A Blue Plaque commemorating the life and achievements of one of the UK’s most prominent trade union leaders is being unveiled at Rhondda Heritage Park, the site of the former Lewis Merthyr Colliery.
Arthur James Cook, known as A J Cook, was General Secretary of the Miners’ Federation of Great Britain from 1924 until 1931, which included leading the miners during the 1926 General Strike.
Funded by the Association of Friends of Rhondda Heritage Park, the unveiling of the Blue Plaque will take place at Rhondda Heritage Park on Saturday, June 25. The Council is delighted to be supporting this event.
Cllr Joy Rosser, Cabinet Member for Prosperity, Wellbeing and Communities, said: “Rhondda Cynon Taf has been the home of so many influential people in history and it is fitting that a Blue Plaque in honour of A J Cook is unveiled at Rhondda Heritage Park, the place where he once worked.
“Arthur James Cook was a miners’ leader during one of the most turbulent times in mining history and his role in the industrial life of these workers is well documented.
“His workplace, the former Lewis Merthyr Colliery, is now a place where the life of the men who worked there is remembered and celebrated.
“Thousands of people visit the Rhondda Heritage Park each year and the Blue Plaque will be displayed in a prominent place for all to see.”
Born in Somerset in 1883, the son of a soldier, A J Cook spent his childhood growing up in the West Country before moving to Porth in the Rhondda Valley at the age of 18, and later to Merthyr Tydfil, to work in the local coal mines.
Whilst working at the Lewis Merthyr Colliery in Trehafod, A J Cook soon became involved in politics and a member of the Independent Labour Party, first coming to prominence during the 1910 miners strike, culminating in what became known as the Tonypandy Riots.
A J Cook, at the age of 39, was elected as leader of the South Wales Miners’ Federation in 1921 and eventually became General Secretary of the Miners’ Federation of Great Britain in 1924, a post he held for the next seven years.
He also served as Secretary of the International Miners' Federation and worked closely with the Communist Party after its formation in 1920 and the National Minority Movement from 1294 to 1929.
He sadly died in 1931, aged 47, after a battle with cancer.
The Lewis Merthyr Colliery, where A J Cook once worked, sadly ceased production in 1983. But at its peak, more than 1,160 people worked at the pit, producing around 1,250 tonnes of coal each day.
The site of the former Lewis Merthyr Colliery is now the home of the Council’s Rhondda Heritage Park, one of the area’s most popular tourist attractions. Original features include the Pithead Gear, Trefor Winding House, the Colliery Courtyard and the Bertie Winding House.
Visitors can also follow in the footsteps of the coal miners by taking part in a unique Underground Tour Experience, led by retired colliers.
The Blue Plaque in honour of A J Cook will be unveiled at Rhondda Heritage Park on Saturday, June 25. It has been funded by The Association of Friends of Rhondda Heritage Park.
Other Blue Plaques across Rhondda Cynon Taf celebrate the lives of the likes of actors Donald Houston and Stanley Baker, boxers Tommy Farr and Freddie Welsh, cyclist Arthur Linton, baritone Sir Geraint Evan, singer and entertainer Dorothy Squires, and many more.
The unveiling of the Blue Plaque in honour of A J Cook will take place at Rhondda Heritage Park on Saturday, June 25 (12pm). All are welcome. For further details on all the attractions and facilities at Rhondda Heritage Park, call 01443 682036