A Letter to the Editor 1959

In which The Author’s friend opens a can of worms

I made it to Aberdare Library quite late on Friday afternoon. I’d been captured by the world and his wife on the way into town, queued behind assorted doddering coffin-dodgers in the Post Office, and then waited ages to be seen in the Jobcentre.
When I finally got to the Reference Section, Denise said she had something for me.
My old friend Steven Graham took early retirement from the library last summer, after working there for as long as I can remember (mid-1980s). Since then I’ve seen him at least once a week, as he’s a keen historian and usually has a project or two on the go. (Sound familiar, anyone…?)
While looking through old copies of the Aberdare Leader, Steven had turned up a letter from 28 November 1959.
I hadn’t been born, so I’ve got no recollection of this particular controversy. As far as I can tell, plans had been tabled to redevelop a large area of the town centre by demolishing hundreds of the Victorian houses, completely redrawing the street plan which Geoff and I have been researching for months. It looks as though Steven has stumbled upon something else to mention in our book when (if?) it sees the light of day.
Anyway, Dad had clearly decided to contribute his two penn’orth to the debate. Steven had taken a scan, printed it out, and very kindly left it behind the counter for me.
Dad had only just turned 31 when he wrote this. He was working in Aberdare town centre, with his finger on the pulse of community life, and was clearly as disillusioned with the local Labour Party then as I am (and many other people are) now.
Two decades after this letter,Dad was a member of Cynon Valley Borough Council; at about the same time, one of his colleagues had been elected under the Protectionist banner. Dad had initially been a member of Plaid Cymru, before striking out as an Independent candidate and retaining his seat next time out.
I’ve recently nailed my colours to the Plaid Cymru mast. After voting for them several times, helping my friends out with leafletting, and talking up the local candidate whenever the chance arises, I decided it was time to put my money where my mouth is. Dad was in his mid-50s when he first stood for the council. It’s crossed my mind a few times lately, too. There’s a long history of families getting involved in local politics around here. Maybe next time, eh?
Other aspects of community life remain as constant as the ebb and flow of the tides. The Aberdare Leader has changed its name, shrunk to a tabloid, gone full-colour, and relocated its base of operations to Cardiff. Even so, there’s a typo in the published version of Dad’s letter. Plus ça change, as they say across the Channel…
PROTECTIONISTS ARE NOT BOGEY MEN!
Sir: I read with interest the news story in the “Leader” last week headed “Labour to hit back at Protectionists” and found myself what the ultimate fate of our town will be if the Aberdare Labour Group continue to be the majority group on our Council.
I say the “Aberdare Labour Group” deliberately because I cannot believe that their policies are the same as those of the National Labour Party which, I am sure, would not intentionally inflict anxiety on whole towns with devastating bombshells like our infamous Town Plan.
The outlook of our local “Group” is so small that a member of the Trades and Labour Council states quite clearly that the “Town Plan issue has now faded.” May I ask if it is not true that the only place where it has “faded” is the Housing Minister’s office, from where, upon completion of the result of the public inquiry, it can be brought back out and at the Minister’s discretion, be either scrapped or implemented?
Make no mistake, the danger is as grave now as ever and far too many people in Aberdare realise it and will not again be fooled by misleading election leaflets.
I am afraid the tendency among our Labour councillors is to try to present the Protectionists as some kind as bogey-men out to sabotage Socialism, whereas, in fact, some of our Protectionist councillors are, and always have been, staunch Socialists and equally staunch democrats, who value the right of the individual to live in his own home free from all fears.
I am sure the Protectionists will welcome the fact that the Labour Group are to hit back, as, quite probably, a great many more faults which the people of Aberdare have the right to know about will be brought to light.
As to the result of the fight, we must wait and see, but I recall that during the last three years, when fights have taken place, ten stalwart champions of the Aberdare Labour Party have hit the canvass [sic] for the full count!
Finally, I note that the Trades and Labour Council are contemplating holding a public meeting and, as in the case of another well-remembered public meeting [check facts – Ed.], the venue is to be the Coliseum.
An admirable choice because, apart from being a very fine hall, it has a magnificent stage curtain which the people who attended that other public meeting will remember, can be dropped very quickly if things get too hot for the speakers!
Yours, etc.,
T. O’GORMAN
Melrose,
Meirion Street, Trecynon.
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