Italian migration and the Italian cafés of South Wales

This edition of the Miners’ Library blog examines Italian migration into Wales in the twentieth century through the lens of the particular collections held at the library. It focuses on the significance of Italian cafés in the social life of South Wales, their appearance in literary works such as those of Idris Davies and Gwyn Thomas, and on how visual artists of Italian descent have in turn represented life in the mining valleys.

CafeVittorio Carpanini, Square Café, Blackwood. Detail from an advertisement in the Guida Generale degli Italiani in Gran Bretagna, 1939.

 

1) Italian migration and the growth of the café trade in Wales

Detailing his extensive walking tour of Wales in 1854, the writer and polyglot George Borrow expresses his delight at encountering a Welsh-speaking Italian in the small village of Cerrigydrudion in North Wales. The unnamed Italian man, hailing from Lake Como, had travelled to Britain to work in the Liverpool shipping industry and had learned Welsh through his ensuing job of selling weather glasses and trinkets throughout the Welsh countryside.[1] But while there were small numbers of Italians living and working in Wales around this time, it was not until the last decades of the nineteenth century that the census data for Italian-born residents in Wales exceeded a few hundred. By the 1921 census, the figure had risen to over 1,500, with the Italian-born population largely concentrated in the counties of Glamorgan and Monmouthshire. These trends are commensurate both with broader patterns of Italian emigration, as millions migrated to the Americas and throughout Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and with broader patterns of immigration into South Wales, whose industries were attracting unprecedented numbers of migrants at the turn of the century. While some Italians in Wales worked in coal mining – enough in one district of Mardy Colliery to earn it the nickname ‘Italy Fach’ [Little Italy] – the majority in the period from 1900 to 1920 came to work in the café and ice-cream trades.[2] It was through these trades in particular that the Italians had an impact on the social life of South Wales far exceeding their relatively modest numbers.

The early pioneers of the café trade – soon-to-be-familiar names like Bracchi, Berni and Rabaiotti – established themselves in Wales around the end of the nineteenth century. The majority came from a relatively concentrated area; the small town of Bardi and its environs in the Ceno Valley, situated in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy. In the 1900s they began recruiting boys from their native Bardi, often as young as twelve, who could escape the rural poverty of the area by travelling to Wales to work in the cafés along the lines of the padrone system – a contract whereby boys, in addition to being paid a wage, would be housed and clothed by their employers. The system had the advantage of providing a guaranteed employment status for the new arrivals, in compliance with the strictures of the Aliens Act 1905. The work was demanding, however, and involved long hours and hard graft. As our oral history interview with Will Picton documents, the boys would often have the task of ‘selling ice-cream from carts’ that they would push around for miles a day, sometimes along steep valley streets.[3] But many of these boys would go on to establish cafés of their own, dispersing throughout the Welsh valleys in pursuit of new catchment areas. When they married, it would often be to women from Bardi who travelled over to work alongside them in the cafés, shops, and fish bars, establishing enduring family businesses. Sustained by these successive waves of migration, by the mid-1930s there were over 300 Italian cafés in South Wales generously dotted along its mining valleys and coastal towns. The economic impetus to disperse meant that Italians in Wales never formed the kinds of geographically-concentrated communities witnessed in places like London or Manchester; they had few separate institutions and quickly became enmeshed in their respective communities, sharing local churches, schools, and so on.[4]

Panoramica_castello_di_BardiPanoramic view of the Castle of Bardi (Photo credit: Filippo Aneli, 2008, Creative Commons).[5]

The word ‘café’ is a convenient short-hand for the Italian establishments. In reality, they varied in size and in the amenities offered. While many referred to themselves as cafés, some styled themselves as confectioners, while others, especially in the larger towns, inclined more towards restaurants. Colloquially they were often referred to as ‘shops’ or, in the Rhondda and Cynon Valleys, ‘Bracchis’ – the latter reflecting the significance of the Bracchi family in pioneering these businesses in the area. But, for the most part, the early cafés would offer the same basic services; selling sweets and tobacco, providing simple refreshments to consume on the premises, and a warm place to sit out of the elements. The product range was largely derived from British companies, whose names would emblazon the shopfronts – hot cups of Bovril and Oxo, Fry’s chocolates, Player’s cigarettes – along with soft-drinks of different flavours from a soda fountain. Crucially, by refraining from selling alcohol, the cafés were able to secure a niche for themselves as an alternative to the public house. In the early decades of the twentieth century, this feature chimed well with the moral tenor of Welsh Nonconformity and many café owners shrewdly advertised their businesses as ‘Temperance Bars’. As Colin Hughes writes,

The shops were called “Temperance Bars” not because the owners held strong views about intoxicating liquor but from a desire to suggest the convivial atmosphere of a public-house while offering a haven to which parents could let their children go, safe in the knowledge that they would not come into contact with alcoholic drinks.[6]

 

2) The Italian café in Idris Davies and Gwyn Thomas

In an interview held at the Miners’ Library, recorded as part of the Maerdy Community Study, Octavius Morgan describes how the local ‘Bracchi’ shops played a significant part in his childhood around the time of the First World War. He recalls spending the wages from his paper-round at his local shop in Maerdy, and being impressed by how well the owner, Peter Gambarini – who had ‘come over as a youngster’ – was able to guess the weight of sweets as he placed them on the scale. He also recalls the Italians’ cultural differences conjuring fascination among young people in the area; recounting that some Italians were living in a basement apartment under a shop on Maerdy Road and

‘Christmas time the old concertina would be going and the vino would be there, and everybody would be up top listening to them’.[7]

In his long poem, The Angry Summer (1943), set at the time of the 1926 General Strike, Idris Davies draws on the image of the ‘Italian shop’ and its relation to childhood experience. It is one of many passages in which Davies evokes the perspective of a small-businesses-owning class during the strike, gesturing towards the bonds and tensions that can exist between such businesses and the striking communities with which they are economically and socially intertwined. But here the ‘Italian shop’ largely provides a suitable backdrop for capturing something of the bravado of its young clientele during the heated political climate; their vivid political solutions and effervescent speech merging figuratively with their colourful fizzy pop, as both gas away in the Italian café.

Screenshot 2020-06-11 at 14.01.11Extract and cover of Idris Davies, The Angry Summer [1943], University of Wales Press, 1993.

 

The cafés did not merely provide a hub for young people, however, and Octavius Morgan goes on to describe their attractions for older customers. His local café

‘would open first thing in the morning and close around midnight, people could sit by the warm stove, have a drink, but you didn’t have to buy anything’.[8]

Many of the cafés were entering densely-terraced mining communities with relatively few civic amenities, and so were providing valuable places for people to socialise away from the home; for friends to gather or courting couples to meet. The lack of an obligation to buy any articles would have been especially welcome during times of hardship, particularly throughout the inter-war years. Colin Hughes describes the atmosphere in one Tonypandy café, for example, during the 1926 strike. Although times were likewise difficult for the café owners during this period,

the striking miners were still welcome to sit around the stove even if they had no money. A cigarette was given to anyone who would start a song, and this was handed around as others joined in.[9]

This reference to singing around the warm stove resonates with another significant literary reference. The Miners’ Library is home to the Gwyn Thomas Collection and it is notable that the author situates much of his celebrated novella, The Dark Philosophers (1946), in an Italian café around the 1930s. The story is told from the perspective of a group of friends, residents of ‘the Terraces’ in an unnamed Welsh valley, who withdraw to the back room of their local Italian café to muse over and discuss, with Thomas’s distinctive dark humour, the events of the day.

Our new meeting place in the evenings was the refreshment and confectionary shop of Idomeneo Faracci, an Italian, whose shop was on the third Terrace, not far from the Library and Institute…[The back room] was cosy and cheerful, having sawdust on the floor and a large stove in the middle, which had a complicated system of airshafts that made the layout of the ordinary man or woman look simple…Besides the stove there were also some tables of various sizes on which the customers could drink hot cordials and eat sandwiches that Idomeneo served, and we always praised the hot cordials of Idomeneo for being prepared with deep skill and great heat. Our own drink was tea and we drank a lot of it. We had taken a vow to get our stomachs as dark as our philosophy before we finished, and every time we ordered a fresh round of cups Idomeneo always put an extra pinch in the pot as a tribute to the fine brooding quality of our spirits.[10]

In keeping with the oral history testimonies, Idomeneo’s policy is to welcome people into the café irrespective of whether they purchase any wares, reasoning that ‘it was a very poor voter who went through life without ever buying anything’.[11] A reference to the ‘beat of Idomeneo’s tired fingers on the counter’, like Idris Davies’s allusion to Maria yawning at the end of another long shift, signals the incredibly long hours that the proprietors and employees of the cafés had to work in reality. The early cafés would be open seven days a week, in defiance of Sunday trading laws (this being one of the most profitable days of the week), and would often be open every day of the year apart from Christmas morning.[12]

The_Dark_Philosophers_1024x1024Cover of Gwyn Thomas, The Dark Philosophers [1946], Parthian, 2006.

During one discussion, a member of the group of ‘dark philosophers’ – echoing Bertolt Brecht’s adage ‘grub first, then ethics’ – suggests that ‘the need for beauty comes a long way after the need for food and warmth’, and Thomas makes use of the café setting to dramatize this relationship. Their warmth and sustenance catered for, the members of the group are able to engage their interest in music in the back room of the café. Idomeneo has a gramophone and a stack of choral and operatic records, which the group listens to for hours

‘with Willie bursting out with his own version sometimes if there was a tenor on, and Idomeneo giving him strong support in a baritone voice’.[13]

Within the context of the story, the elevating qualities of this music becomes allied with the group’s socialist and humanistic aspirations, juxtaposed with the degradations of life in the depression-era Terraces and, by serving as a means for the group to bond with Idomeneo, emblematic of common ties that transcend national differences. Idomeneo, we learn, is no better off than the casually-employed members of the group, with much of his income from the café going to creditors. The group’s joint-commitment to communal material and cultural advancement contrasts with the conduct of their central antagonist in the story; a local Reverend who sacrifices his once-radical ethical convictions in exchange for a life of material comfort, and who now preaches a message, ideologically useful to his mine-owning benefactors, of spiritual betterment abstracted from any commitment to collective material advancement. Thomas’ use of the Italian café – his considered emphasis on the warm stove, the gramophone, and the common feeling between Idomeneo and the group – is not incidental therefore; it forms a crucial part of his wider philosophical staging of the relationship between material needs, ethical or aesthetic sensibilities, and the politics of solidarity.

The café also becomes a setting for Thomas to introduce some of the key international dimensions shaping the inter-war political climate of the Terraces. In one memorable scenario, a symbol on the café’s hot water cistern seizes the group’s attention.

The cistern had been made in Italy, and just above the name of the manufacturer, which was stamped on a chrome plate, there was engraved a bundle of rods and an axe.[14]

This is of course a reference to the emblem of Italy’s National Fascist Party, and the group warns Idomeneo that this is ‘no very healthy sign to be showing in a place like the Terraces’. He explains, however, that it is not there by choice but owing to an Italian in London who was ‘partial to the party behind the rods’ and who had loaned him the money for the cistern.

Idomeneo…said he knew all about this symbol and that he liked it no better than we did. He added that even then he had two brothers in Italian jails because they happened to be in Italy when they said they did not like this symbol either. As far as politics went, said Idomeneo in a whisper, he was with us to the end…He meant that he was for all the common people, as we were, being of them.[15]

 

3) The Italian community during the Second World War

Within Thomas’s fictionalised account, the group does not doubt Idomeneo’s antipathy towards the fascism ascendant in his former homeland, and this response would doubtless have been a common one in reality; given the years, often decades, of familiarity and friendships established between Italians in Wales and their respective local communities. However, the rise of fascism in Italy, and Italy’s entry into the Second World War in June 1940, did lead to a heightened atmosphere of paranoia directed at the Italian communities from certain quarters. As Neil Evans documents,

In Swansea, on the night that Italy entered the conflict, large crowds roamed the streets and damaged the property of Italian café owners. A café owner living at Aberdare later remembered having had a window broken during the war and there were also some incidents at Tonypandy…In Swansea, a suspicion that Italians had been involved in fascist movements and were sympathetic to Mussolini’s regime may have contributed to the outbreak.[16]

But it was state rather than extra-state actions which had the most profound effect on the Italian community. Under the threat of imminent invasion, and fearing possible fifth columnists, the UK government made the decision to arrest and intern all men of Italian nationality in Britain between the ages of 16 and 70. In many instances in South Wales, police had the unenviable task of detaining café owners they knew well and who they could not have imagined to be any realistic security threat, though some accounts of more heavy-handed treatment also emerge. Andrew Rossi recounts how two police officers came to arrest his grandfather, Giovanni Cavalli, in Swansea:

‘As well as arresting my grandfather in front of his sixteen-year-old daughter, they went through the shop basically like men possessed turning out drawers…taking out letters, binoculars, even the radio, took everything which they thought could help Italians and Germans during wartime’.[17]

The internees were initially held at temporary camps throughout the country, before the decision was taken to detain some on the Isle of Man and deport all those deemed by MI5 to be ‘dangerous characters’ to Canada and Australia. While there were some fascist supporters among the Italians, the process for selecting ‘dangerous characters’ was later found to have been deeply flawed. Many Italians were affiliated with the Fascist Party by default rather than by design, through their involvement with other institutions. As Percy Loraine, head of a Home Office Advisory Committee on the Isle of Man, wrote: ‘a man who belonged in the pre-Fascist era to an Italian benevolent, social or sporting club, of which the Fascist authority ultimately obtained control, is only technically, indeed barely technically, a member of the Fascio’.[18] Owing to the rush to gather prisoners for deportation, some errors were also made in distinguishing between individuals who shared the same name.

Arandora_Star_1940The Arandora Star, 1940 (Photo: Royal Navy, Public Domain)

Scrutiny of these procedures became more acute following a tragedy in early July 1940, when the Arandora Star, an ex-passenger liner requisitioned to transport Italian and German internees, was torpedoed by a German U-boat while en route to Canada. Over 800 people were killed in the incident, including 470 Italians; of whom 53 were from Wales. The tragedy compounded what was already an excessive detention and deportation regime imposed on Italian-born civilians, even when considered in light of wartime pressures. As Colin Hughes suggests,

It is…inconceivable that the small café owners in Wales, many of them resident in the country for decades, and with their roots sunk deep, would have engaged in any desperate deeds of sabotage or treachery…The internment and deportation of these largely innocent people, was a sad episode in British history.[19]

plaqueA memorial to the sinking of the Arandora Star, St. David’s Metropolitan Cathedral Cardiff. (Photo credit: http://www.welshitalians.com/).

 

4) The post-war years and the significance of Welsh-Italian visual artists

The Italian cafés that managed to weather the effects of internment and deportation enjoyed an increase in trade during the war years, with fish and chip shops doing particularly well – this being one of the few foods to remain unrationed throughout this time. The decade that followed the war saw a revival of the Welsh economy, buoyed by government investment in coal and steel, and heralded a corresponding period of prosperity for the cafés. It was during these early post-war years that Ernest Zobole, the son of southern Italian immigrants, began his training at Cardiff College of Art and started producing his extraordinary paintings depicting his native Ystrad Rhondda and its environs. Zobole grew up in a small ‘Bracchi’ shop that his parents kept in the village, and ‘the shop’s almost incessant ebb and flow of all sorts of people and goods’, the art historian Ceri Thomas speculates, ‘must have provided him with repeated opportunities for observation and the imprinting of these varied elements upon his formative, artistic mind and visual memory’.[20] Moreover, as the artist Gwyn Evans recalls, Zobole and other painters associated with the Rhondda Group would depict scenes in different parts of the valley on a Saturday before meeting in ‘Dom’s’ Italian café in Treorchy to share and discuss their work.[21] Their paintings reflected something of the working-class confidence of the era, capturing the landscapes and townscapes of the Valleys in some of the styles and colour-palettes of European modernism.

(c) Nicola Zobole (daughter); Supplied by The Public Catalogue FoundationErnest Zobole, Figures with pram in street, Ystrad (c1948-1950), © the artist’s estate. (Photo credit: University of South Wales Art Collection Museum).

Zobole would go on to invest the familiar forms and forces of the Rhondda Valley with a lucent otherworldliness, prompting Meic Stephens to write – borrowing a line from an Idris Davies poem – that Zobole rendered the mining valleys ‘more beautiful than we ever saw them with our eyes’.[22] Zobole is testament to the commonly-made observation that, in the visual arts in South Wales, it has often been first- or second-generation immigrants who have excelled at capturing its landscape and people; and not only does his work open a new perspective onto the world of the Valleys, it uses this world to give form to the mutability of perspective as such.

Zobole, Ernest, 1927-1999; People and Ystrad RhonddaErnest Zobole, Ystrad and People no.8 (1960), © the artist’s estate. (Photo credit: National Museum Wales, Cardiff).

Labour shortages in certain South Wales industries during the late 1940s and early 1950s led to another wave of immigration from Italy, with some recruits remaining in Wales and joining the café trade after this work had ceased. Our collections bare the trace of this post-war migration in the form of an interview with Tony Ciano, Cynheidre NUM Lodge Chairman during the 1984-85 Miners’ Strike, whose parents emigrated from Naples to Wales after the war; his father having a position at the steelworks in Briton Ferry.[23] But a combination of economic and cultural factors contributed to the dwindling away of the Italian cafés in the latter half of the century. Declining coal output from the mid-1950s, with colliery consolidations and closures accelerating in the ensuing decades, had significant knock-on effects for local businesses, while the growth of television and live entertainment at clubs made further dents in the evening trade of the cafés. While some Italian cafés endure to this day, sustained through successive generations of Welsh-Italians, many of the latter have left the catering industry over the years to pursue other vocations. Wales is still home to thousands of descendants of Italian migrants, however, and many continue to get together to celebrate their unique cultural heritage, with festive gatherings in Wales at the annual Scampagnata and in Bardi’s Festa dell’emigrante.

The shifting social fabric of South Wales over the last six decades or so – which, amongst other things, has entailed the dwindling away of the Italian cafés – has been captured by another prominent artist of Italian heritage. David Carpanini, born in the Afan Valley in 1946 of Italian and Welsh decent, and whose relatives worked in the café trade, has become one of Wales’ most well-known artists. Speaking at the launch of a major retrospective of his artwork, Hywel Francis commented that ‘everyone in the Valleys can understand clearly what they see and can connect to his work’.[24]

HywelAndCarpaniniRichardBurtonLecture copyDavid Carpanini and Hywel Francis with some of the artist’s work – on the occasion of The Richard Burton Annual Lecture, which Prof. Carpanini delivered in 2017. (Photo credit: South Wales Miners’ Library, Swansea University).

A distinctive feature of this work involves a dialogue between figure and landscape; as characters gather in the communal space of the street, often before built environments that recall Gwyn Thomas’s ‘Terraces’. But these backdrops are also stylised, they contain few indications of life – there are no vehicles or television aerials, shopfront signs are blank; their windows veiled or showing only a reflection of the outside. It gives the impression both of an austere landscape and one simplified in memory. This contrasts with the emotionally expressive faces in the foreground, rich in characterisation. Taken together, these scenes raise questions about the extent to which people, their personalities and relationships, are shaped by a given environment and history, but – through various estrangement techniques, such as the elusiveness of titles or the propensity for figures to break the ‘fourth wall’ and stare directly at the viewer – they also open a space for other questions, about the way we memorialise history and the extent to which certain experiences transcend the particularity of their given contexts. As David Carpanini explains, such characters are ‘survivors, they are very resilient people’,

‘I hope this comes across in some of my paintings, they’re not just about South Wales, they are about a broader perspective of human experience where anyone in difficult circumstances has found a way to survive’.[25]

 

J. Davies, South Wales Miners’ Library

Professor Carpanini gave The Richard Burton Annual Lecture at Swansea University in 2017; the university holds a collection of his work as well as work by Ernest Zobole. The oral history interviews mentioned in the blog are held at The South Wales Miners’ Library, Swansea University, and are available on request. All secondary sources referenced are available in our lending library to view/borrow (subject to borrowing entitlements). If you would like to learn more about Italian migration to Wales, Colin Hughes’s Lime, Lemon and Sarsaparilla (1991) and Bruna Chezzi’s Italians in Wales and their Cultural Representations, 1920s-2010s (2015) contain a wealth of additional information and analysis, while other useful resources, including personal testimonies from within the Welsh-Italian community, can be found at http://www.welshitalians.com.

A previous blog post looking at the history of Spanish migration to South Wales can be found here.

 

Notes

[1] George Borrow, Wild Wales, London 1989, p.134.

[2] Interview of Will Picton, SWML AUD/193.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Colin Hughes, Lime, Lemon & Sarsaparilla, Bridgend 1991, p.11, pp.114-5.
[5] https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Panoramica_castello_di_Bardi.jpg
[6] Ibid. pp.47-8, pp.56-7.
[7] Interview of Octavius Morgan, SWML AUD/191.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Colin Hughes, Lime, Lemon & Sarsaparilla, p.74.
[10] Gwyn Thomas, The Dark Philosophers, Cardigan 2006, pp.117-9.
[11] Ibid. p.150.
[12] Ibid. p.124; Colin Hughes, Lime, Lemon & Sarsaparilla, pp.54-58, pp.62-3.
[13] Gwyn Thomas, The Dark Philosophers, p.123.
[14] Ibid. p.119.
[15] Ibid. p.120.
[16] Neil Evans, ‘Immigrants and Minorities in Wales, 1840-1990: A Comparative Perspective’, in Charlotte Williams et al. (eds.), A Tolerant Nation?, Cardiff 2015, p.31. Evans also documents other instances of antagonism faced by Italian migrants in Wales in different contexts. See, pp.27-31.
[17] Andrew Rossi quoted in Bruna Chezzi, Italians in Wales and their Cultural Representations, 1920s-2010s, Newcastle 2015, p.64.
[18] Percy Loraine quoted in Colin Hughes, Lime, Lemon & Sarsaparilla, p.106.
[19] Colin Hughes, Lime, Lemon & Sarsaparilla, p.107.
[20] Ceri Thomas, Ernest Zobole: a life in art, Bridgend 2007, p.21.
[21] Gwyn Evans interviewed on the BBC documentary Visions of the Valleys, 2015.
[22] Meic Stephens, ‘Obituary: Ernest Zobole’ in The Independent, 7 December 1999, available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/obituary-ernest-zobole-1130792.html.
[23] Interview of Tony Ciano, SWML AUD/513.
[24] Hywel Francis, ‘David Carpanini: 1969, “The Cape” and the Last Smiling Shift’, in Stories of Solidarity, Ceredigion 2018, p.213.
[25] David Carpanini interviewed on the BBC documentary Visions of the Valleys, 2015.

An Abundance of Riches: Item No.5 Underground Poland Speaks

Beyond Coal: the SWCC and Its Concealed Seams

“SWCC” stands for the South Wales Coalfield Collection. This internationally significant collection is housed at two locations: the Richard Burton Archives and the South Wales Miners’ Library. The Archive holdings include written documents, manuscripts and photographs. The Miners’ Library is custodian of printed material (books and pamphlets), posters, Lodge banners, oral history recordings and a variety of press cuttings.

The SWCC has its origins in two major research projects conducted by the departments of History and Economic History at Swansea University. Between 1971 and 1982 researchers went out into mining and former mining communities to gather and preserve the written, visual and oral histories of the industrial communities of South Wales. With the ever increasing threat from the contraction of the mining industry, this material was in great peril: much of it was on the verge of being lost. Since then, the collection and preservation process has continued, and has welcomed donations from unions, educational institutions, media companies and individuals, to mention but a few. The SWCC is now one of the largest, most notable and unique archives in the United Kingdom.

This series of articles is aimed at highlighting non-coal or coal mining related printed materials within the SWCC, and to demonstrate the diversity and research value of these holdings. Individual items of particular interest will be showcased, evidencing the wider scope and contents of the SWCC, investigating its profuse and unprecedented nature and focusing upon its importance to a greater understanding and respect for the history, culture, society and politics of the South Wales coalfield.

Item No.5

Underground Poland Speaks. Manifesto to the Peoples of the World

The Leadership of the Movement of the Working Class Masses of Poland

Liberty Publications, 1941

Location: The South Wales Miners’ Library. SWCC pamphlets T.J.Jones Box 4

Feb Underground Poland Speaks

This pamphlet is highly significant as a first-hand account of the struggles of one Polish underground movement during the Nazi occupation. The foreword, written by British M.P Mr P.J Noel-Baker is especially poignant due to its direct appeal to the British public to take up the cause of the Polish struggle. It is  both a call to internationalism in the face of dictatorship and a prophetic warning.

The danger encountered by those who contributed to the pamphlet, risking as they did murder, torture or being sent to a concentration camp, brings a compelling conviction of feeling to the text. The statement “the manifesto gives us the assurance that he (Hitler) cannot win” is indicative of the strength of resolve of the Movement and their belief that free will, essential justice and peaceful order will ultimately return.

 

“We look upon all those peoples who are fighting against the tyranny and the crimes of the Nazi and totalitarian regimes as our natural allies. It is to them first and foremost that we address ourselves in speaking of our martyrdom, our struggles, and the experiences of our present existence.”

 

The simplicity and potency of the prose found within this pamphlet demonstrates the ardent nature of the message. With accompanying photographs showing executions and Nazi ‘actions’ throughout Poland, the effect is one of desperation…the text with one photograph is succinct and graphic: “…look at our country, which is nothing but a cemetery…”

This was 1941, prior to the Wannsee Conference of January 1942, which systematised the ‘Final Solution’ and the deportation of European Jewry to the extermination camps. The machinery of terror and brutality, therefore, had not yet reached the zenith of its destructiveness.

“Any Pole is liable to be deported any day; he may be taken in a tram, in the street, during a round-up, or in his home…The lives of millions of men and women are shattered and ruined, Poland’s entire economic life is destroyed…The invaders loot peasant holdings and landed estates…Entire villages…have been uprooted and deported…”

The implementation of the Jewish ghettos; the torture of Jews; the pillaging and wholesale destruction of Polish villages; the kidnapping and murder of Polish citizens, the taking and plundering of businesses, all are addressed with a singularity of outrage. There is no anti-semitism found within this text, neither by inclination nor script: for the writers of this pamphlet all Poles, as one people, are the victims of Nazi hatred and oppression. The sentiments of universality; shared citizenship; mutual suffering and expected martyrdom is highly unusual and noteworthy. The fraternal expressions of solidarity and unity are brave, eloquent and urgent.

 

 

Joanne E Einion-Waller, the South Wales Miners’ Library

An Abundance of Riches: Item No.4 Civil Defence Handbook

Beyond Coal: the SWCC and Its Concealed Seams

 “SWCC” stands for the South Wales Coalfield Collection. This internationally significant collection is housed at two locations: the Richard Burtons Archives and the South Wales Miners’ Library. The Archive holdings include written documents, manuscripts and photographs. The Miners’ Library is custodian of printed material (books and pamphlets), posters, Lodge banners, oral history recordings and a variety of press cuttings.

The SWCC has its origins in two major research projects conducted by the departments of History and Economic History at Swansea University. Between 1971 and 1982 researchers went out into mining and former mining communities to gather and preserve the written, visual and oral histories of the industrial communities of South Wales. With the ever increasing threat from the contraction of the mining industry, this material was in great peril: much of it was on the verge of being lost. Since then, the collection and preservation process has continued, and has welcomed donations from unions, educational institutions, media companies and individuals, to mention but a few. The SWCC is now one of the largest, most notable and unique archives in the United Kingdom.

This series of articles is aimed at highlighting non-coal or coal mining related printed materials within the SWCC, and to demonstrate the diversity and research value of these holdings. Individual items of particular interest will be showcased, evidencing the wider scope and contents of the SWCC, investigating its profuse and unprecedented nature and focusing upon its importance to a greater understanding and respect for the history, culture, society and politics of the South Wales coalfield.

Item No.4

Advising the Householder on Protection Against Nuclear Attack. Civil Defence Handbook No.10, 1963

Location: The South Wales Miners’ Library, SWCC pamphlets D Francis Box 1

OCT Civil Defence Handbook

“This is a training publication for the civil defence, the police and fire services. Its aim is to indicate to members of these services the sort of advice which would be given in a period of alert…If you live in a bungalow or a single storey prefabricated house…these dwellings give little protection…Do not look at the flash…Outdoors. Take cover against the heat-flash by flinging yourself down instantly, wherever you are.”

Published in 1963 by H.M.S.O, Handbook No.10 was never intended for consumption by the general public: further instructions for the populace were to be transmitted by radio and by the emergency services.

Interesting and enlightening chapters include: “Basic Facts”; “Protective Measures”, “Emergency Equipment and Supplies” and “Life Under Fall-Out Conditions”. In the section “What happens when the H-bomb explodes”, the text explains in a matter-of-fact manner the three major facets of this type of explosion: the initial heat blast; the actual blast and the fall-out. The style of this chapter is one of descriptive narrative, setting the scene for the later practical advice on how to prepare for a nuclear attack and how to survive. The instructions, as a whole, present the reader with the distinct impression that it would be quite possible to survive a nuclear strike, depending upon the distance from the detonation.

Blast. Blast would follow the heat waves like a hurricane. Buildings would be destroyed or severely damaged for several miles from the explosion, and there would be lighter damage for many miles beyond.”

Choosing a Fall-out Room. The penetration of the harmful radiations from fall-out is reduced by heavy and dense materials such as brick walls, concrete or hard-packed earth. You should try to get as much of this sort of material between yourself and the fall-out as possible. A cellar or basement gives most protection…”

Equipping a Fall-out Room. Prepare your fall-out room for a stay of at least a week.”

Food. Build up an emergency reserve of tinned or other non-perishable food needing little or no further preparation to last the whole household, and possibly one or two extra people, for at least fourteen days…”

Water. Water is more essential to life than food. After an attack the water supply from the mains may fail or it may become contaminated with fall-out. Fill the bath and all available containers with clean water…Keep at least three days’ supply of drinking water.”

The apparent naïveté presented within the narrative discourse is indicative of sub-textual meanings beyond that of a rather simplistic and unrealistic rendering in order to placate and assuage a potential uprising of fear amongst the general population. In this context, the whole tone of the pamphlet can be seen as having a clear correlation with the domestic propaganda of World War Two. The “keep calm and carry on” doctrine galvanised the beleaguered British populace, lifting the profile of the daily struggle on the Home Front to bolster preparedness, civic responsibility and co-operation to aid ultimate survival, both individual and national. Handbook No.10 most definitely follows this ethos. Also, from an historical perspective, this item also highlights one of the essential dichotomies of the Cold War era: the public must be forewarned and instructed on what to do in the event of a nuclear strike, to reduce casualties, but the actuality of nuclear proliferation was seen as the ultimate defence against such an event ever occurring.

 

 

Joanne E Einion-Waller, the South Wales Miners’ Library

An Abundance of Riches: Item No.3 What I Saw in Korea

Beyond Coal: the SWCC and Its Concealed Seams

 “SWCC” stands for the South Wales Coalfield Collection. This internationally significant collection is housed at two locations: the Richard Burtons Archives and the South Wales Miners’ Library. The Archive holdings include written documents, manuscripts and photographs. The Miners’ Library is custodian of printed material (books and pamphlets), posters, Lodge banners, oral history recordings and a variety of press cuttings.

The SWCC has its origins in two major research projects conducted by the departments of History and Economic History at Swansea University. Between 1971 and 1982 researchers went out into mining and former mining communities to gather and preserve the written, visual and oral histories of the industrial communities of South Wales. With the ever increasing threat from the contraction of the mining industry, this material was in great peril: much of it was on the verge of being lost. Since then, the collection and preservation process has continued, and has welcomed donations from unions, educational institutions, media companies and individuals, to mention but a few. The SWCC is now one of the largest, most notable and unique archives in the United Kingdom.

This series of articles is aimed at highlighting non-coal or coal mining related printed materials within the SWCC, and to demonstrate the diversity and research value of these holdings. Individual items of particular interest will be showcased, evidencing the wider scope and contents of the SWCC, investigating its profuse and unprecedented nature and focusing upon its importance to a greater understanding and respect for the history, culture, society and politics of the South Wales coalfield.

 

Item No.3

What I Saw in Korea. Monica Felton, 1951

Location: The South Wales Miners’ Library. SWCC pamphlets, D. Francis Box 2

SEP What I Saw in Korea

“In January of this year the Korean women who attended the meeting of the Executive of the Women’s International Democratic Federation in Berlin gave an appalling account of the horrors that war was creating in their country…Korea today is a ruin so absolute that no one can see it without getting the most clear and terrible warning of what a third world war would inevitably mean.”

Monica Felton (1906 – 1970) was an estimable and often overlooked figure. In a period when British society side lined and institutionally disregarded women as being of substance or interest, Felton quietly pushed against the boundaries of perceived female normalcy. She was a writer, town planner, feminist, social activist and member of the Labour Party (holding the Labour Council seat of St. Pancras South West until 1947). Notable for her lack of self-aggrandizement, little has been written about her, therefore this article is a brief overview of an interesting and underrated woman.

Raised within a family of Primitive Methodists, her early exposure to the prime tenets of the role of lay people, simplicity of worship and political responsibility inherent within their Christianity would certainly have had an influence upon her direction and ethics. Felton studied both at the University of Southampton and the London School of Economics, where she was awarded a PhD. and later served on the board of governors.

As a town planner for the London County Council in the late 1930s until the outbreak of World War Two, when she worked for the Ministry of Supply, Felton was directly engaged with a traditionally male centred environment. Closely involved in post-war reconstruction, between 1947 and 1951 she served as the first chairman of the corporation for the construction of the new town of Stevenage, becoming Chair of the Stevenage Development Corporation in 1949.

Felton visited North Korea in 1951 as a member of the Women’s International Democratic Federation delegation, outlining her experiences and observations in a number of publications. As a result of her campaign against American and British involvement in the Korean war she lost her position with the Stevenage Development Corporation, was expelled from the Labour Party and was even threatened with prosecution for treason. Her pioneering work especially regarding the role of women in town planning was obfuscated by this perceptible fall from grace.

In 1951 Monica Felton was awarded the Stalin Prize for peace between peoples*. In 1953, undaunted by the reaction to her activism she continued her work of progressing international peace and cooperation by becoming a member of the World Peace Council, an anti-imperialist, anti-war international organisation of mass action.

(*The Stalin Prize for Strengthening Peace Among Peoples was awarded to individuals who were deemed to have “strengthened peace among comrades”. It was renamed the Lenin Prize in 1956 after Khrushchev’s de-Stalinisation campaign.)

 

Joanne E Einion-Waller, The South Wales Miners’ Library

An Abundance of Riches: Item No.2  This is AMERICA

 

Beyond Coal: the SWCC and Its Concealed Seams

 “SWCC” stands for the South Wales Coalfield Collection. This internationally significant collection is housed at two locations: the Richard Burtons Archives and the South Wales Miners’ Library. The Archive holdings include written documents, manuscripts and photographs. The Miners’ Library is custodian of printed material (books and pamphlets), posters, Lodge banners, oral history recordings and a variety of press cuttings.

The SWCC has its origins in two major research projects conducted by the departments of History and Economic History at Swansea University. Between 1971 and 1982 researchers went out into mining and former mining communities to gather and preserve the written, visual and oral histories of the industrial communities of South Wales. With the ever increasing threat from the contraction of the mining industry, this material was in great peril: much of it was on the verge of being lost. Since then, the collection and preservation process has continued, and has welcomed donations from unions, educational institutions, media companies and individuals, to mention but a few. The SWCC is now one of the largest, most notable and unique archives in the United Kingdom.

This series of articles is aimed at highlighting non-coal or coal mining related printed materials within the SWCC, and to demonstrate the diversity and research value of these holdings. Individual items of particular interest will be showcased, evidencing the wider scope and contents of the SWCC, investigating its profuse and unprecedented nature and focusing upon its importance to a greater understanding and respect for the history, culture, society and politics of the South Wales coalfield.

Item No.2 

This is AMERICA

Derek Kartun, 1947

Location: The South Wales Miners’ Library, SWCC pamphlets, Brinley Griffiths, Box 5

AUG This is America Derek Kartun

“The astounding contradictions of America make up a pile so high it is difficult to see the top…This is a country which has a tear gas industry for strike breaking: where in parts of Texas you are still more likely than not to carry a revolver.”

Derek Kartun (9 August 1919 – 11 January 2005) was a complex and difficult to define individual. His family were of mixed European and Jewish heritage and their milieu was that of abundant luxury and interest, mixing with the cultural bourgeoisie and international artists of repute. Derek himself was a somewhat incongruous amalgamation of left-wing activist, captain of capitalism and journalist. Upon leaving school he worked in an advertising agency, then as a script writer for “B” movies for M.G.M, where he met his soon to be close friend the writer and journalist Claud Cockburn.

During World War Two Kartun found his political purlieu in the Communist Party. He produced a number of books and assisted Cockburn by penning articles for his somewhat contentious news-sheet The Week. He joined the staff at the Daily Worker in 1945, eventually becoming its Foreign Editor, which led to his bearing witness to the April 1948 Siege of Jerusalem and the painful birth of the new state of Israel.

Kartun and his wife, Gwen Farrow, immersed themselves in the world of the left-wing intelligentsia, their home in Kensington becoming a focal point for those of a similar bent. By the time of the Hungarian uprising and its brutal suppression by the Soviets in 1956, Kartun was becoming disillusioned with communist dogma, and transferred his allegiance to the Labour cause.

Kartun then spent a number of years oiling the wheels of capitalism, becoming chairman of the clothing company Staflex, before making a return to writing in the form of a series of spy novels.

Although never one to blindly follow the Communist manifesto, Kartun retained a strong sense of injustice for all of those who were oppressed or exploited by “the system”. In “This is AMERICA” he writes of American life in general, with special attention payed to its ethos, political set-up and economic structure, describing the deleterious consequences of an over-commercialised culture on those exposed to its capitalistic whims and omnipotent political establishment.

 

Joanne E Waller, South Wales Miners’ Library

An Abundance of Riches: Item No.1 FOUR WEEKS in the Hands of HITLER’S Hell-Hounds

Beyond Coal: the SWCC and Its Concealed Seams

“SWCC” stands for the South Wales Coalfield Collection. This internationally significant collection is housed at two locations: the Richard Burtons Archives and the South Wales Miners’ Library. The Archive holdings include written documents, manuscripts and photographs. The Miners’ Library is custodian of printed material (books and pamphlets), posters, Lodge banners, oral history recordings and a variety of press cuttings.

The SWCC has its origins in two major research projects conducted by the departments of History and Economic History at Swansea University. Between 1971 and 1982 researchers went out into mining and former mining communities to gather and preserve the written, visual and oral histories of the industrial communities of South Wales. With the ever increasing threat from the contraction of the mining industry, this material was in great peril: much of it was on the verge of being lost. Since then, the collection and preservation process has continued, and has welcomed donations from unions, educational institutions, media companies and individuals, to mention but a few. The SWCC is now one of the largest, most notable and unique archives in the United Kingdom.

This series of articles is aimed at highlighting non-coal or coal mining related printed materials within the SWCC, and to demonstrate the diversity and research value of these holdings. Individual items of particular interest will be showcased, evidencing the wider scope and contents of the SWCC, investigating its profuse and unprecedented nature and focusing upon its importance to a greater understanding and respect for the history, culture, society and politics of the South Wales coalfield.

Item No.1

FOUR WEEKS in the Hands of HITLER’S Hell-Hounds: THE NAZI MURDER CAMP OF DACHAU. Hans Beimler, 1933

Location: The South Wales Miners’ Library. SWCC pamphlets, D.M. Jones Box 3

Four Weeks in the hands of Hitler's Hell-Hounds

“To-day there is not a human being in the world – with the exception of the fanatical adherents of the murderers and incendiaries themselves – who still harbours a doubt about the statements and reports in regard to the bestial tortures and mass murders in the S.A. (storm troop) barracks, the union quarters and the concentration camps. And the truth is still much worse than what is already known.”

Hans Beimler (2 July 1895 – 1 December 1936) was a communist, a Reichstag deputy and a Spanish Civil War Volunteer. As an ardent and committed communist, Beimler was a strident anti-Nazi from the earliest days of the regime. The Nazi impetus to rout out potential “enemies” of the new Reich left leading critics, prominent politicians and activists in a highly dangerous situation. As a communist member of the Reichstag, Beimler was considered to be a highly dangerous individual. In April 1933 he was arrested and sent to the new Dachau concentration camp. Beimler was fortunate, as he managed to escape in May 1933.

“Four Weeks” is of particular importance as not only was it almost immediately translated into all major European languages, but it was one of the very first eye witness accounts of the fledgling Nazi concentration system.

Beimler fled to Spain, where he continued his anti-fascist activities, becoming Commisar of the Thaelman Battalion, one of the first International Brigade battalions who fought alongside the Spanish Republicans in the struggle against Franco’s fascist armies. Hans Beimler was killed on 1 December 1936, during the battle of Madrid. The XI International Brigade was renamed the Hans Beimler Brigade in his honour.

 

Joanne E Waller, South Wales Miners’ Library

The Spanish communities of South Wales and their role in supporting Basque refugees during the Spanish Civil War

On the 80th anniversary of the end of the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), this month’s Miners’ Library blog draws on our collections to relate the story of the Basque refugees evacuated to Wales during the conflict and the vital role played by the Spanish communities of South Wales in supporting the refugees and the wider Aid Spain campaign.

1) – The Spanish Communities of Cardiff, Dowlais and Abercrave

The first decade of the twentieth century marked a high point of migration into South Wales, with migrants arriving at a rate exceeded only by the United States within the Western world. The three Spanish communities that developed in Cardiff, Dowlais and Abercrave were therefore joining an increasingly cosmopolitan environment, their respective locations housing industries indicative of some of the primary ‘pull’ factors for labour into South Wales – shipping, iron and steel production, and coal mining. The earliest-established community was located in the Cardiff Docklands area. As Hywel Davies writes:

‘[f]or a generation, this enclave based around George Street had provided home cooking and hospitality to seafarers arriving at Cardiff docks on one of the regular sailings from Bilbao. By 1937, it had grown into the hub of a thriving Spanish community of between fifty and sixty families’.[1]

The origins of the Dowlais community can be traced back to around 1900, when the Spanish Orconero Iron Ore Company, a subsidiary of the Dowlais Iron Ore Company, began recruiting and transporting workers from the industrial north of Spain to Dowlais, with the alleged aim of undercutting wages and established working practices. By 1911 there were 264 Spaniards living in the borough, with a street in Dowlais named after the reigning Spanish monarch – ‘King Alphonso Street’ – built specifically to house them. Company hopes of importing a more pliable labour force were misguided however, as many of the leading figures of the new community were products of the burgeoning socialist and anarcho-syndicalist traditions of northern Spain; some recruits explicitly fleeing persecution for their labour organising activities in their home country. Spanish workers formed anarchist groups and even a branch of the PSOE (the Spanish Socialist Workers Party) in Dowlais; the latter working closely with neighbouring branches of the Independent Labour Party (ILP), facilitating the circulation of ideas of an international provenance amid the local labour movement.[2]

SpanishWorkers1907Spanish migrant workers on board a ship destined for South Wales, 1907. Courtesy of South Wales Coalfield Collection, Swansea University.

In 1909, a lockout at Dowlais prompted some Spanish workers to find employment at the French-owned International Colliery in the village of Abercrave at the head of the Swansea Valley. More Spanish workers and families followed and, along with smaller numbers of Portuguese, French and Belgians, gave an injection of diversity to what was hitherto a relatively culturally homogenous Welsh-speaking and chapel-going community. Our oral history collection provides a particularly rich resource for learning about the Spanish community at Abercrave, and features interviews with village residents from both within and outside this community.

The arrival of foreign workers generated some initial hostility in Abercrave. An interview with Dai Dan Evans relates some of these incidents. He recalls a checkweigher at International Colliery exploitatively keeping different weights for the Spanish workers, and an ill-fated attempt to have the Spanish and French workforce removed on trumped-up safety grounds given their inability to communicate with fellow workers through the medium of Welsh.[3]  Some evidence of cultural antagonisms within the wider community also emerges, with depictions of Spaniards as ominous knife-wielding adversaries, prone to drinking, dancing and playing music in their gardens on the Sabbath.[4] Tensions came to a head in July 1914, when a protest march against the presence of foreign workers set off from Abercrave towards Ystradgynlais.[5] Such localised grievances were doubtless compounded by broader ideologies of jingoism and racism that permeated imperial Britain in the early part of the century, from which Wales was by no means immune; the decade of the First World War seeing anti-Semitic riots in Tredegar and attacks on Chinese laundries in Cardiff in 1911 and violent anti-black riots in Cardiff in 1919.[6]

Nonetheless, hostilities were gradually overcome. The Spanish workforce soon endeared themselves to fellow workers by proving to be committed and loyal trade unionists. In a sentiment echoed throughout a number of our oral history interviews, Dick Beamish suggests that:

‘amongst the Spanish miners we had some of the finest trade unionists that these lodges have ever produced’.[7]

The union provided a quick route to acceptance and common cause that would have been harder to achieve among immigrant communities occupying a more atomised small business-owning class. The political culture of the South Wales coalfields was also undergoing a significant period of transformation; with the influence of the South Wales Miners’ Federation (SWMF), and a developing tradition of independent working-class education, challenging some of the ideological roots of xenophobic reaction and promoting an increasingly internationalist politics of class-based solidarity. As Hywel Francis writes, the SWMF encouraged ‘an independent or even rather “anarcho-syndicalist” rank and file outlook towards industrial and political questions’, adding that ‘the parallels with the strong Spanish anarcho-syndicalist movement are obvious and significant’. Indeed, as Daryl Leeworthy notes, by around 1911 – just prior to the publication of the renowned syndicalist pamphlet The Miners’ Next Step (1912) – some Spanish workers established an anarchist cell in Abercrave known as the Ferrer Group, named after the Catalan anarchist and educationalist Francisco Ferrer, from which they circulated their ideas to the wider region, albeit with limited results.[8]

The building of sociable relations would also depend on key personalities and interpersonal gestures, some of which are detailed in our oral history interviews. An especially resonant story emerges from an interview with Miss Morgan, who was a child at the time of the first Spanish migrations to Abercrave. She recalls how her father, a founding member of the ILP in the village, stood up for Spanish workers in the colliery and refused to take part in the 1914 protest. When her father died a year later, she remembers witnessing, as a child aged 8, a scene in front of her house in which two Spanish miners arrived and insisted on shouldering his coffin to the hearse as a mark of respect.[9] We get another snapshot of growing interpersonal camaraderie in an interview with Dick Cook, a resident of Abercrave who temporarily lost his sight in an industrial accident. He recounts how a Spanish friend, Albino Garcia, would come to his house twice weekly during his period of blindness to read to him from the newspaper in broken English.[10] Providentially for the new Spanish arrivals, in the nearby village of Ystradgynlais there was a shop-owner who had lived for a time in Patagonia and who was subsequently fluent in both Spanish and Welsh. ‘Williams the Temp’, as he was known, acted as an important ‘link man’ between the Spanish and the wider community, and would help by translating documents from one language into another.[11] Moreover, we discover from an interview with Jim Vale that Goyo Esteban, who is often referred to as a ‘leader’ of the early Spanish community, was one of several in the first generation of immigrants to have learnt to speak Welsh fluently. In turn, Welsh colliers would frequently address their Spanish workmates at the coalface using Spanish words and phrases.[12]

Leandro Macho, who was born to Spanish parents in Abercrave in 1918, provides a vivid account of the community and its ongoing development beyond the first generation in his recorded lecture ‘Growing up in Spanish Abercrave’. For anyone interested in exploring our interviews relating to the Spanish community, this is an excellent place to begin. He relates how the first Spanish inhabitants endured very basic living conditions; residing in small wooden huts, washing clothes in the river Tawe, and gathering stray fragments of sheep’s wool from the Cribarth mountain for use in homemade mattresses. But they soon moved into more settled accommodation, notably establishing a terrace of houses known as Spanish Row, and inter-marriages between Spanish and locals began to take place. At its height in the 1930s, he estimates that some 20 families belonged to the community. Migrant children’s entry into the local education system brought novel forms and expressions of cultural hybridity to the village. Children born of Spanish parents, like Leandro, grew up speaking Welsh as well as Spanish, played rugby as well as pelota, and would sing Spanish songs in the house and ‘Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau’ with other children at St David’s Day concerts. For his classmates born of Welsh parents, Leandro’s Spanish community seems to have embodied an exotic parallel world conjuring fascination more than hostility. He jokingly remembers the shocked reactions on the playground to news that his family cooked with olive oil instead of the customary pig fat. Such esoteric goods would be bought from a Spanish-owned shop in Swansea, which members of the community would take turns to visit.[13]

2) – Wales, the ‘Welsh Spaniards’ and the Spanish Civil War

When the writer Gwyn Thomas travelled to Spain as a student in the early 1930s, he was particularly struck by the Asturias mining communities of the north in which he saw a reflection of the coalmining districts of South Wales, particularly his native Rhondda.[14] Such parallels help to explain why the plight of Asturian miners, whose strike and uprising was violently supressed in 1934, elicited strong empathetic reactions among South Wales mining communities locked in their own bitter struggles during these years. The Spanish communities in Wales played an important role in bringing conditions in Spain to the attention of their local political institutions and fostering a sense of common cause. When the SWMF sent £100 in financial aid to the miners’ families involved in the Asturias revolt, for instance, they were motivated to do so by the Anthracite lodges to which the Abercrave Spaniards belonged.[15]

The 1930s marked a significant period of extra-parliamentary radicalism in the South Wales coalfields. Blighted by high rates of unemployment, the valleys in the first half of the decade were animated by hunger marches, protests against the Means Test, and anti-fascist mobilisations against the incursion of Oswald Moseley’s Blackshirts. When the Spanish Civil War broke out in July 1936, the response from the Left in Wales was substantially conditioned by the activist networks established during these struggles and the War directly linked to domestic issues as part of an internationalist explanatory framework. But the Civil War also had a profound effect on the wider political culture of Wales and induced a remarkable public outpouring of pro-Republican sympathy and activity. Despite some divisions among the Spanish of Dowlais, the majority of the Spanish communities in South Wales, including the whole of the Abercrave community, were decidedly pro-Republican and played a prominent part in shaping Wales’ response to the conflict.[16]

Two broad strategies are discernible in the South Wales Miners’ Federation’s reaction to the Spanish Civil War. Firstly, it sought to use its influence to lobby against the UK Government’s policy of Non-Intervention in Spain, which was effectively starving the Spanish Republican side of vital weapons and resources while the Nationalists were deriving military backing from fascist Germany and Italy. The SWMF became part of an effort in South Wales to promote a popular front politics to oppose the rise of fascism in Europe, supported in particular by The Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), the ILP and those elements of the Labour Party, notably Aneurin Bevan MP, critical of their party’s support for Non-Intervention and their perceived quiescence regarding Spain. The Communist Party’s outlook held a substantial influence within the SWMF during this period, particularly following the election of Arthur Horner as President of the latter in 1936, and the Communist Party and the Fed provided the organisational core for much of the directly political agitation in favour of the Spanish Republican cause during the Civil War.[17]

The second principal strategy adopted by the SWMF involved raising as much material support for the Republican cause as possible as part of the Miners’ Federation of Great Britain Spanish Aid Fund. A sum approximating £20,000 was raised by the SWMF during the conflict which, given the context of interwar Depression, was a remarkable achievement.[18] This fundraising activity took place alongside various Aid Spain campaigns across Wales, which were supported by an array of civil society institutions – from political groups and trade unions, to charities and religious bodies – and buoyed by a hugely responsive public. Reports from Spain of the fascists’ aerial bombing raids on civilian populations, notably in the town of Guernica in April 1937, added to the humanitarian urgency of the Aid Spain campaigning, as people donated money, food, and other essential supplies. As Will Paynter writes in his autobiography My Generation (1972):

‘[t]he attack upon the democratically elected government of Spain produced the greatest spontaneous outburst of popular anti-fascist feeling experienced anywhere. The campaign we conducted for support and aid for Spain and its people was the most responsive that I have ever taken part in; it was magnificent’.[19]

In the village of Onllwyn, where many of the Abercrave Spaniards worked, it became an oft-quoted phrase after the Civil War that their village gave more per head to the Aid Spain movement than any other in Wales.[20]

AidSpaidSpanish Aid collection in Pontypridd, 1937. Courtesy of South Wales Coalfield Collection, Swansea University.

The SWMF relief effort included the provision of financial assistance to the International Brigades Dependents’ and Wounded Aid Committee. In total, there were 206 volunteers for the International Brigades from Wales, the vast majority of whom were communists and over half were miners.[21] Of this number, 3 members of the Spanish communities of South Wales – Roman Rodriguez of Dowlais and Victoriano Esteban and Frank Zamora of Abercrave – fought and died in Spain. Other individuals from the Spanish communities provided direct support to the Republican Government, such as Leandro Macho who moved to London to work on their behalf during the Civil War.[22] Many others of the Welsh-Spanish contingent, aside from campaigning work, provided vital support to the 4,000 refugee children from the Basque Country that were evacuated to Britain in May 1937.

3) – The Basque Refugees and the Spanish Community

In the spring of 1937 Franco’s forces lay siege to the Basque Country, restricting the transportation of food and other supplies to the region over land and sea. The event prompted attempts by a number of British seafarers to breach the blockade and deliver goods to the people of Bilbao, despite the absence of British naval protection. The Swansea seaman Captain David ‘Potato’ Jones gained a degree of publicity at the time for openly declaring in the press his intention to take on Franco’s blockade, chiding the British navy for losing its ‘guts’. His initial attempts failed however, the first to succeed being Captain William Roberts of the Cardiff-registered Seven Seas Spray.[23] Other supply ships followed, but the situation for the Basques remained desperate; food continued to be severely rationed, there was a constant threat of German aerial bombing raids, and General Mola’s Nationalist forces edged ever-closer to Bilbao. It was in these conditions that many parents or guardians made the difficult decision of sending their children away to seek refuge in other countries. The 4,000 refugees bound for Britain left in the early hours of the 21st May 1937 on board the Habana, an old liner owned by the Basque Government, sailing across the Bay of Biscay to Southampton.

HabanaShipBasque refugees on board the Habana, May 1937. From pamphlet: ‘The Martyrdom of the Basques’, South Wales Coalfield Collection.

Our oral history collection again provides some useful sources for learning about the experiences of refugees; featuring interviews both with refugees themselves and support staff involved in accommodating them. Paula Felipe was 10-years-old when she made the journey with her sisters on board the Habana. After a rough crossing, she describes the scene that greeted her on arrival in Southampton:

‘I put my head through the porthole and all I could see was the Salvation Army playing and I said “look how they dress in this country”’.[24]

After disembarking and undergoing a medical examination, the children were transferred to a transit camp at North Stoneham outside Southampton. In another recorded interview, Casimira Duenos, a member of the Abercrave Spanish community, describes her work as a volunteer at the camp.[25] It consisted of some 500 bell tents in which the children slept, and some larger tents to house a kitchen, stores, and hospital. It was at this camp that the children learned the sorrowful news that Bilbao had fallen to the Nationalists on the 19th June 1937. Gradually the numbers in the camp diminished over the summer months, as children were transported to more permanent sites of accommodation in other parts of the country.

In Wales, refugees were housed at one of four ‘colonies’ – Caerleon, Swansea, Brechfa and Old Colwyn. Of these, it is the colonies at Caerleon and Swansea that are best covered by the material in our collections. The Caerleon colony was based at Cambria House, a large estate that accommodated 56 refugee children of ages ranging from 6yrs to 15yrs. We get a sense of life at Cambria House from the recorded interview of Maria Fernandez. Maria grew up within the Spanish community of Dowlais, having made the journey with her family from Bilbao to Wales in 1906. She began working at Cambria House as an interpreter, but soon took over as Warden of the house where she seems to have been much-loved by the children. She describes some of the activities that children undertook, which both provided recreation and served as a means of raising funds for the colony. Children produced their own monthly magazine, The Cambria House Journal, in which they wrote about their native culture and about life in the colony. It had at its peak an impressive print-run of 4,000, with copies being sold to the public for 2d. The children also raised funds through playing football matches against teams from across South Wales, and giving concert tours in which they would entertain audiences with Spanish and Basque song and dance. The children continued their education while at the colony, and their list of teachers throws up some eminent participants. These include the socialist journalist and linguist Cyril Cule, headmaster at Cambria House and one of the few active figures within Plaid Cymru to proffer vocal support for the Republic during the War; the Marxist historian Christopher Hill, who was then lecturing at Cardiff; and the writer Gwyn Thomas.[26]

CaerleonAntiFascistSaluteBasque refugee children at the Caerleon colony, with fists raised in anti-fascist salute. Courtesy of South Wales Coalfield Collection, Swansea University.

The colony at Swansea was situated at Sketty Park House, a large Regency mansion circled by scenic gardens, which accommodated 84 children. Our video interview with Rose Steel (formerly Rose Noriega), an interpreter at the house who was born in Swansea of Spanish parents, provides a valuable document of the children’s time there. One story stands apart for its moving portrayal of the enduring war-induced trauma suffered by the refugees, which was especially evident in the early months of their stay. The Spanish Civil War featured the first aerial saturation bombing of a civilian population, and the psychological imprint of this tactic on the young minds that witnessed it is evident throughout the historical record on the Basque refugees. Children’s drawings at the colonies would frequently feature aeroplanes, often shown dropping bombs onto innocent targets such as ambulances, and one young contributor to the Cambria House Journal wrote an especially haunting piece in which the aeroplane is depicted as an emblem of Enlightenment gone astray:

‘the harmless aeroplane that brought us food from distant places now will bring us death’.[27]

Rose describes how the mere sight of planes in the skies over Sketty Park would induce panic in the children, and adults were obliged to explain that they were not enemy aircraft. One day, whilst investigating the disappearance of blankets from the children’s’ dormitories, she was led by a young child to a wooded area within the grounds where she discovered that the children had constructed a makeshift shelter. Encouraged to ‘crawl in Mama Rosa’, she found the tunnels, camouflaged with brushwood and shrubs, were some 4 or 5ft deep and lined with bricks taken from a nearby building site.[28]

Much like the Cambia House colony, life for the refugees at Sketty Park was also full of agreeable pastimes; they received scores of visitors, went on daytrips, and enjoyed short stays with local miners’ families at weekends. Fundraising was likewise central to the activity at the house given that, in common with all the refugee colonies, they were not afforded any grants from the UK Government and had to rely on voluntary donations. What is striking about the Basque Children’s Appeal in South Wales is the breadth of assistance it garnered from the local community, which extended well beyond the political organisations of the Left, though refugees and staff often pay particular tribute to the South Wales miners and the SWMF for their unwavering support. Maria Fernandez’s statement is typical in this regard:

‘The miners in South Wales were very good and for that I have a deep, deep feeling for them’.[29]

In conjunction with this support, the contribution of ‘Welsh Spaniards’ also warrants special consideration. These communities provided a vital pool of visitors, volunteers, campaigners and support staff that were uniquely placed to assist the children and alleviate their sense of estrangement within an unfamiliar environment. The communities’ overall commitment to the wellbeing of the refugees is evident at multiple levels; volunteers helped to run the Southampton camp, worked without pay in colony kitchens, and lent their skills as interpreters and teachers; Spanish communities at Abercrave and Dowlais made regular visits to their local colonies, and hosted children and fundraising events in their own neighbourhoods; while, in the Cardiff Docklands, a grocer provided Spanish food to the South Wales colonies, and a Spanish café served as a drop-off point for mail smuggled between refugee children and their parents in Bilbao.[30]

As the Civil War drew to a close, and it became clear that the Nationalist side had prevailed, thoughts inevitably turned to the repatriation of the Basque refugees. The issue was not straightforward; there being realistic fears that returning children would face persecution by the incumbent regime, suffer food shortages, and enforced re-education programmes. Letters sent to children suggesting that it was safe to return home were found to have been written under coercion, some sent from parents interned in San Sebastian gaol.[31] Many other parents were themselves refugees; part of the mass flight of some 450,000 Spaniards into France in February 1939, who were subsequently detained by the French Government in notorious concentration camps along the border. Moreover, some children were now orphans or had lost contact with their parents during the conflict. Nevertheless, repatriations gradually began to occur and the outbreak of war in Britain in September 1939 provided an added impetus to return children to their parents. By 1941, the vast majority of the initial 4,000 refugees had been repatriated. The 416 that remained in Britain were either adopted or being temporarily fostered by families.[32]

An estimated thirty-five refugees made their homes in Wales, and Leandro Macho recalls some of them receiving ongoing support from the Abercrave Spanish community with settling in and finding work. Leandro goes on to describe the gradual dissolution of the Spanish communities through the post-war decades, as employment opportunities and marriage ties began to disperse the children and grandchildren of the first generation away from their respective locales, though he suggests that an identifiable community still existed in Abercrave at least until the closure of Abercrave Colliery in 1967.[33] Maria Fernandez made a trip to Spain soon after the end of the Second World War to visit some of the children that were previously in her care. She describes being dismayed by the conditions of poverty in which children lived but also touched by expressions of gratitude she received from their parents. She kept in touch with former refugees at Cambria House until her death in 2001.[34]

On the 80th anniversary of the end of the Spanish Civil War, thoughts inevitably turn to parallels with our present historical conjuncture; as European politics is once again being forged in the aftermath of a global economic crisis, with a concomitant emboldening of the far-right. At a time when the political status of immigrants and refugees is so central to present-day struggles against fascism and reactionary nationalism, revisiting the history of the Spanish migrants and Basque refugees seems especially significant. Echoes of the xenophobic narratives and decrees of our own age are plainly discernable in sections of the press and political class of the 1930s, for whom Franco is a defender of the ‘European tradition’ and the Basque refugees are dangerous and ungrateful intruders onto British soil.[35] While the response from the Left in Wales was by no means uniform or immune from political divisions, the most effective practitioners tended to combine a commitment to grassroots organising and pragmatic coalition-building with a strong ideological sense of how their actions coalesced with a wider political schema. Notably, underpinning the motivations of many of those who worked together to accommodate the refugees was a concept of class relations that went beyond methodological nationalism to conceive of shared problems and solutions within an internationalist frame. Leandro Macho’s closing remarks give a sense of how this internationalism was seen and lived as a complement, not an occlusion, of cultural difference and complexity:

‘I feel as Welsh as any Welshman, and I feel as Spanish as any Spaniard. But I think I feel as much an Internationalist as any Internationalist’.[36]

Dr. Jonathan Davies, South Wales Miners’ Library

[1] Hywel Davies, Fleeing Franco, Cardiff 2011, p. 16.

[2] Hywel Francis and David Smith, The Fed, London 1980, pp. 11-12; Interview of Dick Cook, SWML AUD/222; Daryl Leeworthy, Labour Country, Cardigan 2018, pp. 196-204.

[3] Interview of Dai Dan Evans, SWML AUD/263.

[4] Leandro Macho, ‘Growing up in Spanish Abercrave’, SWML AUD/251.

[5] Interview of Rhys Morgan Watkins, SWML AUD/206.

[6] See, Neil Evans, ‘Through the Prism of Ethnic Violence: Riots and Racial Attacks in Wales, 1826-2002’ in A Tolerant Nation?, Cardiff 2003, pp. 93-108.

[7] Interview of Dick Beamish, SWML AUD/13.

[8] Hywel Francis, Miners Against Fascism, London 1984, p. 33; Daryl Leeworthy, Labour Country, pp. 199-201.

[9] Interview of Miss Morgan, SWML VID/39.

[10] Interview of Dick Cook, SWML AUD/222.

[11] Leandro Macho, ‘Growing up in Spanish Abercrave’, SWML AUD/251.

[12] Interview of James Vale, SWML AUD/223; Hywel Francis and David Smith, The Fed, p. 12.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Interview of Hywel Francis, SWML VID/33.

[15] Hywel Francis, Miners Against Fascism, p. 141.

[16] An account of divisions in Dowlais is given in Recording of Maria Fernandez, SWML AUD/439. One issue that does not seem to be covered in our collections, however, is the impact of internal divisions on the Left in Spain during the Civil War on Spanish communities in Wales.

[17] For more on the role of the Fed during the Civil War see Hywel Francis, Miners Against Fascism, pp. 139-55.

[18] Daryl Leeworthy, Labour Country, p. 375.

[19] Will Paynter, My Generation, London 1972, pp. 61-2.

[20] Hywel Francis, Miners Against Fascism, p. 205.

[21] Daryl Leeworthy, Labour Country, p. 376.

[22] Interview of Leo Macho, SWML VID/38.

[23] Hywel Davies, Fleeing Franco, p. 43.

[24] Recording of Paula and Maria, SWML AUD/443.

[25] Interview of Nicolas and Casimira Duenos, SWML AUD/200.

[26] Recording of Maria Fernandez, SWML AUD/439; Hywel Davies, Fleeing Franco, pp. 53-68.

[27] Quoted in Hywel Davies, Fleeing Franco, p. 65, see also p. 136.

[28] Interview of Mrs Steel, SWML VID/32.

[29] Recording of Maria Fernandez, SWML AUD/439.

[30] Hywel Davies, Fleeing Franco, pp. 16-7.

[31] Hywel Francis, Miners Against Fascism, p. 131.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Interview of Leo Macho, SWML VID/38.

[34] Recording of Maria Fernandez, SWML AUD/439; Hywel Davies, Fleeing Franco, p. 140.

[35] Hywel Francis, Miners Against Fascism, p. 129; Hywel Davies, Fleeing Franco, pp. 79-81, p. 116.

[36] Leandro Macho, ‘Growing up in Spanish Abercrave’, SWML AUD/251.

Emily Phipps and Avril Rolph

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Apart from Hendrefoelan House (former home of previous blog subject Amy Dillwyn), our closest neighbour in the Hendrefoelan Student Village is the Emily Phipps Building. It has been utilized by numerous departments over the years, but visitors are often unaware of the history and significance of the eponymous woman herself.

This blog explores her life and achievements and is also a tribute to Avril Rolph, an authority on Emily’s life. Avril was a founder member of Women’s Archive Wales, and a good friend to the Miners’ Library, and we were very sorry to hear of her passing earlier this year. Avril’s career as a librarian, archivist and researcher made her an authority on feminist history and a well-respected figure in her field. She became an honorary Vice President of the Women’s Archive Wales in 2011, a reflection of her pivotal role in the organisation.

Emily Frost Phipps was born in Devon in 1865. A career as an educator was marked from a young age when she became a pupil teacher in an  elementary infants school while still a student herself. Following her acceptance to Homerton Training College, Emily’s teaching career continued to flourish with increasing responsibilities and prestige. When she was appointed to Swansea’s Central Higher Grade School, the Board of Education inspectors praised it as one of the best schools in Wales, attributing its success largely to her.

Avril Rolph sourced an article in the South Wales Daily Post from 1897 which succinctly captured Emily’s impact on the school:

“Miss Phipps and her hardworking, able and conscientious staff continue to raise the character of the tone and instruction, which now reflect great credit upon all concerned.”

Teaching was not Emily’s only passion; she was also committed to political causes that furthered the rights of women. According to her biography, she joined the Women’s Freedom League in outrage at Lloyd George’s anti-suffrage behaviour at a Swansea meeting. As well as establishing a Swansea branch of the organisation, Emily gave speeches, participated in boycotts and supported numerous early feminist causes. As a member of the National Federation of Women Teachers – a pressure group within the National Union of Teachers – Emily campaigned for equal pay and became the president of the Swansea chapter in 1915. Eventually, due to a lack of support, she oversaw the separation of the NUFT as an independent union.

Emily’s life afterwards spans numerous roles and positions, all united by underlying feminist causes. She was the president of NUFT, editor of the journal Woman Teacher and, in 1925,  became a barrister and the standing counsel for the National Association of Women Teachers. In 2013, a blue plaque was placed on Orchard Street in Swansea to commemorate her achievements. Avril Rolph was the main speaker at the unveiling, a testament to her expertise.

Avril’s essay, ‘Definitely not a doormat: Emily Phipps, feminist, teacher and trade unionist’ appeared in Minerva:  The Swansea History Journal in 2014 and discussed key moments in Emily’s life. For instance, it reveals that she initially withdrew her application for the headteacher role in Swansea, seemingly only accepting again when her companion Clara Neal was offered a position. It also describes Emily’s census boycott in 1911, which was meant to demonstrate that if women were not considered citizens in terms of voting then they should not contribute to Government statistics. As well as providing more details about Emily’s bid to become an MP in 1918, it also contains quotations from newspaper articles and photographs of Emily throughout her life.

Such critical work has allowed Emily to be appreciated as an early feminist and, due to her relationship with Clare Neal, she is also occasionally included in histories of lesbian women. The Miners’ Library holds books about Emily (such as Deeds not Words by Hilda Kean) and books written by her: “A History of the National Union of Women Teachers“. For more information, please get in touch.

Sources

Rolph, Avril, ‘Definitely not a doorma: Emily Phipps, feminist, teacher and trade unionist’, Minerva (2014)

Kean, Hilda, ‘Emily Phipps’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2008)

The National Library of Wales holds a number of newspaper clippings, as part of Welsh Newspapers Online, detailing aspects of Emily’s time at Swansea.

Emily Phipps ac Avril Rolph

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Ar wahân i Dŷ Hendrefoilan, (tŷ Amy Dillwyn o blog blaenorol), ein cymydog agosaf ym Mhentref Myfyrwyr Hendrefoilan yw Adeilad Emily Phipps. Mae nifer o adrannau wedi defnyddio’r adeilad dros y blynyddoedd, ond nid yw rhan fwyaf o ymwelwyr yn ymwybodol o’r fenyw eu hun.

Mae’r blog yma yn edrych ar fywyd a chyflawniadau Emily a hefyd yn deyrnged i Avril Rolph, awdurdod allweddol ar y pwnc. Roedd Avril yn aelod sylfaenol o Archif Menywod Cymru ac yn ffrind da i Lyfrgell y Glowyr ac roeddwn yn drist i glywed am ei farwolaeth. Fe wnaeth gyrfa Avril – fel llyfrgellydd, archifydd ac ymchwilydd – gwneud hi awdurdod ar hanes ffeministaidd ac yn bwysig iawn yn y maes. Fe ddaeth hi’n Is-lywydd Anrhydeddus o Archif Menywod Cymru yn 2011, sy’n adlewyrchu ei chyfraniad enfawr yn y sefydliad.

Ganwyd Emily Frost Phipps yn Nyfnaint yn 1865. Roedd gyrfa mewn addysg yn amlwg o oes gynnar pan ddaeth hi’n athro disgybl mewn ysgol elfennol babanod pan oedd hi dal yn astudio. Ar ôl cael ei derbyn i Goleg Hyfforddi Homerton, wnaeth gyrfa addysg Emily cynyddu gyda mwy o gyfrifoldeb a phwysigrwydd. Pan ddaeth hi fel pennaeth i Ysgol Ganolog Gradd Uwch Abertawe, wnaeth yr arolygwyr o’r Bwrdd Addysg yn ei ganmol fel un o’r ysgolion gorau yng Nghymru, yn esbonio llawr o’r llwyddiant fel gwaith caled Emily.

Wnaeth Avril Rolph dod o hyd i erthygl yn South Wales Daily Post yn 1897 sydd yn dangos effaith Emily ar yr ysgol:

“Miss Phipps and her hardworking, able and conscientious staff continue to raise the character of the tone and instruction, which now reflect great credit upon all concerned.”

Heb law am ddysgu, roedd Emily hefyd yn angerddol am achosion gwleidyddol i ymwneud a hawliau menywod. Mae ei bywgraffiad yn sôn fe wnaeth hi ymuno a’r ‘Women’s Freedom League’ ar ôl gweld Lloyd George yn dangos ymddygiad sarhaus tuag at Swffragetiaid mewn cyfarfod yn Abertawe. Ar ôl sefydlu cangen yn Abertawe, fe wnaeth Emily roi areithiau, cymryd rhan mewn protestiadau a rhoi ei chefnogaeth i nifer o achosion menywod cynnar. Fel aelod o Undeb Gwladol Athrawon Benywaidd – grŵp pwysedd yn Undeb Gwladol Athrawon – fe wnaeth Emily ymgyrch am daliadau cyfartal a ddaeth hi arlywydd adran Abertawe yn 1915. Ymhen, oherwydd diffyg cefnogaeth, wnaeth hi oruchwylio’r undeb menywod yn gwahanu.

Mae gyrfa Emily ar ôl hyn yn cynnwys nifer o swyddi, wedi’i uno gan achosion ffeministaidd. Fe ddaeth hi’n Arlywydd y NUFT, golygydd cylchgrawn Woman Teacher a, yn 1925, bargyfreithiwr ar gyfer Cymdeithas Wladol Athrawon Benywaidd. Yn 2013, osodwyd plac glas ar Orchard Street yn Abertawe yn coffáu ei chyflawniadau. Avril oedd prif siaradwr ar gyfer y dadorchuddio, ac roedd hwn yn cymwys oherwydd ei ymchwil arbennig ar fywyd Emily.

Fe gyhoeddwyd traethawd Avril, ‘Definitely not a doormat: Emily Phipps, feminist, teacher and trade unionist’ yn Minerva: The Swansea History Journal yn 2014 ac mae’n trafod nifer o ddigwyddiadau allweddol. Er enghraifft, fe wnaeth Emily ymneilltua ei chais am y swydd pennaeth yn Abertawe, ac yn derbyn eto pan wnaethon nhw hefyd cynnig swydd i’w chydymaith Clara Neal. Mae’r erthygl hefyd yn disgrifio ei phrotest y cyfrifiad yn 1911, a oedd yn dangos i bobl ni dyle menywod cyfrannu at ystadegau’r llywodraeth os nod oedd y wladwriaeth yn gweld nhw fel dinasyddion. Ar wahân i ddarparu mwy o wybodaeth am gais Emily i ddoed yn aelod o’r senedd yn 1918, mae’r erthygl hefyd yn cynnwys dyfyniadau o erthyglau papur newydd a lluniau o Emily.

Mae gwaith beirniadol fel hwn yn gadel i Emily cael ei gwerthfawrogi del ffeminist cynnar ac, oherwydd ei pherthynas gyda Clare Neal, mae rhai hanesion lesbiaidd yn cynnwys hi. Mae Llyfrgell y Glowyr yn cadw llyfrau am Emily (fel Deeds not Words gan Hilda Kean) a llyfrau ganddi hi: “A History of the National Union of Women Teachers“. Am fwy o wybodaeth, cysylltwch â ni.

Ffynonellau

Rolph, Avril, ‘Definitely not a doorma: Emily Phipps, feminist, teacher and trade unionist’, Minerva (2014)

Kean, Hilda, ‘Emily Phipps’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2008)

Mae Llyfrgell Wladol Cymru yn cadw nifer o bapurau newyddion, fel rhan o Bapurau Newyddion Ar-lein, sy’n darparu manylion o fywyd Emily yn Abertawe.

 

GIG @ 70

 

NHSat70

Mae genedigaeth y Gwasanaeth Iechyd Gwladol ar Orffennaf 5ed 1948 yn hollbwysig i hanes Prydain. Fe wnaeth creu’r gwasanaeth gweld goblygiadau dros yr holl wlad a newid ein cymdeithas ar bob lefel. Roedd syniad o wasanaeth iechyd cyfun ac am ddim yn enwedig yn bwysig i gymunedau  diwydiannol a dosbarth-gweithio a oedd, yn y gorffennol, wedi gweld e’n anodd talu ffioedd yswiriant a meddygol. I’r bobl a wnaeth byw trwy’r newid, roedd y cyferbyniad yn amlwg. Mae nifer y pamffledi, dogfennau a llyfrau ar y GIG sydd gennym yn Llyfrgell y Glowyr yn dangos ei arwyddocâd i gymunedau diwydiannol De Cymru.

Wrth i’r wlad dod yn agos at wladoli, roedd nifer o ganllawiau i drio esbonio’r newidiadau cymhleth i gyhoedd a oedd dal yn delio gyda bywyd ar ôl y rhyfel. Roedd llawer yn esbonio hanes y Ddeddf i ddod, fel arfer yn sôn am argymhellion yr Adroddiad Beveridge yn 1942 fel digwyddiad allweddol hyd at ofal iechyd cyfun. Yn rhagweld cymhlethdodau posibl, fe wnaeth y Cymdeithas Feddygol Sosialaidd ysgrifennu  ‘Control of the Health Services‘ yn 1945. Fe wnaethon nhw croesawai syniad o wasanaeth iechyd gwladol ond yn dadlau dros ymgynghori gweithwyr iechyd yn ystod y proses weithredu.

Fe wnaeth y News Chronicle cyhoeddi’r ‘Guide to The National Health Service Act‘ gan bargyfreithiwr T.S. Newhman, a oedd yn ddefnyddiol yn crynhoi darpariaethau, gwasanaethau a llinell amser y system newydd. Roedd pamffled arall, ‘A Guide to the National Health Service Act 1946‘ yn cynnwys rhagair gan Aneurin Bevan, pensaer y GIG newydd:

We have just passed through Parliament the greatest single health-service measure of our history. We are facing, at this moment, the monumental task of putting it into operation.

Mae’r neges yn glir: hwn yw foment hanesyddol sydd â goblygiadau ymarferol ac yn ddelfrydol. Mae’r pamffled, gan Hilde Fitzgerald, yn sôn am y sefyllfa bresennol am ofal iechyd: cymysgedd o wasanaethau elusen a thaliadau gyda safon yr ansawdd yn ddibynnol ar gymeriad y gymuned leol. Mae’r canllaw yn disgrifio’r strwythur newydd: Gweinidog Iechyd yn penodi Byrddau Rhanbarthol sy’n sefydlu Pwyllgorau Rheoli i redeg yr ysbytai unigol. Mae diagram ar gefn y pamffled yn amlinellu’r strwythur delfrydol:

NHS

Yn dilyn gweithredu’r GIG, mae ein casgliadau yn dangos datblygiad y gwasanaeth dros yr ugeinfed ganrif, yn cynnwys y cynnydd a thensiwn. Fe wnaeth cyflwyno taliadau ar gyfer presgripsiynau yn y 1950au achosi dicter ac mae pamffled y Gymdeithas Feddygol Sosialaidd, sy’n dadlau bod e’n anghywir ac yn gofyn am lofnod ddeiseb, yn dangos y brwydrau o’r dechrau. Hefyd, mae’r pamffledi i’r 1970au, 80au ac ymlaen (fel Defending the NHS) yn dangos bod, wrth i’r GIG dod yn sefydliad, roedd llywodraethau yn defnyddio fe fel offeryn gwleidyddol.

Mae creu GIG yn aml yn cael ei chydnabod fel un o gyflawniadau fwyaf Prydain. Mae arwyddocâd y gwasanaeth yn hollbwysig, ond mae hwn yn enwedig yn wir i gymunedau pobl gweithio. Am y tro cyntaf yn ei bywydau, nid oedd angen poeni am dalu am ofal iechyd. Mae’r synnwyr hwn o wasanaeth yn wirioneddol ddemocrataidd yn cael ei adlewyrchu yn eiriau Stephen Taylor. Yn bamffled, ‘National Health Service‘, rhan o Gyfres Trafodaeth Llafur, mae’r aelod llywodraeth a meddyg yn dweud:

The Labour Government’s National Health Service Bill is neither the beginning nor the end of the job of building a real national health service for Britain. But in this job it is the most important step we have taken so far. It is a step which will only be successful if it is backed up everywhere by a well-informed and enthusiastic public. This is going to be our health service. Each one of us will at some time make use of it. Each of us will be able to have our say in how it is run. For this service will be made and moulded by public opinion.

Am fwy o wybodaeth am ein heitemau i ymwneud a CIG, neu am bywgraffiadau Aneurin Bevan yn ein prif gasgliad, cysylltwch â ni.