Skip to main content
John On The Rhondda

John On The Rhondda

By John Geraint Roberts
From the Valley that fuelled the world with its coal, and a community with a thirst for fair play and fair shares – John Geraint Roberts brings us places, people and ideas that lit up a famous past and can help shape a better future.
Where to listen
Google Podcasts Logo

Google Podcasts

Pocket Casts Logo

Pocket Casts

RadioPublic Logo


Spotify Logo


Currently playing episode


John On The Rhondda

The Great Welsh Auntie Novel - part five
John Geraint reads the fifth extract from 'The Great Welsh Auntie Novel' - available from Cambria Books ( and all good bookshops.
August 03, 2022
The Great Welsh Auntie Novel - part four
John Geraint reads the fourth extract from 'The Great Welsh Auntie Novel' - available from Cambria Books ( and all good bookshops.
July 27, 2022
The Great Welsh Auntie Novel - part three
John Geraint reads the third part of 'The Great Welsh Auntie Novel' - available from Cambria Books ( and all good bookshops.
July 20, 2022
The Great Welsh Auntie Novel - part two
John Geraint reads the second part of 'The Great Welsh Auntie Novel' - available from Cambria Books ( and all good bookshops.
July 13, 2022
The Great Welsh Auntie Novel - part one
John Geraint reads the first part of 'The Great Welsh Auntie Novel' - available from Cambria Books ( and all good bookshops.
July 06, 2022
My Rhondda Novel - part two
Writing a book is a challenge - even if it's about the Rhondda! John Geraint reflects on some of the demons he wrestled with in creating 'The Great Welsh Auntie Novel'. 
June 29, 2022
My Rhondda Novel
It wasn't just a dream! John Geraint really has written a book - 'The Great Welsh Auntie Novel'. And it'll be published by Cambria Books ( at the beginning of July 2022. Here's John talking about what his 'love letter to the Rhondda' aims to celebrate.
June 22, 2022
He Writes Like A Dream...
There's a rumour around the valley that a new novel about the Rhondda will be out soon. It's all about someone who sounds very like John Geraint Roberts. It's causing him a bit of anxiety. No wonder he's been talking to himself again!
June 15, 2022
Treorchy - Higher and Higher
A new video celebrating the continuing successes of Treorchy's fabulous High Street brings back memories for John Geraint Roberts of childhood bus rides to the town - and prompts him to commend those who've led Treorchy to new heights as an inspiration which the whole Rhondda could take to heart.  
June 08, 2022
Rhondda Fach
'The Other Valley' - from Maerdy down to Porth: so much rich history, and a little bit of friendly rivalry with the Rhondda Fawr! Join John Geraint Roberts on a jaunt through the villages of the Fach, ending up at the wonderful Workers Gallery in Ynyshir.
May 25, 2022
The Record Shop
Do you remember the very first LP you bought? And where you bought it? John Geraint Roberts owes his musical education to a very special retail outlet in a very special place: Tonypandy Square.
May 18, 2022
Cambrian Voices
Fifty-seven years ago, thirty-one Rhondda men died in an underground explosion in the Cambrian Colliery, Clydach Vale. As the anniversary of the Disaster approaches, John Geraint Roberts honours those who died, and those who worked there and survived the Disaster, by sharing some of their memories of what the pit was like as a workplace: the tough times and backbreaking work, the camaraderie too, the jokes and the pranks.
May 11, 2022
Libraries Gave Us Power...
… but it was Rhondda people themselves who powered up those libraries. In the 1930s, an astonishing 40,000 books were in circulation in mid-Rhondda alone. Across both valleys, twenty-one Miners’ Libraries, established and paid for by the workers themselves, fed Rhondda’s voracious appetite for reading. Because learning was the path to a better future…
May 04, 2022
Dim Problem
If you've spent some time in Wales, you probably speak a bit of Welsh, even if you don't speak Welsh, if you see what John Geraint Roberts means. And if you've spent any time at all in the Rhondda, you've almost certainly got a lot more Welsh than you realise...
April 13, 2022
Porth County Teachers and Pupils
Some stars of schooldays sat at desks; some stood in front of the blackboard. A school magazine from the 1960s takes John Geraint Roberts much further back in time, to days when classroom conditions were scarcely tolerable. And prompts him top reveal the secret that every teacher knows...
April 06, 2022
Rhondda Weddings
If you were the marrying kind, where did you tie the knot? Church, chapel or registry office? For better or worse, John Geraint Roberts recalls some memorable matrimonial occasions from his past, even though he never had a Rhondda Wedding himself. 
March 30, 2022
Shop At The Kwop?
The Co-operative Stores. What do you call them? 'The Coe-Op'? Or the 'Kwop'? Or the 'Kop' even. John Geraint Roberts' family were stalwart members of the Penygraig Industrial Co-operative Society, and they knew what to call it - and what kind of service they expected when they shopped there. After all, the shop belonged to them (and to all the 6,000 other members).
March 23, 2022
The Power House
This Grade II listed building provided the power which drove the fans and pumps that kept the Glamorgan Collieries in Llwynypia functioning. It was at the centre of one of the most momentous episodes in our history - the Cambrian Combine Dispute which led to the Tonypandy Riots in 1910. Now it's up for auction. John Geraint Roberts believes it's a place that can play a part in our future too - but it needs saving and restoring in order to do that.
March 16, 2022
Llwynypia Hospital
The birthplace of thousands of Rhondda children, the hospital at Llwynypia was originally a workhouse. Its history spans the decades before and after the birth of the NHS. John Geraint Roberts is proud to have entered this world there - and his Mam was very relieved: he was nearly born on a geriatric ward!
March 09, 2022
'Mid-Rhondda': Back On Track
A David-against-Goliath victory for a Rhondda campaign seeking to safeguard a much-loved green space for community use... it may seem a small thing in the grand scheme of global affairs, but in dark and desperate days, it's an inspiration, says John Geraint Roberts.
March 02, 2022
Rhondda Billionaires
Money... and how it's earned. It's a strange thing. Fortunes were accumulated from Rhondda coal - but not by those who dug it out. John Geraint Roberts weighs up the idea of a 'self-made billionaire' - and finds it lacks all substance, certainly when compared with the tonnage shifted by his grandfather and his butties.  
February 16, 2022
Miner's Day
B. L. Coombes's classic 'Miner's Day' has been re-issued by Parthian Books in a beautiful new format, edited by Peter Wakelin, illustrated by many more of Isabel Alexander's drawings and paintings of 1940s Rhondda. To John Geraint Roberts, it's a treasure.
February 09, 2022
The Ystrad Crocodile's Tale
Bizarre, absurd, joyful... Rhondda life has always sparkled with oddball characters and crazy happenings. One news story that recently came to light is pretty hard to swallow - but it's perfectly true! John Geraint Roberts has been talking about it. Talking to himself, naturally...
January 26, 2022
The Year Of The Valleys
2024. Fifty years on from the original 'Year Of The Valleys', it's high time we had another celebration of Valleys life - and a chance to plan a brighter future for this wonderful part of the world.
January 19, 2022
Black Tips and Pyramids
Flying high in the Swiss Alps. The fun and games of a Rhondda childhood. There's a connection between the two - in John Geraint's mind anyway. And it leads him to consider how those who live beneath mountains despoiled by coal waste deserve better. It's shameful for them to be left worrying daily about whether they and their loved ones are in mortal danger. Coal made Britain rich. For the Valleys that produced it, it's payback time!
January 12, 2022
Rhondda Resolution
Do you have a dream? The New Year is the perfect time to resolve to make that dream a reality! That's what John Geraint Roberts is determined to do, with... The Year Of The Valleys 2024. 
January 05, 2022
Quiz Time
Yes, it's that time of year when we all love to puzzle over some fiendishly difficult questions, testing our memories about the events of the last twelvemonth. Have you been paying attention... to John Geraint Roberts? 
December 29, 2021
Christmas Story
Introducing two Rhondda hedgehogs who're quite well-known in John Geraint Roberts' family but are making their broadcast debuts in this special Christmas story, suitable for children aged 0-99. 
December 22, 2021
Sunday School
How did Moses cross the Red Sea? And how did the boy called David bring down the Philistine giant Goliath? If the answers to these questions trip off your tongue, you probably learnt them in Sunday School, like John Geraint Roberts. But there's another side to some of the familiar, comforting Bible stories - and even at Christmas, it's worth pondering their true meaning... 
December 15, 2021
Rhondda Camaraderie
Friends. They're special, aren't they? And Rhondda friends are extra special. Here are some of the reasons why... 
December 08, 2021
For Luker
A special tribute to Logan Luker, the captain of Penygraig Youth rugby team, who has tragically died at the age of 17. Logan lived “to play rugby and make people happy”. The way in which Penygraig RFC and the whole community has come together in this time of great sadness to support Logan's family and teammates is a remarkable testament to the esteem in which this exceptional young player was held. 
December 01, 2021
Rhondda Parks
Every Rhondda park has a story to tell - it's just that, like the trees that lend the parks so much of their beauty, some of those tales are taller than others. John Geraint Roberts recalls the idyllic playgrounds of his childhood... but it was all such a long time ago now, so they're bitter-sweet memories - definitely a case of swings and roundabouts! 
November 24, 2021
Tonypandy Riots! part three
The Cambrian Combine Dispute of 1910-11 cost mid-Rhondda colliers £1million in lost wages, and ended when they were starved back to work for not a halfpenny more than was on offer before the lockout began. The deployment of Metropolitan Police and the British Army was crucial to the outcome. But who were the real victors? The 'Tonypandy Riots' bequeathed a legacy - in the trades union movement, in parliamentary legislation and in the strength of the bonds forged in the community itself - worthy of the sacrifice and courage shown by the 12,000 miners and their families.
November 17, 2021
Tonypandy Riots! part two
Did Winston Churchill send troops to confront unarmed civilians involved in an industrial dispute in mid-Rhondda in 1910? Churchill and his family have always claimed that he held the army back. So what's the truth about the 'Tonypandy Riots'?
November 10, 2021
Tonypandy Riots!
November, 1910. From Porth to Ystrad, every colliery is at a standstill. 12,000 mid-Rhondda miners are on strike. But their efforts to secure a living wage for themselves and their families are being frustrated by the Chief Constable of Glamorgan, the Metropolitan Police, the Lancashire Fusiliers, the 18th Hussars and Winston Churchill. It’s going to be a Riot.
November 03, 2021
We Beat The All Blacks!
In rugby, any side representing New Zealand has a special aura. Against Wales, for far too long, its been an aura of invincibility. But there are some Rhondda players who could legitimately respond to that famous rugby chant 'Who beat the All Blacks?' with a proud 'We did!'
October 20, 2021
Porth County Parties
Tradition is a funny thing. And the tradition of the Porth County Sixth Form Eighteenth Birthday Party was one of the... if not funniest, then certainly most fun. Or was it? John Geraint Roberts tries to remember
October 13, 2021
The Rhondda Mam
The Rhondda Mam is a classic Welsh Mam with an extra gear. John Geraint Roberts should know - his mother was one. She's remembered - amongst much else - for her endless supply of kit-kats!
October 06, 2021
Why It's THE Rhondda
Why do we talk about 'the Rhondda', not just 'Rhondda'? 'John On Rhondda' would sound odd, and most of us would say 'I was born in THE Rhondda' - but what's the reason for putting the definite article before the place-name? After all, it's not something we do commonly in English. John Geraint Roberts tries to explain...
September 29, 2021
The Man Who Made Tommy Farr
In 1937, in New York, the 'Tonypandy Terror' fought the legendary Joe Louis for the World Heavyweight Championship. It was a night all of the Rhondda remembers because of the 'live' radio commentary, relayed over the transatlantic cable. But the story of Tommy Farr's rise through the ranks is just as gripping...
September 22, 2021
Back To School
The first day of term! The whole world is a blank page in a fresh, new exercise book, and no-one's quite sure how it's going to be filled. John Geraint Roberts remembers his first day at Porth County, Hendrecafn Juniors and (almost!) Penygraig Infants.
September 01, 2021
Another Musical Treat
Have you heard about the most influential Rhondda band you’ve never heard of – and why you should be grateful for that? The (literally) incredible story of the group who invented a whole new way of singing and playing, with their classic tracks ‘Tonypandy Ton Up’, ‘Penrhys’ and ‘Wales Today’. Warning: contains nuts.
August 25, 2021
Music Hall Maestro
Broadcast publicly for the first time in an entire century, the mellifluous melodies of the magnificent mid-Rhondda musical maestro and miner, Mr John Henry Tudball!
August 11, 2021
Druids Close To Home
The National Eisteddfod has only ever visited the Rhondda once - but, as John Geraint Roberts explains, the Valley has certainly made an impact on the 'Olympics for Welsh-speakers'.
August 04, 2021
Summer In The Rhondda
School's out - and John Geraint Roberts remembers the colourful summers of his childhood. Six weeks of freedom! But there was a secret about the long holidays, a secret he'd managed to forget since the previous summer... 
July 28, 2021
Proper Rhondda Talk
What do you make of your own accent? John Geraint Roberts is proud of his. But not everyone from the Rhondda thinks that local people talk 'proper'. So John decided to have a chat to someone he thought might cast some light on the issue - strangely, it was John Geraint Roberts himself.
July 21, 2021
Valley of Song
Rhondda people love singing hymns and arias, ballads and rock anthems of all kinds... but have we got enough songs about the Rhondda to sing? John Geraint Roberts has used lots of music in his films about the Valley over the years, but he's still searching for The Great Rhondda Song...
July 14, 2021
Penrhys - a hilltop site of mystery, magic and miracles. For centuries, pilgrims flocked here hoping to be healed or blessed. It was a place of peace and reflection. But during the reign of Henry VIII, it could have sparked a rebellion...
July 07, 2021
Uncle Len - The Rhondda Working Man
The Rhondda Working Man - a heroic figure. Tens of thousands of intelligent, characterful men spent their lives doing unimaginably tough, backbreaking work. My Uncle Len was typical of them - but he was complete one-off too. This is my affectionate tribute to him, and to all those who laboured like him.
June 30, 2021
Treorchy's Rugby Dream
A bunch of Rhondda boys with a Grand Ambition - to take their local club to the very top of the rugby tree. There are so many parts of this story that - if you didn’t know they'd actually happened in real life - you’d swear that John Geraint Roberts had dreamt them up.
June 23, 2021
Rhondda Place Names
What does Tonypandy mean? Ynyshir? Gelli? Llwynypia? And there are plenty more where they came from! John Geraint Roberts gets to grip with why they named places up and down the Rhondda Fach and the Rhondda Fawr they way they did.
June 16, 2021
Ice Creams and Frothy Coffees
If you grew up in the Rhondda, real Italian ice-cream and 'Bracchis' - Italian cafes - offered a taste of paradise, exotic and yet all our own. John Geraint Roberts savours the flavours of Caravaggi's vanilla and Melardi's espresso.
June 09, 2021
Railway Lines
A trip on a train from Tonypandy and Trealaw station was always a treat for John Geraint Roberts. But there's one Rhondda rail journey he never made, and he's always regretted it...
May 26, 2021
Rhondda Towns and Villages
Where do you come from? And is your 'bit' of the Valley a town or a village? Does it matter what you call it? YES, says John Geraint Roberts. And he finds inspiration for his notion of how we should picture the Rhondda, far, far away, in a most unlikely place.
May 19, 2021
A walk through Clydach Vale's Countryside Park prompts thoughts of the terrible Cambrian Disaster, and the price that colliers paid so that others could enjoy comfort and power.
May 12, 2021
'Mid-Rhondda': Our Field Of Dreams
The Mid-Rhondda Athletic Ground in Tonypandy hosted international teams in rugby union and rugby league, and boasted its own professional football club. But John Geraint Roberts remembers it for an epic cricket match in which he played an unexpected part.
May 05, 2021
Welsh Hills
The joys of living in a place that's NEVER flat and boring!
April 28, 2021
From Radio Rhondda To Rhondda Radio
1978. Wales was about to get its first-ever dedicated national radio service. But BBC bosses wanted to pilot the new station, to see if it chimed with the audience. And there was only one place to do that: the Rhondda! John Geraint Roberts was just 21 - the youngest member of the launch team, presenting a show called 'Rhondda Rock'.
April 21, 2021
Dai Chips: A Rhondda Timelord
David Hywel Thomas - History's Most Eccentric History Teacher... and one of the best! 
April 14, 2021
Streets Ahead
John Geraint Roberts takes us for a busy walk along the retail wonderland that was Tonypandy's Dunraven Street in the 1970s.
March 31, 2021
On A Rhondda Bus
John Geraint Roberts' favourite boyhood toy took him up and down the Rhondda, from Blaencwm to Porth, and Clydach Vale to Maerdy - and even further afield! He was by far and away the youngest driver on the whole Rhondda Transport network.
March 24, 2021
The Price Of Coal
John Geraint Roberts's boyhood home was just yards away from one of Rhondda's most famous collieries - but the pit had been shut the year after the year he was born. All the same, his house had plenty to teach him about the true cost of the black diamond.
March 17, 2021
Phoning Home
Can you remember your very first telephone number? We were stuck for years on a waiting list before we got a phone at home, and when we did get one, it wasn't a proper Tonypandy number we were given. Memories of phone boxes, party lines, operators and misdialled numbers... a time when telecommunication wasn't the instant, omnipresent, hi-tech amenity we take for granted today.
March 10, 2021
In 2002, every child in Welsh-medium schools in the whole Rhondda marched on top of Penrhys to take part in a special film based on a National Eisteddfod-winning poem which celebrates the long history of the Valley. Rhondda's world-famous choirs, bands, singers and actors got involved too. John Geraint Roberts explains how he was inspired to make the film.
March 03, 2021
Central Hall, Tonypandy
The extraordinary social gospel preached and practised at the Methodist Central Hall, Tonypandy was an imaginative and prophetic clarion call against the inequalities of the 1920s and 1930s which pushed Rhondda people into hardship, hunger and - in thousands of cases - exile.
February 24, 2021
Will You Come To The Pictures With Me?
The Plaza and the Picturedrome, Zulu and Ben Hur, and the anxieties of a first date - the magic of the movies in mid-Rhondda. 
February 17, 2021
How many aunties did you have, when you were growing up? John Geraint Roberts started counting his, got to fifty and then recorded this episode...
February 11, 2021
Porth County
Were your schooldays the happiest days of your life? John Geraint Roberts counts himself lucky to have been born in just the right place at just the right time to experience a unique moment of educational transition.
February 04, 2021
Rugby's Greatest Try
...and its Rhondda connections.
January 28, 2021
Up The Mountain
Will you go for a walk with me? C'mon, we'll pretend we're teenagers again, you and me, and head off up the mountain. There's a place up there that's got something really special about it, something scarcely believable. I'm not sure I believe it myself....
January 21, 2021
What does following a band do for its fans? And what the fans do for a band? John Geraint Roberts listens back to a legendary Rhondda band of the 1980s.
January 14, 2021
Remember when 'Corona' meant pop, not the virus? John Geraint Roberts tells the amazing story of the genesis of Corona Soft Drinks as Welsh Hills Mineral Waters in Porth, and of William Evans, the man behind the brand and the grocery chain 'Thomas and Evans'
January 07, 2021
New Year's Eve
John's grandfather often hit the nail on the head. He was the colliery blacksmith. New Year's Eve always brings to mind his long life, with its many ups and downs. He was married four times, the fourth when he was... well, have a listen to find out how old!
December 31, 2020
Trimming The Coalface For Christmas
A letter from a listener which John Geraint Roberts has kept for 40 years. Mr William Coombes of Llwynypia describes a magic seasonal moment he shared with his 'butties', his fellow miners, deep underground.
December 20, 2020
Tom Jones In Nantgwyn Street
“Have you ever met Tom Jones? I did once. Well, nearly...”  The full story of star-struck 10-year-old John Geraint Roberts and Wales’s greatest popular singer coming together in Nantgwyn Street, Penygraig. First broadcast on Rhondda Radio.
December 17, 2020
Tonypandy Square
Do you remember Pandy Square in the 1970s? The Record Shop? The cafes? The cinema? John recalls the first album he ever bought, and his first-ever date... and remembers looking back further still into the past, to the times of the infamous Tonypandy Riots. First broadcast on Rhondda Radio.
December 11, 2020
December 10, 2020
December 10, 2020