Canu Merched Chwarel Bethesda

Some stories of women singing in support of the strike - London and Bethesda - 1901


Cor Bethesda yn Llundain.png

WOMEN’S CHOIR GOES TO LONDON TO RAISE MONEY AND SUPPORT

12 July 1901 – The North Wales Express

“Two magnificent gatherings - the one in the forenoon, the other in the evening - were held on Sunday in Battersea Park on behalf of the quarrymen. They took the form of concerts by the ladies choir. The morning collection reached no less than £12 9s, "including," said John Burns, "one French halfpenny." [in the article in the image above, more than £1000 was raised]

It was near sunset when the crowds gathered again - there must have been 5000 around the two wagons in which, with their conductress and piano, the choristers sat and stood.  Again and again were the sweet girl-voices heard for most of the singers have barely passed their youth. Now in Welsh, now in English, with the quaintest of quaint accents, now in a duet, and now in a quartet, their delightful freshness went forth to an evergrowing audience. For since the morning the fame of these women had been noised abroad in Battersea.

John Burns, who presided, made an out-spoken appeal for the quarrymen's cause. "One of the most genuine labour struggles ever waged in this country," was how he described it. He went tell of the “crimeless, sober, industrial community of 7000 or 8000 souls" among those distant mountains, of the one policeman that is all they need to keep order, and of the almost feudal demands of Lord Penrhyn.”

They had dared to ask, said he, equal rights for all men in beautiful Wales - these poor industrial outlanders of ours at home.

"And," said John, with tremendous effect, pointing to the singers, ''these - these are the women and girls who cry 'Hurry up, for pity’”.

Then, as to, the quarrymen's claims. "They claim that they shall have the right to combine. They ask for the removal of a brutal contract system, for which, if Lord Penrhyn tried to inflict it upon Battersea, we should pull the rooftop of his castle about his ears!"

Meanwhile, in the same paper:

THE PENRHYN QUARRY DISPUTE: PROCESSIONS PROHIBITED BY THE POLICE

“On Saturday evening, the men held another demonstration and formed in procession opposite Bethania Chapel…. After appealing to the crowd not to do anything to justify the publishing of misleading statemetns a to their conduct, and placing members of the Quarry Committee in charge of the band of boys which headed the procession, carrying a banner, Mr Jones gave the word to march. The procession was a much larger and far better organised one than that of the previous Saturday, and again carried three banners. The ranks of the quarrymen proper were strengthened by a bunmber of tradesmen, clerks etc and altogether there were close on a thousand men, women and children on the march. Once again the symnpatgy of the women folk of the district with the strikers was prominently displayed at every turn of the road.

Mr W. H Williams said he was glad to see the ladies taking so prominent a part in the struggle. The fight was theirs as much as the men’s, for their living was in the balance in exactly the same way, and it was always the case that when any good reform was achieved, women had a good deal to do with it (cheers). History showed that, as a rule, the people who cried for law and order sympathised with the employwers; those men cried for order whilst the nation was crying for bread.”

and

A GRAND PROCESSION

9 August 1901 Carnarvon and Denbigh Herald

“Great excitement prevailed at Bethesda on Saturday…. Headed by 200 woen, the procession started with numerous brand new banners floating on the breeze. Counted as they passed a certain point, they were found to be between 1200 and 1300 men, with here and there a policeman’s helmet towering above the ranks…. “Not a sound was heard” beyond an occasional whisper between friends and comrades, until reaching a certain point, where the women burst out singing hymns, in which all joined…. No disturbance whatever took place, but one soldier had to be taken to the cells owing to his disorderly conduct.”

THE WELSH DRAMA TELLS STORY OF A QUARRY STRIKE IN NORTH WALES

Carnarvon and Denbigh Herald and North and South Wales Independent, 30 Ebrill 1909

"Ystori'r Streic" deals with the troublous times of a quarry strike. It is, in short, "The story of the strike." The play is from the versatile pen of Heriah Gwynfe Evans, and when it was performed a, short time ago in the Nantlle district I was glad to note that the press reports of the pro- duction were extremely flattering… Gwynfe Evans is not a prophet without honour in his own land, for the press itself acclaims his worth and declares him the saviour of his country from the taint that she possesses no native drama …

We are shown the unscrupulous quarry manager, the snobbish though kind-hearted proprietor, the turbulent quarrymen, their cool-headed determined leader, and the gossipping women of the village. The heroine is the young wife of a victimised workman, and during the time of the strike she leaves home, husband, and child to collect money for the strikers by singing from town to town.”

I couldn’t find ANY pictures of women’s choirs from Bethesda! This is the only picture of a woman’s choir from approximately the same period that I could find…

Lindsey Colbourne

 Royal Welsh Ladies choir 1897. People's collection  Wales

Royal Welsh Ladies choir 1897. People's collection Wales