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South Wales Miners' Federation

The South Wales Miners' Federation (SWMF), nicknamed "The Fed", was a trade union for coal miners in South Wales. It survives as the South Wales Area of the National Union of Mineworkers.

South Wales Miners' Federation
South Wales Area of the National Union of Mineworkers logo.jpg
Founded24 October 1898
Members102 (2016[1]
Head unionNational Union of Mineworkers
Key peopleWayne Thomas (secretary)
Kevin T. Thomas (chair)
Office locationMaescyoed, Pontypridd
CountryUnited Kingdom


The Amalgamated Association of Miners (AAM) was influential in South Wales during the early 1870s, but it collapsed in 1875. Of the AAM's various districts, only the Cambrian Miners' Association survived the collapse, but it steadily grew in membership, and other local unions were founded. The local unions disagreed over whether to negotiate wages as part of a "sliding scale", where pay rose and fell in line with coal export prices. This began to change in 1892, when the unions formed a joint committee. Its initial members were William Abraham, David Beynon, Thomas Davies, Daronwy Isaac, J. Jones, David Morgan, Alfred Onions and Morgan Weeks from the sliding scale districts, and David Ajax, John Davies, J. Edwards, Joseph Phillips and M. Williams from the non-sliding scale districts. Thomas Richards was elected as secretary, and the following year, Abraham was elected as president, Morgan as vice-president, and Josiah Edwards as the treasurer. The committee achieved little, but formed a basis for the formation of the SWMF.[2]


The union was founded on 24 October 1898,[3] following the defeat of the South Wales miners' strike of 1898. Numerous local coal miners' unions found their funds depleted and decided to merge. They include:

Union[4][5] Founded Joined Membership (1892) Membership (1898)
Aberdare, Merthyr and Dowlais Miners' Association 1882 1898 7,000 500
Anthracite Miners' Association 1882 1898 3,500 6,050
Cambrian Miners' Association 1872 1898 14,000 (1885) 10,000 (1893)
Colliery Enginemen and Stokers of Neath and District 1892 1900 55 186
Ebbw Vale and Sirhowy Colliery Workmen's Association 1884 1898 2,500 3,500
Garw Miners' Association 1880 1898 3,000 (1890)
Monmouthshire and South Wales Miners' Association 1887 1898 6,059 70
Monmouth Western Valley Miners' Association 1897 1898 N/A 500
Rhymney Valley Miners' Association 1893 1898 2,500 (1893) 1,917
Western Miners' Association 1872 1898 4,540 5,588

Despite its name, the new union was not a federation; the former unions were dissolved and became the basis of twenty districts, each with one or more full-time agents. By 1914, four districts had more than 10,000 members: Anthracite, Monmouthshire & Western Valleys, Rhondda No.1, and Tredegar Valley.[6]


The new union affiliated to the Miners' Federation of Great Britain (MFGB) in 1899.[7]

In the early twentieth century, its leadership were aligned with the Liberal Party; MPs Thomas Richards, William Abraham, John Williams and William Brace all took the Liberal Party whip in parliament. However, when the MFGB held a ballot on affiliation to the Labour Party in 1906, a majority of SWMF members voted in favour. As the national federation narrowly voted against, another vote was held in 1908, by which time SWMF members voted 74,675 to 44,616 in favour.[8] Some in the union were radicalised by such events as the Cambrian Combine Dispute and the Tonypandy Riot of 1910.

The union was divided into districts, and in the early years, these were powerful bodies. They varied greatly in size, and those with more than 3,000 members were entitled to an automatic place on the union's executive, plus an extra place for each additional 6,000 members. Each district held a monthly meeting, comprising one delegate from each lodge, and was led by a district executive. Each district elected at least one agent, who then served until they chose to retire, thus making the role hugely important.[9]

The number of districts gradually increased, to a peak of twenty, then with the abolition to the tiny Saundersfoot district, continued at nineteen until 1934. By this point, most districts were struggling financially, and so a complete restructure took place. The districts were replaced by eight areas, employing one or more agents, but otherwise much less important, governance moving to the level of the combine or lodge.[9]

District (to 1933) Forerunner Membership (1914)[6] Area (from 1934)[10] Headquarters[10]
Anthracite Anthracite Miners' Association 10,856 No.1: Anthracite Swansea
Western Western Miners' Association 7,330
Afan Valley Created 1908 2,600 No.2: Afan Valley Port Talbot
Garw Garw Miners' Association 3,747 No.3: Garw Bridgend
Maesteg Created 1898 5,435
Ogmore and Gilfach Created 1903 2,077
Pontypridd and Rhondda Created 1898 3,422 No.4: Rhondda Porth
Rhondda No.1 Cambrian Miners' Association 18,956
Aberdare Aberdare, Merthyr and Dowlais Miners' Association 4,903 No.5: Merthyr, Aberdare and Dowlais Aberdare
Dowlais 2,482
Merthyr 2,257
Taff and Cynon Created 1899 3,376
East Glamorgan Created 1898 3,529 No.6: Rhymney Valley Bargoed
Rhymney Valley Rhymney Valley Miners' Association 6,367
Ebbw Vale Ebbw Vale and Sirhowy Colliery Workmen's Association 4,000 No.7: Tredegar Pontllanfraith
Tredegar Valley Created 1898 10,051
Blaina Created 1899 4,284 No.8: Blaina and West Monmouth Crumlin
Eastern Valleys Created 1899 6,155
Monmouth Western Valleys Monmouth Western Valley Miners' Association 10,731
Saundersfoot Created 1900 356 Dissolved by 1926

These were gradually reduced, and by 1979 only five districts existed:[11]

  • Aberdare, Rhondda and Merthyr
  • Maesteg
  • Monmouthshire
  • Rhymney
  • Swansea

Over the years, there were a few splits from the union. The Monmouthshire and South Wales Colliery Enginemen, Stokers and Surface Craftsmen's General Association left in 1903.[12] The South Wales Miners' Industrial Union, a moderate breakaway union was set up in 1926 in opposition to the General Strike but was disbanded in 1938. In 1940, the SWMF also started representing miners in the Forest of Dean.

In 1945, the MFGB became the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), and the Fed became the NUM (South Wales Area), with less autonomy than before.

In 1960, the South Wales Area was expanded to include the Somerset coalfield.



1898: William Abraham[13]
1912: William Brace[13]
1920: James Winstone[13]
1922: Vernon Hartshorn[13]
1924: Enoch Morrell[13]
1934: James Griffiths[13]
1936: Arthur Horner[13]
1946: Alf Davies[13]
1951: Will Paynter[13]
1959: William Whitehead[13]
1966: Glyn Williams[13]
1973: Emlyn Williams[13]
1986: Des Dutfield[13]
1991: Position abolished[13]


1898: Thomas Richards[13]
1931: Oliver Harris[13]
1941: Evan Williams[13]
1943: W. J. Saddler[13]
1946: Evan Williams[13]
1947: William Arthur[13]
1951: W. H. Crews[13]
1958: D. D. Evans[13]
1963: Dai Francis[13]
1976: George Rees[13]
1997: Wayne Thomas[13]

Vice PresidentsEdit

1898: William Brace
1912: James Winstone
1921: Enoch Morrell
1925: S. O. Davies
1934: Arthur Jenkins
1935: W. J. Saddler
1943: Alf Davies
1946: Will Arthur
1947: W. H. Crews
1953: D. D. Evans
1957: Glyn Williams
1967: Emlyn Williams[13]
1974: George Rees[13]
1976: Will Haydn Thomas[13]
1981: Des Dutfield[13]
1984: Terry Thomas[13]


  1. ^ Trade Union Certification Officer, "Annual Return for a Trade Union: National Union of Mineworkers - South Wales Area: 2016"
  2. ^ Edwards, Ness (1938). History of the South Wales Miners' Federation. London: Laurence and Wishart. p. 7.
  3. ^ Lewis, E.D. The Rhondda Valleys, Phoenix House: London, (1959) pg 172
  4. ^ Arthur Marsh and Victoria Ryan, Historical Directory of Trade Unions, vol.2, pp.201-258
  5. ^ Robin Page Arnot, South Wales Miners, p.60
  6. ^ a b Robin Page Arnot, South Wales Miners, pp.74, 334
  7. ^ The Welsh Academy Encyclopaedia of Wales. John Davies, Nigel Jenkins, Menna Baines and Peredur Lynch (2008) pg827 ISBN 978-0-7083-1953-6
  8. ^ David Howell, British Workers and the Independent Labour Party, 1888-1906, p.51
  9. ^ a b Hywel Francis and David Smith, The Fed, pp.74–75, 185–187
  10. ^ a b Hywel Francis and David Smith, The Fed, pp.206–207
  11. ^ Hywel Francis and David Smith, The Fed, p.513
  12. ^ Robin Page Arnot, South Wales Miners, p.184
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad Curtis, Ben (2007). The South Wales Miners: 1964-1985. Pontypridd: University of Glamorgan. p. 318.

Further readingEdit

  • Edwards, Ness History of the South Wales Miners' Federation; vol. 1. Lawrence & Wishart, 1938