A Struggle for a Living Wage in the Mines
The book commemorating a hundred years since the Tonypandy Riots of 1910/11 is well worth getting if you have ancestors who were in the area at the time. There are plenty of photographs giving a flavour of life, the coal mines, shops, entertainment and politics in the Rhondda valley. (Updated) The connected Tonypandy 2010 website appears to have closed, at January 2012, and the book may be hard to find.
A short extract: “The Tonypandy Riots were a series of violent confrontations between coal miners and police that took place at various locations in and around the mines of the Cambrian Combine, a business network of mining companies formed to regulate prices and wages in south Wales. The riots were the culmination of an industrial dispute between workers and the mine owners who went on strike for a year in an effort to fight for a living wage.”
While the strike did not achieve a great deal for those immediately involved, overall it had a significant impact on the politics of the time and the development of Labour policy.
BBC Blog (Nov. 2010) on the riots. Also, a BBC programme from 1965, The Long Street – Road to Pandy Square (which, in its 28 minutes, covers conditions from the turn of the century to the 1921 national coal strike) has a section on the 1910 Cambrian Combine strike – video available at Nov. 2017 but may disappear.
Open Learn (part of Open University) course on ‘Welsh history and its sources‘ has a chapter from Wales 1880–1914 by Professor David (Dai) Smith, ‘From Riots to Revolt: Tonypandy and The Miners’ Next Step’ (pdf, 2.23MB), with photos and background on the riots in amongst discussion of the growth of unionism.
Our family’s role – unknown
Granddad, Levi (Len) Watkins, was a coal miner living in David Street at the time, in the 1911 census age 16 shown as ‘Coal miner helper’, and at time of signing up in 1916 was employed by Cambrian Colliery. His elder brother William was in 1911 shown as ‘Engine Plane (below ground)’ and father John, age 42 ‘Coal miner – hewer’. They, and many relatives in the valleys, must have been involved in some way in the events of that time, from suffering the extra hardships of limited strike income to being onlookers or maybe participants in the less justifiable actions of the workers. But sadly there aren’t any known family stories.
Update: I am told that one of the book’s authors, Gwyn Evans, is related to the Osborne branch of our family. He was Head of art and design at a Tonypandy school, and a founder member of the Rhondda Group of painters.
More about part of the local community, Bush Houses.