The Ebbw Vale by-election, 17 November 1960
This election followed the death of Aneirin Bevan. I went there to help during the October half-term week, together with fellow Ysgol Glan Clwyd (Rhyl) teacher Gwilym Hughes. We stayed with local party members Mr and Mrs Dewi Samuel. Gwilym later stood as Plaid Cymru candidate in general elections for East Flint, West Flint and Conwy, as well as being elected to Rhyl Urban District Council. His Welsh Nation cartoon depicting Wilson and Douglas-Home leading a two-party procession carrying banners inscribed: ‘Ban Plaid’ is an cutting comment on the joint Labour-Tory collusion to deny party political broadcasts to Plaid Cymru.
The photographs I took that week depict, variously:-
Plaid Cymru candidate Emrys Roberts with car-mounted loudspeaker and talking to voters
The Party’s Tredegar office
Large election posters on hoardings
A Tredegar medical surgery, dating from the local community-funded provision on which Aneirin Bevan based the NHS during the post-1945 Labour government
Also two photographs of illegal broadcasting during the election campaign (included in my collection of ‘Radio Wales’ photographs)
Michael Foot (Labour) 20,528
Sir Brandon Rhys Williams, Bart (Tory) 3,799
Patrick Lort-Phillips (Liberal) 3,449
Emrys Roberts (Plaid Cymru) 2,091
PLAID CYMRU’S FIRST PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION CAMPAIGN IN FLINTSHIRE
Nefyl Williams was Plaid Cymru’s first Parliamentary candidate in Flintshire, when the county was divided into two constituencies: East and West. He stood in 1959 in Flint West, which extended from inland St Asaph and coastal Rhyl and Colwyn Bay in the west to Holywell and Mold in the east and included numerous villages. Industrial Flint and Deeside and the detached rural area of Maelor beyond Wrexham (bordered mainly by Cheshire and Shropshire) were all in Flint East.
I first met Nefyl in August 1958, when he chaired one of the discussion groups in the Summer School held in conjunction with the Party’s annual conference at Cyfarthfa Castle, Merthyr Tudful. Tall, silver-haired and soft-spoken, he made an immediate impression on me as he guided our deliberations with skill and patience. Little did I realize at the time that, within weeks, I would be part of Plaid’s organisation in his native north-east Wales. In the September I embarked on my teaching career in the county town of Mold and was soon invited to be a member of the Flint West Pwyllgor Rhanbarth (Constituency Committee).
As I state above, Plaid Cymru first contested that constituency in 1959. It came as a surprise and a challenge to us, since we hadn’t thought of Rhyl, Mold etc as being promising politically. But Party President Gwynfor Evans thought otherwise. He came to a Pwyllgor Rhanbarth meeting and suggested in his gentlemanly but persuasive way that we contest the next election. I must confess that my immediate reaction was one of amused incredulity. But Gwynfor’s view prevailed. We have, by now, fought Flint West and its successor Delyn (minus St Asaph, Rhyl and Prestatyn but including Flint) ever since. Also Flint East from 1966 onwards (and the later Alyn and Deeside, minus Flint and Maelor), with Gwilym Hughes, my colleague at Ysgol Glan Clwyd, Rhyl (the country’s first Welsh-medium secondary school) as candidate on the first two occasions.
Who was to be Plaid Cymru’s first candidate? Gwynfor proffered a name: Richard Hall Williams, lecturer at Connah’s Quay College of Further Education. He wasn’t a party member, but obviously highly regarded by Gwynfor (both hailed from Barry). Sadly, by now deceased, he was later responsible for agriculture at the Welsh Office, and his wife Nia became joint editor of the Welsh-language women’s periodical Hon with Marion Arthur Jones. The late Professor Stephen J. Williams famously and successfully defended its right to be so called when the publishers of She objected. ‘Hon’ did not mean ‘She’, he maintained, but ‘this feminine thing’. Who could argue with such a distinguished academic!
To revert to Plaid Cymru and 1959. A three-man deputation was detailed to visit Richard Hall Williams at his home near the college. Led by Nefyl as Pwyllgor Rhanbarth chairman, it included Len Davies of Mold and myself. The clear understanding was that if our invitation were declined Nefyl would be candidate. Declined it was, amicably. So I hold the honour (?) of being among those few who first knew that Nefyl Williams was to be the party’s standard-bearer in that unpromising part of the country – all thanks to Gwynfor.
Nefyl was a product of industrial Deeside and had been employed on strategic work at the John Summers steelworks in Shotton during World War II. He then qualified as a teacher and taught art at the Alun Grammar School, Mold. He and his wife Myfanwy learned Welsh as adults and ensured that their son Gwynfor received Welsh-medium education in a county which pioneered in the field, led by inspirational Director of Education Dr B. Haydn Williams. The Welsh spelling of his forename, clearly a modification of ‘Neville’, is an indication of his adherence to the national tongue. But, when Mold’s Ysgol Maes Garmon (secondary, Welsh-medium) was opened in 1961, he declined an invitation to apply for the post of Head of Art because, he said with typical and unnecessary modesty, his Welsh was not good enough.
In the meeting held at Prestatyn to adopt Nefyl formally as candidate, he was introduced from the chair by the Reverend R.R. Jones as ‘Nefyl Williams B.A’, not in respect of his academic qualifications (he was not a graduate) but as a recognition of his personality: on this occasion ‘B.A.’ represented the words ‘bachgen annwyl’ [dear boy].
The results of the election were as follows:-
Nigel Birch (Conservative) 20.446 (52.05%)
Ronald Waterhouse (Labour) 12.925 (32.90%)
L.E. Roberts (Liberal) 4,319 (10.99%)
Nefyl Williams (Plaid Cymru) 1,594 (4.06%)
Nefyl was named on the ballot paper as ‘E.N.C. Williams’. The ‘E’ stood for Ernest; the ‘C’ for Coppack, a common Deeside surname.
Those days, public meetings were held at election times. D.J. Thomas, stalwart Plaid member and head-teacher of Ysgol Hiraddug (the primary school at the village of Diserth) played a major part in this aspect of our campaign together with agent Miss Ceri Ellis. Times were arranged for the major towns and itineraries drawn up combining several villages each evening. D.J. also insisted that we hold a post-election ‘celebration’ at the Urdd Hall in Diserth to congratulate Nefyl on his vote.
While the votes were being counted at the Alun School, those cast for the Labour candidate were so numerous that some of the space for Nefyl’s ballot papers was re-allocated to that party. ‘He’s doing jolly well’, observed Nigel Birch generously to me, pointing to the apparently strong support for Plaid Cymru. It did not please me to correct the impression wrongly conveyed!
Nefyl Williams stood for a second time in 1964. The results were:-
Nigel Birch (Conservative) 18,515 (45.7%)
William H. Edwards (Labour) 13,298 (32.8%)
D. Martin Thomas (Liberal) 7,482 (18.5)
Nefyl Williams (Plaid Cymru) 1,195 (3.0%)
I was a newcomer to Flintshire when I started teaching there in September 1958; so I was not fully aware of the work done by Plaid members previously. It would therefore be invidious of me to mention any more names. In fact, I might never have been involved in the 1959 campaign at all. Nefyl, Ceri and I were all teachers employed by Flintshire County Council. So was Chris Rees, who, like me, was teaching at Ysgol Glan Clwyd at the time; he was released to be Plaid candidate in Swansea East (where he was to gain 10.5% of the votes). I had hoped to be agent to John Howell in the party’s first election campaign in Caerffili. But Flintshire’s Deputy Director of Education M.J. Jones (a long-standing Plaid member) thought it unwise for four teachers from the same party (two of them from the same high-profile Welsh-medium school) to be released. John’s agent in that election (with an 8.82% vote) was gas salesman Alf Williams, whom I refer to elsewhere in the Society’s website in connection with the illegal radio broadcasts of the 1960s.
This is Radio Wales calling … and from London. Plaid Cymru London Branch`s pirate radio broadcasting from Earls Court . This exclusive picture was taken in an attic somewhere in Earl’s Court on October 11th 1962. Needless to say, the ‘Private ‘ broadcasters are Plaid Cymru supporters.
It was directed mainly at the bemused electorate of Hampstead, Mr. Henry Brooke’s constituency (Mr. Brooke himself was at the Tory Party Conference in Llandudno at the time doing his best with the Welsh National Anthem).
“Our listeners tonight in Hampstead,” said Radio Wales, “you know what an insensitive man Henry Brooke is as well as we do in Wales.”
The flooding of Tryweryn valley had incensed the Welsh people, it went on.”We shall not forget you Brooke and tonight we appeal to Hampstead electors to choose a more democratically-minded, fair and sensitive English gentleman.” Where and when will Radio Wales strike next?”
Report from Archives London Branch
On retiring as deputy headteacher from Ysgol Gymraeg Sant Baruc, Gwenno Hughes decided that it was time to recognise the connection between Gwynfor Evans, past President of Plaid Cymru, and the town, as he was born and raised in Barry attending Gladstone Junior School and the Barry Boys Grammar School. He died aged 92 in 2005 and so under the leadership of Gwenno Huws a fund was raised to pay for a bust of this unique gentleman and the artist John Meirion Morris, Llanuwchllyn near Bala, was commisioned to create the sculpture.
There was a large audience at the Barry Library on 28 February 2010 to see Lord Dafydd Ellis-Thomas unveiling the bronze bust and realising Gwenno Huws’ dream of seeing a worthy memorial to Gwynfor Evans in his home town. The ceremony was presided by Dulyn Griffiths, head teacher of Ysgol Sant Baruc and the school choir performed under the direction of Gwenno Huws and the guest speaker was Professor Gareth Williams from the University of Glamorgan.
Voice of Free Wales
Gwynfor Evans on Radio Wales
Gwynfor Evans ar Radio Cymru
Radio Wales c. 1960: my story
(to be read in conjunction with my sound-tape and photographs)
We are accustomed to having Plaid Cymru’s views and policies aired in the press and on radio and television these days. But things were quite different fifty years ago. Radio broadcasts by the political parties were allocated on a UK-wide basis only, according to the number of seats contested during the previous election. All parties who had put up candidates in at least 50 constituencies (i.e. about one-twelfth of the total) were granted air-time. But even if Plaid Cymru were to fight all the then 36 Welsh seats, we would not qualify.
Under the chairmanship of Lord Macdonald of Gwaunysgor, former Labour MP and last Governor of Newfoundland, the Welsh Broadcasting Council, set up by the BBC’s 1952 charter, was given control of programmes on the Welsh Home Service (a similar situation obtained in Scotland). So it was gratifying to learn that, mindful of their duty to give ‘full regard to the distinctive culture, interests and tastes’ of the people they served, Lord Macdonald & Co decided to apply the same one-twelfth rule to Wales, and proposed two 15-minute radio broadcasts per annum (in Welsh or English as desired) on Welsh Home Service to all parties who had contested at least three out of the 36 constituencies in Wales. Plaid Cymru would have been well-qualified, having fielded eleven candidates in 1955 and gaining over 45,000 votes.
So far, so good. But things did not go quite to plan, as Gwynfor Evans related in his persuasive pamphlet The Wicked Ban and the SNP in their analytical Broadcasting in Scotland, an Examination of B.B.C. Policies. The Welsh Broadcasting Council duly called a meeting of all four qualifying parties – Labour, Conservative, Liberal and Plaid Cymru – to discuss their proposals. However, a letter from the BBC’s Welsh headquarters, dated 20 January 1955 cancelled the follow-up meeting scheduled for eight days later. Gwynfor refers to two meetings calculated to bring pressure to bear on the Broadcasting Council: one in February attended by Labour and Tory bigwigs and one in April with Postmaster General Dr Charles Hill. In the ensuing press conference Lord Macdonald announced that if he and his colleagues persisted with their plan, the good doctor would issue a directive preventing them.
The Postmaster General acts
Did the Welsh Broadcasting Council yield to pressure? Oh no, they didn’t! So, on 27 July, Hill wrote two letters to the Rt Hon Sir Alexander George Montagu Cadogan, OM, GCMG, KCB, PC, Chairman of the BBC Board of Governors. The lengthy one explained why HM Government and Official Opposition agreed that giving ‘full regard to the distinctive culture, interests and tastes …’ could not apply to what he called ‘regional’ party political broadcasts. The second, terse, missive required the Corporation to ‘refrain at all times from sending … any controversial party political broadcast on behalf of any political party, other than any series … arranged by the Corporation in agreement with the leading political parties for broadcasting throughout the United Kingdom’. Coincidentally, it is sad to note that when appointed Chairman of the Board of Governors, this distinguished former diplomat and senior civil servant had expressed his concern to Winston Churchill that he lacked appropriate qualifications, and that the response he received was ‘There are no qualifications. All you have to do is to be fair’.
‘This is the first time’, concluded Lord Macdonald, ‘a Postmaster General has exercised his right of veto, and we regret that he should have found it necessary to do it against Wales’. The Western Mail said: ‘If they [the Labour and Conservative Parties] are content, as British parties, to broadcast on a British scale only, then they could well allow a specifically Welsh party to broadcast on a Welsh scale. The first duty of the majority is to assure the rights of the minority – however wrong-headed that minority may appear to be’. Conversely, when I questioned Caerffili MP Ness Edwards in a Labour Party public meeting at Deri, near Bargoed some time later, he reiterated his opinion that BBC [clearly meaning Lord Macdonald and the Welsh Broadcasting Council] regarded Plaid Cymru as its ‘favourite child’. Diplomatically, I made no comment!
During the next few years, various groups of Plaid members started to take to the airwaves in an unofficial and illegal campaign to overcome this Labour-Tory collusion. Fearing possible eavesdropping on clandestine planning by telephone, some Welsh-speaking participants would use the cryptic message ‘Mae’r ceiliog yn canu heno’ [the cockerel is crowing tonight’]. One name frequently mentioned was university mathematics lecturer Dr Gareth Evans, who was generous with his advice about obtaining equipment via cheap sources such as the Exchange & Mart weekly. He was to stand as the party’s Ceredigion candidate in 1959 and again in 1964. Plaid’s 1959 conference was held in Llangefni, where talk about illegal broadcasting was rife. That was when I received my initiation into its operation. I was asked by none other than General Secretary J.E. Jones to take two gentlemen of the press to a local broadcast at the dead of night. In the words of Cymro newspaper reporter Dyfed Evans, they were carried in a [pre-war] Standard 9 ‘a swniai yn y tywyllwch fel pe bai’n prysur datgymalu’ [which sounded in the darkness as if it was rapidly disintegrating’]. His report and the picture of the transmission taken by celebrated photographer Geoff Charles are reproduced on page 278 of Tegwyn Jones’s massive Llyfr y Ganrif [Book of the Century].
‘East Glamorgan Station’
The photographs bring back fond memories of an enthusiastic Rhymney Valley fraternity born out of a sense of injustice perpetuated by those who should have known better. From the top, left to right, they show:-
Plaid Cymru amateur leaflet and printed poster: 1959 general election campaign in West Flint (candidate: Nefyl Williams)
My Austin A35 Countryman loaded with all the equipment required for transmission (By then I had traded in my ‘rapidly disintegrating’ 1930s vehicle for something more reliable)
Yours truly editing sound-tapes in my Troedyrhiw ‘studio’. By then I was teaching at Ysgol Glan Clwyd, Rhyl (the first Welsh-medium secondary school) and returning home to my parents’ home during school holidays
From the Ebbw Vale by-election. The late Glyn James tries to shield his face during a broadcast
Dave Pritchard. On the floor: his portable battery-operated tape-recorder, on which he had recorded the speeches delivered by Emrys Roberts and Labour’s Michael Foot in a public meeting. Here he is re-recording extracts for transmission by holding the microphone of a larger machine above his portable one. No wonder the sound quality leaves much to be desired at times!
Glyn James again, this time succeeding in shielding his face. I cannot take all the credit for these two photographs. A local party member was there in his professional capacity as a journalist. He instructed me to set my camera at a long exposure while he set off his high-power instantaneous flash. The result: two well-illuminated photographs. I regret, however, that I cannot remember his name
My Troedyrhiw ‘studio’ again: record-player and male-voice choir record for use during the mid-programme interval, script and large tape-recorder on the table
My Standard 9 (of Cymro fame) in the dramatic scenery of the Horseshoe Pass, near Llangollen
Deri Smith transmitting. We would use the television wavelength, but wait patiently until the obligatory God Save the Queen had finished at the end of the day’s programmes
‘Free Wales’ artwork and a missing Union Jack
I write elsewhere about my Rhymney Valley ‘Radio Wales’ broadcasting colleagues of the early 1960s. One diversion of theirs was to roam their home area (and slightly farther afield) with paint-pot and brush. They were so proud of their handiwork that they insisted on taking me to see it. These photographs are a record of my tour:-
A colliery halt near Bedlinog at night. I am particularly proud of this effort, with an exposure lasting for scores of seconds
At the former Fidler’s Elbow road junction, near the point where the old Merthyr / Cardiff road aproaches the modern dual-carriageway A470
The main gates of Brecon Barracks, after they had been cleaned. How did they do it?
The road between Fidler’s Elbow and Nelson
A memorial stone to Gwynfor Evans was unveiled at Garn Goch on Saturday 15 July 2006 as part of the Remember ’66 Rally to celebrate exactly 40 years since he was elected as the first Member of Parliament for Plaid Cymru in an historical by-election on 14 July 1966. Everyone who was at the Square in Carmarthen that night remembers the wonderful jubilation and unreasonable hope that was fired there.
The massive stone, which weighs 7.5 tons, was quarried near Llandybie. Gwynfor’s name was carved on it by the famous artist Ieuan Rees who has been responsible for a number of carvings on memorials to famous people in the history of Wales. He is considered to be one of the most versatile artist/craftsmen in Britain in the field of lettering, carving letters, calligraphy, heraldry a graphic communication.
Gwynfor.net >> Gwynfor
BBC News > BBC