For a couple of days this week I was fortunate to get the opportunity for a trip to North Wales, my wife Dawn was working in the Dee Valley so I was able to travel with her and we stayed overnight in Corwen. Going to Wales always triggers Saudade within me, a kind of wistful nostalgic feeling overwhelms my senses. My mother's maiden name was Alice Jemima Jennifer Jones and she was born in the Rhondda in October 1940. Her dad Douglas Morgan Jones was a miner, a trade unionist and an anti-fascist. Douglas was to die before my moms 5th Birthday in a Churchill Tank on German Soil on April 1st 1945.
When I was a kid our family holidays were always camping in Pembrokeshire, South Wales. I have memories of hot white sands burning the soles of my feat while I explored the beach at Stackpole under blue skies. In the middle of the Bay was Church Rock, I often set out to swim to the rock but never made it. Sometimes, I would lie back and float on the cold swelling sea, looking up to the sky, it felt as if my body was melting into the ocean, a sensation of well being and peace would seep into every cell in my body. I didn't need to get to Church Rock, the tides would just gently deliver me back to dry land. By the time I'd walked back across the vast expanse of the beach to the sand dunes, where mom and dad had set up camp, I would be bone dry and ready for a soggy cheese sandwich. But alongside childhood oceanic feelings and happy memories Wales also triggers much darker memories...
Aberfan Disaster October 1966
I was profoundly affected by Aberfan... often at night I imagined I was one of the 116 schoolkids trapped and overwhelmed by sodden, black debris, suffocating in the darkness. In the Summer of 1969 we visited my mothers older brother Idris Jones who was a Miner, like his father before him, at his home in the Rhondda. The small terraced house of Idris and his family was overshadowed by a huge 'mining debris hill' or 'Slag Heap' as we called it, it blocked out the daylight from entering their living room. I remember asking uncle Idris if the Slag Heap would fall on us 'like in Aberfan?' I accepted his confident assurance that 'No Markie Bach [little one] - we are all perfectly safe here'.
The atmosphere of life in the valley's was still dominated by the effects of a Century of rapid industrialisation to exploit the Anthracite Coal reserves buried underneath the ground. The landscape and the people of the Valley's were scarred by the efforts to extract the coal. Whenever we visited relatives in the Rhondda, it was always raining everywhere was grim and grey. I was always reminded of the opening scenes of the hollywood film 'How Green Was My Valley' .
Having provided the fuel to power the Industrial Revolution and and enable the British Empire to dominate the World, the South Wales Coalfield was now in terminal decline. The sense of community was still strong but the people of the Valley's were left with a terrible environmental legacy. The shock and anger provoked by the Aberfan disaster contributed to a resurgence of a more militant form of Welsh Nationalism and on the night before the Investiture of the Prince of Wales two members of the group Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru (Movement for the Defence of Wales), George Taylor and Alwyn Jones died in a bomb blast in Abergele.
FREE WALES ARMY
A decade later came another wave of resurgent Welsh Nationalism, largely in response to the offensive launched by the Thatcher Government, which had no mandate from the people of Wales. I remember the burly group of bearded Welsh speakers who joined me and 300 others on the South Wales Youth March Against Unemployment initiated by Revolution Youth in the spring of 1981. The March went from Port Talbot to Cardiff via Maesteg getting a great response especially from NUM members, unfortunately I had to leave the March early to get back to Birmingham and my Manpower Services Commission Training Scheme as a Painter and Decorator. As a consequence of going back to work I never got to speak with the handful of Meibion Glyndwr [Sons of Glyndwr] who had joined the March.
|Lake Bala - approaching from the south, 7th March 2012|
|Jordan and Me - Outside CAT 2007|
Wales is leading the way in developing wind power and maybe in the future could establish it's own Wind Turbine manufacturing Industry?
|Wind Turbine - HAFOTY UCHA , 7th March 2012|
Today other winds of change are sweeping across Wales a new brand of Republican Eco-Socialism is emerging in and at its head is Leanne Wood who is a standing for the Leadership of Plaid Cymru. This time it is a working class Woman from the Valley's of South Wales that is passing a message of hope to the next generation not a Man from the North. The Result of the Ballot will be announced on March 15th. I've got my fingers crossed! The Welsh League of Hope has a new champion and victory for Leanne will also give hope to the embryonic movement towards an English Republic too.
Leanne Wood - candidate for the leadership of Plaid Cymru. Good Luck!
Mark Anthony France.
UPDATE: 15TH MARCH 2012, 6PM
LEANNE WOOD WON!!!!