Ciswo doubles ex-miners' meeting groups in three years
A charity supporting former miners and their families across south Wales has doubled the number of social groups it runs over the last three years.
The Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation (Ciswo) now has almost 30 groups across the former coalfield.
It offers a variety of services such as home visits, bereavement support, help with benefits applications and industrial illness compensation claims.
But with an ageing population, it is looking at its future purpose.
One of Ciswo's groups meets every other Wednesday in Brynaman, Carmarthenshire and Ashley Jones, 85, comes to every meeting from Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen.
"I started working in East Pit in 1946. I've worked in various collieries all around here, opencast and small mines. I've been in mining all my life," he said.
"We have talks, we have quizzes, have a cup of tea, biscuits. We're only here for a couple of hours, but it goes just like that.
"It's very important to me because I buried my wife nine years ago, so I've lived on my own, so it's nice for the company," he said.
"We discuss things, then we play bingo, and we enjoy ourselves," Sylvia Evans, from Brynaman, said.
"The men were underground and us wives, we always worried about what might happen.
"That brought us closer together. But when the pits closed, some of that sense of community was lost too.
"These groups help us keep some of that spirit going," she said.
A small team in Pontypridd also manages subsidised holidays to Ciswo's hotel, a former miners' convalescence home in Bournemouth.
The demand for Ciswo's support groups may have peaked but the ageing population of ex-miners means the charity's considering what it will be for in future.
"Ciswo has a fiduciary interest in a vast range of active miners' welfare facilities and former miners' welfare facilities," said its regional manager Andrew Morse.
"But Ciswo is about protecting recreational facilities, hopefully forever and a day.
"But when the last mining beneficiary, has come and gone, sadly, chances are there will still some form of role in terms of the preservation of the recreational facilities for the next goodness knows how many generations."
Wayne Thomas, one of Ciswo's national trustees, added: "We're hoping to set up surgeries, a bit like the ones local councillors have.
"So if we've missed people from our social inclusion groups, or there are people that don't want to come to our groups, those surgeries will mean we'll be able to reach them. That's the next goal."