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Miners Hero Remembered In Tonypandy Riots Centenary

The great-nephew of one of Rhondda’s most famous militant trade unionists and politicians is coming back to the county borough to commemorate the Tonypandy Riots.

Ivor Davies, an electronic design engineer from Paisley in Scotland is the great-nephew of former miners leader William Henry Mainwaring.

Less than two years after the Tonypandy Riots, W.H. Mainwaring (1884-1971) was one of the writers of “The Miners Next Step” It was a syndicalist manifesto suggesting how ownership and control of the coal pits should change.

“The Miners Next Step” was written by the 'Unofficial Reform Committee', which included socialists such as Noah Ablett and Mainwaring. In the leaflet the authors demanded a minimum wage and a seven-hour working day.

Mr Davies will visit Tonypandy a century after the famous Riots to pay tribute to his great-uncle and the legacy he and his colleagues left not only on the industrial heartland of South Wales, but the country as a whole.

Mr Davies, aged 48, and living in Basingstoke, never met his famous ancestor, but this weekend the two will become further linked by a century of history. Mr Mainwaring himself attended the unveiling of the Lady With The Lamp statue in 1909. On Sunday his great-nephew will see the refurbished statute unveiled a second time during the commemoration events to mark the Riots of a hundred years ago.

His father, Idris Davies was born in 1908 at the family home in Blaenclydach but moved to Scotland and was married following World War II. In 1962, his son Ivor was born but just seven years later Idris passed away.

More than forty years later Ivor Davies began a family history research project which unearthed an election leaflet for Maidenhead in 1945 where his father was standing as a local Labour candidate. The leaflet mentioned he was the nephew of the Rhondda East MP at the time.

With further research he discovered his grandmother, Bessie, was the sister of W.H.Mainwaring.

“My chest swelled with pride when I realised I was related to W.H.”, Ivor explained. “By using online forums and researching tirelessly into the subject, I didn’t just learn more about this magnificent man, but also became acquainted with family members in Wales I didn’t even know I had.

“Unfortunately, by the time most of us are interested in family history, many of the older generations have passed away, as was the case with W.H. I’d like to have met him and can just imagine what sort of figure he was.

“My own Dad was just two years old when the Riots took place, but I expect the Mainwaring household was a hive of activity during those days. Just think of the striking miners and officials turning up at the door, while this crying baby was somewhere in the background. It really is amazing.

“I can’t wait to visit Tonypandy, join in the commemoration events and hopefully meet people who knew the family and can shed more light on my great-uncle’s life and works.”

Born in Swansea, W.H. Mainwaring moved to the Rhondda to work in the Cambrian Colliery at Clydach Vale after his grandfather, who owned a small colliery, was killed on the tracks of the Mumbles Railway Line.

In adulthood he became a member of the Social Democratic Federation and of its Marxian club at Blaenclydach, before joining the Independent Labour Party and the Plebs' League.

Active in the South Wales Miners' Federation (SWMF) lodge at the Cambrian colliery, he served on the Cambrian Combine committee and was prominent in the Cambrian Combine dispute and Tonypandy Riots.

He helped to establish the Unofficial Reform Committee, a Rhondda-based grouping of union militants that was increasingly drawn on the principles of industrial unionism, and he acted as the committee's secretary from 1910 until 1913. He contributed regularly to the radical weeklies the Rhondda Socialist Newspaper and the South Wales Worker. At the same time he led the call for the establishment of a formal Labour Party organisation in the Rhondda valleys.

By 1918 Mainwaring was secretary of the Rhondda West divisional Labour Party and chairman of the Cambrian lodge. During this time he was a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain, but left in disappointment in 1924 after failing to win the backing of the Miners' Minority Movement for the south Wales ballot to nominate a candidate for the post of secretary of the Mineworkers' Federation of Great Britain.

Standing anyway in south Wales, Mainwaring was narrowly beaten by Arthur James Cook

From 1924 until 1933 Mainwaring was miners' agent for the Rhondda no. 1 district of the SWMF and a member of the SWMF executive council. When sitting Labour MP David Watts Morgan died in 1933, Mainwaring was selected as Labour candidate for the Rhondda East constituency and won the by-election.

He faced Communist candidates in all subsequent general elections, defeating the Communist Party secretary, Harry Pollitt, in 1935, 1945 (by 972 votes), and 1950. With a power base at the Penygraig Labour and Progressive Club he rebuilt the local Labour Party organisation and restored the party's reputation after a corruption scandal in 1935.

He was a member of the Royal Commission on Rhodesia in 1938 and visited the area to gather evidence. A firm supporter of the policy to fight in Korea in 1950, he was a staunch opponent of Welsh nationalism. He retired in 1959 and died 12 years later at the age of 87.

For further information on the commemoration events of the Tonypandy Riots taking place on Sunday, November 7th, visit