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EDWARDS, HUW THOMAS (1892 - 1970), trade union leader and politician

Name: Huw Thomas Edwards
Date of birth: 1892
Date of death: 1970
Spouse: Margaret Edwards
Child: Elizabeth Catherine Edwards
Child: Gwynfor Edwards
Parent: Elizabeth Edwards (née Williams)
Parent: Huw Edwards
Gender: Male
Occupation: trade union leader and politician
Area of activity: Business and Industry; Politics, Government and Political Movements
Author: John Graham Jones

Born 19 November 1892 at Pen-y-Ffridd, Ro-wen in the Conwy valley, Caernarfonshire, the youngest of the seven children of Huw Edwards, farmer and quarryman and his wife. He received very little formal education, but was brought up in a cultured and religious home environment. In 1907, at 14 years of age, he accompanied his father to work at the Penmaen-mawr granite quarry. He used to walk to work from the slopes of Tal-y-fan mountain to Penmaen-mawr. He displayed something of the adventurer's spirit when he ran away to south Wales to work in the coal mines of the Rhondda valley. He was at Tonypandy at the time of the 1911 strike. He used to box locally on Saturdays in order to supplement his meagre earnings.

Edwards was severely wounded during World War I, but he returned to work in the coal mines and slate quarries of north Wales where he set up branches of the T.G.W.U. and the Labour Party. He was elected a member of Penmaen-mawr Rural District Council which he served as chairman. In the general election of 1929 he acted as agent to Thomas ap Rhys who opposed D. Lloyd George as Labour candidate for the Caernarfon Boroughs. While Edwards was unemployed in 1932 he was appointed a full-time trades union official when he succeeded Arthur Deakin as the Shotton area secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union. From 1934 until 1953 he served as the T.G.W.U. area secretary for North Wales and Ellesmere Port. He was chosen J.P. for the county of Flint.

Huw T. Edwards became an important, influential figure in Welsh public life from the period of the Attlee government. As he was well known in both north and south Wales, and had extensive experience of the activities of Welsh local government, he was chosen as the first chairman of the Council of Wales and Monmouthshire in 1949. During the nine years which he spent in the post, he collaborated closely with Sir William Jones to produce important reports on devolution and on depopulation in the rural areas of Wales. He resigned from the Council in 1958 as a protest against the failure of the Macmillan government to implement the Council's recommendations in relation to the appointment of a Secretary of State for Wales and other administrative reforms. Edwards also chaired the Welsh Tourist Board for 15 years (and he headed a deputation to Russia), the Flintshire Education Committee and the Clwyd and Deeside Hospital Board. He served on the board of directors of Television Wales and the West and of the National Broadcasting Council of the B.B.C., and was a member of Gorsedd y Beirdd (his bardic name was 'Huw Pen Ffridd'), and of the Council of the National Eisteddfod, of the Wales Gas Board and of the National Assistance Board. He was one of the directors of Gwasg Gee, Denbigh, and a vice-president of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion. He was described as 'the unofficial Prime Minister of Wales'. Edwards owned Y Faner for a few years after 1956 during a critical period in the history of the newspaper. He invested his own private money in it, and he fought for its existence in influential circles, ensuring its future until it was taken over by Gwasg y Sir, Bala.

Huw T. Edwards was a socialist through-and-through, and a member of the Labour Party throughout his life until September 1959 when he joined Plaid Cymru, but he reverted to his former allegiance in 1965. He was the president of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (the Welsh Language Society). For many years he served as the chairman of the Flintshire Labour Party and the North Wales Labour Federation. Yet he won the respect and confidence of whose who leaned to the right in the political spectrum. On several occasions attempts were made to persuade him to stand as a parliamentary candidate on behalf of the Labour Party, but he refused each time.

Edwards took an interest in both poetry and prose writing. He published two volumes of autobiography in Welsh - Tros y Tresi (1956) and Troi'r Drol (1963). These were translated into English as It was my privilege (1962) and Hewn from the rock (1967). He also edited Ar y cyd: cerddi gan Huw T. Edwards, Mathonwy Hughes, Gwilym R. Jones a Rhydwen Williams (1962).

He was honoured by Gorsedd y Beirdd and the University of Wales (LL.D., honoris causa, 1957), but he refused to accept the M.B.E. and declined an invitation to be knighted at the Investiture of the Prince of Wales at Caernarfon castle in July 1969.

His wife Margaret died in June 1966, and Edwards spent the last years of his life at the home of his daughter at Soughton. He died 9 November 1970 at Abergele hospital, and his remains were cremated at Pentrebychan, Wrexham crematorium. His papers were deposited at the National Library of Wales.


Published date: 2001

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