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Evans Edgar

 Edgar Evans

Born in 1900, Evans was an ironmonger with his own shop in Bedlinog, South Wales, in the north-east corner of Mid Glamorgan.

 

Hailing from Garnant, Carmarthenshire, Evans’ father was victimised due to his involvement in trade unionism and both Edgar and his brother, Melvin, were strongly influenced by this.

 

Evans, as secretary of the Young People's Society at Moriah chapel, succeeded in getting T E Nicholas (see separate entry) to come and give lectures locally on the terrible consequences of the First World War. By the early 1920s, Evans had Nicolas speak on the Soviet Union.

 

Edgar Evans joined the Communist Party in 1926 and was the initiator of the founding of the local branch. Since village tradesmen were less dependent than miners on the landowners, colliery owners and managers it was an ideal position for him to be in. Many of the men who joined the Communist Party, or earlier even the ILP, were victimised by losing their jobs. Evans was Party Branch Secretary at Bedlinog from the beginning until 1943.

 

A member of the Welsh Committee of the Communist Party from 1933 to 1957, he was elected in 1934 as a Communist to a seat on the Gelligaer Urban District Council.

 

However, he was imprisoned in 1936 for 9 months charged with 'incitement to riot' due to his heavy involvement in the 1934 Taff-Merthyr Dispute. As a consequence of this prison sentence he was imprisoned for nine months but, more seriously, deprived of his civil liberties for ten years on his release, meaning he was forcibly removed from his position as councillor and only regained his seat on the council in 1947.

 

The police undoubtedly set Evans up, claiming during the trial that much of the trouble in the area emanated from Evans. "He takes an active part in all industrial trouble, He has spread pernicious views and caused trouble for eight years. The police look upon him as a menace to the youth of Bedlinog".

 

Evans even sold gramophone records in his shop, a small example of how he saw himself infiltrating into all social and recreational organisations in Bedlinog. Such an approach was not abnormal, in fact the miners even managed to control the local GP surgery. Such was the influence of the Communist Party in Bedlinog that they even controlled the Chamber of Trade!

 

"Red Bwedlinog" was at the forefront of the campaign to support the Republican Government in Spain and, despite only having some six hundred adult residents, had five serving in the International Brigade. Bedlinog’s reputation as a `Little Moscow’ was deservedly due to the extraordinary high proportion of Communist Party members and supporters in the town.

 

The Communist Party was not only a powerful local influence, it could attract huge audiences to its meetings, at which leading figures such as Harry Pollitt, Saklavala and A. J. Cook spoke in the late 1920s, and Will Paynter, Arthur Horner, and Lewis Jones in the 1930s. The party organised recruitment campaigns, distributed leaflets, and sold large numbers of the Daily Worker.

 

Like many places, Bedlinog Communist Party saw massive growth of membership during the Second World War. But, as District Literature secretary for the Communist Party in 1943, Evans noted that, "Party membership is now three times more than in 1941, but the sales per member are very much lower".

 

Evans died in 1993.

 

 

Sources:

 

D. B. Smith, "The struggle against company unionism in the South Wales coalfield. 1926-39", Welsh history review, vol. 6, 1972;

 

The South Wales Coalfield Collection

http://www.culturalecology.info/baywatch/baywatch1/lac1/baywtch4/projects/people/morgan.htm

http://www.archiveswales.org.uk/anw/get_collection.php?inst_id=35&coll_id=11693&expand http://www.agor.org.uk/cwm/search/objectDisplay.asp?ID=592167&searchTerm=&criteria=all

 

“Miners Against Fascism: Wales and the Spanish Civil War” by Will Paynter and Hywel Francis (1984) thanks to Michael Walker for this reference;