More on Jim
On this page you will find stories, quotes and thoughts about Jim, from those that knew him and his own writing. There are also featured quotes from significant FIGURES on the success of the #CofioJim campaign.
Jim Griffiths writing on his early life in the mines, published in the Carmarthenshire Historian in 1968 (available here)
I worked in anthracite mines for sixteen years and bear its blue scars on my body and carry its dust in my lungs. I owe a deep debt of gratitude to my old mates of the mine.
They Initiated me into public service when they appointed me as a member of the Works Committee; they provided the scholarship which enabled me to enjoy the privilege of two years at the Labour College; they elected me as their Miners' Agent and honoured me with the Presidency of the South Wales Miners' Federation.
In half a century of public life, in Trade Union and Parliament glo-carreg has been my base. And now, at close of day, I am saddened as learn of the old mines closing down for ever.
"A worthwhile campaign"
Professor Sir Deian Hopkin, Historian
Gwynoro Jones, former MP for Carmarthen (1970-4) on his memories of Jim:
"I had just been selected candidate for Carmarthen in 1967 and Jim was guest of honour at a dinner in the Smith Arms, Foelgastell. Eager to impress at a time Wilson’s Government was facing economic difficulties I said - ‘these are difficult days Jim’ he immediately replied ‘bachgen bach I remember difficult years’.
"That he most certainly did from the 1920s through to the 1940s. He was a Welshman to the core of his being and a strong advocate for workers’ rights."
"A great idea"
Alun Gibbard, Welsh broadcaster and author, on the #CofioJim campaign
An extract from one of Jim Griffiths' first recorded speeches he made in Parliament (23 April 1936)
"I have lived all my life in South Wales, and come from mining forebears on both sides. I see now a South Wales vastly different from the South Wales of my youth.
"I see a coalfield which has been cut in halves in a little more than 10 years. Ten years ago there were 260,000 persons who found employment in the pits there, and they were employed, in the main, for five or six days a week. Now it is reduced to a coalfield with less than 130,000 persons, and nearly half of those do not know what it is to have a full week's work and a full week's wage.
"It is a coalfield in which the percentage of unemployment is more than double the average for the whole country, an area in which there are townships, valleys, whole communities reduced to poverty."
"Delighted to be supporting the campaign to erect a statue of the great Jim Griffiths, who served as Llanelli’s MP for 34 years. Jim was a champion for Welsh people."
Nia Griffith, MP for Llanelli
Jim on his first day in work as a junior collier's boy at the age of 13. An extract from his autobiography, Pages from Memory (1969)
At the age of thirteen I had reached the top of the ladder at the Betws Board School-Standard X-7. Already some of my classmates had started work at pit or mill and on Saturdays would swank about their pocket-money. At home I had overheard whispered conversations about my future. Should it be the mine, the tinplate mill, or another school? One of my classmates had found a place at the intermediate school at Llandeilo and we envied him his cap and blazer. My father had his own plan for me. To the coal-mine for a year or so, and then to the Gwynfryn, a school established by Watcyn Wyn, our poet-preacher, to prepare students for the nonconformist ministry. This was the road along which I was to travel from pit to pulpit. But first to the pit as a collier's boy.
Sixty years after, I recalled that first day in the mine.....I was going on fourteen and had reached the top of the ladder – Standard X7 – at our village school at Betws…..Easter followed, and when I came back to school after the holidays most of my school mates had gone. The boys from the mountain (crwts y mynydd) had stayed to help their fathers on the farm. The boys from the village (crwts y pentre), had gone to work at the coal-mine, or the tinplate mill.
I felt very lonely at school and even lonelier of an evening as we gathered for cricket on 'Cae'r Ynys' by the Amman river. My old mates now belonged to a different world to me. They wore long trousers and flashy cravats. They flourished their pink packets of 'Cinderella' fags before my eyes and blew the smoke curling up to the sky.
They would keep on chattering about their new world as they talked of how many trams they had filled. It was worst of all on Saturdays, when we wended our way over the river to the bright lights of Ammanford Square. They would display their silver sixpence which made the penny in my pocket shrink.
I could not bear it any longer – not even till July when school would be over anyhow. I had to join them at once, at mine or mill. Which was it to be? I had three older brothers at home; two at the coal-mine, and the oldest one of all was already a millman at the tinplate works. It was the brother next to me, Shoni, who decided my destiny. He was working as a 'senior colliers' boy' (crwtyn tro) with John Davies [a Cardi, or native of Cardiganshire] at the Betws Colliery, and there was a vacancy in his stall for a junior (crwtyn bach).
That settled it. I was to start next Monday. At once preparations began for the great day. My mother had been to Uncle Sam's [the weaver] to buy his special blue Welsh flannel to make shirts and drawers. A brand new pair of moleskin trousers had been bought and washed to get the smell out.
Two big pockets had been sewn to the insides of the coat, which belonged to my second best suit, to hold the box and jack. My father had nailed my heavy boots, and best of all there was a strong leather belt and a pair of yorks to tie under my knees.
So it was that one Monday in June I set out with Shoni at six in the morning up the road to Betws Colliery. I was taken to the office to see old Picton the gaffer, and there I signed the book of the contract between me and the Animanford Colliery Co. Ltd.
Off then to the lamproom to 'raise my lamp' with a command from the Lampman to remember my number – 317.
Holding the handle tight I went on to the 'spake' and down the slant to the double parting of the little vein. John Davies's stall was the third up the 'heading', and when we reached near to the coal face and put our coats and waistcoats safely on the nails on the arms of the par dwbwl, the day's work began.
My first job was to fill the coal into the 'curling box' and carry it to the tram and empty it all inside the tram. There was a 'pitch' in the seam. From the upper side it was not too bad – I soon learnt that the 'box' would slide down – but from the lower side it was hard pushing.
In the course of the long day – from seven to half-past four – Shoni explained to me what the various tools were for: the two mandrels, Cam a Cwt; the sledge and wedge; the hatchet and the bar; and last, because the most hated, the Tro-wr to bore holes in the coal but leave marks on the groin!
There can be no more joyful banquet than the miners' snap time. I joined the crwts bach from the other 'stalls' on the heading to enjoy the bread and butter and cheese – with a tomato for 'afters' – and swill it all down with pearl-barley water, which Shoni had found to be best for slaking a thirst.
At long, long last came the colliers' 'Who goes home? ' – 'Tools on the bar and out'. The journey back to the double parting did not seem half as long and we were soon on the spake and in no time out to the top and the June sunshine. The first day was safely over.
Home to a feast prepared by Mam for her three colliers – Cawl-Cig a Tatws, pwdin rice and tea. For the once, as a special favour, the youngest was at the head of the queue for the 'tub' and I rushed down to join my mates on Cae'r Ynys. . . . Once again I was one of them. I could now talk of trams and all that. The penny mother gave me had been quickly turned into a pink packet of Cinderellas, and come Saturday I would have a silver sixpence, for I was now earning 1s 3d, plus percentage, a shift.
That was a lot of money when pay day came once a fortnight, and I knew from Shoni that John Davies-Cardi gave his boys extra for themselves if they were good boys and gave all their pay to their Mam.
And so it was that on that Monday in June a new collier joined the ranks.
"He was a good man without a touch of meanness or malice and in his lifetime he 'brought his people lasting good'."
The Lord Boyd-Carpenter on Jim Griffiths (The Times, 12th August 1975)
Jim and Jim: a personal observation by historian Neil Evans
I met him (Jim Griffiths) very briefly in 1972. He had come to Coleg Harlech to open formally a room dedicated to him in the Hall of Residence. The Labour Party had contributed to this and the room had a slate plaque on the wall next to it. Jim Callaghan was with him.
There was also a meeting in the student common room where both politicians faced questions from the students. There were many critical comments on the Wilson governments of 1964-70 which had ended two years before and much discontent expressed. Jim Callaghan reacted in a hostile way. Jim Griffiths looked genuinely puzzled at the reaction. He couldn't understand it but he clearly wanted to and was sympathetic. I was very struck by the differences in approaches and though my meeting with him was a handshake and a few brief words he left me with an enduring impression of being a good and kind man, something which I think can be seen in his smile.
I was at the end of my first year of teaching history in Coleg Harlech then; I was always glad that I had met Jim Griffiths, however briefly, which gave me a sense of who he was and his nature when in due course he became part of my teaching.