By Darien Jay:
My great-grandfather, Evan David John was born on 15th June 1909, the son of Phillip and Eleanor John (née Davies), in Pontardawe, where he lived his whole life.
Growing up in the South Wales valleys it was almost inevitable that his career would be tied to the mining industry. However Evan spent the majority of his working life not in the pits himself but rather as a champion of the miners' rights and the wider left wing cause. Having held senior rank in the National Union of Mineworkers, including sitting on the Executive Committee, Evan was well affiliated with many of the key socialist political figures of the time, including former Labour MP for Pontypridd Kim Howells, National Vice-President of the NUM Mick McGahey and VP of the South Wales NUM Terry Thomas.
As a staunch believer in the Communist cause, Evan often found himself travelling incognito to political hotspots. On at least one such occasion he is known to have travelled to the Basque Region of Spain to hand money to leaders of the Republican cause whilst they were battling General Franco's army. As in a spy novel, he took wads of money hidden in newspapers, handing it over to the Basques on park benches so as not to be detected.
Evan was also invited to Bulgaria and Russia for ‘talks’ with senior Communist officials. (See pic left of Evan and Ray in Bulgaria in 1966.) Little is known about what was discussed on his visits, however his wife Auraylia remembered that they were once invited to the Hermitage in St Petersburg, whereby upon entering Evan was whisked away leaving Auraylia to explore the museum until the talks had concluded. (Evan married Auraylia Lewis in 1933.)
Evan died on 21st September 1986 and, as a lifelong Communist Evan's funeral did not follow any of the traditional religious overtones that one might traditionally expect. One attendee claimed that the ceremony felt different in many ways, with senior Party and NUM figures delivering speeches instead of sermons and hymns.
Evan is referenced in Hywel Davies's 'The Fed’ and is pictured alongside three Russian poets in ‘Do Miners Read Dickens’ by Hywel Davies and Sian Williams. He remains fondly remembered by his family.
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