THE WESTERN MAIL
& SOUTH WALES NEWS, April 25th, 1933
War on Unemployment
SOCIAL SERVICE WAR ON UNEM
PLOYMENT IN WALES
INSPIRING INFLUENCE OF WILLIAM NOBLE
Cobblers, Carpenters and Gardeners
BEAT HOLLAND WITH TULIPS AT WICK”
By GARETH JONES
every mining village and town in South Wales there are men idle. At
any hour of the day they stand on the street corner and while away the time.
of them are gifted. In one small
group Dai will have a good tenor voice. Evan
will have cunning hands made for craftsmanship.
A third will have be a champion at debating.
Most will have that keen intellect and sharpness most which characterises
the South Wales miner.
they stand idle.
every mining village and town there is land idle.
There are patches which could bring forth vegetables.
There are ugly slag-covered grounds which could be turned into football
fields and parks.
every village and town there are houses of the unemployed which want repairing.
There are chairs and tables which remain broken because the shillings for
the repairs are missing. There are
clothes and linen torn which want
there are brains idle, intellects lying fallow and degenerating.
The keenness is disappearing and the discussions are getting threadbare.
Apathy is growing, and disgust at life and at the economic system is
taking the place of the love of labour and pride at skill.
Deterioration of the use of the hands has led to deterioration of the
whole moral outlook.
there is money idle which could coordinate all these forces. There are empty
buildings and sheds. There are
Wales could bring all these idle forces together she would be grasping a
wonderful opportunity of showing the world how a small nation can save itself
from the demoralising effects of worklessness.
Get the idle gifted men, the unused land, the jobs which want doing, the
sharp but discarded brain working together and a great war will have been won.
war for the salvation of the workless is the greatest war which Wales has to
wage. Similar campaigns to save Wales have been carried out in the
past. Griffith Jones and Howell
Harris saved the degenerating Wales in the eighteenth century by their schools,
and inspired the whole nation with their enthusiasm for learning.
What was done by Welshmen in the eighteenth century can be repeated
campaign has already been launched by unselfish, hard-working men in the Rhondda
and elsewhere. One of the
headquarters of the campaign is the Maes-yr-Haf Settlement, Trealaw, Rhondda
where William and Emma Noble beginning the battle.
Maes-yr-Haf is a house on a hill looking down upon the black valley near
Tonypandy and looking up to the bare mountains of the Rhondda.
From this settlement William and Emma Noble extend their activities into
the surrounding valleys, and their influence touches about 4,000 people.
spirit behind the Maes-yr-Haf Settlement is typical of the best principles which
should guide work with the unemployed. William
Noble say: “The first need of the unemployed man is the continued fellowship
of sympathetic people and contact with associations that are stimulating and
encouraging. He must not be allowed
to develop the idea that he is a social outcast.
he must be helped in do things that are useful.
His skill most be maintained and encouraged, and new crafts taught if necessary.
is not good to make gifts in the form of charity which commands no exchange of
service, for it is not temporary aid that is needed.
What is useful is to make provision for men to spend some of their time
in centres, where equipment is provided and where they may be encouraged to make
for themselves things which they need centres where they can build up friendship
and exchange ideas with others of like interest.
unemployed man who have got into contact with William Noble have through his
inspiration built up many clubs is the Rhondda.
One of these “Unemployed Clubs” is housed in an old mineral water
factory, another is in a stable. The
members of these clubs have altered them and decorated them and have done
should these clubs be governed?” I
asked William Noble.
replied: “Self-government is essential, and democratic control of all
activities gives scope for many to share committee experience.
The clubs are striving to be independent, and there is weekly
contribution of 3d from which they try to pay lighting, rent, rates, and other
expenses. It costs approximately £60
to start this kind of club.”
SOME OF THE
do these clubs do? In all a little
cobbling a carried on, and some of the miner-cobblers have become expert.
Chairs and tables are made and repaired. Unemployed men make toys for hospitals and for children.
Craftsmanship is again coming into its own.
new hero of Wales is now the unemployed man who has turned himself into a
craftsman. All this work, however,
is definitely non-commercial. Members
offer their services voluntarily for the work of drainage, bricklaying, glazing,
wiring, and the quality of their labours has been excellent. One of the principles guiding the work is it shall not
compete on unfair terms with men in ordinary employment.
Only tasks are tackled which would otherwise be left undone.
is not only the physical side which is cultivated.
Classes meet in these clubs for discussions and lectures.
Unemployed miners become students of philosophy and economics, and of
literature. They form choirs, and
each club has a piano. The more
energetic unemployed have made gymnasia for themselves, building vaulting horses
from wood and sacking.
clubs in the Rhondda test look for guidance in Maes-yr-Haf Settlement.
So it is well to return to the house on the hill and visit the workshops.
enter the room where women are weaving. We
examine the rugs and the cloth they make. The
work is striking. The patterns have
an artistic value which contrasts with many factory products. There is an individual note about each design.
a hut near the house there is a sound of revelry.
A social is in progress, and we can hear a Welsh song.
Nor is the Settlement without its humour. We ask a little boy, aged four, what his name is.
He replies, “Ramsey MacDonald Jones,” and we wonder what the father
thinks of the name now.
unemployed men themselves are mainly responsible for the work they have done in
the clubs, but the inspiration has come from William Noble, who is a Quaker, and
his helpers. Whilst many members of
the Society of Friends have been consistent supporters of Maes-yr-Haf, the work
itself is not organised by the Society of Friends.
influence of William Noble is not limited to the Rhondda. If we leave Tonypandy, descend into the Vale of Glamorgan and
arrive in Wick, we will find an old malthouse.
The green fields of Y Fro, Forgannwg stretch all round.
To the south, across the Channel, there is a view of the mountains of
Somerset and Devon.
the solid grey malthouse seventeen men from the Rhondda have been working
throughout the winter. They have
been making their new home shipshape. Although
some of them were men who had never handled a carpenters tool in their lives
they now make chairs, tables, bookcases, and cupboards, which they will keep for
their families. Their handiwork
will not be sold, since it is illegal for men receiving unemployment benefit to
sell such products.
the summer men will come each week from the Rhondda to camp in Wick.
The work is cultural also, for the educational side is extensive.
But the most striking impression one has in Wick is a magnificent bed of
white, pink, yellow, and red tulips. “We’ll
beat Holland at Wick.” That is
the spirit in which the unemployed are working
Wick a new type of Welsh hero is living. In
the Middle Ages the Welsh hero was the fighter for liberty.
Later it was the educationalist. Today
the hero is the man who conquers unemployment.
Such a man is the workless Rhondda miner who becomes a craftsman.
Such a man also is Wyn Carter who, like an American pioneer, has battled
against the scrub and brushwood and built up an excellent poultry farm.
is a touch of adventure about his work. He
was a collier who learned joinery at the Maes-yr-Haf Settlement, and was one of
five men whom Maes-yr-Haf settled on the land.
He looked bronzed, healthy, and happy when I went to see his farm. His children were strong and red-cheeked.
A bonfire was burning where he had cleared brushwood.
He showed me the coops and sheds which he had built himself, and first
class work they were. Now he has
is estimated that such a man can be made self-supporting after a few years.
But his great difficulty is marketing.
Wyn Carter is, moreover, saving the country about £75 per year, for he
does not receive unemployment insurance.
are some of the ways in which the war against unemployment is being carried on
in Wales. They are only small
attacks, for the enemy has enormous strength, but there are other weapons in the
war which will be described tomorrow