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Discover Four Historical Figures from the Upper Swansea Valley

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Thomas Eifion Hopkins Williams

Thomas Eifion Hopkins Williams was born On the 14th of June, 1923, into a mining family in Lower Cwmtwrch.  He graduated in Civil engineering at University College, Swansea. He them started a career lecturing at both Swansea and Durham University.  In 1952 he completed his Doctorate and then specialised in transport systems.

Tom Williams visited America in 1955 and 1957 to lecture at the University of California, Berkeley and Northwestern University, Chicago.   His research led him to publish a paper “Expressways, Freeways and Parkways in the USA: Design and Construction Factors” 1956

His work greatly influenced the development of the British Motorway system.

“Williams was ahead of his time and promoted the use of economic modelling and forecasts of traffic growth to guide transport modelling.  He was also an early advocate of integrated transport and argued that environmental impacts and pollution should be included in the costs of new road building projects.  He believed in a balance between creating the new and preserving the old.”

He died in June 2001. He had a huge input into ease of driving in Britain.

Dame Adelina Patti

Portrait by Franz Xaver Winterhalter in Public Domain
https://commons.wikimedia.org

Dame Adelina Patti (1843-1919)  was a world-renowned opera singer. She made her home in Craig Y Nos Castle.   She was a child prodigy, trained by her opera singer parents. By eight she was performing in concerts in New York, where they moved in 1847.  She then spent years touring North and South America.  She “made her operatic debut at the age of sixteen as Lucia in Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor at the New York Academy of Music where she won critical acclaim.” The opera was based on the fashionable best seller The Bride of Lammermoor by Sir Walter Scott.

She became a “Diva:”

“A succession of great divas dominated opera from the mid 19th century and no male singer could match their popularity. Jenny Lind, Adelina Patti and Nellie Melba were all sopranos, the highest-range female voice, which had the clarity and flexibility to cope with elaborate passages of flamboyant music.

Divas amassed huge fortunes and flaunted them. Once in Verdi’s La Traviata at Covent Garden, Patti dismantled her jewellery and had the diamonds, valued at around £200,000 sewn onto the bodice of her costume. Two policeman were borrowed from nearby Bow Street police station and mingled with the chorus on stage to keep an eye on them. The effect was literally dazzling.

During her years as mistress of Craig y Nos she extended the castle massively and even had a miniature copy of La Scala in Milan built, it is now a grade one, listed opera house.  She was renowned for her generosity and loved in the local community.

Up the hill from the castle lies a now disused railway station, part funded by Dame Adelina Patty in 1861, from there she would take her own railway carriage attached to any train, so she could travel in style to and from her castle at Craig y Nos.

She had many famous and royal visitors and entertained in style, it is even rumoured that Edward VII  visited her when he was the Prince of Wales.

Daniel Protheroe

Daniel Protheroe (5 November 1866 – 25 February 1934), was a composer and conductor, born at Cwmgiedd near Ystradgynlais, Brecknockshire. After success at the National Eisteddfod at a young age, he emigrated to the USA, where he was educated. He is best known for composing Calvinist Methodist hymns.

 Aged 19, he emigrated to the USA, settling in Scranton, Pennsylvania. There he took courses in music conducting, and was tutored by Parson Price, Dudley Buck and Hugo Karn. He graduated with a Bachelor of Musicdegree from Toronto College of Music, later becoming a Doctor of Music.

Protheroe remained in Scranton until 1892, and for eight years was the conductor of the Cymmrodorion Choral Society. He moved to Milwaukee, conducting several choirs, before moving again, this time to Chicago. He continued conducting for various choirs, and taught at the Sherwood Music School. While in Chicago he mentored Rhys Morgan (“The Welsh Tenor” 1892-1961) and Haldor Lillenas (1885–1959).

Protheroe would take frequent trips to Wales, and adjudicated at several National Eisteddfodau. He wrote several works, including Arwain Corau (1914) and Nodau Damweiniol a D’rawyd (1924), and in 1918 he edited the hymnal Cân a Mawl for the Calvanistic Methodists of North America.[2] He composed many or arranged hymnal works, especially for the male voice, including ‘Price’, ‘Bryn Calfaria’, ‘Cwmgiedd’ and ‘Nidaros’. He also composed two string quartets and a symphonic poem.

He died in Chicago in 1934, and in 1954 a memorial plaque was unveiled at his birthplace in Ystradgynlais.

David Thomas

David Thomas was born near Neath in Cadoxton. He went to school in Alltwen and  Neath, and worked on his father’s farm before going into the iron industry.

He was one of the “foremost ironmasters” in the U.K.  Employed at the Ynyscedwyn Ironworks in Ystradgynlais.  It was here that he started to use the Neilson process which would “advance the Industrial Revolution“.  Using the hot blast process to smelt iron ore and anthracite coal. This made it easy to produce anthracite iron. This type of iron had been patented by Edward Martin of Morriston, Wales in 1804. The Hot Blast process had been designed by Scottish engineer called Nielson. It involved heating the air that fed the furnace.  This allowed the use of the local hard coal known as anthracite.

Ynyscedwyn Iron Works Credit: Chris Allen [CC BY-SA 2.0 Wikimedia Commons

In 1839 he moved to Pennsylvania.  The Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company in Lehigh County, wanted him to build a furnace for the production of anthracite iron. The area had plenty of both anthracite coal and iron ore. Thus sparking the Industrial Revolution in America.Crane Iron Works Cranesville Pensylvania, USA

 

“Thomas’s iron works was extremely successful, even though the iron industry in the rest of the Lehigh Valley had begun to decline. The company was incorporated in 1839 as the Lehigh Crane Iron Company, and in 1872 the name was changed to the CraneIron Company. By that time the community was no longer known as Catasauqua but as Craneville,  ; Thomas had named both his company and the town in which he founded it after his former employer ( and Patron) in Wales.”

 

 

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