Convenors:   Rob Wilkinson
Derek Nash
  Phone: 01633 527314
01633 265625

Meetings:   Thursday, 1.30 - 3.00, weeks 1, 3, 4 & 5

A major change occurred at Easter when the very capable Jackie Kerr and her able assistant, Pat Fackrell, stood down as Convenors after ten years of outstanding work for the group. Jackie has been a very active and highly competent Convenor, arranging many engaging and interesting speakers over a long period. The two ladies also found time to organise many trips and events to famous places for the group; this year they have already been to Amsterdam and a visit to Cambridge and Anglesey Abbey is coming up soon. A trip to the Black Forest next April is already fully booked, suggesting that these two ladies are very well-organised, reliable and popular. A small presentation was made to both Jackie and Pat at Easter in respect of their great contributions to the life of the U3A. They will be a hard act to follow.

Nevertheless, Nevertheless, Derek Nash and I volunteered to take over from April 2018 and have tried to ensure as much continuity as possible. Some speakers were already booked by Jackie and others have come through her recommendation, whilst Group members have helpfully suggested new speakers and we have spotted some interesting characters ourselves at other events. It has really helped that Maureen Rocke has remained in charge of Reminiscences, held every second Thursday of the month, as she has been able to advise and assist in a most positive manner. Jackie and Pat ,too, have been most helpful as we get to grips with the system.

Since Christmas 2017, we have had a number of reliable and informative speakers who have returned with new talks. Monty Dart, for example, came to speak on the Newport Workhouse at St Woolos, despite the fact that her husband, Tom, has been seriously unwell and she will return again later in the summer to speak on the sinking of The Benares, a ship with Newport connections. Will Cross is another regular who is always interesting and knowledgeable; his recent talk on Cliff Gordon, the man who discovered Shirley Bassey, vividly described the problems that gay men had in the 1940s and 50s and the casual racism suffered by black people. We also welcomed back Dennis Tippins, who has been a stalwart supporter of the group and who has many detailed photographs of Pontypool and the Eastern Valley. These photographs show how rapidly changes can occur and how Pontypool now is totally different from fifty years ago. Peter Strong, from Caldicot, is heavily involved in local History and gave a fascinating description of how many people in the Valleys were close to starvation at the start of 1918 when the Germans had successfully blocked the movement of supplies. I was also surprised to find that the Western Mail in 1918 thought the coal miners were being greedy when they complained about the rationing then in force. David Husband went back further in time to talk about Edward Trelawney, someone few of us would have heard about, but he had a fascinating and dramatic life around the time when Lord Byron was alive. Trelawney, despite his Cornish name, had connections with Usk and a new building in that town has just been named after him. One of our own group, Steven Berry, spoke vividly on the Steel Remembrance Project which was based around the men who worked at Lysacht's Institute, many of whom had walked from the Midlands to find work here in Newport and some of whom would go to war in Europe in 1914 and never return; there will be a follow up on this subject in mid-November. Finally, I spoke twice on Lady Llanover and her family; she was an incredibly determined character who gave her full support to the Welsh language and culture when it was under a real threat from English in the mId Nineteenth century.

Attendance at the group is averaging around 50, which is a good number and we have already booked all the speakers to April 2019. Included in the Autumn Term are Roger James on India, Rosie Humphreys on Usk Castle, Paul Busby on Geoffrey Morgan and Lorna Pearson with a humorous look at life; she recently sold out the Congress Theatre, so should be quite good!

Finally, if you have any suggestions for talks or speakers, please let Derek or myself know as soon as possible. Thank you.

Rob Wilkinson
Joint Convenor
September 2018


Convenors:   Maureen Rocke   Phone: 01633 266449

Meetings:   Thursday 1.30 - 3.00 - week 2

Once a month we take a leisurely stroll down memory lane, covering a variety of topics, e.g.

  • Living through the war years
  • Rationing
  • Memories of a first Christmas
  • Life before supermarkets

Trips are arranged by Pat Fackrell

Read about our visit to BBC Llandaff Cardiff here

Click here for the current joint programme

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