Christmas cards from the Coalfield

Assistant Archivist Felicity Grey looks at the Christmas cards held at the Richard Burton Archives as a means of exploring our collections relating to the South Wales Coalfield.

The South Wales Coalfield Collection is one of the largest collections held at the Richard Burton Archives. Being comprised of the records of trade unions, co-operative societies, and notable individuals in the mining community, it is not a collection typically associated with Christmas. However, it includes photographs of Christmas parties, details of schemes to support those in need over Christmas and correspondence sent during the holiday period. Christmas cards are perhaps one of the most visually appealing examples of this correspondence.

The 1984-85 miners’ strike

The National Union of Mineworkers (South Wales Area) produced these Christmas cards in 1984. Other organisations, such as the Neath, Swansea & Dulais Valleys Miners’ Support Group also produced similar cards for the festive period.

A Christmas card of a miners lamp. It reads "Season's Greetings", "Neath Swansea & Dulais Valleys Miners Support Group" and "Nadolig Llawen".

Presumably these cards were created not only to help raise funds to support the strike, but also to maintain morale and a sense of community during such a difficult period. Over Christmas the strikers did receive a huge amount of community support, for example donations of toys for the miners’ children were shipped from Belgium, Denmark, France and Germany. Our archive holds a large collection of records relating to the 1984-1985 miners’ strike, and other industrial disputes, which you can read about here.

The co-operative movement

A Christmas card which reads "Greetings from the Women's Guild - Christmas 1949" with the symbol of the guild.

This Christmas card was sent by the president and secretary of the King’s Cliff Women’s Co-operative Guild. The following lines are found inside of the card:
To Sum up all,
be merry I advise;
And as we’re merry,
may we still be wise.

The Women’s Co-operative Guild was founded in 1883 and provided a space for women in the co-operative movement to get together for social events such as baking and also to get involved in political causes such as the peace movement or the campaign for the vote.

You can read more about the Women’s Co-operative Guild here. Our collections also include other documents from the co-operative movement relating to Christmas, such as Christmas product catalogues or a programme for a Christmas carol concert put on by the Mid-Rhondda Co-operative. You find out more about our collections relating to co-operatives, and other businesses, here.

The Spanish Civil War

A Christmas card with an image of the British Isles and some holly and the symbol of the "voluntarios internacionales de la libertad", with the word "greetings" written at the bottom.

Leo Price received this Christmas card from Harry Pollitt, the leader of the Communist Party of Great Britain, in 1937. It was produced by the International Brigades, which Leo had volunteered with to fight alongside the Republican forces in the Spanish Civil War. Other members of his battalion signed the card, and he then sent it home to his wife, Lilian Price.

The Richard Burton Archive also holds a letter Leo sent to his wife one Christmas while he was serving in Spain (SWCC/MNA/PP/93/4). In the letter he apologised for being unable to return home, asked her not to worry about him and expressed his loved for her. Fortunately in 1939 Leo Price did return home to his family.

Leo Price was from Abertridwr and led an interesting life as an active member of the Communist Party and the South Wales Miners’ Federation. You can find out more about the collections we hold relating to Leo Price and the Spanish Civil War here. The South Wales Miners’ Library also hold oral history recordings for Leo and Lilian Price.

Personal collections

A Christmas card of a man and a woman in a house - where the man is putting up some mistletoe - behind the words "a merry Christmas" are written.

It’s important to remember that the small stories about individuals are just as much part of history as events such as the miners’ strike or the Spanish Civil War. This card is from the personal papers of the miner Jesse King, sent to him “from all at 47”. It is part of a series of birthday and Christmas cards he received from his family. His collection also includes correspondence, diaries and notebooks giving insight into everyday life in the coalfield.

The Christmas cards presented in this blog only scratch the surface of the vast South Wales Coalfield Collection. You can find out more about accessing and searching the collection, which is split across the Richard Burton Archives and the South Wales Miners’ Library, here.


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