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1926-1946 AD

The report recommended that every child in Britain attend secondary school. The technical advances in agriculture and the decline of those engaged in farming meant that no longer were children needed on the land. In industry, though traditions died hard, important reforms had safeguarded the rights of children who could now look forward to education beyond the elementary level. Many problems caused the Central Labour College to close its doors in 1929, but other avenues opened for working class education.

Thanks to Tom Jones and the Workers' Education Association, Coleg Harlech "the college of the second chance" opened in 1927 with the aims and philosophy much like those of today's Community Colleges, (called Polytechs in Britain).


Another influential literary figure from the area around Snowdon, Parry-Williams won both the Chair and the Crown at two National Eisteddfodau. His poetry took Welsh literature towards a new realism best expressed in the self-deprecating irony of such poems as "Hon" (This Spot) that expresses both a hatred and love for the enigma that is Wales.

1932: "Y CYMRO" (the Welshman) FOUNDED
The weekly Welsh-language newspaper was founded to "unite Wales and create a Welsh view and opinion on all things pertaining to Wales and the Welsh." It has remained an important source of information on Welsh life in general.

On 22 September, 1934, the bells of Gresford Parish Church joined in with the sirens at the local colliery to announce that one of the greatest tragedies in the history of Welsh coal mining had taken place that morning when an explosion and fire ripped through the Dennis section of the mine. Apart from the lucky six men who escaped the blast, along with a few men at the pit bottom, all the men working that day were killed, a total of 266 miners. Such was the force of the explosion and the immensity of the following fire, that the pit was sealed off and the dead miners entombed forever where they lay. Over 160 widows were left in the surrounding villages to provide for over 200 children.

In 1982 a memorial to the dead miners was erected in the form of the wheel from the old pit head winding gear. On the 6Oth anniversary of the disaster, a memorial painting in Gresford Church was unveiled by the Archbishop of Wales that shows various scenes and people at the colliery the day of the explosion.

It was a reluctant BBC that finally agreed, after much pressure, to broadcast Welsh language programs from their studio at Bangor, Gwynedd. Radio Cymru had to wait until 1977, however, much too late to attract the majority of Welsh listeners, who now habitually spoke English. We can only guess at the positive impact on the language a complete Welsh-language broadcasting service in the early 1930's would have had.

1936: THE FIRE AT PENYBERTH (8 September)
To protest the government's decision to build a bombing school at Penyberth in the Llyn Peninsular, three well-known Welsh literary figures started a small fire in an outbuilding and then reported their nefarious deed to the local police. After a no-verdict was reached by a sympathetic Welsh jury at Caernarfon, confessing their guilt, Saunders Lewis, D.J. Williams, and Lewis Valentine were sent to trial at the Old Bailey in London. Here they were not allowed to testify in their own language. The case became a cause celebre for the efforts of Plaid Cymru to establish its credentials as a party to be taken seriously and for the Welsh language to be given legal status.

The outbreak of World War II three years later did much to undo the enthusiasm engendered by the symbolic act at Penyberth, but it stirred the conscience of R. Williams Parry to write against official smugness and small-mindedness, leading to his "Cerddi'r Gaeaf" (Poems of Winter) published in 1952.

1939-1945: WORLD WAR II
Once again, the people of Britain focused on their shared identity in the face of a foe that threatened their survival as a nation. Plaid Cymru conceded that the defeat of Germany and its allies overrode any other concern. The pacifism of Saunders Lewis was viewed by many as traitorous, though his willingness to suffer on behalf of Wales became significant after the war when feelings of nationalism again began to surface. As in 1914-18, Welshmen and women were enthusiastic in marching off to defeat the enemy and to save Britain and its Empire (the author's own Welsh father, captured by Japanese troops along with thousands of his fellows at Singapore, often wondered what he had been doing out there in the first place).

In 1945 the Labour government, headed by Clement Attlee, determined that there should never be a repeat of the unemployment levels that were so common a feature of the pre-war years. The Distribution of Industry Act sanctioned the use of existing factory space in Wales and new industrial estates were established, mainly in the heavily populated south, aided by grants and low-interest loans. A flood of new, light industries came to replace the old reliance on coal.

It was Lloyd George who had introduced much of the revolutionary welfare legislation during the years 1908-11, and it was two other Welshmen who completed the far-reaching reforms of the Labour Party's policies after WW II. James Griffiths and Aneurin Bevan both worked hard to produce the National Insurance Act of 1946 that compelled all workers to insure themselves against ill-health or unemployment. Two years later, local welfare schemes long practiced in the South Wales coalfield also helped bring about the national Industrial Injuries Act.


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