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Mabon in song ... and he is someone to sing about !

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 13, 2014 1:37 pm    Post subject: Mabon in song ... and he is someone to sing about ! Reply with quote


[ Oh dear, what a rant - I was just going to jot down a note about a song : it is at the bottom of the pile below - sorry ! ]

Mabon of course is famously associated with that typically Welsh incident when he was assailed upon his political platform by some very hostile and persistently disruptive attacks from some people who had come to subvert the meeting : basically they were the Victorian equivalent of our modern ' black factions ' who when they see some other organisation gathering support then opportunistically try to hijack other people's campaigns by placing their own brand upon them. They do this in order to put themselves in control of others and thus supposedly radicalise them, or at least associate themselves with the success of those others for the purposes of using them to promote their own political objectives, thus discrediting other people's campaigns by associating themselves with them and so destroy the work of years and - as often as not - within seconds. Later on in the story of Mabon he was having to answer on behalf of the working men and women who supported him for the behaviour of these self same people who by then had graduated to placing explosives on the main railway lines in order to draw attention to their political cause ... but they were not Republicans - see below !

That is how fragile political ideals are in comparison to the solidarity to be found in the loyalties of personal friendship, which is the much stronger basis upon which any political organisation can thrive : learn therefore from Mabon who espoused a strong morality and ethics and thus, despite all of the political contentions and controversies which he was involved with over his thirty five years as an MP, made good friends and kept them - and thus he was arguably the most successful of all Victorian politicians from Wales .. and note : whilst he argued strongly for ordinary people being able to vote, he was a also good trade unionist and never brought things to a vote unless they had been thoroughly discussed beforehand with everyone involved in order to try to reach a broadly supported agreement beforehand : if you have not achieved such a consensus then it is stupid to put the matter to the vote - persistently passing resolutions upon close margins which create sectarian divisions will lead to disunity : Socialists are past masters at doing this by various stupid methods ...

In other words Mabon obeyed that old Republican maxim - " NO UNITY - NO UNION ! " - ' union ' was a Republican buzz-word of the 1810's* : before there were ' political parties ' there were ' political unions ' and also ' charitable unions ' - long before ' craft guilds ' became ' trade unions ' in the 1830's. The fact that the word ' union ' was associated with the idea which it was designed to replace - because ' Republicanism ' was being demonised by the United Kingdom's governments - helps to explain why being a trade unionist was illegal until as late as 1871 : they were counted as being the same thing - and it had nothing to do with Socialism : that is why Mabon's meeting was being attacked by his political opponents - they were Socialists, and once they had taken over " The Fed " which he had taken thirty years to create, they destroyed it five years later by trying to use it as one of the battering rams of Socialism in the General Strike of 1926. YOU HAVE NEVER READ THAT VERSION OF WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO " THE FED " BEFORE ? ... PERHAPS YOU MIGHT NOW THINK AGAIN ABOUT WHAT SCARGILL USED THE NUM FOR IN 1984 ?

[ * c1812 the word ' union ' had a deliciously ambivalent meaning : Ireland had just been forced into the " Union of Great Britain and Ireland " or the " United Kingdom " and so superficially it had a ring of ' loyalty ' about it, but equally the British Empire had just been defeated by the ' United States of America ' and some people could barely keep a straight face whilst using it to the faces of those in authority ! Because of the political oppression of Republicans they loved playing such tricks : the red dragon flag is another example which starts appearing later - the ' Welsh ' royal standard of Henry VII being used to declare that the ' national colours ' of Wales are ' red, white and green ' which just accidentally on purpose happen to be the colours of the Republican tricolours and tribands then being used in both England and Wales ... and furthermore Henry VII just happened to overthrew the English tyrant Richard III ... ]

To return to the story ( ! ) instead of being drawn into arguing with these people who were purposefully disrupting the meeting to subvert it Mabon did a very intelligent thing, which probably could never work anywhere else but in Wales : he started singing ! The whole crowd, instead of being silent spectators at an unedifying verbal slanging match, joined in and skilfully drowned out the hecklers on behalf of Mabon ! The disruptors then had to give up in total embarrassment having realised that they had failed to take over Mabon's meeting and use it for the purposes of proclaiming themselves as the supposed leaders of public opinion. Mabon had skillfully demonstrated his leadership by demonstrating it in song - not argument !

I wish I could sing ... but I write - and I write in the once famous tradition of South Welsh political satire of which there is a blistering example below, which was directed perhaps at my great uncle David Lawrence, who as I understand it was Mabon's election agent when he was first elected in 1885. This campaign was potentially a very violent contest between the colliers' candidate William Abraham and the coal owners' candidate Frederick Lewis Davis, who was being groomed for a parliamentary career by his father Lewis Davis of the Cambrian Combine who abused his local patronage to foist his son upon the local Liberal Party - and thus destroyed it and inadvertently help to lay one of the main foundations of the Labour Party in Wales, which finally came into being in 1900 although Mabon remained aside from it until his union affiliated to it in 1909.* This was the first mass franchise election for the newly created Rhondda ( at the time ' Ystradyfodwg ' ) constituency. You can read all about this in Chapter 2 of Chris Williams' " Democratic Rhondda " UWP, 1996.

[ * Mabon soothed the wounds of the 1885 election by becoming a Liberal-Labour or " Lib-Lab " MP which was a popular strategy in many places in order to not split the dissenting vote and let the Conservatives win. NOTE : WHO WAS THE FIRST TO STAND FOR ELECTION ON A LIB-LAB TICKET ? George Odger in the Southwark bi-election of 1870 : one of the most prominently public Republicans of the last great rise in Republicanism in the United Kingdom in the early 1870's. Odger - not Marx ! - was the first president of the International Workingmen's Association, one of the founding members of the Trades Union Congress and spent much of his time at Westminster arguing for various causes as the General Secretary of the TUC ... so if anybody tries to tell you how Republicans are violent, nothing to do with Trade Unionism or pursue their political ends through violence - point them towards George Odger's legacy - it is all around us.]


This is believed to be a caricature of George Odger, who was a cobbler by trade : the scroll says " REPUBLICANISM " and Brittania jerks her thumb at ... er ... all foreigners in general ... including the Welsh ? ... and lectures the helplessly dangling George Odger - " IS THAT THE SORT OF THING YOU WANT YOU LITTLE IDIOT ? " - which of course was never the case, ever : THIS IS WHAT I MEAN BY THE LEGACY OF BRITISH IMPERIALIST PROPAGANDA.

( Punch, 8th April 1872 )


Ah ! Now look at those old Republican symbols displayed in the IWA's badge !


Oh god-that-I-don't-believe-in-but-have-faith-in ... I need to get on with the business of the day : I will just slam the email in here that I was going to work from - guess who I am trying to persuade to come to his senses ?


Subject: FW: Western Mail : 8th December 1885 - SHONI MOCYN ON " MABON'S " ELECTION / & MABON'S ELECTION SONG - 1910
Date: Thu, 13 Mar 2014 06:58:18 +0000

Dear Martin Shipton,

I don't think that you deserve this but to have put in a whole night's sleeplessness into it and only send it to one other ...

... there were a whole series of these spoof articles by " Shoni Mocyn " if you care to look - I write in a long tradition ...

If you think that your slap would make me shy you are quite wrong - " David lost his rag in that typically dead-calm Lawrence way " - and so I decided that the only way to make my stance understood was to divorce Republicanism from Democracy once again so that I can demonstrate that Hierarchy, Monarchy, Aristocracy and Democracy are all Ultraisms and therefore obnoxious to the art of conversation which is the heart of politics. But can you understand what that means ?

You might like to keep an eye upon my latest slowest project -


David B. Lawrence,

Subject: Western Mail : 8th December 1885 - SHONI MOCYN ON " MABON'S " ELECTION / & MABON'S ELECTION SONG - 1910
Date: Thu, 13 Mar 2014 06:14:12 +0000

Dear xxxx

I have foolishly given in to curiosity and have been spending sleeplessness hours browsing newspapers on line to look for traces of my great uncle David Lawrence's involvement in getting Mabon elected as the first Rhondda Labour MP in 1885. The story as I have it was that upon finding out that the coal owner had fixed things up within the Liberal Party to put his just-out-of-university son into place as the first Rhondda MP, fully expecting nobody to put up any candidate which his newly enfranchised employees would dare cross him and vote for, David lost his rag in that typically dead-calm Lawrence way that we do and sought out William Abraham who of course was already a popular leader - and became his election agent.

A more reliable account of the election is to be found in Chapter 2 of ' Democratic Rhondda ' by Chris Williams : it sounds pretty brutal to me, with rival mobs heaving stones at each other's candidates. Then when I came across this below I did a double check : " ... Tha bois wos throwin stons shamful. I was doin what I cood to stop em, an to perswade them tha plisis was owar ffryns. ... We who do thinc a bit ar veri sori tha bois did disgrace tha plas, an us al, bi throwin stons an smashin windows lik that. ... " Because I feel that is a mickey-take out of the values that I was brought up with, incredible for some.

Besides that there is this the little song in the middle of it and the reference to ' Mari's Awen ' which seems to allude to some crudely trickled down memory of the Republicanism of fifty years before, and the Republican clubs had only finally died out the previous decade just as the Rhondda had begun to take off in a serious way. Which has me wondering about the remark " ... It is the teachin of old tims not forgeten yet, yew see : iss shewer. ... " The Blaenllechau Radical Club may well be the last of those Republican Clubs not converted into a Labour, Liberal or Conservative Club - because we know that when it became impossible to call themselves Republicans in public many people settled for the word ' Radical.' It is Blaenllechau which is associated with the famous story of David Davies running out of money to pay his men and they had still not struck coal because they were higher up the valley and the men decided to dig on down rather than scatter away : Mabon was not an eccentric, his political values were that of the community that he lived in which were not Socialist but rather an old-fashioned home spun Radicalism rooted through Chartism back to the Republicanism in Wales of the 1790's ...

... I.e. before everything went wretchedly and wickedly wrong because of the Permanently Paranoid Prime Sinister Pitt.

Anyhow : perhaps you might be able to do something with the song below by grafting a bit of the history of 1885 onto it ?

Oh ! - HANG ON - There is another Mabon song in a book somewhere ... hold on ... just another unwanted hour's sleep ...

David B. Lawrence,


Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), Tuesday, December 8, 1885; Issue 5170.


Wen I was a boi owar skool mister was sing a beautiful him with a chorus of " Wak fal di ral." I hav bin on tha spree evar sins last Windsdai, an I'm singin al the tim " Wak fal di ral." Judgin bi the Wastern Mail yew doo kip yewarself middlin worm down thar too. Yew do thrash the krachach awfwl, sir, these dais. I do heer their sgrems up heer on tha mowntan sid. O Mosis anwl, what was yewar stik compared to tha whipsi whapsi of owar editar ? Mari, mi weiff, has got a betar ed than me, an she do sai yewar stik is betar than tha stik of Mosis, cos hes stik was onli for splashin water an drownin peepl, but yewar stik is for to bet the konsait owt o tha krachach. Mari do sai she has got a goot mind to plai tymbario to yew, sir, the same as Miriam did to Mosis an Aaron, after Mosis deed whak with hes stik the Red Sea, an the same as the Salvation Armi lasses do now. Mari is a bit of a poat, too, as was tha sistar of Mosis, an I'm sure she got a betar voise than ani Miriam in creashion. Tha yther night, sir, she deed wake me an sai, " Shon anwl, I hav bin mekin a song for " Mabon " an tha preeshars," an, pon mi word, she did begin to sing like this in tha middle of tha night : -

Tha preeshars do sgrame
Thei war al to blam ;
O drat em, but " Mabon " did beat em.
Tha peeple do sai
Thei'll cut down their pai ;
O drat em, but " Mabon " did beat em.

Tha Three Hundred olek
Ar gone into blak,
O drat em, but " Mabon " did beat em ;
Tha gaffars and all
Ar gone beyond call,
O drat em, but " Mabon " did beat em.
Mawr ei fri yw hen Gwmafon,
Canys yno magwyd Mabon.

At this point Mari was stopped, cos I was now affraid for that selin to fall on owar fasis ; for I dont thinc it is safe, yew see, to sai mooch agains preeshars an gaffars ; no indeed thar now. The preeshars, yew see, do tel us about nex orld, an gaffers about this orld, an between tha two they got us under thar thumbs - but, O drat em, our " Mabon " did beat em. It was cos of that I did put a stop to Mari's Awen bi laying mi hand on her mouth. Tha stem of tha Musis howevver did pass up between mi fingars long aftar. Mari did sai she did spek agains preeshars only cos thei did not mind thar own bysnas. She did sai, too, tha gaffars ar lik weather coks : thei do go wich evar wai tha misters do blow em.

We did hev a exsitin tim at Pentre an Porth on Windsdai night, sir. Tha bois wos throwin stons shamful. I was doin what I cood to stop em, an to perswade them tha plisis was owar ffryns. Sum of tham did sai, tha plisis from ythar plases did cum up to friten them, but that thei was not affraid o enibodi, an thei wood mak " Mabon " Mimbar o Barlament spite of pleeses, preechars, gaffars and the Devil. We who do thinc a bit ar veri sori tha bois did disgrace tha plas, an us al, bi throwin stons an smashin windows lik that. I did tel em strainjars ood thinc we was nakad savijes, with tails, an that we do eat leetle shildrans for brekfast. O drat it, I'm sori oncomon, for I do no beter mooch an that tha bois who did throw stons were onli few raskals who do thinc al nonsans is lowed at Lecshwn tims. It is the teachin of old tims not forgeten yet, yew see : iss shewer. [ / ]

In ths time of Christopher Coles an Edwards, Rheola, wen beer was runnin lik watar on the pollin dai people did fight an beat each yther awfool, for the glori of tha British Konstitooshon Al, exept raskals, hev forgot that now, Wen peepl rimembar that Rhondda has hundred thowsan men, omen, and shildran livin in it, thei wil see that those who did throw stons was not one in a hundrad of us. It is not fare for 99 to be forgot, an one raskal to be rimembered, an to giv us bad character ol, I got a lot to sai, but I'm workin dai shifft now. Rimembar me to the Welsh bois at ewer offis, sir. How ar the Scotch packmans, ewer neiburs ? Do thei tek their lickins gresfulli ? I avent had tim to reed their dirty paper letley. All the Rhondda Valley do sai they av nothin more to do with it sins it as taken to tell lies about " Mabon." Good-by now watevir.

Ewers affeckshonately,



MABON'S ELECTION SONG - 1910 - to the obvious tune - " Men of Rhondda " - surely !

Rhondda men be strong in action,
We must rout the Tory faction,
And to win in this Election,
Mabon is our man !

The Tories' rule is Autocratic,
We must have it Democratic ;
Therefore, with voice emphatic,
House of Lords must go !

Nought but tribulation,
Give they to our nation ;
The People's votes and not the Lords'
Must govern legislation :

Vote for Freedom, no Protection,
Vote for Progress, no Defection,
Vote for Mabon - next Election :
Strike a Free Trade blow !


[ PS The Free Trade ethic fitted well with the Internationalist ethos of Republicanism, and for people not living any more in rural communities with access to food nearby but in industrial ones dependent upon food and materials imported from far away e.g. meat from South America, flour from North America, wood from Scandinavia, iron ore from Europe etc the price of food under protectionist politics had already become punitive when the high wages which had brought them into the valleys and the industries associated with them began to be progressively cut back in order to maintain the coal owner's profits. The inhabitants of the coal fields and the iron towns and the ports which supported them came originally from not only within Wales and the rest of the United Kingdom, but also from as far east as Russia, as far south as Africa and as far west as the Americas - and when the Welsh turned their attention northwards they found that even the Eskimos were trying to hitch lifts over to Scandinavia to join in with the Norwegians and Swedes who were trying to find a way get over here ... it was this rich clash of cultures in the nineteenth century which transformed the Welsh into a people acutely aware of the value of their own language and culture - by rediscovering the importance of it through this century long experience of becoming an internationalist society, which is now being traded in for " Multi-Culturalism " where each of the communities in Wales have now become isolated from the others surrounding them and are preoccupied with maintaining their own separate identities e.g. " BBC Radio 4 listeners."

Contrast the Irish who mostly gave up for many reasons upon bothering to value their language and culture and found themselves always fighting against their oppressors but rarely for themselves ... well, that was an unfair comment perhaps, but those imprisoned after the 1916 Easter Rising were deliberately interned in Frongoch in Wales to isolate them within a supposedly unsympathetic and loyalist community trusted by the United Kingdom not to be able to offer the Irish any encouragement or even to be able to communicate properly with them in the half-shared language of English. Of course the government's plan immediately started to backfire because if the Welsh were cautious they were also curious, and if not friendly they were polite and started to teach the Irish a few basic words. The urban Irish were proverbially gobsmacked : their own attitudes to the native speakers amongst them varied but they considered them to be illiterate peasants, that the native language of Ireland was inevitably limited in its scope and usefulness and brutish. What they witnessed in Wales was a bunch of pleasant peasants perfectly properly performing the perennial perfunctory tasks of everyday life in the modern industrial world through what the Irish had supposed was a native language with no more scope than they believed that their own had. It was a revalation for the Irish : they had never before considered the possibilities of actually riding a bicycle in Gaelic, and so for a period of time until their discharge the biggest Irish native language school was in Wales ! This happy band of brothers of the newly Gaelicised then went on to make every child learn to ride a bicycle in Gaelic and within the space of a mere decade indifference to the Gaelic language in Ireland had been turned into an unrelenting bitter hostility to all of those state sponsored buggers who insisted upon making them learn it in school ! Surely ... ? ]


I'm sorry if a few of my ardently Irish readers feel a bit sore about that, but my own acquaintances are amongst those Republicans in southern Ireland who are more at ease with this sort of humour. Of course their own passion is also for my kind of ' white ' Republicanism, and they will always be willing when the chips are down to fight for a twenty-six county republic ... sheesh ... surely I am a weapon of mass instruction tonight !

Ill give these guys a plug by way of compensation for my taking the Mick ...


... I think that I am sailing close to the wind here in featuring a group with which I strongly disagree but in one of those lateral thinking moments I thought of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement as an example of the opposite of what ' white ' republicanism stands for - they even just had a ' black ' flag day, but note that they used it in the proper way : as a sign of mourning and protest over the deaths on Bloody Sunday in 1972. This organisation is generally considered to be a front for the ' Real IRA ' and so they are widely condemned, but ought they to be - even if they are indeed terrorists waiting to strike ? From a Mabonite point of view this situation can be argued to be the fault of those who failed to address these peoples needs : it doesn't matter whether they were pushed or whether they jumped out of Sinn Fein, the end result of not attending to minority groups is harmful - and in this instance could prove to be fatal to some.

I don't really care to debate the problems within Republicanism in Ireland much because they belong wholly to the Irish, to their own situations and to their own histories which have led them up to this unhappy present state of affairs ... but I think that it is indeed getting better, and although I have not got a clue as to how that is so I think that they deserve our sympathies. But they should not expect us to agree to their opinions upon anything - especially because there is such a gulf of understanding between us. From where I stand in Wales I don't care for the descendents of either side of the red / green split of the 1920's between Sinn Fein / Fianna Fail any more than I care for either side of the red / green split which occurred here in Wales in the 1950's. What I find deeply troubling about Republicanism in Ireland is the problem of who can claim the legacy of the whites in Ireland, who seem to have entirely collapsed as an identifiable faction during the Irish Civil War of 1922-23.

True, Ireland has always had a strong Peace Movement, but it has always seemed to be unable to articulate itself as a separately stated political position : it is as if there is nothing to bond the Irish together as a nation, albeit they always stand very closely together but that is something rather different. In terms of possessing a sense of unity the Welsh seem to do rather better than the Irish despite the latter's political independence : proof positive I think that the ' Res Publica ' can not be created by scrawling scribbles upon bits of paper, that ' Y Repwblic ' is a living thing which is a thing created simply by living : it can not be manufactured or created or proclaimed and it is utterly indifferent to the pretenses of those who claim their states to be ' republics ' or govern in the name of ' The People ' or something they claim to be ' The Republic.' ' Y Repwblic ' can only be created through and discovered within the relationships between us, and we can only make it happen by what we do in each and every second that we live by giving life to others and in having the courage to risk our own lives by offering to recieve life from others. Learning how to do this is learning how to be a Republican in Wales : this is the glue which has held our nation together through centuries of adversity and change - this is the white sticky stuff which bonds together the peaceful society that we know as ' Cymru Wen.'

But where is this Pure Republican white sticky stuff to be found in Ireland ?

Meagher certainly intended the Irish to create some of their own white sticky stuff even if it was lacking at the time when he designed their flag by using it to glue their grassy green to their golden orange with - white.

You have to wonder whether the Irish are so preoccupied with their golden oranges and their grassy greens as to whether any of them ever now thinks any more about their ... well ... what kinds of connotation do the Irish ever associate with their lily whites now a days ?


( As one last post-script for this, I thought that maybe De Valera thought that the Catholic Church was the obvious sticky stuff for the Irish because it was so readily available and conveniently resourced when the Republic of Ireland was not and relying upon all of the churches for the provision of various social services : as a Republican he must surely have known the dangers of allowing Hierarchical communities of interest to acquire power within the political sphere, but then he probably had a felt a bigger threat from the Aristocracy and Monarchy next door : quite a useful threat too ? )
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 14, 2014 2:17 am    Post subject: MABON & 1884 EXPLOSION, NAVAL STEAM COLLIERY, PENYGRAIG Reply with quote

I ought to have stopped adding more to this thread, it is hardly about the song any more ... but I just came across this which features Mabon and you can see why he was so popular and why in living and working in these conditions people would take their politics very seriously and why David Lawrence would become very angry with the coal owner Lewis Davies for contriving to make his son Frederick into the Rhondda MP when he had no absolutely no first hand knowledge of such things. I believe that David and Frederick were both twenty two in 1885 - this event took place about a year before the election. The Penygraig explosion and its aftermath is described here in a collection of contemporary newspaper reports : note the way in which Mabon attends to the disaster, is involved with the recovery of the bodies and the subsequent investigations and inquest - and orates at the funerals. No wonder in standing as the manly and responsible Labour candidate he routed the boyish inexperienced Liberal candidate, albeit apparently a newly-qualified barrister.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 14, 2014 12:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote



I know, I know - it all looks as if it is set in some Austrian Tyrol and they all speak in Germanic accents : sure as hell isn't Gilfach Goch where I thought he was from - Richard Llewelyn was the pen name of Richard Dafydd Vivian Llewellyn Lloyd who was born in the very Welshest bit of Hendon, Middlesex.


I'm not about to indulge in literary criticism this morning, so I'll just slag off the film a bit for the fun of it in order to mention some common criticisms of this Hollywood version of South Wales - and because I like the film. I am told that I missed a much better television version because I have had my head stuck up my arse all the time ( at least thirty odd years apparently - I rarely bother with television, I prefer my own day dreams to other people's : like Disraeli, if I want a good read I set about writing one.)

Mine pits were not sunk half way up mountains : it would be ridiculous to opt to dig through hundreds of feet more of rock just to raise coal and then lower it again ( unless you are digging a drift mine.) The coal was always there, it was the railways which provided the technology to remove it economically and so collieries were be located for the purposes of setting out the necessary railway infrastructure. The availability of water was an important consideration and unreliable sources like streams were replaced or augmented by reservoirs. Some people think of coal mines in terms of their dangers and their environmental impact, but I am one of those who admired the whole enterprise and grieve that there is so little of the infrastructure left : amazing railways, stunning tunnels, brilliant bridges, interesting inclines, magnificent machinery - tourists to the valleys do not grasp this I think. They are sold souvenirs of a bygone age painted in mock sepia and reconstituted in artificial coal dust, as if it were all about some kind of quaint industrial idyll which all depended upon mindlessly muscled men with little women bustling around them, as in this book and film " How Green Was My Valley."

I like messing about destroying such iconographic images as this generally speaking because it is a kind of compulsion that I have to sabotage other people's bullshit, political or otherwise, and make them confront the realities of life - but also to encourage people to be more freely creative and to experiment with new ideas and not be obsessively attached to old ones but also to treat them with respect as ideas which have served others well in the past and so have some proven merit - but which have to be constantly re-assessed. Meta-Ideology is like performing car maintenance - tyres ? water ? oil ? petrol ? glasses ? maps ? switch that sodding satnav off, adjust her fluffy dice by accidently losing them - don't forget the teddy bear ! - engine on, mirror-signal-indicate-clutch-gear-pedal - crunch ... one thing that is not shown in this Hollywood version of Wales is the stupid way in which Welsh telegraph poles leap out into the road behind you when you are purposefully preoccupied prosetically propelling people politically ...

" How Green was my Hollywood " really is an enjoyable film, but my version of things isn't anything like this : the valleys towns were vibrant and exciting places to be if like David Lawrence you had come from a place that didn't even qualify for a place on the map. He must have been overwhelmed upon arriving by the bright lights and exciting sights of a comparatively huge place like Pentre and then terrified by the prospect of the urbane values and sophisticated night life which he might by chance encounter should he go further up the road to the metropolis of Treorchy ... this is probably why he finally settled down in what is now Gelli ... that and the fact that Railway Terrace was nice and cheap, being placed in the area in between the railways sidings, the coke ovens, the stockyard and the slaughterhouse ... he would have presumably basked in the glory of his progress and written to his younger brother and proudly carried the letter home to read it out to him in a cleft stick, encouraging him to join him in this new life and share his new home with his new wife, new children, new lodgers and so James turned up as well with his new wife ...

When Rhndda was in this boom period there was a sense of excitement, of everybody being part of the enterprise and it is easy to understand why. I think that it is depicted in the film which is pitched pre-World War One : we might guess that the father belongs to this heroic period which followed the earliest period when some farmers' wives might take some bags of coal on ponies to market which their husbands had dug. When canals allowed more to be traded from the small pits around them the industry really began, but steam locomotion at sea and on the railways made the crucial difference which ignited the heroic age - but this also required the capital created by those farmers turned full-time miners. Many of them were bankrupted by the risks they took in moving from drift mining to deep pits, and yet the prosperity they brought to those they brought work to made them very popular with their workers who were often friends. The crucial factors were probably ownership and thus who took the profits when these operations became larger, and the increasingly large sizes of what became an impersonal unknown workforces. Large investors then moved in and took over in the next stage of development which demanded increasingly superior technologies both for successful coal exploitation and improved safety.

Now if you look into this film you can see the father being unable to countenance the idea that he will be treated badly because he is used to being treated with respect and dignity because he is a craftsman who belongs to the heroic age of mining, and when he is mistreated he treats it as a misfortune not an outrage. Presumeably his counterpart, the original mine owner with whom he was on personal good terms with is now dead and we are introduced to that man's son in the scene where he comes to ask for the father's permission for his son's permission to see the father to ask for his permission to see the father's daughter. This conveys the idea to me that the original mine owner's son has been in boarding school but now runs the mine, lacks his father's friendship with the men working for him but understands the form of it only is having difficulty actually copying it. When the original mine owner's grandson* comes in he has presumeably been to Oxbridge and will never run the mine but only draw money from it : he is not even aware of the forms of courtesy and respect which his father is trying to imitate. Just as the mining community is there in the eyes of the original mine owner's son to provide him with money, so his eye has alighted upon Angharad and he assumes that she too is his for the taking. But the marriage does not work out - and the message is that this is symbolic of his being unable to relate to anybody else other than as objects : he belongs to no community, he has no sympathy for others and is thus is incapable either of respecting the dignity of others nor of obtaining any respect from others despite his asserting his own dignity. He is most probably either severely lacking in the white sticky stuff, or - given Angharad's distress - perhaps he has been stuffing his sticky with someone else ?

[* PS : On a cultural-historical level the original mine owner's grandson has been given the name ' Iestyn ' in the novel and this is loaded with a significance which is perhaps not obvious to people other than in South East Wales : Iestyn ap Gwrgant was the last independent ruler of ' The Land of Morgan ' - ' Glamorgan ' - and he is traditionally blamed for losing it by foolishly making an alliance with the Normans in order to settle a dispute with his rival Einion : Fitz Hamon then deposed him and took all of the rich farmlands of the Vale of Glamorgan. One way of looking at this character in the novel then is to see him as one of the crachwyr : he is a scab upon the fair face of Welsh society, utterly devoid of the language, culture, manners or understanding of the people because he is completely unconnected with them other than by the name which he proudly bears in a haughty way, unaware even that ' Iestyn ' was in fact infamous : his reputation is that of an irresponsible fool and traitor. Perhaps the story teller is suggesting that the parents were already too ignorant of Welsh history and culture to know this when they chose the name : this would be akin to Norwegian parents proudly calling their son " Quisling." ]

The next stage was that which led up to the war, when this new generation of coal owners drove down wages rather than profits, because they had over-borrowed on the prospects of high prices for coal. The peak of the coal trade was hit just before the war, but during the war oil started to replace coal to propel first ships then locomotives then lorries. After World War One, Lloyd George assisted the coal owners to maintain the levels of their war profits in peace time by demanding in the Versailles Peace Treaty that the Germans pay reparations in coal sold to others at very low prices. This and other economic policies forced upon the Germans plunged them into the economic crisis which gave birth to the Nazis, and in Wales it progressively forced down coal worker's wages until the economic crisis was such that it precipitated the General Strike followed by a grinding crushing defeat of the miners and the destruction of their unions, which in turn led to the rise of the Communist Party in Wales. So ... if you would like to understand what happened in the inter-war years, read this -

LEWIS JONES' - " CWMARDY " & " WE LIVE " - http://www.amazon.co.uk/Cwmardy-We-Live-Library-Wales/dp/1902638832

" The epic industrial novels of the 1930s, Cwmardy and We Live are published together for the first time. In Cwmardy, Big Jim, collier and ex-Boer War soldier, and his partner Sian endure the impact of strikes, riots and war, while their son Len emerges as a sharp thinker and dynamic political organiser. Len's tale is taken up in We Live, in which he is influenced by Mary, a teacher, and the Communist Party, which becomes central to his work both underground and in union politics, and to his decision to leave and fight in the Spanish Civil War. Cwmardy and We Live paint a graphic portrait of the casual exploitation, tragedy and violence as well as the political hope and humanity of South Wales industrial workers from the 1900s to the 1930s. "

- and there is a nice review and discussion of Lewis Jones here -


Something that I remember about the novel Cwmardy, if I remember correctly, is that the ( presumeably Communist Party ) committee decided that as part of their five year plan of cultural work they might be able to explain the situation in South Wales by publishing a novel. Apparently ninety niine people stepped backwards and Lewis Jones was volunteered to do it - seriously, almost exactly like that ! The committee recorded something like ' Comrade Jones has been deputised to write a novel and may be reimbursed for any paper and pencils - but no rubber : the Communist Party of Great Britain does not admit of there being any errors in our Revolutionary Marxist Literary Analysis unless Comrade Uncle Stalin insructs us otherwise as to there being any, in which case any of those traitors to the working class who will be found guilty of unauthorised revisionism will be sent to the Litvestov Soviet Instutions in order to have their errors spelled out to them from the official Connimust Ductuonarry.
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 26, 2017 12:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pathe newsfootage of Mabon's funeral -


Funeral Of William Abraham Aka Funeral Of Right Hon. William Abraham (1922)
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 10, 2017 5:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mabon worked in the age of great colliery disasters - this one affected him -


Ferndale explosion: Valley of children without fathers

By Gwyneth Rees BBC Wales News
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