Author: South Wales Miners Library, Swansea University

Provider: South Wales Miners' Library

Rights: Copyrighted

Interview of Evans, Dai Dan by Francis, Hywel on 1st January 1970.
The interview forms part of Swansea University’s South Wales Miners’ Library collection.

1 audio file (12 min. 40 sec.)

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Transcription

Francis, Hywel: Do you think that the First World War had the greatest effect on you? Of any world event?

Evans, Dai Dan: Oh yes, I would say yes, and the Russian Revolution. The First World War see, well, it was a world shaking event see, wasn't it. It was shattering in its effect upon the traditions and the thoughts of people you see. Nobody expected the war to come, I mean from little villages. Obviously the people that were in the Parliament and people that were studying politics very intimately, knew the trends and knew that there was something in the offing. But to the ordinary man in the street, and to the children and teenagers particularly, it would not, it would never have dawned upon them. So when the First World War was declared it was a shattering blow, see. It came like a bolt from the blue as far as the mass of people were concerned.

Francis, Hywel: Was the first reaction one of shock, or one of jubilation, or what?

Evans, Dai Dan: Shock I would say at the beginning, and then jubilation. See, here was the opportunity, you know, well I feel this, that during that time the joining of the Army, it was considered, I'm sure as far as the mass of the lads that did it, as a great relief. An opportunity to leave these conditions, to go outside, not realising what was in store for them. So that, that you see Hywel, was in the first place, that was the first reactions. But don't forget this now, the war itself, the shortages and everything else that occurred during the war, the things that took place {unclear} had a tremendous effect upon the people. It was a period in which now the young men, or people that were prepared to shed old ideas, had opportunities of doing so. There were new ideas floating around, ripe around everywhere, do you see. The establishment had the great difficulty you see Hywel, in maintaining its authority and maintaining its hold. It had to introduce now these dire measures you see, in order to hold the people, this, that and the other. Well now it did not hold the people everywhere, it could not hold their thoughts you see, Hywel, their thoughts were there. So I would say that the period of the First World War was a great dynamic period of thought in the working class communities.

Francis, Hywel: What about within the communities of Caerlan and Abercrave, what was the first response, say, with the clergy, with the ministers, with the Spaniards?

Evans, Dai Dan: Oh for the war. The Spaniards would be opposed to it.

Francis, Hywel: Was this evident at all?

Evans, Dai Dan: Oh yes, evident, very evident.

Francis, Hywel: From what standpoint? From a political standpoint or a pacifist standpoint?

Evans, Dai Dan: No, not pacifist, no not pacifist, opposition to war in discussions, this that and the other. That's what you'd have, yes. But you see Hywel, when stating that point here again that these people were for the war, for the establishment you see, you must remember this now, there were two things you see, there was a great pull now for the, to go to war, to go join the army, join the forces, this that and the other. There were the other pulls, the family ties, tremendous pulls. Parents didn't want to see their children going you see, into the army, and the children were held, not because the parents didn't want them to go, no, but because of the strong family ties. So there was a pull upon the person that wanted to join the armed forces to retain, to live with his family, and a pull now then towards the war now then, and to the new way of life that was going to come out of it, this, that and the other, you see.

Francis, Hywel: What were the pressures, what were the factors motivating one to go to war then? Other than the personal ones?

Evans, Dai Dan: Oh no, I tell you the propaganda, that was terrific.

Francis, Hywel: From the pulpit or from the newspapers?

Evans, Dai Dan: From the pulpit, oh from everywhere. Inside the unions, you see the Second International collapsed {unclear} , so that politically and industrially there was a tremendous pressure. But as far as the coal owners were concerned, whilst they welcomed the lads coming back from the armed forces, they didn't want to see them go, they wanted them in the pits see, Hywel.

Francis, Hywel: And you yourself volunteered?

Evans, Dai Dan: Well I volunteered yes, and then they wouldn't take me.

Francis, Hywel: Where did you go to volunteer?

Evans, Dai Dan: Swansea.

Francis, Hywel: How didn't they take you then?

Evans, Dai Dan: I was too young. They asked my age and I told them my age, and at that time see there was plenty of lads volunteering see Hywel, no difficulty at all in getting members of the armed forces, there was plenty of volunteers you see, Hywel.

Francis, Hywel: Were there other boys from Caerlan who did the same as you?

Evans, Dai Dan: I can't remember, I can't remember that.

Francis, Hywel: Could you remember your own feelings about volunteering?

Evans, Dai Dan: Oh yes, at that time see Hywel, at the beginning of the war, well say within eight months of the war. And I would say it was in either, in the early part of 1915, see Hywel, when I was just over, possibly less than fifteen and a half years of age. Oh at that time see, I was affected with the bug you see, the propaganda, the war propaganda see, and the jingoism of the community and the thoughts of the establishment on this issue see Hywel, plus of course the negative thoughts that I had now then in regard to the pits. It was an opportunity to leave the pits, you see this, that and the other and that…

Francis, Hywel: Not many men in your locality had died by then, been killed by then, had they?

Evans, Dai Dan: Oh no, no, no. In fact there was no regular soldiers from there, see Hywel. Only one person I can remember as a regular soldier, from Penrhos up to Abercrave, {Ianto Griffiths, Sam} Griffiths from Penrhos. He is the only young man I can remember now that joined the forces as a regular soldier, before, long before the war.

Francis, Hywel: Dick Beamish also volunteered?

Evans, Dai Dan: Yes he went, he went to the Navy.

Francis, Hywel: You didn't know him then, did you?

Evans, Dai Dan: No, I came to know Dick in {Waunclawdd} , I would say possibly just before the war but not very intimately. Boys we were see then, we hadn't come to play an active part in the movement.

Francis, Hywel: But how do you account for your changing attitude towards the war in the very short period of time, two years?

Evans, Dai Dan: Oh, the situation Hywel at that time, the ideas were exceedingly fluid, exceedingly fluid, you can't imagine Hywel, the changes that had taken place. For instance the propaganda, you see that was required to maintain the war effort was becoming much more intense and much more intense. The anti-war feeling was becoming more intense because of the bungling of the war, because of bungling at the fronts, this, that and the other see. Men being lost, this, that and the other, thousands of men being killed, and sadly, this, that and the other, the exposures now of the intrigues that led up to the war became much more prominent.

Francis, Hywel: Do you remember that occasion when you became a conscientious objector?

Evans, Dai Dan: I can’t remember the exact occasion Hywel. It was a gradual process, I would say, to become a conscientious objector. It could have been after some of the speakers had been addressing us at meetings at Ystradgynlais or Abercrave as the case may be, and…

Francis, Hywel: This was a political decision on your part then?

Evans, Dai Dan: A political decision on my part, yes.

Francis, Hywel: By that time, you had become a member of the I.L.P.?

Evans, Dai Dan: A member of the I.L.P., yes, I became a member of the I.L.P and read a lot of the pamphlets this, that and the other, that were being issued at the time, anti-war pamphlets. Read a number of books, that were anti-war books, this, that and the other. Read also a number of books now on working class literature, depicting the life of the working people in America and in this country, this, that and the other, so that the process was a gradual one, and I can't remember a specific instance leading to this, and this is the break.

Francis, Hywel: Do you recall any of the books that influenced you? Which ones in particular?

Evans, Dai Dan: {Braidsford's} books were on the exposures of the war, I forget their names now, and E.D. Morel's on the exposures of the war, but the books that affected me mostly from the standpoint now of developing a consciousness of, a working class consciousness not only an anti-war consciousness were the books of Upton Sinclair, Sinclair Lewis in America, those were the books that, {Jack London's} books, they were the books that developed my consciousness, my political consciousness.

Francis, Hywel: This was all during the First World War?

Evans, Dai Dan: And after the war was over.

Francis, Hywel: What about {Daniel Williams} …

Evans, Dai Dan: Daniel Williams pamphlets, I read a lot of them. The Right To Be Lazy, by Paul Lafargue and that kind of thing, now I read those pamphlets. But as, I think I have told you before, my reading became very selective, Hywel, for the simple reason that in my early days, I took a very active part in the Trade Union movement particularly, and ultimately in becoming a Lodge officer. But with attending meetings, public meetings, attending the I.L.P., attending Lodge meetings, and things of that kind, you didn't have much time to read {unclear} sequentially books of standard works, so what you had to do was read a pamphlet here, a pamphlet there, and you became what may be termed a reader more than a thinker. But eventually when you came now then to study these things and read now the more profound books you became, now then, much more politically conscious. I would say the three books that have affected me mostly, that have given to me the character of my philosophy, and economic understanding, political understanding, are The Communist Manifesto by Marx, Wage, Labour and Capital by Marx, and Money, Price and Profit. Now those are the three books I can remember now, as having a profound effect upon me, they making to read now, than the more elaborate works of Marx. You see, the novels again that I read were again selective. I can't say that I read much of English classic literature, I've read books of Dickens, Dickens, this, that and the other. I’ve read books by G. B, George Bernard Shaw, I’ve read the books by E. D. Morel and all the anti-war books, this, that and the other. But the profound things I would say that I have read have been very, very selective.