Quarry strike memorial, Bethesda

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Quarry strike memorial, Bethesda

This slate slab was placed here in 2000 to commemorate the centenary of the start of the Penrhyn quarry strike, which lasted an unprecedented three years.

The large slate quarry, immediately south of Bethesda, was owned by Lord Penrhyn whose home, Penrhyn Castle, is now a National Trust property. There had been disputes between the management and workers at the quarry in the 19th century. In 1896 an attempt was made to derail a train carrying strike-breaking workers, followed by an attack by c.60 men on workers at the quarry’s Felin Fawr workshops. A full strike began on 22 November 1900 and continued until November 1903.

A subcommittee of the Caernarvonshire police committee investigated local policing during the strike. It reported in January 1903 that police had sided with quarrymen who continued to work and failed to show appropriate consideration for the strikers’ feelings or, sometimes, the strikers’ liberty. Policing the strike had cost the county more than £4,400 in the previous 15 months.

Hundreds of quarrymen left the area during the strike. Many sought work in South Wales’ collieries. Living conditions in Bethesda were grim, and at least two local women were convicted of working as prostitutes in Bangor.

The strikers and their families who remained in Bethesda received support from around Britain. A company in Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire, sent a Christmas pudding which weighed 2.5 tons! Local children sang a gleeful song about the pudding for many years. In 2014 pupils at Ysgol Dyffryn Ogwen, with their music teacher Hefin Evans, made this recording of the song: Press play, or download mp3 file (659KB)

Here are the words. “Young” refers to the hated quarry manager EA Young. The song is a parody on the hymn “Wele cawsom y Meseia”.

Wele cawsom ym Methesda
Y pwdin gorau gaed erio’d.
Chlywodd Young nag Arglwydd Penrhyn
Ddim amdano cyn ei ddod.
Pwdin yw, du ei liw,
Y gorau brofodd neb yn fyw.

It translates as:
See, we had in Bethesda
The best pudding ever.
Young and Lord Penrhyn heard
Nothing of it in advance.
It’s a pudding, black in colour,
The best that anyone alive tasted.


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FOOTNOTES: The background to the strike

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