Symud i'r prif gynnwys

Noah Ablett 1883-19351 David Egan Seventy-five years ago to this day there began in the Mid- Rhondda Fawr a series of disturbances, which we know as 'the Tonypandy Riots', that took place against the black drop of the equally significant Cambrian Combine Dispute. Llafur marks this anniversary by meeting here in Tonypandy, but this lecture marks a different but not unnrelated anniversary. It might be said that even more than most historical societies Llafur has something approaching a fetish for commemoration! Perhaps it is re-assuring therefore to learn that those we chose to study were often similarly inclined! On 5 May 1918 at the Baths, Tonypandy, the socialists of the Rhondda gathered to mark and celebrate the centenary of the birth of Karl Marx. Here is part of a newspaper report of the event The afternoon meeting took the form of a student's discussion of Marx as a scientist, philosopher and economist. In the evening a public meeting was held attended by a large number of students and the general public. Mr. Ablett kicked off in his usual style, but had to leave early to catch his train.2 It would appear that the vagaries of inter-valley public transport in South Wales were as productive of a form of mentus interruptus in 1918 as they often contrive to be today! For, despite any 'usuality' of style, we can be confident that the socialists of the Rhondda-and by derivation as historical observers, ourselves-suffered through the premature departure of Noah Ablett to Merthyr Tydfil, where he worked as the local Miners' Agent of the South Wales Miners' Federation. Here then we mark the anniversary of Noah Ablett's death, which occurred on 31 October 1935 at Merthyr Tydfil, fifty-two years after his birth at Ynyshir in the Rhondda Fach.3 Since his death fulsome tribute has been paid to Ablett's achievement as a miners' leader, a major inspirer of the movement for Independent Working-Class Education and a pioneer Welsh Marxist. To his distinguished contemporary Aneurin Bevan he was 'a leader of great intellectual power and immense influence'.4 An equally warm judgement of Ablett has emanated from historians: in the view of Dr. Kenneth Morgan, for example, he was 'the most important ideologue produced by Wales generally in the Edwardian period'. 5 In death his appeal seems, if anything, to have broadened as well as endured, for it was a leading member of Plaid Cymru who two years ago called for recognition of the centenary of Ablett's birth and championed his right to appeal to our national memory.6 In many ways, however, the image of an audience frustrated through the early departure of a train might serve as an allegory for our knowledge in substance of the life and achievements of Noah Ablett. Much of what we know about Ablett relies on the chimera of a reputation which now focused on the didactic progenitor of The Miners' Next Step, then is drawn to the vision of the brilliant inspirer of the Central Labour College, but too often returns inescapably to the view of the broken and shamed alcoholic. If we are not careful such superficiality threatens to devalue an