career illness, death or illness of a parent at a crucial stage, relationships with teachers, and peer group pressure. For those who entered the coal industry at an early age conditions were such as to induce some to want to leave, whilst the sense of disillusion and anger over appalling working conditions and bitter disputes with seemingly uncaring and grasping employers led many to want to change the economic, social and political order through industrial and political action. They were aided in this aim by the growing strength of trade unionism and the democratisation of local government which enabled talented and aspiring individuals to obtain positions in the trade union movement, in local government, and in election to Parliament. Those impelled in this direction were assisted by a number of institutions; the workmen's institutes which proliferated in the mining valleys offered library and reading facilities second to none, and performed the same function as had some of the mechanics' institutes in the nineteenth century, whilst WEA classes enabled them to pursue their studies in a formal setting, leading many on to the Central Labour College in London and to colleges of the 'second chance', Ruskin College, Oxford (1899) and Coleg Harlech (1927). Those who succeeded through these means made as significant a contribution to the resurgence of Wales as did the talented and successful products of the intermediate schools who aspired to positions in professional and academic life. Notable examples of those who entered the coal industry early in life only to attain influential positions in the trade union movement in later life were Noah Ablett and Edward Hughes. Noah Ablett (1883 1935)48 who was bom at Porth, became a miner then checkweigher at Maerdy colliery. In 1911 he became an executive member of the South Wales Miners' Federation and subsequently was elected to the Executive Committee of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain. He was instrumental in promoting the Plebs League, a movement which promoted workers education through classes in Marxist theory, sociology and industrial economics. Edward Hughes (1856 1925)49 who was bom near St Asaph was working underground by the time he was seven years of age. At nineteen he walked to Liverpool to catch a train to the Durham coalfield where he found work at the Easington colliery. He returned in 1887 to work at the Point of Ayr colliery where, after successfully leading a strike, he was appointed a checkweigher, three years later becoming the financial secretary of the Denbigh and Flintshire Miners' Association. In 1897 he became general secretary of the North Wales Miners' Association, later being elected to the Executive Committee of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain. A Denbighshire councillor in 1901 he was a county alderman from 1907 to 1918. The impact of the new working-class leaders was also evident at Westminster. Following the Reform Act of 1832 and the subsequent Acts 1867 1884 successive waves of industrialists, solicitors, and teachers displaced the dominance of the landowning gentry in Parliament. By the end of the century representatives of the working class, especially of mining communities, who had risen through trade union activity and participation in local government, were also being elected. Their numbers grew until the General Election of December 1923 when ten former miners were returned for Welsh constituen- cies. The pantheon of such champions included such notables as Aneurin Bevan, Ness Edwards, David Grenfell and James Griffiths, but there were also many other lesser-known figures. 48 DWB, p. 113. 49 DWB, p.373.