NEATH MP Peter Hain, who last week made the shock announcement he would stand down at the next election, has described the town as a close-knit community.
But, he said, the villages are not quite as close as they once were — and he’s seen major changes in his 23 years serving the area.
Mr Hain, who lives in Resolven, said the main change was in the social lives of people across the area.
“I used to go down to Resolven Rugby Club on a Saturday night,” he said.
“The lounge bar used to be absolutely packed, with the men in their suits or shirt and tie and the ladies in their dresses.
“There would be 80 to 100 people in there, and that was the same in all the villages around the constituency.
“But these days, if you go into Resolven Rugby Club, unless there’s a function, there’s maybe one in the lounge bar.
“The pool bar is often full with youngsters.
“There’s been a big cultural shift, in very, very close knit communities.”
But, he said, Neath still has a great sense of community spirit and care for each other — but that people retreat to their own homes more on a Saturday night, with more choice on the television and affordable at-home drinking.
Speaking about his memories of his time as MP for Neath, he added: “One thing I remember is, when the Eisteddfod came to Neath, to the Neath Valley.
“I decided I would like to make an opening address in Welsh.
“I knew a Welsh speaking audience would be thrilled.
“My close friend, and agent at the time, Howard Davies, is a Welsh speaker and he said to me, ‘Don’t do it Peter, this is mad’.”
But on with it he went, and with the help of former deputy head teacher, Caryl Chiswell, of Godre’r Graig, he was tutored for the three or four months ahead of the festival.
“We wrote a speech, and went through it,” said Mr Hain.
“But then we had to change it, because she said it was too complicated, and that we could say the same thing in a different way.
“To cut a long story short, I delivered it and got a standing ovation.
“There was also a message from Nelson Mandela, thanking the people of Wales for their support in the freedom struggle.”
Full interview here: