The Rhondda Valleys

..............we know the price of coal


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John Davies - A Miner - Boy and Man.

John Davies on his first day down the coal mines - aged just 12
John Davies 1897 - 1963
- after his first day down the coal mines aged 12.

I do not recount the story of John Davies here because it was remarkable, but because it is remarkable that his story was the norm.

John Davies was born on the 18th of May 1897, to Jonathan ( moved to the Rhondda from Pembrokeshire.) and Catherine Davies, who lived at the time in Regent Street, Ferndale, in the Rhondda Valley. Later they moved house to Tudor Street, where John spent his formative years. The photograph above was taken on the first day that he went to work down the mine at Ferndale Number 1 pit.

Ferndale, Colliery Pits

Ferndale Numbers 1 and 5 Pits.


He was aged just 12 when he first stepped into the cage that took the miners to the bottom of the shaft. That journey, which would have made his ears pop as the pressure changed - caused by the speed at which the cage descended - was the first of countless occasions he would descend into the darkness.

John worked as a miner for most of his adult life, and paid the price as he contracted pneumoconiosis, a disease that had virtually turned his lungs to coal. The disease is known to the Rhondda people as 'dust', and if you had dust then the mere act of breathing became hard work.

John was forced to retire from the coal mines, and for a number of years he was employed as a general handyman at Ferndale Workingmen's Hall. In 1963 John succumbed to the disease and passed away. His ashes were buried in the Glyntaff Crematorium in Pontypridd

John's widow - Jenny - moved to Swansea to be close to her family, and in 2007 was aged 101, and is described as 'remarkable for her age'.

Jenny Davies - aged 101 in 2007
Jenny Davies - aged 101.

John's photograph (top) which was kindly sent in by his son in law - Tudor Williams - has been on the cover of a book about the Rhondda, and exhibited in Afan Argoed Country Museum near Port Talbot, and in the Rhondda Heritage Centre.
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12 Year Old Coal Miner

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