Posted: Thu 30th Jun 2016

Blue Plaque For Miners’ Leader /
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Jun 30th, 2016

A Blue Plaque commemorating the life and achievements of one of the UK’s most prominent trade union leaders has been 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 took place at Rhondda Heritage Park on Saturday (June 25), with the support of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The welcome address was given by retired miner David Owen, also the Chairman of The Association of Friends of Rhondda Heritage Park, followed by an emotional speech from former Lewis Colliery miner Ivor England. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The Master of Ceremonies was former miner, Cllr Robert Bevan, Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Tourism and Planning. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

There were also performances from Cor Meibion Cwm Rhondda, The Plough Singers, Hafod Primary School Choir and The Lewis-Merthyr Band. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Other keynote speakers included Rhondda Cynon Taf Mayor, Cllr Rhys Lewis, author Hawys Glyn James and Wayne Thomas, Secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers (South Wales Area). ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

A large crowd enjoyed the day and everyone joined in the singing of The Welsh National Anthem, following the hymn Cwm Rhondda, which was written in 1905 by John Hughes and performed at Capel Rhondda in Hopkinstown in 1907. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The Blue Plaque in honour of A J Cook was officially unveiled by Rhondda Cynon Taf Mayor, Cllr Rhys Lewis. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Mayor, Cllr Rhys Lewis, said: “It gave me great pleasure to unveil the Blue Plaque in honour of one of the country’s most famous trade union leaders in history. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

“Arthur James Cook – or A J Cook as he was known – worked on the site of Rhondda Heritage Park decades ago, in the days when it was Lewis Merthyr Colliery. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

“He was General Secretary of the Miners’ Federation of Great Britain from 1924 until 1931, which included during one of the most turbulent times in mining history – The 1926 General Strike. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

“It was A J Cook who famously coined the phrase ‘Not a penny off the pay, not a minute on the day.’ ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

“I am delighted that A J Cook has been honoured with a Blue Plaque, and for that I applaud the efforts of the Association of the Friends of Rhondda Heritage Park.” ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The Blue Plaque event concluded with a talk based on the life of A J Cook, presented by David Chapple. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

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. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

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