his painting was going to be in the National collection and that he would do anything for Wales!

We never had the chance to speak again; sadly Andrew died in Swansea, in 2016 aged 84. It’s lovely that we have such incredible paintings to remember him by.

This story happened in 2009 and the painting has been in our stores in Nantgarw where is has been conserved and a new glazed frame made. We’ve been waiting for a chance to exhibit it and finally it will happen.

You can see the painting as part of an Andrew Vicari exhibition from 13th July to 3rd November 2019 at the National Waterfront Museum, Swansea.

Rydym wedi dewis manganîs i sôn amdano ym mis Chwefror fel rhan o flwyddyn ryngwladol tabl cyfnodol yr elfennau cemegol. Efallai nad yw manganîs yn un o’r elfennau sy’n neidio i’r meddwl wrth sôn am Gymru ond mae’n bwysig iawn i Gymru ac, yn wir, i Ynysoedd Prydain.

Pan fydd yn ymddangos yn naturiol, mae’r elfen fetelig manganîs (symbol cemegol – Mn, rhif atomig 25), bob amser yn digwydd mewn cyfuniad ag elfennau eraill yn yr hyn a elwir gan wyddonwyr yn ‘gyfansoddion’.

Ymhell cyn y flwyddyn 1774, pan gafodd metel manganîs pur ei arunigo gyntaf a’i gydnabod yn elfen newydd gan y cemegydd o Sweden, Johan Gottlieb Gahn, gwelwyd bod cyfansoddion oedd yn cynnwys manganîs yn ddefnyddiol iawn mewn prosesau diwydiannol. Yn wir, gwyddom fod hen wareiddiadau fel yr Eifftiaid a’r Rhufeiniaid wedi defnyddio manganîs deuocsid i dynnu lliw o wydr.

Yng Nghymru, mae ocsidau manganîs yn digwydd mewn nifer o wahanol gefndiroedd daearegol ond ni ddechreuwyd cloddio amdanynt tan ddechrau'r 19eg ganrif pan ddaeth y dyddodion a oedd ar gael yn fwy hwylus yn Lloegr i ben. Gan mai ychydig o ocsidau manganîs oedd ar gael iddynt, dechreuodd y diwydiant gwydr chwilio ymhellach, mewn rhannau mwy anghysbell o Ynysoedd Prydain, yn cynnwys rhannau o ogledd Cymru.

Erbyn yr 1840au roedd ocsidau manganîs duon wedi’u canfod, a’u cloddio, yn y Bermo ac ardal yr Arennig yn Sir Feirionnydd, ac yn y Rhiw a Chlynnog Fawr yn Sir Gaernarfon. Roedd y dyddodion hyn i gyd yn fychan ac yn gymharol anghynhyrchiol, ond am resymau hollol wahanol.

Yn achos y Bermo a’r Rhiw, buan iawn yr oedd yr ocsidau manganîs duon, meddal, cyfoethog ar wyneb y tir yn troi’n graig galed, debyg i fflint, ddim ond ychydig ddegau o fetrau o dan yr wyneb. Yn y ddau leoliad, nid oedd y bobl yn gwybod am unrhyw ddiben i'r graig galed isod a rhoddwyd y gorau i gloddio, ond nid dyma oedd diwedd y stori.

Daw’r cofnod cynharaf o gloddio am fanganîs yn ardal yr Arennig o 1823 pan dalwyd breindaliadau am fanganîs o “Llanecil mines” (ym mhlwyf Llanycil y mae’r Arennig). Bu cloddio achlysurol mewn nifer o fwyngloddiau a chloddiadau prawf yn yr ardal tan ddechrau’r 20fed ganrif. Mae’r ocsidau manganîs duon hyn i’w cael mewn holltau cul, serth neu wythiennau, sy'n torri trwy greigiau folcanig hynafol o'r oes Ordofigaidd – a elwir yn 'twffau llif lludw'. Er mwyn cyrraedd y gwythiennau cul, serth hyn mae angen cloddio twnelau a suddo siafftiau, ac mae hynny’n fater costus. Buddsoddwyd cryn dipyn o arian yn rhai o’r mwyngloddiau ond y broblem fawr oedd bod angen cludo’r manganîs yn bell i’r gwaith gwydr yn St Helens, ger Lerpwl, ac i rannau eraill o Loegr.

Dim ond ychydig gannoedd o dunelli o’r mwyn a werthwyd i gyd ond roedd bob amser yn cael ei gyfrif yn fwyn o ansawdd da – yn cynnwys dros 70% o fanganîs ocsid. O safbwynt mwynoleg, disgrifiwyd y mwyn fel ‘psilomelan’ – term a ddefnyddir am unrhyw fanganîs ocsid caled, anhysbys, sy’n debyg i swp o rawnwin. Dangosodd astudiaethau dadansoddol modern ei fod yn cynnwys, yn bennaf, sawl haen o cryptomelan a holandit (ocsid manganîs potasiwm ac ocsid manganîs bariwm yn y drefn honno.)

Yn 1827 cafodd manganîs ei ddarganfod yn y Rhiw am y tro cyntaf. Cafodd ei brofi a gwelwyd ei fod yn addas i wneud halen cannu. Anfonwyd samplau at gwmnïau yn Lloegr, yr Alban, Iwerddon, yr Almaen a Rwsia ac, yn yr 1850au, roedd llwythi’n cael eu hanfon ar longau i Lerpwl a Runcorn.

Yn ystod yr 1930au, dywedir bod ocsidau manganîs o'r Bermo wedi’u hanfon i Glasgow i gannu gwydr, ond ychydig iawn o ddyddodion oedd ar gael a daethant i ben o fewn degawd.

Fel sy’n digwydd mor aml, mae datblygiadau gwyddonol yn creu cyfleoedd newydd ac yn canfod diben i ddeunyddiau a oedd gynt yn ddiwerth. Dyna’n union a ddigwyddodd gyda’r creigiau caled, tebyg i fflint, a ganfuwyd o dan yr haen arwynebol o ocsidau manganîs duon ger y Bermo ac yn y Rhiw. Yn y Bermo, gwelwyd bod y graig galed wedi’i gwneud o haenau o graig waddodol a ffurfiwyd ar wely môr dwfn yn y cyfnod Cambriaidd tua 520 miliwn o flynyddoedd yn ôl. Mae 28% ohoni yn fanganîs, ond mae ar ffurf silicadau a charbonadau sy'n ddiwerth ar gyfer gwneud gwydr. Fodd bynnag, tua dechrau’r 1880au, sylweddolwyd bod y graig galed hon oedd yn cynnwys manganîs yn beth delfrydol i’w roi mewn ffwrneisi chwyth i gynhyrchu dur manganîs cryf iawn.

Roedd un o gamau’r broses hon yn cynnwys creu aloion o haearn a manganîs o gyfrannedd benodol. Mae gan yr Amgueddfa enghreifftiau o ‘raddau’ gwahanol yr aloion haearn a manganîs o gasgliad bychan William Terrill (1845-1901) a oedd yn brofwr metel cemegol yn Abertawe.

Agorwyd nifer o fwyngloddiau mewn cyfnod byr ar draws y Rhinogydd, i mewn tua’r wlad o’r Bermo a Harlech, gan gloddio mewn gwely o graig 12 modfedd o drwch yn cynnwys llawer o fanganîs. Erbyn hydref 1886, roedd pedwar mwynglawdd yn cynhyrchu cyfanswm o 400 tunnell o fwyn bob wythnos ac, erbyn 1891, roedd 21 o fwyngloddiau’n gweithio. Oherwydd pwysigrwydd y diwydiant, gosodwyd rhwydwaith eang o draciau dros beth o dir garwaf Cymru. Datblygwyd dulliau anarferol o gloddio’r gwely mwyn tanddaearol a oedd yn aml ar oleddf bas, mewn ‘ystafelloedd’ mawr, gan adael colofnau o’r mwyn yn eu lle i gynnal y to. Roedd darnau o graig gwastraff yn cael eu pentyrru’n daclus ar y llethrau y tu allan i’r mwyngloddiau mewn ffordd na welwyd yn unman arall ym Mhrydain.

Fodd bynnag, nid oedd y mwyn cystal â mwyn o dramor. Felly, dechreuwyd cau’r mwyngloddiau, gyda’r olaf yn cau yn 1928. Cynhyrchwyd cyfanswm o 101,000 tunnell o fwyn o’r mwyngloddiau hyn. Roedd yr ocsidau manganîs duon a gloddiwyd gyntaf yn y Bermo yn rhan o gramen fain a ffurfiwyd trwy ocsidiad yn yr 11,000 o flynyddoedd ers diwedd yr oes iâ ddiwethaf trwy addasu’r carbonadau manganîs mewn cyswllt â dŵr glaw ac aer.

Charles designed, and built a monoplane around 1906, taught himself to fly and flew the plane between 1907 and 1910. Although no photographic evidence of this exists, the Charles Horace Watkins Monoplane Special, now better known as the ‘Robin Goch’ or ‘Red Robin’ has a strong claim to be the first aeroplane to fly in Wales.

Charles lived in Cardiff and his workshop can still be found a stone’s throw from Cardiff University. It was here he built the plane making use of everyday parts that he converted for his needs. For instance, a kitchen chair for the pilot’s seat; a brass domestic light switch on the dashboard; an egg timer as a navigation aid; a ball bearing in a cradle to tell if the plane was flying level and two weights dangling on string under the aircraft, one 20 feet long and one 10 feet long so he knew how far off the ground he was when landing!     

In 2010 I interviewed two brothers, Michael and Sean Gomez, whose family lived next door to Mr Watkins. The brothers, who were in their 70s, remembered Charles fondly and told me many tales of what it was like in the 1950s for two young boys growing up next door to the ‘great inventor’. Here is an extract of my conversation with them.

He always had time for us and he was always trying to do something new (he would have been in his late 60s at this time). We were fascinated going there, the projects he was working on seemed totally out of this world, and quite possibly one was! He showed us a mock-up of a flying saucer he’d built. When we asked him how it would fly he replied “It’s top secret!” We couldn’t tell if he meant it or whether he was working on a secret project as the saucer seemed to work on the same principle as a hovercraft with fans providing downward thrust and other fans along the sides for direction.

He was very interested in project ‘ZETA’ – obtaining energy from water (Zero Energy Thermonuclear Reactor). He had diagrams all over his walls and said he was being consulted on this and also the Concorde project.

He was always inventing something every time we met him. During the war he came up with an idea to deflect headlights of cars down to just in front of the vehicle. This was tested by South Wales Police on behalf of the MoD.

One thing that stands out about his workshop is that he had about thirty cuckoo clocks and Westminster chiming clocks. He would faithfully wind them up every day and when it came to the hour they all went off at slightly different times! You had this cacophony of sound!

He lived with his sister who was profoundly deaf so he came up with an idea whereby if the doorbell was pushed a beam of light went all the way to the end of the hall where it reflected off various mirrors until it reached the kitchen so his sister could see it!

He invented a machine from which he made most of his money. In those days spectacle frames were made of tortoiseshell and being relatively brittle, typically they would snap just behind the hinge. So, I remember in his middle room he had hundreds of cardboard boxes containing the arms of these glasses.

He’d invented some sort of ultra-sound machine. He’d put the two arms of the specs into this tiny machine and he’d bring the nozzle down on it. The machine had lots of coils of wires and all sorts of strange things and it hummed and buzzed. And ‘hey presto’ when it came out you couldn’t see where the join was – it was seamless. Of course ultrasonic welding is quite common now for welding plastics.

He had spectacles from opticians from all over the country and he made a tremendous amount of money from it. I remember seeing a pile of white five pound notes on his table just tied up with string. It seemed to me as a boy quite a lot, but in reality was probably only a couple of thousand (pounds) still a lot of money then though. He didn’t believe in banks! I don’t think he had a bank account, he kept all his money at home.

He also had a radio, that he built himself, which could receive American radio stations. This was quite something at that time. He took it apart one day and let me have a look at it and it had about fifteen valves!

He didn’t show the monoplane to anyone, although we nagged constantly to see it. Then one day he told us if we came round on Saturday we could see it. The amazing thing was that this man had a plane in his garage when most people didn’t have cars!

He had the prop hanging up on the wall and we asked him where he got it from because at that time you couldn’t just get one from anywhere? He told us he’d carved it himself out of a piece of sapele. When we asked how he knew the shape to make it he replied “Well one just knows these things you see”

We questioned him about how he learned to fly and he said “I just taught myself. I wasn’t worried about getting it up, but I was worried about getting it back down!”

From the conversations that I had with him, I developed the opinion that the plane really did fly. If it had not I think Mr Watkins would have been more evasive with his answers and he certainly wasn’t evasive in any way.

When we asked him what he was going to do with it he said that he’d like to leave it to the nation.

“I had an American sniffing around, said he wanted to buy it. Offered me several hundred pounds for it. I told him to bugger off!”

For me Charles represents a generation filled with explorers, scientists and inventors who were making new discoveries on a daily basis. They were at the birth of an age, of which we are still a part, when people have seen massive technological changes in their lives. I do wonder sometimes where we would be without people like Charles Horace Watkins, the great inventor!

The Robyn Goch is on permanent display at the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea. Visitors can crane their necks up at the undercarriage from the floor of the ‘Large Object’ Gallery. The monoplane is suspended from the ceiling giving the impression that it is flying. A more personal view can be seen from the balcony alongside the plane.

Having the plane fixed so high up presents the museum with a number of problems. It is impossible to clean properly for one and a layer of dust can soon build up. Also, for safety reasons, the steel cables and mountings must be checked for wear and tear to ensure that the Red Robin does not come crashing down.

The cablework must be checked every five years and this gives us the chance to thoroughly clean the wings and cockpit and generally spruce things up.

To do this a framework of scaffolding is built from the floor up to the ceiling to get easy access to all of the plane. The scaffolding itself is a complex work of art put together by a very skilled team.

Once the scaffolding is in place our conservation team can get to work.