Former home of quarrymen’s leader RT Jones, Caernarfon

Link to Welsh translationFormer home of quarrymen’s leader RT Jones, Caernarfon

Robert Thomas Jones lived here during his retirement, having once been the first paid official of the North Wales Quarrymen’s Union.

Portrait of Robert Thomas Jones MPBorn in 1874 into a quarryman’s family in Blaenau Ffestiniog, Robert left school at 13 to work as a ‘rybelwr’ (labourer) in a local slate quarry. When he was 29 years old, he took up his paid post with the union and moved to Caernarfon. He soon became the union’s general secretary.

Within five years he had “created a centralised trade union from what had been, in effect, no more than a loose federation of virtually autonomous lodge”, in the words of historian R Merfyn Jones. Within 10 years almost 100% of the quarries' workers were members of the union. In 1911, after some industrial disputes, he secured a minimum wage for the quarrymen. He retired in 1933.

For one year, 1922-1923, Robert was Labour MP for Caernarfon County, briefly breaking the Liberal Party’s control of North-west Wales. In his maiden speech he called for a law to allow people in justices’ courts in Wales to testify on oath in Welsh. His portrait on the right, courtesy of Lynette Hughes, dates from his time as an MP.

A man of independent mind and shrewd insight into people, he was a committed nationalist, arguing for Home Rule and the disestablishment of the Church in Wales. Mainly self-educated, he accumulated an extensive library which was cited by the 1910 Royal Commission on the Church in Wales as a remarkable example of the cultured quarryman’s reading habits.

His work on a range of public bodies included the following: life governor of the University College, Bangor; member of the Royal Commissions on Licensing and on Mines and Quarries; member of the TUC Executive; commissioner on the National Insurance Board; chair of the Caernarfon Division bench of magistrates.

He died in 1940. He is buried in St Michael’s churchyard, Llan Ffestiniog.

With thanks to Lynette Hughes (great niece) and Caernarfon Civic Society. Sources include: ‘The North Wales Quarrymen 1874-1922’ by R Merfyn Jones, University of Wales Press, 2015.

Postcode: LL55 2PN    View Location Map