Port Talbot: A history of sorts (part three)

6 June 2011

Ramsay MacDonald was here - well not quite!. Picture: Andy Pearson

Magnet writer Mike Witchell casts his eye over the last 100 years or so of Port Talbot history. A word of warning: he’s not thought to be over-qualified as a historian . . .

1901 Soccer kicks off with the formation of Port Talbot Athletic FC – now Port Talbot Town.
1901/02 Port Talbot Steelworks opens with a party for the great and the good. Hot rolls and cold rolls were on offer, but no sausage rolls.
1907 The market hall burns down, prompting The Guardian to run a headline reading It’s Stall Over – but it wasn’t, the market reopened in 1909!
1914 Aberavon RFC kicks rugby into touch on the outbreak of the First World War and turns the Athletic Ground pitch into allotments. “Balls to the Boche,” said a spokesman, “If it’s trench warfare they want, we’ll let ’em have it.”
1918 The parliamentary constituency of Aberavon is created from the old Swansea District. “The independence struggle is over,” declared a jubilant spokesman for Alf, the Aberavon Liberation Front. “Long live Aberavon.”
1921 Aberavon is abolished with the creation of the Borough of Port Talbot.
1922 Labour’s Ramsay MacDonald, who was born out of wedlock at Lossiemouth in Scotland, replaces Jack Edwards of the Liberals as MP.
1924 MacDonald is made prime minister as his party takes power at Westminster. A Tory spokesman told The Guardian: “He is the first Labour bastard from Port Talbot to be PM.”
1925 Film star Richard Burton, who had a lifelong obsession with tailors, is born Richard Jenkins at Pontrhydyfen. “My suits are as well cut as I am,” he told The Guardian during an interview at the height of his fame.
1926 Conservative politician Geoffrey Howe, now Baron Howe of Aberavon, is born in Port Talbot. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Foreign Secretary and Leader of the House under Margaret Thatcher, he earned the enduring thanks of his home town by becoming the Dead Sheep who savaged the Iron Lady in 1990.
1929 Opera singer Ivor Emmanuel is born in Pontrhydyfen. Evidently confused about his birthplace in the Land of Song, he famously blew away the Zulus with a stirring rendition of Men of Harlech.
1931 Ramsay MacDonald is expelled from the Labour Party for being a Conservative.
1937 Anthony Hopkins is born in Margam, the son of a Taibach baker. A man of strange and varied appetites, he achieved movie stardom in the role of Cannibal Lector.
1938 Painter Andrew Vicari is born in Port Talbot. Famed for his work in oil, he is the official painter to the Saudi royal family.
1941 The Luftwaffe bombs Sandfields in a revenge attack for the First World War allotments on the Athletic Ground.
1952 The Steel Company of Wales opens the Abbey Works at Margam. “It is a new chapter in the history of the town,” said a spokesman.
1963 Soprano Rebecca Evans is born in – where else? – Pontrhydyfen.
1965 The Afan Lido leisure complex opens on Aberavon Seafront. “It saves people having to cross the road to get to the beach for a swim,” said a council spokesman.
1966 The M4 slices through the heart of the town to speed the ever-growing volume of traffic from London to Briton Ferry.
1967 Afan Lido FC is set up with one goal: to beat Port Talbot Town.
1969 Actor Michael Sheen is born in Newport. “I may have been born in Noop, but my passion is pure Port Talbot,” he told the Magnet in 2011.

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