The Jones Brothers’ Deaths and The General Strike, 1926
By David K Jones
During the General Strike of 1926 the people of the Garw Valley had nothing. Soup kitchens sprung up in order that people, especially children, had at least one nutritious meal a day.
The Soup kitchens were sustained from coal being extracted by striking miners from the many disused old coal levels that were commonplace on the valley hillsides.
One such level was the old “Gas Works Level” situated behind the Municipal open air swimming pool in the Fforch Las valley, better known as “Pantygog Baths”. This level had provided coal which in turn provided gas for the Garw & Ogmore gas company near the Old Co-op Yard that provided the street lighting and house lighting for the people of the valley. It had ceased to be used upon the introduction of electric street lighting and was standing idle having been just flimsily boarded up.
On the 18th May 1926 a designation of nine striking miners, all volunteers, were sent to this level in order to extract the remaining coal. They worked in teams of three at a depth of 120 yards below the surface. One such team were the Jones boys, all related whose coal had been designated by the Strike Committee to go the Children’s Soup kitchen on Blaengarw Square, the building which eventually became the Garw 33 Boys Club.
They were brothers Bert (26) and his younger brother Cyril (19) and their first cousin Arthur Jones (30). Bert lived with his wife Sally and baby son Terry in Arthur’s house at nearby 30 Pant Street while Cyril still lived at home with his parents at nearby 8 Cuckoo Street.
The respective teams of colliers toiled away picking at the coal seams and, one by one, each team had finished work, having got the sufficient amount of coal required by their respective recipients. The other miners had finished their work by 2-00pm. The Jones boys remained, perhaps because they lived so close by? Or perhaps because they wanted to get that little bit more? We will never know but Arthur had decided that he had done enough and decided to go home. Bert and Cyril said that they wouldn’t be too long and they parted in good spirits all looking forward to their well earned dinner.
Arthur returned home and was concerned when his cousins had still not returned by 2-30pm so he returned to the Forch Las Valley and entered the old Gas Works level where he noticed that there had been a huge fall of “roof rock” where the brothers had been working. Arthur searched other parts of the mine but Bert and Cyril were nowhere to be seen. Arthur immediately raised the alarm and soon hundreds of would be rescuers arrived at the scene. An area of roof rock measuring 21 feet by 12 feet and being 2 feet 6 inches thick had fallen and it was in the middle of this ninety tons of huge rock chunks that the brothers crushed bodies were found under.
After a magnificent effort from what seemed the entire valley and its businesses the body of Bert was brought to the surface at 4-15pm but it was not until 7-00pm that the body of younger brother Cyril was found. The bodies were wrapped in canvas tarpaulins and carried on shoulders amid hundreds of people through the streets to the men’s respective homes, which were just yards from each other.
The brothers were laid to rest together at Pontycymer Cemetery and the Glamorgan Gazette of the time reported that the funeral was hugely attended and had a cortege of over half a mile long. Every religious Minister of every religious denomination in the valley attended.
Afterwards, the valley community rallied yet again to provide Bert’s widow Sally and baby son Terry with financial assistance and a fund was set up by the Co-Op bank. Concerts and fund raising events were held by every nearby village including as far away as Aberkenfig and Kenfig Hill.
Bert’s son, Terry, also became a miner and fate almost repeated itself on one occasion in the late 1960’s when he survived a pit fall sustaining serious back injuries. He retired from the mine in 1984 and died in 1993. Bert and Cyril’s cousin, Arthur Jones died at 30 Pant Street in 1969 aged 73.