of 1926 when the standard of living fell so drastically that South Wales was declared a Distress Area.
During the five years following the Miners' strike, the Depression in South Wales was intense and widespread. Masses of young people and middle-aged men migrated to the thriving areas in England to search for work. This had a depressing effect on the membership strength of several local Associations. Aberaman suffered badly; about a third of its members chiefly “the older boys" left Wales to seek employment.
It is interesting to note at this stage in the Associations' history, in the Mining Districts of South Wales, that the number of YMCAs was pitifully small. Pontypridd, Merthyr and Aberaman owned their buildings, and Mountain Ash, Tredegar and Ebbw Vale leased rented premises.
In those days of great distress, even men of faith faltered, realised the dire need for more Local Associations.
Yet in the darkest hour and despite the deepening gloom of the Industrial Depression, rays of hope appeared. In 1933 the State appointed a Special Commissioner to direct welfare operations for unemployed workers in South Wales. He soon became aware of the necessity to make provision for welfare facilities for unemployed boys. The Welsh National Council of YMCAs was invited to open Boys' Clubs in three areas where such welfare work did not exist. For this purpose a grant of £200., would be made to the Association to purchase a prefabricated hut for each Centre opened.
The Council welcomed the opportunity to undertake the work proposed, and proceeded to institute inquiries at Caerphilly, Onllwyn and Ebbw Vale. In a very short time local YMCA Committees were established at Caerphilly and Onllwyn, but the Ebbw Vale Committee decided that their small cottage accommodation was sufficient, despite having an excellent site for a hut at the rear of their property.
Caerphilly decided to purchase the disused corn stores in the centre of the town. The Council agreed to this and, in view of the amount of renovation needed in the old corn stores, to add to the £200., allocated to Caerphilly, the unused £200., which would have been given to Ebbw Vale for the purchase of a hut. An excellent site in Mill Road had been offered to the Welsh National Council for a purpose planned building, but the local committee opted for the corn stores building as this could be put into service before a new building.
The committee at Onllwyn decided on a new building in permanent materials and for this purpose, a central freehold site together with a sum of £100.,
was donated by Mr. Commissioner.
agreed by the
Two new YMCA centres were well on their way - the fore-runners of many more to follow.
It will be recalled that the Aberaman YMCA was the first boys' club in Wales to possess its own purpose built premises and to have a trained full time leader. It was founded in 1919 and its building consisted of two used Army Huts, transported from Salisbury Plain. The cost of purchasing the huts and erecting them and the full cost of maintaining all aspects of the Association work were undertaken by the Powell Duffryn Co., Ltd.,