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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 August 2005, 06:19 GMT 07:19 UK
Ten reasons to love 'worst town'
Pictures (clockwise) of Donny Osmond, Keir Hardie, Julien MacDonald and a Sinclair C5
Merthyr has found fame in politics, entertainment and industry
A south Wales valleys town has been named one of the worst places in the UK to live by a television programme.

Merthyr Tydfil was labelled one of the 10 worst destinations, along with Hackney, Salford, Nottingham and Easington, County Durham for a Channel 4 show broadcast on Tuesday.

The programme ranked towns on five categories - crime, education, employment, environment and lifestyle - and cited Merthyr's high number of benefit claimants as a primary reason for its inclusion in the list.

Local politicians have branded the programme - called Best and Worst Places to Live in the UK - "crass". One said the programme seems to "glorify rich leafy suburbia ahead of working class areas, which have helped shape a nation". So, in what ways has Merthyr has helped shape the nation and, indeed, the world?

In no particular order, the BBC Wales news website finds 10 things for Merthyr to shout about.

1. The Osmonds The 1970s American family act has its roots in Merthyr. The family left the town in 1868 and settled in Utah. Earlier this year, Donny Osmond returned to south Wales in a bid to trace his family's Merthyr roots.

2. Keir Hardie Scotsman James Keir Hardie became among the first MPs for the fledgling Labour Party when he was elected in Merthyr Tydfil in 1900. He represented the seat until his death in 1915.

C5 enthusiasts in Merthyr
C5 enthusiasts still return to the vehicle's Merthyr birthplace

3. Dic Penderyn Originally from Aberavon, Dic Penderyn (or Richard Lewis) is forever associated with Merthyr due to his role in the town's uprising in 1831. After unrest broke out among the town's industrial workers, the 23-year-old was convicted of stabbing a soldier and was sent to the gallows in Cardiff. He became a folk hero among the working class then emerging in newly-industrialised south Wales.

4. Boxers While several famous Welsh sportsmen including footballer Mark Pembridge and rugby star Robert Sidoli hail from the town, Merthyr's claim to sporting fame rests with its champion boxers. British and European welterweight champion Eddie Thomas, tragic bantamweight Johnny Owen who was killed in the ring in 1980 and world featherweight champion Howard Winstone were all from Merthyr.

Hoover factory, Merthyr Tydfil
The Hoover factory remains a major employer in the town

5. Julien MacDonald The 33-year-old Merthyr-born designer has worked for some of the world's top fashion houses including Givenchy and Chanel after starting out knitting cardigans for his family. The former pupil of Cyfarthfa High School has dresses some of the world's most famous women including Kylie Minogue.

6. Industrial heritage Merthyr is one of the cradles of the industrial revolution. Iron works first arrived in the 18th century to take advantage of the area's plentiful natural resources. Less than 100 years later the town was among the world's biggest iron producers as it's population boomed. In 1804, the world's first railway locomotive, developed by Cornish engineer Richard Trevithick pulled 10 tons of iron on a newly-constructed tramway. Coal followed, but the town began its long decline as an industrial powerhouse in the years following World War One.
Picture of Keir Hardie
Labour pioneer Keir Hardie was MP for Merthyr

7. Hoover washing machines The Hoover factory at Pentrebach, south of Merthyr town centre, has been producing washing machines for the famous brand since 1948.

8. Sinclair C5 Ok, not the greatest success story but as well as washing machines, the Hoover factory turned out the battery powered C5 - the brainchild of inventor Sir Clive Sinclair. The one-seater vehicle was launched in 1984, with the hope that it would revolutionise travel. But it failed to entice buyers and just 12,000 were produced. Last year, fans of the C5 converged on Merthyr with their vehicles for a rally.

Joseph Parry
Joseph Parry is among Wales' best known composers

9. Joseph Parry The composer of some of Wales' best loved pieces including the love song Myfanwy and the hymn tune Aberystwyth was born in Merthyr.

10. Owen Money The Merthyr-born entertainer has been a familiar face to Welsh audiences since the 1960s and currently anchors BBC Radio Wales' Afternoon Show, Money For Nothing and Extra Time, as well as presenting TV talent show Just Up Your Street.

We asked you whether we missed any of Merthyr's claims to fame. Below is a selection of your responses.

Merthyr people are the friendliest in the UK, much better than Chester people and the London crowd. The Merthyr area can also boast some of the best countryside in these islands.
Dale Miles, Chester

I have always loved Merthyr even though I left about 10 years ago, the only thing that stops me returning is the lack of employment. Merthyr suffers from being forgotten by goverment, all it's problems stem from there - they took away industry, mining, etc, and replaced it with nothing.
Paul Price, Torquay

It is a glaringly indicative sign of the perpetual overall British decline that only the Home Counties in the south east of England can be regarded as anywhere near properous!
G Chin, South Woodham Ferrers, England

Surely one of Merthyr's greatest claims to fame is the best football fanzine name ever - Dial M for Merthyr
Mike Koppe, Halesowen, West Midlands

Take no notice of such silly surveys. What can the surveyors know of the rich history of Merthyr? How can they calculate the huge contribution Merthyr has made to general 'British' well-being? How can they estimate the decades of massive exploitation which helped create the 'leafy suburbs'that Merthyr is now compared with? When Joseph Parry was once asked who he was, he replied "Bachgen bach o Ferthyr, erioed, erioed." (A little boy from Merthyr, always, always.) I am proud to use exactly the same set of words wherever I go.
Trevor Rees, Suva, Fiji Islands

I challenge anyone to walk the streets of any dozen or so towns or cities of their choice in the UK, and then take a walk in Merthyr. I know where the friendliest people will be. I also know where they'll meet people who value being able to smile at passers by, say hello to passers by and generally make an effort to acknowledge others in the street. We in Merthyr have community spirit aplenty, and welcome anyone to the town.
Richard, Merthyr Tydfil

How quaint to read the visceral loathing from the Welsh whiners about how the wealth of Britain came from Wales. My mother and grandmother both came from Merthyr and it says something about how awful it is that my grandmother moved to East Ham as an improvement!!
Derek Blighty, UK

Has anyone noticed that Blaenau Gwent came one place higher on the list than Merthyr - or can no-one think of anything to shout about in Blaenau?!
Katherine Smith, Cardiff

Being on this list is probably the best thing that's ever happened to Merthyr! It's a pity Hull took the top spot, but there is always room for improvement!
Gareth, London, UK

Ironic that Epsom and Ewell's status as the best town to live in is predicated on the existence of Merthyr as the birthplace of the industrial, capitalist revolution. Middle class suburban malaise would not exist without the former industrial hotbed of Merthyr.
Joe G, Oxford UK

People make a town and the people of Merthyr are some of the best I have ever met. As a Coventry kid, who had never travelled to wales before, I first visited Merthyr in 1979 and was immediately made welcome.
Dom Madden, Portskewett, Monmouthshire

The first steam locomative to run on rails took place in Merthyr Tydfil in 1804. This was undertaken by a man named Richard Trevithick.
Steve Jones, Reading

I am proud to say I was born in Merthyr; I also received an excellent education at Twynyrodyn Schools and at the County Grammar. The programme makers clearly did not look too closey at the surrounding countryside, talk to the good-natured, warm people or consider anything other than the usual mark of 'greatness 'these days - namely, MONEY.
Allison Allen, Stoke Hammond, Bucks

Had it not been for Merthyr's industrial might, its people's spirit and innovation, many things we take for granted may not have come to being! Cardiff would not be the Welsh powerhouse it is today, the railways might not exist and the Labour Party may not have come into being! Whilst it may not be trendy Chelsea or Notting Hill, one day this town will be a shining example to urban regeneration.
Geraint McCarthy, Stratford upon Avon

I am originally from Merthyr and emigrated to the US six years ago, taking everything about Merthyr for granted. Now I miss it so much that it hurts to read bad press! The people of Merthyr are amongst the most friendy in Wales and there are so many beautiful places to see, including one of the most famous castles in Wales - give it a break and a chance!
Nina Vejnovich, Nebraska, USA

The people - they're great. There might not be much going on there, but I know many places that are worse and more run down than Merthyr
Geraint McCarthy, Stratford upon Avon

I earn my living doing market research - cold calling on people's homes. I can guarantee a positive response from the people of Merthyr - along with cups of tea - which is something I would never get when working in Cardiff!
Carole Munden, Aberdare

Just like the Osmonds, the family of Rolf Harris also has its roots in Merthyr.
A.B, Merthyr Tydfil

I live in Cardiff and work in Merthyr. The people are much more friendly in Merthyr. Never a day goes by without a stranger saying hello to me as I walk around the area.
Mike, Cardiff

When we return home to south Wales from Canada, Merthyr is always on our route to and from places. As with Rome all roads lead to Merthyr.
James, Ontario, Canada

People in 'rich leafy suburbia' should be ashamed of themselves that areas such as Merthyr, which powered Britain's drive(s) to prosperity, have been neglected so badly. "Many sweat the sweat, few reap the rewards."
Ian Thomas, Miskin (works in Merthyr)

The people - they're great. There might not be much going on there, but I know many places that are worse and more run down than Merthyr.
Lee Jones, Cardiff

Our politicians and the amount of work they put in attempting to regenerate the area despite continued opposition such as this list
Jonathan Thomas, Merthyr Tydfil, Wales

If Merthyr Tydfil is so awful the blame lies not with the people of Merthyr but with the South East Anglo oriented politicians who have allowed a great industrial heritage to rot.
Tom Baker (Twmws ap Gwylym), Broughton, Flintshire

Osmond traces Welsh roots
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12 Oct 03 |  South East Wales

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