Welsh rarebit

The past in maiming us, makes us. – Frank Bidart[i]

ON MOST DAYS when I was very little I would be pushed in a pram past a massacre site on the way to my grandmother's house. Or perhaps it was the site of a stand-up battle. It is sometimes hard to tell with these things. The place was the Castle Inn, situated on the High Street in the slate-grey industrial town of Merthyr Tydfil, spread untidily along the Taff Valley, bordering the Brecon Beacons, the Vale of Glamorgan and the Black Domain, South Wales: vast coal deposits below ground and belching iron and steel works above.

Here, on June 3, 1831, soldiers of the 93rd Foot, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders had opened fire from the street and the upper windows of the Inn on a huge concourse of Welsh workers – 'ironstone miners, colliers, puddlers; women and shouting children'.[ii] The vast throng were demonstrating against unemployment, lowered wages (they were paid in tokens not money), the higher prices of the employers' truck-shops, ballooning debt, sequestered belongings, ongoing disfranchisement and semi-starvation. The mostly English coal owners and iron masters, who had come in from their opulent mansions and mock Tudor castles to collude that day, were meeting inside.

The demonstrators, seven to ten thousand strong, were grouped behind their banner – a cloth dyed red with calf's blood at Hirwaun some days before. It was the first defiant display of the Red Flag on British soil, held aloft that day by a certain William Williams. Beside it was raised a loaf of bread on a long, sharp stick. The crowd was chanting 'Caws gyda bara'– Welsh for 'Cheese with the bread' – just before the soldiers opened fire. Welsh people have this talent for fine theatrics. There were few Ghandians in such a crowd. As the most enthusiastic of the physical force advocates among them went to work, trying to seize the soldiers' muskets with their bare hands, the troops continued firing and plying their bayonets. Hundreds of shots rang out and the High Street was littered with bodies. In the fracas, sixteen soldiers were injured – six seriously. But over a score of protesters were killed and more than seventy wounded: all that carnage in the narrow street that my pram bumped along more than a century later.[iii]

If you look for information on this conflict in Cassell's Chronology of World History or even The Oxford Companion to British History you will be disappointed. It is as though it never happened, even though more were killed here by British military than during the well-anthologised Peterloo Massacre near Manchester a dozen years earlier. In 1978, Welsh intellectual Raymond Williams suggests the Merthyr Rising is less well remembered than Peterloo or the transportation to Australia of the Tolpuddle Martyrs from Dorset in 1834 not just because the latter were English incidents and the former Welsh.

Those peaceably assembled at St Peter's Fields or quietly organising their trade union at Tolpuddle chanced their hand, it is true, but when the authorities struck, they did not fight back. Merthyr was different, for the bloody riot was just the start of it. It merely inflamed the workers there rather than subduing them. Over the next four days they contained the military and, using their seized guns and other weaponry, drove back or held down other detachments sent in to re-secure the town. The agitation had moved from reformist to insurrectionary. Raymond Williams calls it convulsive, for out of the struggle a united working-class consciousness was forged.[iv] Gwyn A. Williams, the historian of the Rising, observes that the defeats 'repeatedly inflicted by armed workers on regular and yeoman troops seem without precedent in the history of civil conflict in eighteenth and nineteenth century Britain ... Not to mince words, the Merthyr Rising was a local attempt at revolution.'[v]

So best to keep a lid on this one, I suppose. It might give plebeian readers ideas. The bold initiative was eventually quelled, the town retaken and the entire coalfields militarily occupied. By October, all resistance had been starved into submission. Twenty-eight activists were indicted and seven imprisoned, including a woman of sixty-two years. Five others were transported to New South Wales – four for life. One man, Richard Lewis (or Dic Penderyn) was executed for stabbing a soldier in the thigh, as an example to all belligerents. He was later found innocent of the charge. His statue stands in the centre of Merthyr Tydfil. He is so common a sight there that no one appears to think it odd that, whereas other town-squares normally commemorate statesmen and military leaders, this one remembers a hanged man – a martyr and, in the manner of his death, a working class hero. Being Welsh can take a lot of living up to.


THESE ARE THE kind of origins that can creep into the blood. I was raised on the tale of Dic Penderyn; and several Evanses were also caught up in the Rising. There is also a vast hidden history here of shadowy night-riding vigilantes who, across several decades, attacked unscrupulous employers and their acolytes, 'scab' workers and toll-houses. There are innumerable anti-enclosure and anti-eviction disturbances as well as a long tradition of food riots and embryonic trade union organisation. Merthyr was the centre for Jacobin and Chartist activism in South Wales and in the mid-nineteenth century returned the Welsh pacifist and anti-slavery campaigner Henry Richard ('The Apostle of Peace'), an early advocate for a League of Nations, to the House of Commons.

Merthyr was then the largest population centre in Wales, and its huge, surrounding coalfields were an epicentre of the Industrial Revolution. Its nine iron and steel mills led the world's production of pig-iron – some 40 per cent of Britain's output. Thomas Carlyle and Lord Melbourne concurred that Merthyr was one of the most squalid and dangerous places on earth. Over three thousand miners were killed in these valleys in industrial accidents. Following the great coal strike of 1898, Merthyr's political representative was James Kier Hardie, the legendary socialist/pacifist leader. Sylvia Pankhurst wrote on his death that Hardie was 'the greatest human being of our time'.[vi]

Hardie died of a broken heart in 1915, my father would always say, crushed by the workers' enthusiastic acquiescence to the Great War. The wreath sent by the Queensland Labor Government of T.J. Ryan arrived too late for the funeral. On August 6, 1914, at Aberdare, south-west of Merthyr, Welsh jingoists drowned out his anti-war appeals with their raucous 'Rule Britannias', finally pouring boiling water on him from above as the meeting broke up in disorder. It was probably the last straw. Hardie's repudiation – and especially the boiling water – are remembered in my family as South Wales's day of shame.

The interwar years bring disaster to the Welsh valleys and my parents are raised in the thick of it. Unemployment skyrockets as mines and ironworks close down and the young and fit migrate eastward in droves, leaving the elderly, dependent and less adventurous behind. Merthyr Tydfil is hit especially hard. In Britain, peak unemployment of insured workers reaches 22 per cent in 1931-32. Though matters have improved somewhat by 1934, the terrible official statistic is still 62 per cent for Merthyr, second only to the doomed ship-building centre of Jarrow, 'the town that was murdered'.[vii]

My family's fortunes, never too flush, fall with the town's. My father's father, a veteran of the Western Front, where he served as an overworked stretcher-bearer, is out of work for fourteen years from 1924 due to pit closures. My father and his three siblings are raised almost entirely 'on the dole'. A Christmas parcel of handouts, left on the doorstep, brings only tears of shame rather than relief and is returned unopened. I look at my father then. The rare photos display a threadbare little fellow, malnourished, with matted hair. And in his eyes, a disturbed and haunted look. It is the face of privation – a face no child should have. Unlike most of the others in his Class Five school photograph, he wears no overcoat, only an ill-fitting and patched old pullover. He appears ready at any moment to take flight from the frame.

Yet dissent with gusto matches deprivation throughout this difficult period. Merthyr and its surrounding towns contribute the largest regional contingent in the world of militant idealists to the International Brigades, fighting Franco's Falangists in the Spanish Civil War. The first song I ever learned in full was a music-hall number entitled The Spaniard Who Blighted My Life, taught to me by a close family friend, Dan Harrington, whose brother Tim had been prominent in the Spanish fighting. In Merthyr itself there are running street fights with members of the British Union of Fascists; hunger marchers setting out from as early as 1927; Marxist orators prolific in their number and their passionate, lilting rhetoric; hymn-singing strikers and pacifists galore – with an emphasis on the fists. In early 1935, after Chamberlain's new Unemployment Act threatens to reduce dole payments by a rigidly imposed Means Test, over half a million protest across South Wales, marching in inclement weather, often in their Sunday best. The day after some three thousand men and women raid the premises of the Unemployment Assistance Board in Merthyr, Baldwin's ministry acquiesces and withdraws the Test: 'It was a great victory, the only time in the 1930s when direct action caused a government to change its course.'[viii]

'Struggle or Starve' is the motto for such times: 'We paid our dues before the rent' is the unionist boast and 'One man victimised; every man out' is the promise. There are Communist mayors and town councils. Communism in these valleys is as respectable as the Eisteddfod. Welsh travel writer Jan Morris observes, 'The red flag, which had first been seen in these islands up the road at Hirwaun a century before, flew defiantly in the Rhondda in the 1930s.'[ix] Rhondda novelist and playwright Gwyn Thomas adds, 'We suggested a possible definition of Wales as a non-stop protest with mutating consonants. Navels distended by resting banner-poles became one of the region's major stigmata ... [O]ne could have sworn that the very blood of the place was on the boil.'[x]

Families migrate but seem to carry the spirit, like anthracite, in their pores and veins. 'Little and good like the Welsh,' they will say; and 'Don't worry, boy bach; though we lose today, there is always tomorrow.'[xi] Even those with forbearers who have had the Welsh tongue knocked out of them with the 'WELSH NOT' rod, following the 1847 British educational reforms,[xii] still memorise the talismanic words, Cymru am byth (Wales forever), expressed with more of a republican and anti-colonial inflection than an aggressively nationalistic one. My grandfather teaches me the small phrase before my family leaves for Brisbane in late 1948. 'And when you are saying it, don't forget to make the fist,' my uncles add. The fist is important. It is as though they are saying to this little boy: 'We give you this shred of your culture to hold tightly on to. Don't forget us. Don't forget who you are.'


QUEENSLAND IS MORE of a culture shock to my family than a pleasant surprise. Australians seem unduly pleased with themselves and eager for praise. 'It's easy enough to think it's all wonderful here when you've got nothing to compare it with,' my mother complains. The very expansiveness of the place suggests social and cultural dilution. The take-it-or-leave-it friendliness of the locals is dispensed with an easy, glancing dismissiveness. Life here lacks the intensities of Wales or any of the passionate depth. This is not only because relationships appear far removed from the close (and sometimes cloying) intimacies of Merthyr, but also because there is little sense of a directly experienced or lived-in past, other than a laconically boastful confection of clichéd swaggies and diggers. It hardly seems to reflect any proud tradition of struggle in which everyone, more or less, has a stake. And of course they can't sing to save themselves. People go about their individual business, caught almost absent-mindedly in the preoccupations of the moment or perhaps focussing all attention forward rather than back. Things just happen here and life goes on.

The one saving grace for us is a small smattering of Welsh families already living in the outer western suburb of Bardon who help to cushion the stresses of our initiation. May Collins – my great-aunt May – is at the hub of this circle and has sponsored us as 'ten-pound' migrants. We are officially in her care. She is an intense and vital person, looking somewhat like Bertrand Russell in a fox fur and floral dress. She has been in Australia since the 1920s. Her husband, Dave, met soon after arrival, was a collier and Communist union official. He has already died from the common miners' complaint, pneumoconiosis ('dusted' in the lungs), before we arrive in early 1949. Dave and May travel from New South Wales to the Mount Mulligan Mines, inland from Cairns. Here, in September 1921, a pit explosion killed seventy-five miners – every worker on the site that morning in a township of three hundred. Things happen. Life goes on. Dave and May move into a one-room galvanised-iron humpy that they have to bend almost double to enter. 'You wouldn't expect even a black gin to live in there,' other workers commiserate with Dave.

Auntie May eventually leaves Mount Mulligan full of stories about the general rough and tumble of the place. For a time, she works as a barmaid in the local pub. One day a drinker at the bar says to the proprietor's wife, 'Bess, there's a hell of a strong smell in here.' Down on the floor, the woman's naked baby is playing with a bunch of kittens. 'God, Bess,' the man persists, 'The kid has shat itself. Do something about it, will you?' Without a word, she walks from behind the bar, picks up the baby in one hand, picks up a kitten in the other; wipes the baby with the kitten; returns them both to the floor and goes back to washing the glasses. Then there is the one about the man whose tapeworm has become so large and voracious that it pops its head out of his mouth when he is eating dinner and takes the piece of meat clear off his fork. She swears up and down about this but no one will quite believe her. Another miner's index finger becomes so infected and rotten that he simply plucks the bone clean out the top of it while sitting, talking with her.

I wish I had communicated with Auntie May a lot more than I did. She had a flair for archiving the gothic and absurd aspects of working-class culture.

May and Dave travel next to Collinsville in the Bowen Basin, another militant coal-mining centre and arguably the place in Queensland most like Merthyr in relation to its class activism. Dave is a keen boxer and teaches his two sons, John and Arnold, the manly art. These two are larrikin tearaways, not backward in making their radical views known and using their fists against local councillors and policemen. During World War II, they are both under military surveillance. As they become deeply involved with the Collinsville branch of the Communist Party, they are caught up in the ultimately successful campaign to elect Rhodes Scholar, Fred Paterson – 'Red Fred, the People's Champion' – to parliament. Standing as an Independent Socialist candidate for the Bowen electorate in 1941, Paterson comes a very creditable second; and then, in 1944 and again in 1947, he is actually elected, to the surprise and chagrin of the mainstream parties: the only Communist ever to win an Australian parliamentary seat. My uncles are among the dedicated campaigners who help to get him there.

In March 1948, less that a year before we arrive in Queensland, Paterson is savagely battoned from behind on St Patrick's Day by an Irish-Australian plain-clothes detective named Mahoney, who had allegedly been drinking before the assault. The assault occurs during a small peaceful march of a couple of hundred Communists and other unionists from Brisbane Trades Hall, protesting the suspension of civil liberties by a Labor premier who was once himself a union leader and strike organiser. Some three hundred baton-wielding police conduct 'the Bash'. The trouble has been caused by the government's new low-wage industrial policy to attract foreign investment and the outbreak of a massive railway strike, of which this violent event is a part. Paterson is not even one of the marchers. As a leftist barrister, he is simply present as a legal observer, busily scribbling in his notebook when he is felled.[xiii] The baton in this case is mightier that the pen. 'I was in town that day shopping with a couple of women from Collinsville,' Auntie May later tells me, 'and we were coming out of Barry and Roberts when the word came up Adelaide Street from mouth to mouth that the police had fractured Fred Paterson's skull with their clubs on the bridge near Central Station. The Collinsville women I was with both burst into tears, and so did I.'


IN THE AFTERMATH of all this, we land in Brisbane in January 1949 to face fresh gusts from the industrial and political headwinds. Premier Hanlon introduces a Special Branch into the Queensland police service to spy on left-wing militants while Catholic 'groupers', facilitated by the Australian Workers Union, undermine Communist influence in the local workforce. In March, the Electoral Districts Act outrageously ties up the voting system in Labor's favour. Paterson's Bowen seat disappears. In mid-year, a national coal strike is smashed by the gaoling of union officials and military intervention as, under pressure from Britain, the Australian Secret Intelligence Organisation commences its covert operations, vetting 'subversives' in the Canberra public service. In December, the Chifley government falls, instituting the long reign of Robert Gordon Menzies, who, impelled by the conviction that a third world war is imminent, almost immediately begins to implement his plans to outlaw the Communist Party.

So the development of something approaching a siege mentality in Auntie May's little white weatherboard home on Outlook Crescent, Bardon is understandable. Her sons are both now very active in the Waterside Workers Union. Some time in late 1950, I return from school one day to find a gang of blue-singleted men busily digging several deep pits with long crowbars and shovels under the house. My cousin Harvey and I are warned to 'keep right away' but manage to spot a pile of large packages wrapped in bright blue plastic, waiting to be buried in the holes. 'Now you kids go out and play somewhere else,' Uncle John tells us: 'There'll be big trouble if I catch you digging in this dirt.' There is a tone of seriousness in his voice I haven't heard before. 'Perhaps they're hiding Christmas presents,' I tell Harvey hopefully.

But they are actually hiding union documents, left-wing literature and part of a printing press, following the passage of the Communist Party Dissolution Act in late October. This legislation, however, falls victim to a High Court ruling in March 1951, precipitating a long counter-campaign. Menzies wins a tumultuous 'red bogey' election in April (with a reduced margin) but then narrowly loses a bitterly fought anti-Communist referendum in September. Brisbane's citizens vote more resolutely in favour of 'ousting the reds' than even those in the Queensland countryside, but a 'No' majority in the more level-headed southern capitals of Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide carries the day. So while, for a substantial period, we are figuratively located in Bardon on the front line of resistance to the Conservatives' draconian plans, one day Harvey and I find the mysterious burial mounds have been emptied and only partially refilled with earth. Just a few shreds of that enticing blue plastic remain.

The Cold War continues unabated despite this comforting blip of reactionary miscalculation. I am only seven years old in 1951 but am aware enough to overhear customers in McMahon's local grocery store discussing 'commos' and 'dirty reds' and to wonder if they mean my relatives. I am alarmed when I discover a small pile of red-covered magazines with inexplicable political cartoons on the floor of the backyard 'dunny'. I try to hide them in the sawdust box, little knowing that they are actually copies of the right-wing Bulletin, still wrapped in its famous 'Red Page' of literary anecdotes and book reviews.

Before leaving Merthyr, my father has been encouraged by the mirage of Australian Labor in power at both federal and state levels into believing that he is travelling to a leftist haven. He is nonplussed by the rapid political shifts to the right, the reactionary nature of Labor in Queensland and the comparative gormlessness of most of the Australian workers he meets. In Wales, he has served as Secretary for the Dowlais Branch of the militant National Union of Railwaymen; now he becomes just another rank-and-file member of the luke-warm Amalgamated Postal Workers Union. He cannot comprehend the vapid nature of conversations during lunch-breaks and smokos, and the sudden silences when he tries to talk politics, religion or world affairs. If he persists, he is branded a 'whinging Pom'. 'I'm not a bloody Pommie. I'm Welsh!' he responds to no avail. 'They know bugger-all,' he tells my mother in genuine amazement, remembering perhaps the great workers' libraries in the Welsh Miners Institutes, and the avid reading habits of the men: 'And what's more they don't want to learn. Where is their sense of commitment, I'd like to know.' Poorly affecting an Australian accent, my mother will then chime in, 'As long as they've got their "footie" and their "four-exes" and their "sheilas", then "she'll be roite, mate". "Four-ex" they call it. They can't even spell beer.'


DAD IS MOST memused by the praise heaped on Prime Minister Menzies' silver-tongued anglophonics. It is lauded by the Australian media as great oratory. My father has seen and heard Welsh speakers holding huge concourses indefinitely spellbound – oceans of words delivered in cadences to pierce the heart and fire the blood. 'Now those men could speak,' he will say. 'Even the most mediocre spruiker in Merthyr could outdo Menzies. Menzies is definitely not a great orator. Menzies is not an orator's back-side.' Just as my mother misses the fish and chips in Merthyr – 'a nice piece of hake with chips from Thomas the Fish on the way home from the Castle cinema' – my father misses the political spirit and the mass participation that was part of life's essence.

When we first go to 'the pictures' in Brisbane, my parents are taken aback as the entire audience springs to its feet and remains at rigid attention during the mandatory rendering of the British National Anthem. When played at the end of programs in Wales, this is the signature tune for patrons to choreograph a rapid exit. But here my father is angrily prodded and admonished about his 'loyalty' by those around him when he does not stand 'for the King'. 'What the hell is wrong with these people?' he asks.

Middle-class probity jockeys with Imperial homage for public favour. One hot summer's day we go to Sunnybank on Brisbane's southside to swim at the fabled watering-hole, 'The Oasis', set in lush, tropical gardens. It is a long way to travel from Bardon – two trams and one bus-ride. We have barely entered the water, however, when my father is called out by a vigilant attendant. Apparently, he is committing an obscene nuisance and must leave immediately by a side-gate. His swimming trunks (from Merthyr) do not have the regulation skirt across the crotch to camouflage the male bulge. And so the attendant lectures him as he stands there dripping, with the more demurely attired bathers all listening in. Dad has again been publicly mortified – and all in the space of several weeks. We leave 'The Oasis' in disgrace, never to return, with him muttering audibly 'They're all bloody mad!' as we exit.

In May 1950, I am taken to watch my father, marching with his union in the Labour Day procession. I am expecting exciting scenes – chanting, singing throngs, tumultuous cheering – as befitting such an occasion in Wales. Instead, apart from several heavily-worked Scottish pipe-bands scattered through the passing ranks, it is a rather desultory affair. We stand near a street-corner in Fortitude Valley, in front of the Pig and Whistle Café. The happy pig on its signage is the most cheerful part of the festivities. Spectator ranks are spread thinly along the footpath and there is hardly a peep out of them. When are all the others coming? I keep thinking. As my Dad swings past to a reaction of near silence, I am deterred myself from cheering him. Admiration here is reserved for military heroes rather than working-class ones. The atmosphere is low-key, apologetic, nervous even, as if these people are all collaborating in something shameful merely by taking to the streets on their day of celebration. He never marches again. The following year, hundreds of police actually surround Trades Hall to prevent more radical unionists from staging a rival May Day procession.

These are fearfully conservative times. The tiny Welsh enclave in Bardon has less than a score of members, including offspring, but they hold together as best they can against the cheerless tide of right-mindedness. Auntie May arranges periodic singalongs in her living room or, on hot summer nights when the sky is clear, on the concrete slab behind her house. Most of the participants are relatives, so there is sure to be a lot of uninhibited vocalising.. With throats moistened by a few beers or a little drop of whiskey, they sing in unison and with a swelling resonance such favourites as 'Underneath the Arches', 'When I Grow Too Old to Dream' and 'A Shanty in Old Shantytown'. Without any accompaniment, their voices blend in a confident unity, drifting out into the Bardon night. Then, one by one, they are enticed to their feet for a solo turn. Uncle John always does:

Mexicali Rose, stop crying.

I'll come back to you some sunny day ...

While my father, with his beautiful tenor voice, favours more challenging
numbers, such as 'Old Man River', 'Donkey Serenade' or 'That Lucky Old Sun'. Then, after much coaxing, my mother gets up and, with a shy proficiency, sings:

It's just a little street

Where old friends meet.

I'd love to wander back some day ...

It's just a little street

Where old friends meet

And greet you in the same old way.

'Lovely, Maisie,' they say as she sits quietly back down and talk turns unerringly to Merthyr and battles lost and won, and those left behind. There are Welsh songs then – 'Sospan Fach', 'Calon Lan', 'We'll Keep a Welcome' (quavery voices on this one) and many others. And just when everything is verging on the maudlin, Auntie May comes to the rescue. Jumping on to a chair, she launches into a sprightly version of 'Knees Up, Mother Brown', in which they all join, as she lifts her long skirt above her skinny knees and kicks out giddily until she collapses, laughing hysterically, into someone's arms. Her brother, my Uncle Vernon, is red in the face and grinning widely, his cornflower-blue eyes bright with tears of pleasure.


ONE QUIET SUNDAY afternoon, I am playing alone on top of a pile of sand, dumped across the street by council workers for road repairs, when I have a curious vision. I imagine Uncle George and Auntie Gladys, who live near the top of Outlook Crescent, coming out together through their front gate and advancing deliberately down the hill. As they pass each house, all the inhabitants issue from their front doors and fall into line behind them. Down come the Bennets, the Koraloffs, the Reeves and the Farleighs from the top road. Out come the Bridges, the Cochranes, the Triggs and the Legges; then the Copelands, the Collinses, the Evanses, the Cooks, the Murrays, the Longs and so on down the street. The adults are all singing and linking arms; the children skipping along delightedly beside them. Even Pat Keating, the shy loner with an iron on his leg is joining the march. Someone puts an arm around his shoulders. When they reach the bridge, another procession pours out from Barnett Road to join them. I have no idea where this swelling crowd is going or why its combined ardour is making me feel so euphoric. 'Nothing can stop them,' I remember thinking as I watch the cavalcade pass by: 'Not even the army. Not even the police ...'

It is difficult to account for this unusual fancy of a six– or seven-year-old child; it is not so hard to assume that it is probably cast from some deep Welsh folk-memory, transmuted by a kind of generational osmosis. Listen, for instance, to this participant description of the march on Merthyr against the hated Means Test in February 1935: 'I remember us starting off from Pengarnddu with banners and all the rest of it, there was about thirty started ... We stopped at Dowlais, there were people there with banners. By the time we reached South Street they were coming in from Pant, Caeracae, and all the rest of it. Then down the new road ... they were coming in from all directions, well down through the town you could see it was a huge demonstration. Then when we reached Portmorlais, they came up from below, from Twym, Penyard and Swansea Road ... Well the place was packed ...'[xiv]

This recollection and my little Bardon daydream carry the same sense of mounting exhilaration at the possibilities of participatory empowerment and direct action: that is, that people, acting together in the same spirit of fair play, moral economy, sound knowledge and careful planning, can sometimes overcome truly ominous forces and achieve great things. By their actions, they are less to be characterised as a fearsome mob and more as a noble engine of historical change and social advancement. My Welsh origins and upbringing have encouraged me from an early age to think this way. Such a faith may at times be seriously naïve or sadly misplaced. But when the promise of communal unity in a just cause is upheld, and goodwill and common decency prevail, then positive, indeed exceptional, outcomes may confidently be anticipated.


[i] Frank Bidart quoted in S. Bart, 'Burn Down the Museum,' London Review of Books, 6 November 2008, p.31

[ii] G.A. Williams, The Merthyr Rising (London: Croom Helm, 1978), pp.129-30

[iii] Gareth Jones states that 'about twenty-six of the crowd were killed.' G.E. Jones, Modern Wales. A Concise History c. 1485-1979 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), p.235

[iv] R. Williams, 'Black domain', The Guardian, 18 June 1978

[v] Williams, Merthyr Rising, pp.154 and 199

[vi] K.O. Morgan, Kier Hardie. Radical and Socialist (London: Phoenix Giant, 1997), p.290

[vii] C.L. Mowat, Britain Between the Wars, 1918-1940 (London: Methuen, 1962), pp.443 and 464-65

[viii] H. Francis and D. Smith, The Fed. A History of the South Wales Miners in the Twentieth Century (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1980), p.261

[ix] J. Morris, Wales. Epic Views of a Small Country (London: Viking Books, 1998), p.440

[x] G. Thomas, A Welsh Eye (London: Hutchinson, 1964), pp. 18 and 24; G. Williams, 'A People Mobilized', The Guardian, 25 May 1980

[xi] Morris, Wales, p.446

[xii] J. Fallow, Wales for Beginners (New York: Writers and Readers Publishing, 1999), p.117

[xiii] R. Evans, 'Fred Paterson Bashing, 1948' in R. Evans and C. Ferrier (eds), Radical Brisbane. An Unruly History (Melbourne: Vulgar Press, 2004), pp.226-30; R. Evans, A History of Queensland, (Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 2007), pp.201-03

[xiv] Griff Jones, quoted in Francis and Smith, The Fed, p.260

Get the latest essay, memoir, reportage, fiction, poetry and more.

Subscribe to Griffith Review or purchase single editions here.

Griffith Review