About the Society
Historical Notes






Revival of South Wales Iron Masters Association due to ending of Crimean War. It continued to function until the close of the Iron trade in the South Wales valleys in 1872.


Aberdare Steam Coal Proprietors Association active. The chief topic of discussion was wage rates. There were riots among the ironworkers due to the introduction of Irish labour. The Military were called in to restore order.


Coal Owners announced joint reduction of wages of 15%. 4000–5,000 Aberdare workers strike. Troops called in. In September they were forced to return to work by poverty, and they suffered a further 5% cut to compensate the owners for loss of trade due to strike. Formation of first Strike Committees to organize strike, and miners at work helped those out. The men returned to work only after it was agreed that, “Colliers should meet in their lodges and take the sense of their men by ballot.”

1858 Feb

Sporadic stoppages at Werfa Colliery. Colliers returning to work could not start until thousands of dead rats found near the horse troughs had been buried.


Prosperity of Coal Trade 1859–64
These years were marked by the absence of disputes.


Establishment of Powell Duffryn Steam Coal Company. Establishment of Aberdare Steam Collieries Association, which was chiefly the instrument of John Nixon. Each member of the Association became liable in time of need for 3d levy on every ton of coal exported by him in the previous year and £500 for every pit sunk. If a strike occurred, the company involved would be paid compensation by the other companies in coal or in cash. All other members of the Association agreed not to re-employ strikers.

1864 May

400 men at David Davis's Abercwmboi Pit on strike in sympathy with the door boys demand for an increase, they were out for 9 weeks.
MONMOUTHSHIRE MERLIN reported that the men were determined on an increase by fair means or foul. David Davis refused to meet the men or their representatives and they had to submit. This was the first victory for the Aberdare Steam Coal Owners Association who paid the indemnity; and the strike leaders were blacklisted and locked out, and most were compelled to emigrate. The Miner’s Union had again collapsed and no attempt was made to revive it between 1865 and 1870.


Coal Owners and Iron Masters met and agreed to reduce wages by 15%. A Monmouthshire strike spread to Aberdare, (Abernant), but proved abortive.

1869 Aug

THOMAS HALLIDAY, a Lancashire Miner's Leader, held a meeting at Pontypridd to recruit S.W. miners into the Union. They joined the Amalgamated Association of Miners and enrolment was particularly heavy at Aberdare. And encouraged by dispute at


Llettysiencyn over Company Doctor.

1871 Feb

Strike because of dismissal of workmen who had refused to contribute to Medical Fund. The Union paid 10/- per member per week, Strike Pay. This did more for the Union than a 100 speeches, and in the Spring of the same year there were 3,000 unionists at Aberdare and 1300 at Mountain Ash who were organized in 9 separate Lodges


Trade Union Act gave complete legal status to Trade Unions and it was steered through Parliament by Henry Austin Bruce, the Home Secretary, soon to become the 1st Lord Aberdare.


Aberdare Steam Coal Association was enlarged and constituted as the South Wales Steam Coal Association.


There were now 9,000 Miner Unionists in Rhondda and Aberdare organized into Lodges representing practically every pit. They formed districts that appointed agents. Subscription rate was 7d a month and the Union was busy throughout the late Spring of 1871 discussing such grievances such as
1 Inexperience of Assistant Mines Inspectors.

2 Short time working especially in Piece Work.

3 Survival of Truck System.

4 “Billy Fair Play” - a machine invented by John Nixon to assess the proportion of Large to Small Coal; it was a constant grievance.

5 Main Grievance The Wage Rate In 1869–70, it was actually lower than it had been since 1853.


e.g. Coal Cutters in the 6 Foot Seam (Hewers) were paid 3/4 - 4/7 per day
Day Wage Men were paid 3/2 per day.

A claim for higher wages was rejected by the owners. The Iron Masters agreed and provided the increase, but the Coal Owners rejected it out of hand. 11,000 men came out on strike


on May 1st 1871, and this was the first trial of strength between the Amalgamated Association of Miners and the South Wales Steam Coal Association. Owners went as far as Stafford, Devon and Cornwall to recruit labour. There was considerable unemployment amongst Tin miners and an Agent was appointed in Cornwall, a Capt. Godden who was paid a commission of 20/- for every recruit. Travelling expenses were to be paid together with such members of their families as could be engaged at the works. But wherever he went, he was followed by Miners’ Agents who drew lurid pictures, such as men working under ground with naked lights, hundreds of dead bodies brought from pits and deaths from noxious gases from Steam Coal.


Posters were put up in Cornish Villages.
South Wales Miners Strike
To the Miners of Cornwall

Fellow Workmen: The Aberdare Rhondda and Merthyr miners are on strike to the number of 12,000. The Masters are trying to reduce their wages by 2/6 in the Pound. Be careful do not break up your homes under the influence of Fair Promises..... If you can render us assistance, send all money by Postal Orders to Mr. David Morgan, Secretary, Checkweigher, 20 Club Street, Aberdare, or to Mr. James Nicholas, Treasurer Royal Exchange, Cardiff Road, Aberdare.

The result of the recruiting drive was insignificant, 495 only, and most of them from Staffordshire. Many left within a week and many more were discharged for incompetence. When the strike ended in September, only 2 remained. The total output of coal was 1,000 tons in 2½ months. Aberdare shopkeepers refused to supply the immigrants and Aberdare firemen refused to work with these “Dynion Dwad” as they were called. This was the first time the term was used. The Firemen were prosecuted but the Chairman of the Magistrates, J.C. Fowler, continually adjourned the proceedings. The strike finished at the end of August 1871 on condition that the claim went to arbitration.


Result of Arbitration
“Said colliers and workmen shall be paid an advance of 2½% of wages paid in May 1871 for and in respect of wages from 20th day of August in that year to 1st February 1872.”
The South Wales Collieries Association was now reconstituted as Monmouthshire and South Wales Collieries Association. It comprised the Iron Masters as well, and the General Terms of Association were the same as the old Aberdare Association.
The M & S.W.C.A. represented 222 pit owners producing annually 11½ million tons of coal. This was the organization which caused the long strike of 1875, January 1st to May 29th, involving 50,000 men including many thousands from Aberdare.


The Amalgamated Association of Miners held a meeting in Aberdare and voted £40 to the Bethesda Quarrymen who were out on strike. Funds had been too low to withstand 2 reductions of wages in 1874 but a further 10% reduction threat at the end of 1874 brought them out on January 1st. But before the end of May, they were back with a reduction of 12½% for June, July and August, and after that, wages were to be governed by a “sliding scale”. It had always been tacitly agreed that wages should be governed by the state of the market, but now it was officially recognized.

TARIAN Y GWEITHIWR regarded the strike as a great victory for the men because wages were no longer at the mercy of owners’ whims. But this cut both ways. Wages were a great proportion of cost of coal so sliding scale was an encouragement to undersell and overproduce. A further result of this was the disbanding of the Amalgamated Association of Miners and formation of the new Miners National Union. South Wales miners were equally dissatisfied with both the old and the new unions and a movement was started to form a South Wales Miners Union with only a very loose connection with the parent body. The result of all this was that there was no concerted action in the South Wales coalfield for the next 20 years though there were sporadic localised disputes and strikes in plenty.


Recession in the Coal Trade this year led to considerable economic distress in the Aberdare Valley.
TARIAN Y GWEITHIWR proposed a Welsh Union with Welsh Officials and a Welsh Treasury. Every member contributed 7d a month and 3d was allocated to a Central fund at Aberdare. Unfortunately doomed to failure at the start due to parochialism.


These years saw the growth of several district organizations that later merged as the South Wales Miners Federation, now more active than the Aberdare and Merthyr Miners Association which had been reorganized in 1879.


David Morgan or Dai o’r Nant appointed first Miners Agent and remained until


1898 when Owen Powell was appointed, until


1915, when When Charles B. Stanton was appointed. Chiefly under the inspiration of Dai o’r Nant, membership reached some 12,000, i.e. half the labour force. 2d. a week was deducted from the wages at the colliery offices.

1879 May

A meeting was organized at Aberdare to form a National Strike.
Emphasis was on the peaceful settlement of disputes and consequently there was no serious strife between 1892 and 1898.


David Morgan was born in 1840 in Merthyr and attended the Unitarian School until he was seven years old when he became a door-boy in the Cyfarthfa Mines. He moved to Mountain Ash in 1858 where he worked first under Nixon and later under the PD. The Union did not include skilled workmen. Aberdare and Merthyr Firemen’s Union was very strong and negotiated a wage of £8 a week for firemen. The success of this prompted Dai o’r Nant and William Abraham (Mabon) to work for a Union including all Colliery workers.


Mabon’s Day First Monday in the Month Holiday.

Jan 3rd

South Wales and Monmouthshire Colliery Workers Association came into being and during next few years. Discussions centred mainly on revisions and amendments to Sliding Scale.


First Trial of Strength of new union. Miners wanted to end sliding scale unless some agreement on guaranteed minimum wage was included. Also, a 10% wage increase was demanded. Employers refused to negotiate. The strike began in April and the entire coalfield was affected, and there were local acts of violence.

1898 June

Military called in. Cavalry and 50 men of the Worcester. Local Papers denied any rioting. “TIMES” reported night attack on Mardy House planned but abandoned on discovery. The Aberdare Urban District Council founded in 1896 gave relief to strikers providing employment on the Maerdy Road. The strike ended in September with virtual victory for the owners. Mabon’s Day was abolished. Miners failed through lack of organization

1898 Aug

Dai o’r Nant sentenced at Glamorgan Assizes to 2 months hard labour for incitement. Protests and demonstrations in Aberdare caused the sentence to be reduced to light labour. Dai o’r Nant was released after one month and died early 1900. For relief purpose, Aberdare Cooperative Society donated £2,000 and the South Wales & Monmouthshire Colliery Workers Association £10,000.
The Troops were generally friendly with the local populace.
Local Volunteers beat the regulars in a shooting match.