In the 1930s there was social and political unrest in
South Wales. The coal owners set up the South Wales Miners’ Industrial
Union (SWMIU - the ‘scab’ or ‘Company’ union) in an
attempt to break the South Wales Federation ( SWMF – the ‘Fed‘ ). The
conflict between the two unions reached its height in the Taff Merthyr
Colliery when stay-down miners ( SWMF ) took over Taff Merthyr, the
citadel of the SWMIU. In October 1935 an incident occurred in which SWMF
miners were attacked by the SWMIU supporters and there was such strong
feeling that women and unemployed miners marched on Taff Merthyr in
support of the FED. In the disturbances police with batons charged the
angry crowds and in turn the police were assaulted.
Hundreds of police were imported into the coalfield
from all over England. Afterwards it was clear that the authorities
wanted to make an example of the community of Bedlinog, which had
supported the Fed, especially the local ironmonger and communist
councillor, Edgar Evans. In the biggest mass trial of industrial workers
ever held in Britain 53 men and 3 women were sentenced on the 25th
March 1936. Sentences ranged from 3 to 15 months hard labour. Edgar
Evans received 9 months.
The local community was united together in protest. A
demonstration of 10,000 people at Treharris was addressed by S.O. Davies
M.P. and the SWMF. The meeting called the trial a deliberate effort to
‘encourage police brutality against the workers’.
When the Taff Merthyr protestors were released from
prison they were welcomed home with banners which said ‘ You have
suffered for a cause and we are proud of you’ and much singing of the ‘
Red Flag ‘.
Unsympathetic shopkeepers were boycotted by the
community and ‘ blacklegs’ were expelled from football teams, brass
bands and choral parties. Feelings on this matter ran very deep.