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This report is taken from PN Review 194, Volume 36 Number 6, July - August 2010.

Letter from Wales Sam Adams

When my great-grandfather, Thomas Adams, married Hannah Evans in December 1856, both signed the certificate with an X. He had come from Great Bridge, Staffordshire, initially to labour in iron or tin plate works at Abersychan, near Pontypool, though by the time of his marriage he was a mineworker. Hannah was born in Rhymney, another early industrial town at the head of the valley of the river Rhymney. But could it be my Hannah who in 1851, at the age of fourteen, is living with her parents in Bassaleg, near Newport, and working as a tin plate roller? If so, perhaps she, too, moved on to Abersychan, a far shorter distance for her, in pursuit of employment, and there met her future husband. In any event, meet they did, and marry. One may reasonably ponder where in their lives there had been time for literacy before they put their marks on the heavily creased and coal-dusty fragment of marriage certificate that has survived.

In the 1861 Census Thomas’s occupation is given as ‘pit sinker’. His job was to ‘drive the hard headings’, my father told me, which means he and his fellows cut through rock to reach the coal seams. His lungs were silicotic, caked with stone dust, and he died, aged 61, in 1887. He did not see his son, my grandfather and namesake, marry Margaret Williams in January 1891, but widowed Hannah may have been at Sardis (Independents) Chapel, Pontypridd, for the occasion, perhaps accompanied ...
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