The Welfare Playing ground dispute in Ystradgynlais is a sad tale of 21st century Britain. A strong working class community facing the loss of their playing fields. That is unless they can raise £100,000. However, the real issue is greater than the fields involved.
In 1831, coalminers in Merthyr took to the streets. Merthyr rising is just one of many occasions where the average working-class Welshman and woman said ‘that’s enough!’.
The Rebecca Riots, The Miners Strike, Newport Rising, Tonypandy Riots; there was a time where Wales would stand-up for itself.
Somewhere, somehow, the fire burnt out. Roll on to 2021 and the right questions are no longer being asked. Compliance and acceptance has won.
Welfare Playing Fields in Ystradgynlais
In the Swansea Valley, the community of Ystradgynlais are rallying around a cry to save their playing fields. £100,000 required ASAP to save fields which the community have enjoyed for the past 100 years.
The money, if raised, will be sent to the Gough Estate. The descendants of the elite family who owned much of the Town in a bygone era.
There is something which should be alarming in seeing working-class Welsh families donating their hard-earned money to aristocrats who have potentially never visited Ystradgynlais. However, such things have become the norm.
Money for Nothing
In 2009, Lord Beaufort – received more than £280,000 from Swansea Council to allow permission to build a 70ft long bridge across the river Tawe near the Liberty Stadium. Duke Beaufort has since passed away and it would now be his eldest son who receives the rights to the Tawe river.
The title ‘Duke of Beaufort’ was created in 1682. The title also enjoys being the Marquess of Worcester and the Earl of Worcester and comes with an estate of over £300 million.
As of 2021 there are still 810 hereditary peers in the UK. Descending back hundreds of years. Each with their own perks, their own entitlements. How long can such claims on our fields and resources go on?
Is the Swansea Valley just another ‘tin-pot’ African country?
In Zimbabwe, British aristocrat Cecil Rhodes claimed the land as his own in the late nineteenth century. Independence has been long granted but De Beers (The business Rhodes set-up) took over $6 billion in 2018. The minerals, power and wealth are already tied up with Rhodes’ descendants.
Comparing the Swansea valley to an African country may be seen as extreme but the similarities are there. Morriston, Clydach, Pontardawe, Ystalyfera and Ystradgynlais were all built on industry. Who made the money from the natural resources in South Wales in the late 1700s and early 1800s?
The working-class men in the mines here scraped a living in the same was as they did in Zimbabwe. It was only the riots and strikes which improved anything. When the industry ran out, the money people moved but the ownership remains.
How can Zimbabwe or the Swansea Valley ever have their own wealth when tied to hundred year old commitments to ‘hand it over’?
Where is the fight now?
It seems incredible that the taxpayers in Swansea donated nearly £300,000 in ‘rights’ to build a bridge over a river because nearly 350 years ago, Charles II granted a man who was born in Raglan castle the rights. Yet there are countless examples of it.
You can understand the concern in Ystradgynlais. This is the home of Ystradgynlais Rugby team, cricket, tennis, bowls, football. Essentially this is the beating heart of sport and recreation in the Town.
However, the ease and willingness for people to ‘cough up’ without question is a concern for the future.
Is this really OK? Is this really never going to end? The French chopped off peoples heads a couple of hundred years back. They do not have this crazy elite class system. I’m not advocating the guillotine but maybe the two fingers?