I first went to live in Onllwyn during the War when my parents sent me there because of the bombing in Neath and Swansea. I was a sort of local evacuee. I then returned to Neath at the end of the War and returned to Onllwyn much later when i married a girl from there. During the War, Onllwyn was a very prosperous place because coal was in short supply and it was needed for the War effort. After the War with the demise of the coal industry, the area became impoverished and people had to move out to work with a result that the local council decided to build a new estate at Caewern and they demolished most of the village. They moved people out. Afterwards again, they open casted the whole area where the village stood. As a result there’s not many original houses in Onllwyn now but what did happen with the reorganisation of the council, the name of the area was changed from Dulais Higher and it was renamed Onllwyn so the name has been preserved although the place has virtually gone.
The mines were very prosperous during the war because coal, as I said, was in short supply. They were working flat out. You could escape going to the army, for a start, by becoming a Bevan Boy because they wanted so much coal, they drafted people in to the mines to work as colliers. Once the War had gone, coal wasn’t required so much, oil came in to be used and as a result the area became impoverished because no one wanted to mine coal anymore.
Because we were a socialist area, it was frowned upon for you to join the army, in a sense, because we were a peace loving, socialists were peace loving and they frowned upon this. But once Germany attacked Russia, the whole attitude of the people changed and people were then encouraged to fight for their country and to defeat the common enemy, the Nazis.
Before the World War II there was the Spanish Civil War and many evacuees came from Spain to the Spanish families living in our area, because there were a lot of Spanish families working in our area, so these children came, just as I went from Neath to my mother’s family, so they came from their, from Spain, to their families in our area. In fact there was one street called Spanish Row and it’s still there.
And as a result of this Spanish connection, lots of people from our area and from Neath went to fight in the Spanish Civil War. In fact, two men from our village got killed in the Spanish Civil War. R.L.Strangward was the name of one. I think Andrea Samora was the other one.
There is a memorial in Neath Park to the men who died in the Spanish Civil War; these are the men from this area. The Dulais Valley Partnership erected a monument to these two men who died in the Onllwyn area and they placed the stone in what they call Onllwyn Park, which is an area of recovered land covering the Onllwyn Colliery and the Onllwyn school and also right opposite where one of these men lived, in 0nllwyn.