About the Society
Historical Notes






There was no effective union until 1870.

The main causes of unrest in ascending order were

1 Working Conditions
2 Prevalence of truck System
3 Wages Disputes

There were no strikes before 1871 for advance of wages and there was no organized labour at all in Aberdare prior to 1830. Immigrants from agricultural background had no tradition of Labour Co-operation. The masters would always meet any threat of withholding labour by recruiting from new immigrants. The first industrial organizations were on the side of capital rather than labour. Welsh Iron-Masters took joint action as early as 1796 against tax on export of iron.


Iron Masters set up an Association at Abergavenny to fix price of iron and met regularly first at Abergavenny and then at Newport and then at Merthyr during the first quarter of the 19th Century. Representatives from Aberdare attended Conferences at Gloucester as early as 1815.
The Association of South Wales Iron Masters met 7 times at Merthyr between 1824 and 1826. The Scales of Hirwaun were prominent. The Association seems to have become defunct after 1826 as the slump had led to price-cutting between the Masters.


Friendly Associated Coal Owners Union Society was formed in Manchester.

1830 June

National Society for the Protection of Labour was formed but there is no evidence that they had any branches in Aberdare.


Merthyr Riots rendered Aberdare Iron Works idle for a few days at the beginning of June due to general unruliness.

1834 June

Robert Owen established the Grand Consolidated Trades Union and there was a real attempt to establish Trades Unionism The Scotch Cattle was the first example locally and in May they went to Mine Levels at Llwydcoed and they smashed many miners tools and destroyed miners candles and scattered powder all over the levels. “The offence is supposed to have been that some miners continued to work there contrary to the ordinances of these criminal depredators.” The Iron Masters met at Rhymney and decided not to employ any worker engaged in any Trade Union society. Every worker had to sign an undertaking that he was not a member of any Trade union. Those who refused to sign were locked out and the Union movement collapsed, the longest resistance was at Hirwaun but by August, they too had given in. With the failure of labour. The owners too became inactive in cooperation except for Trade Slump when Iron ...


...Masters decided to close 21 Furnaces including some in the Aberdare area until June 1837.


Aberdare colliers joined Meat Pledge Union. They had met and agreed that they would not pay more than 4½d a pound for meat. The union movement revived and throughout the country with Miners Association of Great Britain and Ireland.


Strike originating in Monmouthshire spread to Aberdare and some Steam Coal Pits were idle during February and March. There was a great recruiting campaign for members of the Association.

1845 May

There was a strike at Powell’s Pit Cwmbach when 150 men came out for an advance in wages. Powell crushed the strike and prosecuted the leaders for leaving work without notice and they were condemned to 6 weeks in Cardiff Gaol.


Old Iron Masters Association was revived, its main purpose being to resist strike action among workers, but industry experienced considerable prosperity in the years immediately following so that no action was necessary. But not so with the Steam Coal Owners.


Strike in Aberdare Valley because of reduction in wages agreed by Owners.


Years of depression in the Coal Trade accompanied by series of stoppages and disputes.


Lefel yr Afon Strike to resist reduction in wages lasted for four months and was accompanied by a great deal of violence and as far as is known in connection with this strike is the last reference to the activities of the Scotch Cattle. During the strike, one Blackleg was fatally injured by a homemade bomb thrown into his bedroom. He had been warned by three separate members of the union on three separate occasions that his case had been before the union and he had been told to attend the meetings but had refused to do so in spite of warnings. One blackleg was excommunicated from a local chapel, (Siloa). Though the strike lasted for four months, no help came from outside and it eventually collapsed. This spelt the end of trade unionism in the Valley for the next 12 years.