Author: South Wales Miners Library, Swansea University
Provider: South Wales Miners' Library
Interview of Thomas, Mel by Egan, David on 17th May 1973.
The interview forms part of Swansea University’s South Wales Miners’ Library collection.
1 audio file (4 min.)
Egan, David: And is there anything that sticks in your mind about, you say you started in 1918, about the war period? I mean, you had been too young to remember things like the 1915 strike I should imagine in any detail but the was threatened in 1918?
Thomas, Mel: 1918 yes. Oh there was quite strong feelings among the men particularly the chaps of military age and so forth at that time. There was quite a strong feeling yes, among the men. There was quite a lot of discussions going on within the pit, more so than in the lodge meetings, and there was this feeling, of course, on the other hand you did have, you were being subjected to a terrific amount of patriotic propaganda, with all the local big wigs, and it was a feature of course, that the key man as far as the union was concerned in Maesteg was Vernon Hartson who was the, next to C.B.Stanton, I suppose the biggest war propagandist of them all. And his influence was felt terrifically in Maesteg thereâ€™s no question at all about that. And not for nothing was he given a seat in the re-alignment of the Parliamentary constituency.
Egan, David: Was there any discernible anti-war movement?
Thomas, Mel: There was a discernible anti-war movement in Maesteg in the war, and I remember being very young going there. They used to meet in a place the old Co-operative Hall down at Maesteg and there was a very strong branch because there's a fair Irish migrant population in Maesteg at that time, and there was a very strong branch at the Old Irish Self-Determination League. And this in turn linked up with what local people there were, were attached to the No Conscription fellowship and so forth . Tal Mainwaring who was a checkweigher in one of the local levels, colliery between here and Port Talbot, just outside Bryn, obviously he was a conscientious objector, Tal had been in jail as a result of his anti-war stand, and he played a terrific part in organising this, then in the locality itself there were a number of people such as Aneurin Jones, Will Mullins, Will Kennedy and Jim Thomas, who was later the Chairman of Caerau Lodge, Jim Bowen. These people who in the main formed the nucleus of the Communist Party when it was formed.
Egan, David: At this time I should imagine, they were, this group, this anti-war group was probably closely aligned with the I.L.P. branch, where they?
Thomas, Mel: They were closely, some of them were closely aligned with the ILP branch, there were a few, very, very few, who were members of the old Social and Democratic Federation, but in the main in Maesteg, the left was represented mainly through its connections with the Independent Labour Party.