The introduction to the Gwendraeth Community Plan (2004-2020) states that:
The heart of Cwm Gwendraeth is difficult to pin point as we are mainly a string of post-industrial, post mining villages. But the heart beat is strong in this vibrant community, who care greatly about its future. The valley of the Gwendraeth Fawr is a unique combination, which still retains the features of its anthracite mining past. There may be no obvious heart but we all have a common goal to develop our communities to be the best.
Although this is not a rural community neither is it urban – the area’s character is generated by a mix of farming and scattered ex-mining villages. It has suffered from severe economic and social problems following the rapid deterioration of the coal industry. These include low income, health problems, outward migration of young people, skills weaknesses and an ageing population.
The combined population of the two valleys is almost 30,000 and the population of Gorslas itself was 3424 at the time of the 1991 census. Carmarthenshire has the largest number of Welsh speakers in Wales with 76.04% of the population in Gorslas being Welsh speaking.
The cultural importance of religion, education and sport is demonstrated by the emblem or logo used by Gorslas Community Council which includes images of St Lleian’s Church, an open book with a pen, and a rugby ball.
The adversity endured by miners in the Gwendraeth valley provided the impetus that encouraged education in the area. Prior to the opening of Gwendraeth Grammar School in 1925, children had to travel to grammar schools in Carmarthen, Llanelli and Llandeilo. The school began its existence in temporary accommodation in Hebron Chapel Vestry until the new school buildings were opened in 1927. There was still a lack of Welsh education and criticism was levied against inadequate provision for Welsh in an area of predominantly Welsh speakers. Today there has been a marked change in emphasis with a wide-ranging provision in the Maes-Yr-Yrfa Bilingual Comprehensive School and also other local schools.
Numerous well-known people have been educated at Ysgol Y Gwendraeth since its inauguration including two of the school’s and district’s sporting heroes, Carwyn James and Barry John. Cefneithin has a strong rugby tradition and Carwyn James moved there as a young boy. He became a world class rugby player and was admitted to the Gorsaf of Bards in 1972 but refused the MBE following the Lions tour of New Zealand in 1971 due to his staunch nationalist views.
Barry John is another of Cefneithin’s rugby giants and he won his first Welsh cap in 1966. Following the successful Lions tour in 1971 he was crowned ‘Y Brenin’ (the King of rugby).
In addition to rugby, the communities have a strong tradition for cricket and football with local teams participating in these sports.