UFO sightings and other insights into 1960s Valleys life

Boy with go kart

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When photographer Jon Pountney stumbled across a collection of 18,000 negatives in the back of Treorchy library he uncovered a unique collection of pictures.

Painstakingly going through each box he discovered black and white negatives of visits to south Wales by politician Enoch Powell, concerts by a young Tom Jones and a troop of elephants marching through Merthyr.

"The first box I opened was Enoch Powell visiting Merthyr," said Mr Pountney. "I thought, what on earth have I found?"

He discovered there were more than 10 years of negatives dating from 1963 to 1974 which had been donated to the library when a local wedding photographer died. They were taken for local newspaper the Merthyr Express.

Mr Pountney said: "The council arranged for me to take the boxes away to have a look through the negatives.

"Each set was in a paper packet with a description on it, I read through all the descriptions but haven't been able to go through every single photo as there are just so many of them."

He managed to track down some of the people in the photos.

Tom Jones and Russ Morgan kiss singer Susan Janes at a charity concert in the Astoria, Ebbw Vale
Young Tom Jones

Taken: 9 July 1967

Where: Astoria, Ebbw Vale

A young Tom Jones and teenager Susan Janes both sang at a charity concert in the Astoria, along with Russ Morgan, now 80.

Susan Janes said: "I can remember having that photograph taken. I was performing with Tom. I was a teenager and had started performing at Eisteddfods when I was eight. We would travel around the Valleys and it progressed from there. I worked in the clubs when I was 15.

"When the concert took place Tom was already a big star, What's New Pussycat had come out by then."

Elephants from Cottle's circus
Elephants on parade

Taken: 1960s

Where: Pontmarlais, Merthyr Tydfil

A sequence of photos recorded a troop of elephants parading through the centre of Merthyr Tydfil. They were part of a circus visiting the town.

Mr Pountney said: "The series also had a great picture of a clown standing on top of a Land Rover, which was pretty random."

Seven people living in one room
Seven people living in one room

When: 1964/65

Where: Merthyr Tydfil

"This photo obviously just has five people in it, but there were two men living in the house too, as well as a dog in the bottom of the picture, which didn't come out very well," said Mr Pountney.

"It's a tiny two up and two down house and all seven of them are squeezed in together. It is the kind of poverty which now is pretty much eradicated from the Valleys. It almost looks like the 1930s in this photo to me with the coal fire and damp on the walls."

Mrs James with her drawing of a UFO
Mrs James with her drawing of a UFO

When: 1965/66

Where: Merthyr Tydfil

This photo of a woman smiling with a picture she has drawn of a UFO has no further explanation beyond her name.

Mr Pountney said: "In the envelope there was one with her not smiling and with her smiling. I really like this picture and all the things you can see around her. It is one of my favourites."

Go karting on the Gurnos estate
Cherry Grove soap box derby

When: 1969

Where: Gurnos estate, Merthyr Tydfil

Children from the Gurnos estate gathered to race watched by a policeman and vicar.

Colin Hennesey, now caretaker at Bishop Headley School in Merthyr Tydfil, is in the photograph, standing in front of the policeman.

He said: "It's a race between the new part of the estate and the older estate. There was a big rivalry between the kids from each part.

"All the go karts are home made, made out of scaffolding planks, wheels from a pram, bit of chord for driving and feet for brakes.

"You put the feet on the wheels and hope they slow down. They were good days where we just made our own enjoyment."

Enoch Powell
Enoch Powell

When: 1 May 1971

Where: Conservative Club, Merthyr Tydfil

The Conservative politician visited Merthyr Tydfil on International Labour Day to make a speech at Bishop Headley School in the Labour heartland.

"About 80 or 90 people gathered to march in protest against the speech, a protest organised by the Communist League from Cardiff," said Mr Pountney.

"I was intrigued by the man photo-bombing this picture on the left. We were told by current members of the Conservative Club - where this picture was taken - that it was the local Conservative candidate of the time Edward Jones, who was known as Ed the Ted as he looked like a Teddy Boy."

Petula Clark
Petula Clark

When: 1966/67

Where: Abercanaid

The singer visited the village, where her grandparents lived. She visited the village school where she performed Downtown for the pupils.

The series of photographs show her being led from a car to the school sheltered by an umbrella, and being surrounded by autograph-seeking fans.

Mr Pountney said: "She had been evacuated to the village during the war and made a return visit after she became famous."

Children in Aberfan a year after the disaster
Aberfan one year on

When: 21 October 1967

Where: Griffiths Terrace, Bryntaf

A year after the mining disaster which left 116 children and 28 adults dead two children play with a dog on the streets of Aberfan.

Mr Pountney said: "What's poignant about this photo is that the children are overshadowed by the remains of the coal tips that collapsed on the village school with such tragic loss of life."

The boy sitting on the bike is Phillip Carpenter, whose older brother Desmond died in the disaster.

Jean Wickens, Mr Carpenter's sister, said: "That was Desmond's dog, my brother that got killed. There was no one got out of the class that my brother was in. He was just 10 years old."

Boxer Howard Winstone
Boxer Howard Winstone

When: July 1968

Where: Merthyr Tydfil Town Hall, now an arts centre called Redhouse

This picture was taken at a press conference after Winstone lost his world title against Cuban Jose Legra in Porthcawl. He was knocked down twice in the first round and ended the match with a badly swollen left eye.

After losing the world title Winstone retired at the age of 29, but remained a legend in his hometown of Merthyr Tydfil.

Miner George Thomas from Aberfan
'Georgie Pub'

When: Mid-1960s

Where: Aberfan

"I opened this packet as it was labelled George Thomas and I thought it might be the man who later became Lord Tonypandy. Instead it was a miner from Aberfan," said Mr Pountney.

"I tracked someone down who knew him and said he used to be an amateur boxer nicknamed 'Georgie Pub'."

Harold Wilson visiting Ebbw Vale steel works
Prime Minister Harold Wilson

When: 1968/69

Where: Ebbw Vale steel works

The then Prime Minister visited Ebbw Vale steel works with Cledwyn Hughes MP (pictured on the left) who served as Secretary of State for Wales and then minister of agriculture, fisheries and food.

Mr Pountney said: "It was a visit to celebrate the Ebbw Vale steel works being the most thriving in Britain."

Children on Gurnos estate
Children on Gurnos estate

When: Late 1960s

Where: Gurnos estate

Mr Pountney said: "This photo was taken when part of the Gurnos estate had just started to be constructed. The doctor's surgery is in the background.

"This is the newer part of the Gurnos which, which was built in the 1960s."

Slum in Merthyr earmarked for demolition
'Slum' earmarked for demolition

When: Mid-1960s

Where: Penyard, Merthyr Tydfil

This row of houses and the surrounding sheds were about to be demolished when this photo was taken. The area was earmarked for new housing to be built.

John Charles
Footballer John Charles

When: Mid-1960s

Where: In a cafe in Merthyr Tydfil

The star Welsh footballer, who played for Juventus and Leeds United, was mobbed for autographs when he visited a cafe in the Valleys.

Mr Pountney said: "This was like the Gareth Bale or Ryan Giggs of his time being there, you can imagine how excited people would have been."

Aberdare carnival queen
Carnival queen

When: 1968/69

Where: Aberdare

Holding a sceptre and orb and with a fur-lined cloak draped over her shoulders, this was the newly crowned carnival queen of Aberdare.

Mr Pountney said: "There were a lot of photos of how people are making their own entertainment and this is one of them. I came across Miss Lovely Eyes contests, and competitions held by factories.

"They reflect the thriving local community, where entertainment was centred on the town rather than leaving the town."

Lawn bowls champion
Lawn bowls champion Ivor Bow

When: Late 1960s

Where: Mr Bow's house in Merthyr Tydfil

"I loved this wallpaper, which was why I scanned this photo in the first place," said Mr Pountney. "But it turned out that the man in the photo was the father of local journalist Jackie Bow, who later became the editor of the Merthyr Express."

Mrs Bow said: "He won those trophies when he played for Thomastown bowls club. The wallpaper was bright orange, retro and very 1960s. And I painted the picture in the background, it was a painting by numbers one."


Forgotten Images of Valley Life is on BBC Two Wales on Thursday 26 March at 7.30pm.

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