Welsh-speaking Councillor Mavis Llewellyn, of Nantymoel, Ogmore Vale, in South Wales, was an “orator almost unparalleled among the women of Britain”. A teacher by profession, she had learned to become an Air Raid Precaution lecturer, being one of the first women to qualify as an instructor.
The eldest of three children, Mavis’s father was a miner and deacon of the local Welsh Presbyterian Chapel, her mother president of the Chapel sisterhood, and a “tireless worker” in the Co-operative Guild. Securing a scholarship to go to secondary school, she gained a further scholarship to go to a teachers’ training college in 1926, despite her father being on strike. “My family had agreed that every penny of their life’s savings should go for my fees.”
For a time, she worked in working women’s guilds composed of women who had been disaffiliated from the Labour Party because they refused to endorse its refusal to permit the affiliation of the Communist Party. Although she had joined the Labour Party in 1929, two years later she switched to the Communist Party. One International Women’s Day, she was due to speak with Shapurji Saklatvala, a Communist MP for Battersea during the 1920s, at the Judges’ Hall in Tonypandy, “my first big effort as a Party speaker”. But she preferred “small indoor meetings of women, where we can really talk intimately, of what is to be done and how to do It”.
Mavis Llewellyn was well known for championing many local causes, particularly those relating to unemployment and health. Her uncle, Fred, was a Communist county councillor. The astonishing news that police had raided the family home came in the Daily Worker of 21 December 1934, which headlined: “Looking For Guns And Bombs!”
Five police officers raided the house in Nantymoel. After ransacking the house from top to bottom, about to leave, they refused to say what they intended to do next. As Fred Llewellyn put it: “Every nook, cranny and receptacle in every room of the house was ransacked in search of deadly weapons. I accompanied the officers during their search, even to the coal cellar. Events are moving apace at Ogmore Valley, and Fascism, emboldened by the passing of the Sedition Bill and the Unemployment Bill, stalks through the valley with arrogance.”
Clearly a provocation, the incident roused tremendous mass feeling. A mass meeting was held and the matter was raised in miners’ lodges and on the county council. Actually, the house in question actually belonged to the Llewellyn’s brother and his wife, with whom he lodged. As everyone in the village knew, they had “no connection whatever with the Communist Party, both being ardent religionists and life Members of the Calvinistic Church”.
As the leader of the Party in Ogmore, she was mainly responsible for getting a jointly printed election manifesto issued by the local Labour Party and the Communist Party, although the two parties continued competing in elections. She had been elected to the Ogmore and Garw Urban District Council, at the third time of trying in 1936, when “she was returned with a bigger majority than the total poll of her opponent.”
Mavis was the partner of Lewis Jones, (see separate entry) also a Communist county councillor, who died before completing one of his great novels, We Live, and seeing it published. The final tender chapters of the novel, “A Party Decision” and “A Letter from Spain” were written by her.
In later life, Mavis Llewellyn lived at 47 Commercial Street, Nantymoel, near Bridgend. South Wales. She was also a candidate in the 1950 general election for the Party.
Sources include Daily Worker 23 May 1939; Western Mail, 17 February 1950;
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