One Hundred Years Ago

Posted by on May 27, 2013

A shot rings out. The group of young men gathered by the garden wall stubbornly stand their ground. “Popeth yn iawn! It’s all right!” shouts one, “Blanc yw hi, bois! It’s blank, boys!”

Peidiwch a symud. Don’t move,” he confides to his friend. “Saethan nhw ddim. They won’t shoot.”

Another rifle crack.

“It’s all right, they’ve only got blank cartridges,” someone yells.

Suddenly, a bullet slams into the throat of a man sitting on the wall, driving him backwards into the garden. Everyone runs, someone shouts, “That’s a bastard shot!” Blood splashes the grass. One of the men cries out as a bullet glances off his thumb, bringing down the man behind him.

There is more firing. Three men are down. The two most seriously injured are carried into the house and are laid out, bleeding profusely, on the table in the middle room, where they die. The landlady of the house is weeping uncontrollably – some women have fainted. Men are cursing and shouting. Outside on the railway track Major Brownlow Stuart orders the soldiers of the Worcester Regiment, who have fired the shots, to withdraw to the railway station.

These events occurred not in some beleaguered war zone, but in the back garden of a house in the High Street, Llanelli. The date was August 19, 1911, a hundred years ago next year. It was the last time troops on the British mainland fired on workers during an industrial dispute: the first ever national railway strike, a real rank-and-file revolt over low pay while the railway company was making massive profits. After the shootings, strikers, their supporters and other local people rose up, fighting with soldiers and police in a protest at the injustice the community had suffered at the hands of the military.

Yet talk to anybody about the events of 1911, and you will find that often, even in the town, they will not have heard about them. The name Tonypandy has been seared into the consciousness of the Welsh working class as the epitome of a fierce class battle – and justly so.  But events at Llanelli a year later were arguably a much more serious confrontation. Many of us feel that with the centenary approaching it is time for us to reclaim our history. The 1911 Llanelli Strike Committee – formed this year – is working to ensure that we mark the events in a variety of different ways.  I hope to make clear why there is so much that we can be proud of in the dramatic events of 1911.

 

 

2 Responses to One Hundred Years Ago

  1. Walker

    So, what plans do you have?
    A rally with some radical guest speakers at least I hope?
    Is there anything I can do to get involved. I’m based in Carmarthen.

    • Llanelli Strike Comittiee

      OK – this is the week as we see it so far. If you want to get involved our next meeting is at Stamps pub, Station Rd, town centre 6.30 18 July, and every Monday after that… See you there

      Llanelli is rapidly approaching the centenary of the Great Railway Strike of 1911. Importantly, the 1911 Strike Committee has got a new website. You can visit us on: 1911llanellirailwaystrike.org.uk. There are links to videos, posts on the events themselves – what happened and why – a petition, the dates of the coming commemorations and much more!

      The week from Friday 12 August to Saturday 20th August will be filled with theatre, poetry, jazz and folk, a BBC documentary with Huw Edwards, culminating in a march and rally on Saturday 20 August, assembling at 12 noon at the railway station. The events, in chronological order, are as follows:

      Fri. 12th August – The Performing Arts Department of Coleg Sir Gâr will be performing a show based on the strike in the grounds of Llanelli Town Hall at 6pm

      Sat. 13th August – Jazz Night with Wyn Lodwick and band, also supporting band in Lliedi Suite in Selwyn Samuel Centre, 7.30pm – 1am. Tickets £12, including a choice of meal, available at Cadno Music, John Street, or through John Willock 01554 820736, john5714@live.co.uk.

      Mon. 15th August – Poems and Pints in upstairs bar of Stamps, Station Road. 8pm until late.

      Wed. 17th August – Folk Night in the Club, Queen Victoria Rd. 7.30pm until late.

      Thurs. 18th August – the Multi Cultural Network will be performing, based on 1911 strike. Lakefield Community Centre 11am – 3pm

      This will be followed at 5.30 by a Round Table Forum at Llanelli Rural Council Office , Vauxhall, Llanelli with guest speakers: local historian John Edwards, author of ‘Remembrance of a Riot”, Robert Griffiths, author of ‘Killing No Murder’, Sir Deian Hopkin, historian and writer, Peter Stead, writer and broadcaster, Tim Evans, author of the article “The Great Unrest and a Welsh Town.” The speakers will discuss the strike and the uprising and their relevance today.

      Fri. 19th August – Huw Edwards to introduce a documentary on the strike to an invited audience: organised by Carms. County Council.

      Sat. 20th August – March and Rally. Assemble at 12.00 noon at Llanelli railway station, moving off at 12.30pm. March to town centre for rally. Speakers to include Bob Crow, General Secretary RMT, other TUC representatives, Nia Griffith MP, Keith Davies AM and others. Then moving on to Box Cemetery for wreath-laying ceremony.

      Later that afternoon at 4pm there will be a free showing of the documentary in the Entertainment Centre. And Llanelli Youth Theatre will perform a sketch from ‘Mad Riot’ in Church Hall, Hall St. at 7.30pm. An Informal evening in the Club, Victoria Rd., 8.30pm till very late will then ensue.

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