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The brave men who stood up for their rights... and shaped a whole generation; CASE FILES REOPENED: PENRHYN QUARRY.

HWALFA, the first major production at the new Pontio CArts & Innovation Centre in Bangor, ends its run this weekend.

It tells the fictious story of Llechfaen, a community in despair during a lengthy industrial dispute more than a century ago.

But the play, adapted from T Rowland Hughes' epic novel, is based on the actual events of the Great Strike at Bethesda's Penrhyn quarry.

The Penrhyn dispute began in late 1900 when attempts by the owner, Lord Penrhyn, to eliminate the North Wales Quarrymen's Union's influence led to a walk-out by more than 2,000 men. When the quarry reopened in June 1901, fewer than 100 men returned to work.

Branded "cynffonwyr" (blacklegs) and "bradwyr" (traitors) these workers were often followed home by large crowds of people. Throwing stones at houses and "hooting", the blowing of large seashells outside their homes, was commonplace.

d hooting , eir The incidents play a key role in the production which has played to full houses at Pontio.

o. yn police a After Lord Penrhyn complained to the police a large number of officers were stationed in Bethesda and within days a number of men had been arrested and charged with intimidation. In July 1901, 12 men appeared before a judge and jury at Carnarvon (sic) Assizes charged with intimidation.

The case was heard on a Saturday and, according to a report in the Carnarvon and Denbigh Herald held in the archives at the National Library of Wales, Mr Justice Grantham sat for nearly 10 hours to hear the charges against seven men.

In a report of more than 3,000 words the paper said "the greatest interest was manifested in the trials, for the court was packed and hundreds of people failed to gain admission".

Mr F C Gill KC prosecuted and Mr Samuel Moss (and Denbighshire East MP) defended. He had been instructed by solicitors Lloyd George and George.

Seven men, Owen Jonah Owen, Thomas Jones, John Owen (Rhiwlas), John Owen (Llanrug), David Thomas, and Robert Williams, all quarrymen, and Richard John Williams, labourer, had their case heard first. They were charged with unlawfully following John Evans "with more than two persons in a disorderly manner, with a view to compelling him to abstain from working in the employment of Lord Penrhyn, at Bethesda, on the 11th June".

Mr Gill said the case was an important one but the facts were not very difficult.

He said: "Workmen had a right to exercise an absolute discretion as to the conditions on which they would accept employment and receive wages and nobody had any right to take exception to their conduct."

Superintendent Bees, of Conwy, who was stationed at Bethesda at the time of the alleged disturbance, described the abuse to which the workmen were subjected as they returned from work.

The crowd which followed them was disorderly, and in front were the defendants, who indulged iin a considerable amount of hooting. A oouple of stones, were also thrown.

The officer said one of the the defendants, Owen Jonah Owen, made himself especially obnoxious, shouting: "There, the devils are coming; let us kill them." He was cautioned twice and eventually told he would be summoned.

Mr Moss, addressing the jury, said there could be no doubt the drafting of a large number of police into the district created considerable excitement not only at Bethesda but in all the surrounding districts.

He said the sole question the jury had to try was had the men gone after John Evans with the deliberate intention of compelling him to abstain from work in the quariy.

If the jury found the crowd was a mere demonstration, a mere concourse of people who had been attracted to Bethesda by the unusual event of 40-60 policemen being there it was nothing but mere curiosity on the part of the crowd in the first instance, and nothing but an expression of disapproval on the part of the men at the conduct of those who had previously been with them but who had left them, then he should say, subject to any ruling of the judge, that no offence had been committed.

The jury considered their verdict for about half an hour. The newspaper reported much excitement in court when they they reappeared in the box. It added: "Asked for their verdict the Foreman read out the following: "While condemning the demonstrations which have taken place at Bethesda, we find that the defendants were not proved guilty. Loud cheers were raised in the crowded court, and a few minutes afterwards these were related with even greater vigour outside."

Similar charges against a further five men, Samuel John Roberts, Rees Hughes, Llewellyn Jones, David Thomas and John Davies, were dropped.

The street in front of the County Hall had been crowded with people throughout the day, but towards the evening, there was barely any room available and the crowd extended into Castle Square.There were a large number of policemen in the area including some brought in from Chester, Anglesey, Denbighshire, and Flintshire.

Concluding its report the newspaper said: "A cheer from the court reached the ears of those standing on the steps of the hall, who in turn cheered, and thus the result became known in a surprisingly short time, the vast crowd cheering together with great enthusiasm.

"Then some of the men appeared. They were greedily surrounded by their friends and congratulated upon all hands. There were no disorderly scenes whatever. When Mr Moss made his appearance in the street, he was accorded a tremendous ovation."

The strike ended in 1903 but ill feeling against those who endured the strike and those who returned to work remained for many years.

CAPTION(S):

Members of the WJ Parry defence fund committee who aided the Penrhyn lockout
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Publication:Daily Post (Conwy, Wales)
Geographic Code:1U5MD
Date:Feb 29, 2016
Words:963
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