Copyright © Llansamlet Historical Society 2014–2019
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The Founding of the Llansamlet Historical Society
An Account by William John Meredith
The first meeting of the Society was held in Llansamlet Library on Friday 26 February 1999, and I shall return to that inauguration meeting later, after recalling when the seed was sown at a photographic exhibition held at Ebenezer Chapel, Llwynbrwydrau, on 25 and 27 May 1996.
BT launched an ‘Environment Week’ in that year and I, being involved in chapel affairs, needed assistance to tackle the jungle of Japanese knotweed that was strangling the graveyard. BT had an arrangement with local newspapers so that any approved scheme could be advertised free, so I requested volunteers to clean up the neglected cemetery. One of the volunteers was Hywel Morris who thought that Open Days would draw public attention to the state of the cemetery. We then advertised a photographic exhibition to be held in the chapel and Hywel mustered his many friends and family members to produce photographs of local historical interest. We displayed them on the chapel walls, and friends brought oil paintings, framed family photographs, original sketches and documents, and amongst it all was the spirit of the past, welding the old families together. There were fringe discussion groups with Eric Stradling who was researching the parish history, while Hywel Morris was dreaming of ways to record the historical treasure trove on display. No one was in a hurry to leave; it was as if they had come home. Over 200 people signed the Visitors’ Book. The seeds of our society were sown at Ebenezer’s exhibition and that is why the society’s literature bears the image of the chapel.
We return now to the first meeting of the Society mentioned above. The weather was wet with strong winds, yet thirty people turned up to support Hywel Morris in his efforts to form a historical society. Hywel referred to Eric Stradling’s meticulous research into the history of the parish, and mentioned Alf Knight’s photograph collection. He knew of several individuals delving into the past to discover their roots, with others collecting historical artefacts. At Ebenezer cemetery, he was helping to record the monumental inscriptions. His aim was to combine these interests to form a permanent record. Hywel then introduced Leonard C James who had discovered that the library service had much to offer in the way of support for local history projects. Len James is a Londoner and an enthusiastic student of Welsh. He also understood the language of wwwdot, and that even before the start of the new millennium! He had had discussions with the library service who were prepared to provide and install a computer, complete with scanner and printer, for the sole use of the Society.
Thousands of photographs could be stored in the computer, to be copied and printed as required. We could even go onto the World Wide Web, and the librarian could even arrange for basic computer training. We could also have use of the library’s reading room for our meetings. Surely, no society could have a better start! However, there was some unease amongst the audience about all this ‘www’ stuff, and, coupled with the generosity of the local authority, there were suspicions of a catch, somewhere. However, progress had to be made, so Hywel Morris agreed to act as Chairman, with Len James as Secretary, William John Meredith as Treasurer, and Eric Stradling as Advisor. This setup enabled the Llansamlet Historical Society to be formed, and committee members were left for future recruitment. The Secretary would prepare a Constitution to record our purpose and aims. He also intended to investigate the possibility of grant aid from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and would consult the librarian to organise computer tuition for interested members. There was determination in the proceedings and urgency in the mood, and we were on our way!