Llewellyn Jones was not originally from the Garw Valley he was actually born in Llantwit Fadre in 1868. His parents Elias and Mary moved to Pontycymmer when he was 12 years old. Elias Jones was following his trade as a coal miner/shaft sinker and this was the period of the Garw’s history when coal mining was coming to the fore. At the age of 13 Llewellyn is shown as a class monitor /teachers aide at an unofficial school set up in the vestry of Bethel chapel, this was paid for in part by miners contributions.
He stayed at school until he was 16 and left to work at the Garw Fechan pit before becoming an apprentice to the Ffaldu Colliery blacksmith. After qualifying from this apprenticeship Llewellyn went on to be a blacksmith for a further 30 years. In 1886 he applied for membership of the Rose of Garw lodge of the Oddfellows Society. This organisation was a benevolent society and provided at the time the only source of health and unemployment insurance amongst other things for their members. By all accounts Llewellyn was a most active and resourceful member because he was voted to be the Lodge secretary shortly after joining ,and indeed after many years of service to the Oddfellows went on to become a National Grand Master in 1916.
In 1889, aged 21, he married Anne Williams 22,. His bride was originally from Brynamman, but her family were now living in Lluest. The newly-weds moved in with his recently widowed mother in 18 Alexandra Rd. While Llewellyn was working as a blacksmith an incident occurred when it is reported that “One of the cages got caught up with an obstruction in the shaft”.The story goes that Llewellyn climbed down the shaft and while holding on with one hand freed the blockage with a sledgehammer and then climbed back up.
Anne Jones gave birth to their first child Elias John in 1892, the couple went on to have Arthur Llewellyn in 1895, Brinley William in 1898, and Towyn David in 1900, unfortunately Towyn was to die 11 months later.
In 1902 Llewellyn became a founder member of the Pontycymmer Co-operative Society, he spent the next 30 years as a director of the Society helping to make it one of the richest Co-operatives in the U. K. with an annual turnover of £1,000,000.
In 1905 Llewellyn entered the world of local politics by being the first representative for Pontycymmer on the Garw Urban District Council. He went on to become the Chairman of this body 3 times in his 30 years of service. In 1911 there were great changes in throughout this countries industry, When the National Insurance Act was introduced, because the government were basing their calculations on the Oddfellows actuarial tables Llewellyn Jones was very involved in ensuring the smooth running of this enterprise. Around this time he and Anne adopted a baby girl who’s mother had died in childbirth, they called the child Nancy.
In 1913 Llewellyn became secretary of the newly formed Garw Valley Medical Aid Society and he stayed in this role until it was co-opted into the National Health Service in 1948. However it was not all ‘plain sailing’ for the G.V.M. A. S. The British Medical Council were anxious to prevent any of their members working for such organisations. At one time Llewellyn had to tour the Welsh coalfields for 3 days in a hired car to search for Doctor’s willing to work for the Garw Valley Medical Aid Society without fear of being struck off!
It is considered that Aneurin Bevan was the undisputed ‘father’ of the National Health Service in this country, but what is not so well known is that he had many meetings with Llewellyn Jones both here in Pontycymmer and in Bevan’s suite at the Seabank Hotel in Porthcawl, Bevan arranged these meetings so that he could draw on the advice of the man with over 30 years of practical knowledge in the field of public welfare.
1914-1919 were the years of the Great War and it was during this time that Llewellyn gave up his job as a colliery blacksmith and put all of his efforts into his growing number of positions in local government and in doing so raising funds for the war effort. In 1917, like many other families at this time they suffered a sad blow, the news came that their second son Arthur had been killed in action in Palestine on the 7th of May 1917 while serving with the R.A.M.C. and had been buried out there.
During the Employers Lock-out of 1926 which lasted for 8 months Llewellyn Jones helped with others set up ‘soup kitchens’ in the valley so that the poorer families and single men particularly could get at least one decent meal a day. At one time there were as many as 8 of these ‘kitchens’ in the Garw 3, in Blaengarw, 3, in Pontycymmer, 1, in Pontrhyl, and 1 in Llangeinor. They made it possible to feed upwards of 2,000 people with at least one meal a day. One of the ‘soup kitchens’ was for schoolchildren only and was run from the Ambulance Hall, Pontycymmer; by one of Llewellyn’s sons. Over this period it is calculated that the combined effort of all of these soup kitchens served up a total of 67,445 meals. The Lock-out had a devastating effect on this valley, many people moved away to try and find work elsewhere, small business’s went bankrupt, some of the owners committing suicide because of debts they incurred trying to support the local people.
Anne Llewellyn died aged 71 in July 1938, as a highly respected member of the community her funeral was attended by many people of the Garw. Her death was a great loss to Llewellyn and he retired from his position as a member of the Ogmore and Garw Urban Council but still busied himself with public works. He was a governor of the University College, Cardiff, as well as the local secondary schools, he became trustee and secretary of the Memorial Hall, Pontycymmer, he was also a magistrate and Deacon of Tabernacle chapel.
When the 1939-45 war broke out he busied himself with raising funds once again for the war effort by travelling around the South Wales coalfields giving speeches.
In 1948 at the launch of the National Health Service all of Llewellyn Jones’s help and advice was rewarded by giving him the post of Chairman of the first Glamorgan N.H.S. Executive. He was also offered a knighthood, but turned it down?
This great man died at the age of 85, in February 1953. His funeral was not only attended by the great and the good, but also crowds of working class people who came to pay their respects to a man who had devoted his life to their welfare.
Gerald Jarvis. G.V.H.S.