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The extraordinary life of the Welsh miner turned entertainer

27 Feb 2024 4 minute read
Ronald ‘Ginger’ Parsons (Credit: Blaenau Gwent CBC)

A man believed to be one of, if not the, oldest former miner in the UK has celebrated his 102nd birthday.

Local legend Ronald ‘Ginger’ Parsons, from Cwm, said if he “closes his eyes tomorrow, he’s had the most wonderful life, has been truly happy and never made an enemy.”

Ginger spoke while visiting the Blaenau Gwent Museum in the General Offices, Ebbw Vale, which currently has an exhibition telling the story of the mining disaster at Marine Colliery, Cwm.

The explosion killed 52 men on St David’s Day, 1927. Too young to really remember the tragedy, Ginger does remember being carried down to the colliery site on his father’s shoulders to find out what had happened that day. The explosion occurred in the Black Vein workings at 12.50am and made national news.

Ginger started work ‘on top’ at Marine Colliery when he was just 13 and 10 months. When he was old enough to go underground at 14, he was told he was too small, to which he replied, ‘You’re not much bigger than me and you’re a manager’, the response was ‘start Monday’.

Following that Ginger worked for 47 years on the coal face, facing a few close calls himself. In the mid-1970s a heavy fall which trapped and segregated Ginger from his team nearly cost him his life. After being told to evacuate because of the danger, his boy as he called him Christopher ‘Bamba’ Wiliams went back with others to dig Ginger out and bring him to safety, severely hurt but alive. It didn’t deter him however and he was soon back at the coalface.

Ginger spent the last few years of his working life ‘on top’ at the colliery, but when offered a management position, he famously said ‘you keep the pencil, I’ll keep my shovel!’.

He eventually hung up that shovel at the age of 65.

Ginger was born, or ‘launched’ according to his son, at home in Oak Street, Cwm, Blaenau Gwent in 1922 and still lives in the village now. He is well known to the residents there and is well-liked local character. Ginger was married and had five children, three boys and two girls. He’s still fond of a pint in the local pubs and enjoys telling a joke or two.

Ronald ‘Ginger’ Parsons (Credit: Blaenau Gwent CBC)

A very keen singer, Ginger was he says the first person in Cwm to own a microphone and all the pubs were keen to book him, his favourite song being ‘South of the Border Down Mexico Way’, which he can still carry a cracking rendition of.

Asked the secret to his rum old age, Ginger says a good sense of humour and always being happy. “I’ve never made an enemy,” he says. “All my life, even in work, I’ve always got on with everyone and been happy!”

Local councillors George Humphries and Derrick Bevan know Ginger well and say he is a true character, the likes of which we probably will never see again.

They said: “If the world was full of people like Ginger Parsons what a fabulous place it would be! A hard working, honourable, peaceful funny man. Our legend Ginger Parsons!”

Ginger celebrated his birthday on Sunday with a meal with family and friends – and probably a pint or two!

The Ebbw Vale Works Museum is based at the General Offices, Steelworks Road, Ebbw Vale. It’s open Monday to Friday 10am – 1pm. The Museum is a dedicated archive for the former steelworks and is based in the former headquarters of the steelworks. The museum has a unique collection of artefacts and documents telling the story of iron and steel making in Ebbw Vale that includes the collieries that were owned by the Ebbw Vale Steel, Iron and Coal Company

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Linda Jones
Linda Jones
4 months ago

Heartwarming report

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