Unemployment figures are at their highest in Neath for six months

Evening Post

UNEMPLOYMENT figures are at their highest in Neath for six months, despite Wales-wide figures seeing an increase in those finding work.

The latest figures show that 1,486 adults in the town were claiming Job Seeker’s Allowance in January 2014.

The figure is up from 1,390 claiming in August last year, and is 3.2 per cent of the population of the town looking for work.

Of those claiming, 977 are male and 509 are women.

The news came as national figures revealed record-breaking numbers of women are now in work, with an employment rate of 67.2 per cent.

The growth in overall employment also continued with the number of people in work rising 193,000 on the quarter. Youth unemployment also continued to fall.

But Neath MP Peter Hain said the good news nationally was no good for the people of the town.

“The big hike in Neath unemployment shows the Westminster Government continues to fail local people,” he said.

“Those with disabilities are being hammered with benefit cuts and there are simply not enough local jobs around.

“It is very worrying when unemployment is coming down across Britain that Neath remains a jobs black spot.”


Stand up to racism and fascism Wales demo

Neath MP Peter Hain has called for people to stand up against racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and the scapegoating of minorities by joining the Unite Against Fascism Demo in Cardiff on UN Anti-Racism Day, 22 March 2014.

A day of action against racism has been called across Europe to coincide with the marking of UN Day Against Racial Discrimination in 2014, with eyes on the European elections in May.

Already in most European countries parties of the right, centre and even the traditional left are allowing the terrain of these elections to be dominated by racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and the scapegoating of minorities—Muslims, immigrants, Roma, Black and Asian communities.

Calling for people to join the demo Mr Hain said, ‘Across Europe the fascist and populist racist right are on the rise. From the violent Golden Dawn in Greece, the anti-Roma Jobbik in Hungary, the Islamophobic Freedom Party of Geert Wilders in the Netherlands to the Front National in France, these forces are encouraging hatred, fear and prejudice in a frightening wave across the continent.

‘In Britain the far right is hoping for gains in the Euro elections. The British National Party (BNP) is seeking the re-election of Nick Griffin in the North West and Andrew Brons is seeking re-election in Yorkshire and the Humber. The Tories and UKIP look set to try to play on the fears peddled by the far right to promote an anti-foreign, anti-Europe mentality.

‘Just like anti-fascist stood up to Mosley and his blackshirts at Cable Street in 1936 we need to stand up against this extremism now and not let the hatred rise in our communities.’

Miners Strike ‘Truth Must Be Out’ Says Hain

Neath MP Peter Hain has demanded that the Government ‘come clean’ on the truth behind the year long miners’ strike. ‘The truth must be out’ he demanded.

Newly released 1984 official Government papers have revealed the true scale of the attack on ordinary miners and their families in South Wales valley communities by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government, claims Mr Hain.

‘It was confirmed that, despite denials, at the time there was a secret plan to close 75 pits at the cost of some 65,000 jobs, that the Conservative government sought to influence police tactics to escalate the dispute and Mrs Thatcher even actively considered declaring a state of emergency and deploying the army to defeat the miners, their families and the unions,’ he said.

‘We now know the miners’ strike was not simply an industrial dispute but – as many of us thought at the time – the consequence of government policy driven by an economic ideology which sought the destruction of a way of life in coal communities in our Valleys.

He backed Labour’s campaign, ‘Justice for the Coalfields’, calling on the Government to do three things:

Make a formal apology for the actions of the previous Conservative Government during the time of the strike

Set out all details of the interactions between the Government and the police at the time of the strike

Release all information about government-police communications specifically around the orchestrated police attack on striking miners at Orgreave pit in Yorkshire, with a proper investigation

Lagoons No Alternative To Barrage

Western Mail

It’s real a shame that Cardiff and Bristol councils are together exploring lagoons instead of the Cardiff Weston Barrage for the Severn estuary

Lagoons in the Severn would produce only a fraction of the enormous power of the Barrage which is the only way of harnessing the full potential of the Estuary.

For example, the lagoon proposed for Swansea Bay would generate one fiftieth, less than 2 per cent, of the Barrage – and its electricity would cost twice to three times as much.

The power generated by tidal range technology, which includes lagoons and barrages, is proportional to the area enclosed times the height of the tidal range.

A lagoon has to build a relatively long perimeter wall to impound an area of water – in Swansea’s case, a 9 kilometre wall to create an area of 5 square kilometres.

The Barrage, by contrast, only needs an 18 kilometre long wall to enclose an area of 570 square kilometres: twice the length to enclose almost 100 times as much area.

Lagoons are simply not cost effective, which means that electricity from lagoons will be much more expensive.  Small projects like Swansea could easily complement the Barrage but Cardiff-Bristol are chasing an illusion if they imagine lagoons are a serious alternative.

Cardiff-Bristol suggest that lagoons take less space. But the Swansea lagoon is the size of 1,500 football pitches. That is massive.  Yet it would take 50 of them to equal the power of one Barrage. Where in the Severn – or the UK, for that matter – could we fit 50 lagoons of that size?

It is often claimed by wildlife and environmental groups that a lagoon will not have as much impact on the environment as the Barrage.   Obviously that would be the case for one lagoon – but what about 50 cluttering the estuary?  What would the impact be then?  Unless of course this cop-out option is not really about harnessing the full power of the Severn, merely a fraction of it.

The truth about lagoons, according to experts, is that we don’t know what the environmental impact will be. What will be their effects on tidal currents, waves, suspended sediment, sediment deposition, coastal morphology and water quality? We simply don’t know – particularly if we built so many of them, cluttering the estuary and affecting navigation for ports like Bristol where the Barrage locks allow easy shipping.

But we do know the environmental impact of the Barrage: this has been studied and modelled for years, and solutions to any impacts on fish and bird life have already been developed.

We need to think seriously about the future of energy in this country. Our demand for electricity is increasing every year and our supply is decreasing. According to the government, by 2025 there will be a 60 terawatt-hour gap between electricity supply and demand – that is 15 per cent of our electricity consumption.

Where will that supply come from? What is the point of investing in expensive technologies that generate miniscule amounts of electricity? Why should we spend time building a lagoon that generates one fiftieth the electricity of a barrage, with electricity that costs two to three times as much?

The barrage would generate as much electricity as three to four nuclear power stations and at around the same cost. But, in addition, it has a lifespan of at least 150 years, far longer than any other power plant – offshore wind farms last for 20 years, nuclear power stations like Hinkley for 60 years.

Do we want to keep the lights on?  Are we serious about combating climate change? If we do not make big decisions now, in few decades’ time, when parts of Somerset and South Wales are under water due to sea-level rise, the largest ships refuse to nagivate the dangerous estuary waters up to Bristol Port, and the estuary is clogged with lagoons, our children will ask why we didn’t think long term and prevent it all with the Barrage.

Lagoons will not protect against sea level rise, unlike the Barrage which will defend 500 square kilometres and 90,000 properties from flooding

At a time when our energy policy is in disarray and the costs to consumers are escalating, when our nuclear industry is in turmoil and being sold to France and China, and when the government wants to risk polluting our water table exploring for shale gas, we need big, cheap, long-term solutions – not the short-termist tokenism of lagoons in the Severn: a code for ‘do next to nothing’.

The answer is for City Councils like Cardiff and Bristol to join the Welsh Government in getting behind the Barrage – and its £25 billion of private investment (at no cost to the Treasury) generating 50,000 jobs putting Britain in the lead of bi-directional turbine technology.


Senghenydd Universal Colliery Disaster 100th Anniversary Commemoration

The village of Senghenydd marked the 100th anniversary of the Universal Colliery disaster on October 14th with a truly poignant memorial programme, led by Roy Noble, that honoured the thousands of men who have lost their lives in coalmines throughout Wales. The Wales National Memorial was unveiled to mark the event, along with plaques inscribed with the names of every man lost at Senghenydd. Hundreds of people, including many relatives of those who lost their lives, turned out to commemorate the lost miners. Many laid floral tributes and joined in with the Aber Valley Male Voice Choir who sang at the memorial. It was a fitting way to remember the many Welsh men and boys who paid the ultimate price while trying to earn a living.

Read Roy Noble’s moving and fitting speech here:

Senghenydd – Universal Colliery Disaster -100th Anniversary Commemoration Oct.14th 2013

Address given by Roy Noble OBE at the National Mining Memorial site.

Arglwydd Rhaglaw. Prif Weinidog, Archesgob Cymru, Gwesteion Anrhydeddus- holl, Boneddigion, Boneddigesau, Annwyl Gyfeillion, ffrindiau

Lord Lieutenant, First Minister, Archbishop of Wales, Honoured Guests-all, Ladies and Gentlemen, friends.

More than anyone, may I welcome the residents of Senghenydd, the AberValley, and everyone who has a connection, in family or in feeling for your fellow man, with this commemoration today. Wherever you are from, Wales, the United Kingdom, or from overseas…..to all of you, a warm welcome.

To some of you,  welcome home…..welcome home.

Croeso unwaith eto I’r Cwm. A welcome again to the Valley.

Gadewch i ni ddechrau wrth fynd yn ol , lawr y daith dros y blynyddoedd.

To set the scene, let’s go back, along the track, down the years.

Idris Davies, the common man’s poet from Rhymney, wrote in his poem, ‘ Gwalia Deserta’….

“There are countless tons of rock above his head

And gases wait in secret corners for a spark

And his lamp shows dimly in the dust

His leather belt is warm and moist with sweat

And he crouches against the hanging coal

And the pick swings to and fro.

Oh, what is man that coal should be so careless of him

And what is coal that so much blood be upon it ? “

In Rhydwen Williams’ book ‘ Amser I wylo’ ( Time to cry)- Senghenydd 1913 there is a letter written from one friend to another, after a silence of  some time…….

“ Dyma fi. Yn fyw ohyd ar ol y tawelwch, Fi’n gweithio yn Senghenydd….y  pwll gorau yn y byd”

Derbyniodd  ei gyfaill y llythyr yn gynnar ar fore Hydref, 1913.

Digwyddodd y danchwa awr cyn hynny.

“ Here I am after some time of silence, still alive. I’m working in Senghenydd…..the best pit in the world”

The letter was received in North Wales ,early, on October 14th 1913. The explosion had happened an hour before

On that morning, Harry Wedlock had been awake from 4 a.m. At 14 years of age, this was his first day at work. In the Universal Colliery he was due to work with Sydney Gregory, of 24 Station Terrace.

His Mam had prepared his ‘ Tommy’ box and ‘ jack’. His working clothes were on the chair and he was full of excitement and apprehension, but he was ready….ready for anything.

Now here was a day he’d remember !


As I look around at the numbers here today, it signifies how deeply what happened here one hundred years ago has entered the psyche and soul of the nation. A record breaking event that was thrust, in a callous calamity, upon a community. The largest loss of life of any coal-mining disaster in Britain….the third largest in the entire world. .

We are here to commemorate, to pay tribute and to give respect and honour  for all those who paid the ultimate price in the quest for coal.

Disasters, of course, are classified as 5 men or more. Gleision two years ago took 4 lives, but it was a reminder of the sacrifice in the coal industry. With that in mind, I wrote a special message, with a Welsh translation, on one of the paviers ,to especially honour those who died in ‘ unclassified’ disaster It reads :

“ Dedicated to all those who worked in the coal industry in Wales.

Men and boys coursed their life’s blood to carve the coal seamed Klondikes into new communities

Vibrant of spirit and searching of soul, they set up, from wage contributions, the

keystones of society, in their clubs, institutes, halls, libraries, hospitals and chapels.

In the constant quest for coal, some paid the ultimate price.

Some in  mind numbing disasters, others on their own and others in small groups,

Gleision Colliery, with its loss of 4 men on September 15th. 2011, revisited the

memories of old.

May they be the last fatalities listed on the long, long register of sacrifice”

In that today, we remember Senghenydd and the disaster at the Universal Colliery of 1913, let us stress that this is a National Mining Memorial and I could …and should, mention other disasters.;

Abercarn   268 lost, Albion Cilfynydd  290 lost

Gresford  266,  Ferndale 178 Cymmer 114,

Llanerch Abersychan  176, Wattstown, 119,

Park Slip Tondu 110     Risca Waunfawr 146 and 120

Those are the ones in the hundreds. If you were to count all disasters, of 5 men or more, the figure is over 6000.

If you added the ones below the line of ‘ 5 for a disaster figure’…..to count and include the loss of those in groups of four, three, two and those perished on their own….what would the total figure be?

If you added those who died, slowly, of silicosis or pneumoconiosis or 100% ‘dust’ as it was called, where the cause of death on the certificate was something else, like pneumonia, so no compensation had to be paid , what  would the total figure be ?

If you added Aberfan in 1966, where 144 died , mostly children, in a coal-tip slide, what would the figure be ?

But we are here today , in Senghenydd, to pay homage to our forbears, with whom we are related, those of us from the Welsh Coalfield, For this tribe, who gathered in the Klondike and melting pot that was the new mining community, became a hugely important patch on the quilt that is Wales. We were all hewn from the black gold and crystal seams that got into the blood and moulded a special breed who fed the power house of the world.

Senghenydd is a symbol….and its story is common to so many of the coal communities, countrywide. We welcome our compatriots from Durham who are with us today.

What happened at the Universal Colliery on October 14th. 1913 was the tragic last step on the pathway leading to disaster.

And isn’t fate fickle.This valley was once called Park and was the ancient hunting ground for the Lord at CaerffiliCastle. The local chieftain, Ifor Bach , gave the Normans real trouble in his day. The few farms on the ridges here give evidence of the rural scene and setting of the AberValley in the past centuries.

In the 1880s, Cardiff seriously considered drowning this valley for a water supply reservoir. There was a change of mind. The ‘ what if ‘ scenario of fate and history, kicked in.

1891 saw the first glint of coal interest and the Universal was sunk.

The sinkers cottages, all single story, were lined to my left, at the roadside, where so many of you now stand this morning. The two colliery shafts, the Lancaster and York, were there, with their winding gear, behind me in the trees and the underground districts were given names familiar to those who read the Boar War reports in the newspapers ….Mafeking, Kimberley, Ladysmith, Pretoria, Bottanic and West York.

The Universal was a dry pit….with dangerous dust everywhere, waiting for a spark.

That spark came at 5 a.m. in the morning of May 24th. 1901, on a Friday.

82 men were down the pit at the time and only one survived….Ostler William Harris….saved by his horse, that was killed at his side .

The explosion in 1901 was greater than the one that followed in 1913, but it was between shifts, so only 82 men were underground. Another hour or so and 900 would have been below,.

There was an enquiry, of course. Prof. W .Gallaway of CardiffUniversity, on conclusion, made many recommendations.. The main three were;

that the fans should be capable of being reversed in an emergency , to drive oxygen to different districts,

electrical equipment should be regularly maintained,

and the abundant dust should be constantly dampened, on roadways, on tunnel sides, on the rails and on the drams. 2

Recommendations were to be implemented, at the latest, by January 1st 1913. The company asked for an extension and got it…until September 16th . That date came and went and at 8.10 a.m. on October 13th.  there was an almighty explosion, with the screaming sound of shattering wood and clashing metal. The cage shot up the shaft at such a rate that it decapitated a banksman standing at the edge.

Edward  Shaw, the manager, bravely , went down the unaffected shaft, but in so doing, wasted time and the mines rescue crews from Porth in the Rhondda were not called for two and a half hours. When the water pipes were used, they were found to be woefully small and in-effective.

18 survivors were found in the Bottanic.District on October 15th and this gave rise to false hopes. No one else was found alive in the affected districts, Some of those who were brought up could not be identified, others were identified by their pitiful possessions. Some were not brought up at all.

In all, 439 men and boys were killed. Some had died in family groups, because that was the way of working, fathers training their sons, looking after them and ensuring that the wage packet, in production, stayed ‘ in the family’ as far as possible.

Unlike the 1901 explosion, where reports spoke of women weeping, wailing and tearing their hair out in anguish, there was an eerie silence in 1913,. Almost a dignified solemnity, and a numbing disbelief at the tragedy itself and the creeping realisation of the after-effects on the community and the families..

My association with Senghenydd goes back to a brief flirtation with the rugby club many years ago, when I played a couple of games for their team and , some years later, when I served here as a primary school teacher under Dai Parry, the local headmaster.

My association with coal, however, goes deeper. I am a man of the AmmanValley and I well remember my grandfather being killed in the Steer Pit ,Gwaun Cae Gurwen. I was seven when they brought his body home and I remember clearly the family trauma.

Senghenydd was different. There was a family trauma, several times over in every other household. The scale of the loss was difficult to comprehend.

The figures speak for themselves.

205 widows,  542 fatherless children, 62 aged dependents.  800 affected in all.

Commercial Street, the street behind you leading out of the village lost 45 men., High Street, up ther on the ridge where people now stand, lost 35, Stanley Street 19, the Four Terraces of Woodland, Cenydd, Graig and Phillips…you can just see their roof tops behind me and beyond the trees, lost 56.

Mrs.Eizabeth Twining of Commercial Street, who became a widow a year before the disaster, lost three sons in it.

Benjamin Priest, of Ilan Road, died with his two sons, Tommy, aged 16 and Jimmy, just 14.

The story continued in so many houses. The funerals, when they came , were dramatic and harrowing in their sheer numbers, as they travelled slowly to the graveyatds of Eglwysilan and Penyrheol. On many of the gravestones, in Welsh , was inscribed:

“ Be farw in Nhanchwa Senghenydd “. “ He died in the Senghenydd explosion

Following an official enquiry, the Company and owner, Sir William Thomas Lewis, who had become Lord Merthyr of Senghenydd, was fined £10, The manager , Edward Shaw was fine £24. Levels of official compensation dragged their feet and newspapers reported the life of a miner had worked  at being worth just over a shilling.

It was, of course in that kind of era, .A miner who started an eight hour shift and was killed three hours into it, was not paid for the five hours he failed to work. Concessionary coal ,part of the miner’s agreement ,stopped on his death, the widow getting just one sympathy load. In many cases horses were worth more than men. Horses had to be bought, miners were in plentiful supply.




The Universal Pit stayed open until 1928.The buildings were cleared in 1963 and the shafts were finally capped in 1979.

In 1913, some 100,000 visitors came to Senghenydd., not with a callous , morbid motive, but in sympathy,  concerned curiosity and disbelief that such a thing could have happened.

We are, obviously, fewer today, but looking around at you all , in your vast hundreds, on the road, on the site and on the slope that leads up to High Street on the ridge, there is a warmth and comradeship in the gathering.

Be sure that in media, in mind and in memory, Senghenydd is in focus today…..worldwide.

The story will resonate in so many similar communities…. communities who know….or have known.

The virtues and vices embedded in the narrative are timeless and…to use the pit’s name…universal.

It’s a question of hindsight, insight and foresight. How can you really have the foresight to go forward, without the insight  of knowing who you are now and the hindsight to know what made you, where you are from and what moulded you as a person.

Today, we are all sons and daughters of the strata that was coal…..and all that it meant in our lives and the lives of the special mining communities..


“Diolch o gallon am ddod yma heddiw.


Mae’n dda in gael chi yma.


Heartfelt thanks for coming here today.


It’s good to have you here.”


As we unveil the National Mining Memorial…..


“Da chi, cofiwch pob drychineb a damwain yng Nghymru.


Da chi….cofiwch Senghenydd. “


“ Remember all the disasters and deaths in Wales,


And, as a symbol…..remember Senghenydd”


Roy Noble OBE