Ice and Coal - and the Crandon's family history

Elaine Dacey (nee Crandon), who now lives in Sheffield, was raised in the village of Pantyscallog near Merthyr Tydfil in the 1950s.  Most of her ancestors lived and worked in Pantyscallog (‘Pant’), Penydarren, Dowlais and Merthyr in the 19th and 20thC, but her grandfather, Albert Crandon, like many other Welshmen over the years ventured further afield to look for work and for a while, he and his young family lived in America. Their return to Pantyscallog in 1934 meant that Elaine’s roots have been firmly in Welsh soil. Photos and other items relating to her grandparents’ time in America – kept neatly in a Radiance Toffee tin – have always been very special to Elaine, as indeed are her memories of growing up in Wales and the connection she feels with her family’s history.

‘I first heard of the People's Collection of Wales through a couple of local historians in Merthyr Tydfil who had read my book and recommended that I upload it onto the People’s Collection Wales website,’ explains Elaine. ‘I thought it might be of value to preserve the memories of my family and of growing up in Wales; perhaps those memories may even be useful as a teaching resource. I received training in uploading and editing materials through People’s Collection Wales staff who were extremely helpful and even contacted me a couple of times via Zoom.’

Writing in her ‘A Childhood in Wales’ autobiography, Elaine shares some of her earliest recollections of living in Pantyscallog: ‘My chief memories of living in Pant-cad-Ifor came from my frequent trips a few yards up the road to my grandparents’ home … I remember their cottage far more than ours. In fact, I have been returning to and remembering that cottage all my life.’

‘Some of my favourite memories are those of my grandparents' cottage in Pantyscallog and my Crandon relatives, many of whom seemed larger than life characters. I also heard a wealth of stories from my father about his youthful exploits, and in his later years, I recorded him re-telling many of those old stories.

‘When I started my autobiography, I also did a lot of research into my grandfather Albert Crandon’s life as I knew he'd served in the First World War and kept a diary of that time.’ Her grandfather Albert was raised in Pant, the second of eleven children, and was sent to work down in the mines with his father, Henry Charles Crandon, at the age of ten. In this early photograph below (second from the left), he is seen with his father and another boy; they are holding pickaxes and lamps with their faces and clothes covered in coal dust.

In 1915, when he was 17 years old, Albert Joined the Royal Field Artillery, Horse Battalion. As Elaine explains in her autobiography: 'He had always loved horses, so it seemed the best regiment to be in (Grandpa continued to keep horses in later life. He and his brother Frederick bought a field for grazing horses between the Co-op and Garth fields, and I remember going up with him to feed them.)’

Albert is seen in the picture below, front row, 2nd from left, with his fellow soldiers:

Albert Crandon fought in the Battle of Bailleul and Ypres, where he was injured and taken from the front line. He kept his medals and many photos and documents from WW1, which are also published in Elaine Dacey’s account on the People’s Collection Wales website; you can learn more about Albert Crandon’s life as a soldier in the Great War in the following story: Albert Crandon During WW1.

‘I have many favourite items which I have photographed and uploaded onto the PCW website,’ explains Elaine. ‘These include Albert as a young child working as a miner, Albert as a member of the Royal Field Artillery during the war and photographs of my grandparents in America with my father as a baby and my Uncle Chris. Also, the photos of the handwritten accounts by my grandmother Esther of their journeys to and from the USA and her sadness in leaving there. It's strange to think what might have happened to them (and all their descendants, including myself!) if they had not returned.’

Pictured below are Green Cards for Albert, Esther and Chris Crandon which allowed them to enter the USA. Elaine's father, named Ernest Charles after Albert's brother and father, was born in Akron, Ohio, in 1932.

Albert emigrated to America aged 32 because of the lack of work after the war. He arrived at Ellis Island, New York, on November 7th 1928, after sailing on the Majestic from Southampton on a six-day journey. He found work at the large rubber factory in Akron, Ohio and on 17th April 1929, his wife Esther and young son Christopher sailed on board the Olympic to join him. He later started a small business with a partner – ‘Durkin and Crandon’ – that bought and sold ice and coal. Albert is seen here with his son Chris, standing proudly beside the company vehicle:

However, due mainly to her grandmother’s parents’ failing health, Elaine’s grandparents, along with her father and Uncle Chris returned to Pantyscallog in 1934, leaving behind their comfortable life and also some good friendships, as documented later by Esther Crandon in her notebook:

You can read more about Albert Crandon’s time in America as told by Elaine Dacey here.

‘I treasure all these precious memories and family stories which I originally wrote about in order that younger members of my family would share in them,’ says Elaine. ‘I am pleased, though, that many others have enjoyed reading my account of the turbulent years in South Wales during the early and mid-twentieth century, and I hope others also will enjoy it through the People’s Collection of Wales.’

Do you have family photographs and other ephemera that will help us to document the history of Wales and its people? We can help you to share your story by providing support and training remotely. Let us know how we can help – get in touch through our social media  Facebook | Twitter | Instagram or email us : [email protected]


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