Records in the Archives can be a useful resource for the representation of people with disabilities, ill-health and mental health conditions. They can give insight into hidden histories, the use of language, and how things have (or haven't) changed.
This guides covers some examples from:
Researchers for the Disability and Industrial Society project explored the South Wales Coalfield Collection as part of the collaborative project which investigated industrial injuries and diseases in three British coalfields between 1780 and 1948.
Porthcawl Miners' Rest Home: photograph of the matron and four patients (Ref. SWCC/PHO/NUM/6/7)
Photograph of members of a rescue team wearing their breathing apparatus and displaying their working tools (Ref. SWCC/PHO/COL/101)
Photographs of colliery rescue teams in the South Wales Coalfield Collection (Ref. SWCC/PHO/COL) show developments in the specialist safety equipment used by pit rescue teams, such as breathing apparatus, stretchers, helmets, and ambulances. Competitions between rescue teams were often held at local galas and fetes.
Significant disasters occurred in the South Wales Coalfield, leading to serious and fatal injuries. Records in the collection detail official enquiries; medical reports; compensation claims; personal papers showing the affect on families and communities; and poems in memorial.
Poem ‘Calon Drom’ [Heavy Heart] about the explosion at Universal Colliery, Senghenydd. c.1913 (Ref. SC/388)
Self-taught photographer Raissa Page used documentary photography to capture the lives of marginalised groups at times of social change during the 20th century. She was a founder member of the trailblazing all-female FORMAT Photographic Agency in the 1980s. The collection consists mainly of photographic prints, negatives and transparencies produced between 1977 and 1993.
The collection (Ref. DC3) is a significant resource for the history of disability, medicine, social work, mental health, and ageing. Raissa Page's photographs capture disability in a range of ways, including;
You can find out more about this photograph here through the response of Professor David Turner, Department of History, Swansea University.
“Early morning, an ‘aimless walk’ in the grounds of the hospital....” (Ref. DC3/30/1/213)
Photograph by Raissa Page. Protected by copyright. Not to be reproduced without permission, please contact Richard Burton Archives
The Portable Theatre Collection (Ref. LAC/106/E) includes several silk playbills which reveal issues that were common in coalfield communities. This one, by Ebley's Olympic Theatre, highlights the important role played by district nurses in a pre-NHS South Wales coalfield (Ref. LAC/106/E/22).
Silk playbill created by Ebley's Olympic Theatre for a performance at Mountain Ash on 21 April 1892, for the benefit of district nurses (Ref. LAC/106/E/22)
Disability appears in different ways in coalfield literature. Some examples from our collections include-
View of Porthcawl Miners' Rest Home, 1920 (Ref. SWCC/PHO/NUM/6/6)
Miners recovering from accidents and illnesses could find a place for convalescence at 'Rest' homes at Porthcawl and Talygarn, and elsewhere. Entry would be obtained by tickets supplied by a subscribing organisation, such as a trade union, welfare association, or Co-operative Society. Applicants could request tickets for themselves or their dependents (but not children), although entry was not guaranteed. The criteria for acceptance was based on convalescence and rest; people who were seriously ill, or had infectious diseases, would not gain entry. Residents usually stayed for a week or two, and were subject to strict rules regarding their daily routines and behaviour.
Constitution and rules for 'The Rest', Porthcawl, 1898 (Ref. SWCC/MNA/COP/7/69)
Injured or disabled miners in need often drew on voluntary or state assistance, or a combination of both. The South Wales Coalfield Collection includes records of welfare associations, friendly societies, miners' medical schemes, and other sick funds (Ref. SWCC/MNA/I and SWCC/MNB/I). These largely relied on community donations and subscription funds. Relief money could be paid to members and their families, and some schemes provided medical supplies and services, e.g. artificial limbs.
Rules of the Artificial Limb Fund, Maesteg District, South Wales Miners' Federation, 1928 (Ref. SWCC/MNA/NUM/3/8/7)
Records in the South Wales Coalfield Collection give an idea of how legislation for compensation for industrial injury (e.g. The Workmen’s Compensation Act of 1897) helped to provide financial support for disabled mineworkers.
Miners' banner "Help in time of need": South Wales Miners' Library