One Hundred Years Ago

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.



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Llanelli 1911 Railway Strike Centenary March 20/08/11- photos D. Kittay

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The panel at the 1911 Forum – 18 August 2011

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BBC Documentary on the Llanelli Strike

On Tuesday 16 August, BBC Wales premiered a new documentary, presented by Llanelli’s Huw Edwards, on the events of the Llanelli Strike.

You can watch this on BBC iPlayer here.

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75th. Anniversary Photos

Depicted, are speakers in the Spring Gardens, Llanelli, during the 75th. Anniversary of the 1911 Llanelli Railway Strike. They were the Llanelli MP, The Rt.Hon. Denzil Davies MP., Assistant General Secretaries of the Railway Trade Union,Aslef & NUR(RMT), And Joe Jones, Chairman of the 1911 Llanelli Strike Committee, at the time

Below, with the Aslef Banner, is myself, with Black hair, and moustache, along with other Railway Colleagues.

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Banner Design


Banner design Based on the original “badge” from 1911.

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Rhaglen o Ddigwyddiadau – Programme of Events

Am gopi y rhaglen o ddigwyddiadau, cliciwch yma.

For a printable programme of events, click here.

For further details on most of these individual events, click on our Events page.

Please note that the showing of the documentary entitled Llanelli Riots, presented by Huw Edwards, on the Llanelli Strike will not now take place at Theatr Elli on Saturday 20 August. However, you can watch the documentary, for the next few days at least, on BBC iPlayer, here.

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Last Wednesday I was privileged to attend, with other members of the 1911 Committee, Copperworks Infant Nursery School’s musical extravaganza – A Trip Down Memory Lane – an historical journey, through the sights and sounds of Copperworks School and the local area through the years. Mrs Sherlock and her staff had obviously put hours of hard work into this, as had the children, who threw themselves into the performance with gusto.

The musical pieces, such as ‘Cosher Bailey’ took me back to my own childhood, and there was a heart-rending 3-ply tissue re-working of Max Boyce’s Duw it’s Hard.  But especially gripping was the children’s portrayal of the rail strike and the shooting of John John and Leonard Worsell.  Despite the youth of the performers, the strike and its awful conclusion was sensitively but clearly portrayed, and I was hugely impressed, as well as greatly entertained.

Copperworks School has a long and proud history. Originally built by the philanthropic capitalist Richard Nevill for the children of those employed at the Copper works and the nearby collieries at Caemaen and Box, the school was at the heart of the local industry that serviced the British empire. It took seriously its mission to educate the local community.

It was ahead of its time, even extending itself into adult education. The Copper works had its own dock and built its own ships and the legendary Mr John E. Jones, headteacher from 1863 to 1893, held classes in navigation for the mariners.

In August 1911 of course Copperworks School was the storm centre of the railway strike. Not only did the joint union strike committee meet regularly there, but it was there that the crisis meetings between the strikers, the railway company, the magistrates and the police and military took place. It was at the school that the strikers were meeting when the soldiers managed to push the train through on Saturday afternoon, causing the meeting to break up in uproar.

It was heartening to see local teachers and children so aware of their school’s history – a tribute to how history (a declining subject, or so we are told) can be brought to life with a bit of creativity and imagination. It was also inspiring to see a school which is still so clearly a vibrant and central part of its local community.

Many other schools and colleges have taken seriously the centenary of the railway strike. If your school or college has put on any activities, please contact me on this website’s comments page, or at or via the Llanelli Star, with details.



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NEW MUSICAL DRAMA tells the dramatic story of the 1911 strike & uprising!











Commemorating 100 Years


Remembrance of a Riot

A Musical Drama

Inspired by John Edwards

Lyrics & Music by                                              Dramaturge

Keira Spencer and Luke Spencer             Christopher J Rees

A Community Theatre Production produced by

Llanelli Stage Company, with members from Llanelli Musical Players and Llanelli Youth Theatre, in a concert version of a new musical drama, retell the story of the Llanelli Railway Strike Riots of 1911.


Hall Street Methodist Church


Saturday August 20th 2011

7.30pm Tickets available from Jill Stevens

07870 385513

Donations from £5


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Llanelli is rapidly approaching the centenary of the Great Railway Strike of 1911.

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.

Here’s what we’ve got ready for you so far!


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,


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 hosting an exhibition, 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

2pm unveiling of plaque commemorating the fallen on Union Bridge.


Huw Edwards to introduce a documentary on the strike at Theatr Elli to an invited audience: organised by Carms. County Council. Contact Carmarthenshire CC for further details of this.


Sat. 20th AugustMarch 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 ‘1911 – Remembrance of a 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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