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Oldest Grangetown resident dies, aged 103


Mary at her 100th birthday party.

Probably Grangetown's oldest resident has died peacefully at home, just a week before her 104th birthday.

Mary Desmond was a mother of 11 and a number of her children lived near her in the Merches Gardens area.


Mary with husband Charles in the 1930s and aged 99 at a family wedding.

She was born Mary Barry at 38 Chester Street in August 1913, one of 15 children. George V was king, Asquith was prime minister, it was a year before World War One and the height of the Suffragete movement. Mary went to St Patrick's School, which she left to look after her grandmother.

Mary, who also lived in Clare Road for a time, married her husband Charles Desmond in 1936.

The couple ran the Public Works Department Club in Mardy Street - later the Irish club and now the Samaj Centre - for more than 30 years. It used to attract people from all over Cardiff for dances.

Mary - who was interviewed before her 100th birthday by Grangetown Local History Society - also did bar work which she recalled as enjoying very much even though she did not drink alcohol. Mary also worked at Curran's amunitions factory near the docks, testing shells during World War Two. 

She had 11 children in 11 years but sadly lost her son David aged 23 in a hit-and-run road tragedy at the Clare Road lights in 1973 while Charles died a few months later.

Mary was a staunch member of St Patrick's Church congregation, attending Mass regularly, and had also been a cleaner at Ninian Park School.

Her grand-daughter Lisa said: "Nan had a huge family - 11 children, 24 grand children 42 great grandchildren and a number of great-greats. With such a big family and her work at the PWD she was known by a great many people from all over Cardiff." 

"St Patrick's was her church from the day it was built, receiving sacrament until the end of her long life. She was a pillar of the community, the church and her family." 


Mary (left) with Rita Spinola, who recorded her memories for the Grangetown Local History Society's oral archive, just before her 100th birthday.


Mary pictured with her surviving children.

Channel View tower re-cladding on hold

Plans to re-clad Channel View tower block have been put on hold - for a city-wide independent review into safety in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy in London.

Proposals had been agreed late last year to refurbish the 16-storey 1970s tower block - with the new cladding a central feature.

According to the developers the rainscreen cladding system proposed would be made of Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) but with a mineral-filled core "providing fire protection".

The planning report last autumn said it would “create a rustic look to the building, that compliments the colour scheme that was used at Windsor Quay.”

Local councillor Lynda Thorne, who is also cabinet member for housing, issued a statement to all tenants on Monday, in which she said: "Your safety is our upmost concern and in order to satisfy any doubts you may have, we will be engaging an independent firm of consultants to review the integrity of cladding systems. No new cladding will be used on high rise blocks until a full review has been completed and a further consultation has taken place."

She also outlined current safety measures and fire advice and stated that cladding work in the early 1990s on several blocks had been with fire-retardant materials, different to the ones used in London.

Mrs Thorne said although there were no particular issues with the Channel View project it would be wrong to proceed without further investigation.

The review involves nine tower blocks across Cardiff but Channel View is the only high-rise in Grangetown. There is no time scale for how long the investigation will take.


Aerial photos - altogether 60,000 m3 will be remmoved from the back of Clive Street. Click on images for full size.

Railway embankment removal on track

Thousands of tonnes of earth from a Victorian railway embankment have already been moved by developers - as these drone images show.

Contractors Cuddy have so far removed 40,000 cubic metres of spoil - two thirds of what will need to be removed from the site at the back of Clive Street lane to make way for a new housing development.

Developers Pegasus, who are using an entrance opposite York Place for the lorries to take the muckshift away, said it had meant minimal disruption to the local roads.

"We are on target for an August completion of the site clearance works with fencing works to secure the reduced level site starting within the next weeks," said Adrian Hancock, Pegasus director.

New pavilion cafe opens

Grange Gardens has its first cafe.

The Hideout in the refurbished Bowls Pavilion will be serving tea, coffee, ice creams, milk-shakesand cakes. It is the icing on the cake, almost literally, after the pavilion was given a £40,000 make-over last year.

The cafe is being run by local businessman and community activist Moseem Suleman, who runs Ice Cream Passion in Clare Road. The Hideout will also give experience to local young people, who will be serving there.

The pavilion is part of an ongoing project by local residents, Grangetown Community Action and Cardiff University's Community Gateway programme which is looking to take over ownership of the building, and with lottery funding is hoping for a major refurbishment.

The Hideout will be open from 10am to 6pm Monday to Saturday; and 12pm-6pm on Sunday. Follow: @thehideout_ggp

'Selfless servant' gets community award

Halimah Islam, who has been running a homework club for local children for the last 19 years, has been given the annual Joan Gallagher memorial award for her contribution to the local community.

Mrs Islam has been running the Saturday elementary school called Al-islah (meaning "guidance") for three hours per week as a volunteer. It started in portable buildings before moving to Channel View and more recently has been operating from the Grange Pavilion.

The idea behind the club was to build up the confidence of local BME community children offering them cultural studies through the medium of arts, crafts, books and social interaction in informal class settings.

As it progressed, Al-Islah organisers realised that children also needed assistance to improve their basic literacy and numeracy skills to catch up with national standards, so additional volunteers were recruited to offer children the support they needed.

At its peak, up to 85 children have attended.

The nomination for the award called her a "true community champion," who had "selflessly served" Grangetown. It added: "Mrs Islam has been an incredible asset and a symbol of inspiration for the women of the BME community who are often very difficult to engage with. She has been offering her time, skills, dedication and often paying money from her own pocket to purchase the learning materials, when certain parents find it difficult to pay the minimal fee. She has taught and inspired all my three children to gain the cultural awareness and the confidence to do well at school."

The award was presented at Grangetown Festival by Cardiff South and Penarth AM Vaughan Gething to Mrs Islam, accompanied by her sister, who also helps with the club.

It is made annually in memory of Joan Gallagher MBE, who served the local community for many decades, including as secretary of Grangetown Community Concern, the local Scouts and as a councillor.

End of long saga for school campaigners and church

Campaigners for a Welsh-medium primary school and those looking to preserve St Paul's Church are celebrating major planning landmarks.

The long-awaited new Ysgol Hamadryad will provide a first Welsh-medium school for pupils from Grangetown and Butetown.

The first intake of pupils is currently being taught in a starter class on the site of Ninian Park school. The new build behind the old Hamadryad Hospital, just over the Taff in Butetown, will take a year to build and be ready in time for the start of the school year in 2018.

Central to the application is a travel plan to encourage as many pupils, parents and staff to get to school by public transport, walking or bike. There is also £300,000 set aside for improving local junctions, crossings and for residents' parking.

The proposals include: