Author: South Wales Miners Library, Swansea University
Provider: South Wales Miners' Library
Interview of Gregory, W. H. by Francis, Hywel and Lewis, Richard on 23rd November 1972.
The interview forms part of Swansea University’s South Wales Miners’ Library collection.
1 audio file (4 min.)
Francis, Hywel: Were you still working in the barber's shop then?
Lewis, Richard: Still working in the barber's shop, the other educational influence of tremendous importance to me, apart from the library in the town, was the fact that my uncle who ran the barber's shop was a member of the ILP and the barber's shop really was like a political centre. And it made a tremendous impact on me, the kind of politics that the !-- W.E.A. -- ! represented because during the war years, a large number of people from Briton Ferry went into the C.O. movement. And I believe I don't know whether my figure is right, I've heard it said that ninety people were in jail at one time. This may be an exaggeration, but a large number of chaps from Briton Ferry went to jail and in the barber's shop of course, when they were on the run, they would come there some times and have a haircut before the shop opened. On one occasion for example, when a chap by the name of Tom Thomas, Tommy Tupp'any he was known as in Briton Ferry, was on the run, his brother came to my uncle and asked him if he could out his hair one morning, say, about quarter to nine before the shop opened. And I remember my uncle pulling the window of the barber's shop half way down, taking the tools off the table and putting the table close to the window on a chair, so that if Sargeant Williams came in, Tom could make a dash for it through the window. It didn't come to that but that was the atmosphere. Then people used to come into Briton Ferry to lecture and it was a common thing for the little boys then to go on a Sunday night after the chapel was over to go then up to the Public Hall to listen to the speeches. What they were listening to of course was the heckling and the struggle that went on when men were shouting at each other and so on. But the very best talent used to come there. The first political speaker I ever heard, for example, was Keir Hardie. He came there, I think it was 1913. Then when war was declared, or it could have been 1914 , just after war was declared. Then when the war was on say a year or two years, then people used to drift in and they went and stayed with people like George Gethin and Jo Branch who were the local leaders of the Labour Party.
Lewis, Richard: The kind of people that used to come down, I was thinking of one manâ€™s name, Professor from Liverpool University. He had lost his job there because of his attitude towards the war. He came down and spent quite a long time with us, giving lectures in the local Liberty Hall on the life of the bee taking us up the mountain with Harry Davies, Cwm Afan, the Miners' leader, to study the local geology, and as a little boy I used to go with them. Then we used to go into the Crown Park in the afternoons, on Sunday afternoons, and listen to the local speakers coming there. These men like Walter Newbould used to come down.
Francis, Hywel: These classes, these lectures, were they organised by the ILP or..?
Lewis, Richard: These classes were organised by the ILP, but itâ€™s part of the atmosphere into which adult education fits. By the time the extramural department in Swansea was formed somewhere between 1920 and 1924, there was already a very large educational influence at work in the form of this political influence. And it wasn't just straight forward propaganda. Due to the accident of War all sorts of highly educated people moved through the area. You know you would be listening in the barber's shop when I was a boy, Iâ€™d be listening in the barberâ€™s shop to tremendous arguments over our attitude and the attitude of the Germans toward North Africa, for example, when the British fleet or the German fleet threatened to go to wasn't it, in 1912. This type of thing was continually being fought over and as a little boy I'd be listening to all this, and I suppose gathering something on the way.