Friday, 24 June 2016


My father’s parent’s families, the Buckleys and O’Connors, came to South Wales from County Cork. In Ireland the men had been quarrymen at Benduff Slate Quarry, North West of Rosscarbery.
The Buckleys emigrated to Wales first, perhaps between 1881 and 1884. John Buckley probably worked as a quarryman on the West side of Mynyddislwyn, living in a quarry cottage half a mile below St Tudur’s church and looking down over the wooded Sirhowy valley. But the quarry closed so he became a coal miner, eventually moving over the hill to Abercarn.
The O’Connor family’s fortunes were drastically changed by the Benduff quarry disaster of 20 July 1892. My great grandfather Daniel O’Connor was buried under a rock fall and his body was never recovered. His brother Jorum (Jeremiah) was buried alive. He was dug out after some hours, had his wounds bound with cobwebs, and had a shard of slate in his leg for the rest of his life. The family was left destitute. The widowed Catherine O’Connor had five children to support including a newborn baby, so the kindly wife of a local landowner gave her a sewing machine with which to earn a living. Catherine later ran a little shop in Connonagh.
Some thirty years later in County Cork Pot and his sister Nora were still running the shop in Connonagh. At the time of the War of Independence and the Civil War, when threatened by one or other faction they abandoned the shop and fled the area. Some said it was because they were still friendly with the lady who had given their mother the sewing machine; others said it was because Pot was friendly with a local constable. Whatever the reason the local priest would not speak to them, bullets were fired at the shop and Pot came to Wales. I think he must have loved the clean air and the West wind. His job above ground, and the position of the cottage above the dark satanic mills, both spoke of a man of the country and perhaps a little apart from others following his exile.

How many miners does it take to move a mountain? One, if his children are hungry. But Pot would rather be on the mountain than beneath it.

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