DISTRESS IN SOUTH WALES."|1878-01-12|The Cardigan Observer and General Advertiser for the Counties of Cardigan Carmarthen and Pembroke - Welsh Newspapers Online
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DISTRESS IN SOUTH WALES."

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DISTRESS IN SOUTH WALES. The Cardiff correspondent of the Times writes: During the strike and lock-out of 1874 an appeal was made to the country to aid in relieving the distress which was then prevailing. The destitution ef the colliers now is greater and more widespread. Then, prior to the strike, coal had been realising a high price, wages were good, and some of the more thrifty had laid by a small sum of money, and they were thus able to keep off the destitution for a time. Since the beginning of 1875 coal has been gradually, but continuously, falling in price, and the wages of the collier began, when the award was concluded, at tho minimum to which by that award they could fall. This rate of wages continued up to the close of 1877. After some months, when the de- mand for coal fell off, the collieries began working short time, so that, for tho last two years, the collier has been getting gradually poorer. His whole earnings when at work full time he required for sup- plying himself and his famfiy with food, and the clothes that ought to have been renewed have been gradually falling away into rags. The children's shoes are worn out and cannot be replaced with new ones, and thus he and his family are not only being pinched with hunger, but they we also, suffering from the cold. The Rhondda Valley is the great centre from which the South Wales steam coal is supplied to the market. The mountains on each side contain rich seams of coal, and for eight miles along both banks of the river every foot of ground is covered with collieries, which when in full swing give support to about 30,000 people, who live in clusters round each colliery. At Treherbert, which is at the extremity of the valley, a soup-kitchen has been opened, a relief committee formed, to which Lord Aberdare has handsomely contributed, and the wants of the most urgent cases are being met; but for the whole distance below, from Treherbert to Pontypridd, which is almost one continuous town, no organised system of relief has yet been established. A short distance below Treherbert is the populousvillage of Treorchy, situated in the midst of several large collieries — Treorchy, Abergorkey, Tylacoch-park, Dare, and other collieries belonging to the Ocean Com- pany and others. None of these collieries have, I am told, been at work more than about two days a week for some time, and each would give employment to nearly 500 men. Before the reduction, which has now been conceded by the collier, he would, in favourable circumstances, and with these hours of labour, earn about .£2 a month. If he had to encounter faults, or the coal was difficult to get, he would not earn so much. He lives in a cottage which belongs to the colliery owner, and the rent for these cottages is usually, including rates, 13s. a month. At the end of a fortnight he draws perhaps half his wages, and at the end of the month the balance is paid to him* or rather the amount that was due tehim on the previous Saturday, a week's wages being always re- tained by the employer. When the balance is paid the 13e. fer the rent is deducted, the weekly contri. bution to the doctor, and the value of the coal which he haa taken home from the colliery for his own use and for which he is charged at the rate of 6s. or 6s. 6d. per ton. After these reductions are made the collier has very little spare euh to take home to his family, and as the monthly system of payments prevails everywhere, he is invariably in debt to the grocer, probably also to the publican, and hundreds of men with wives and five or six children have had for months to live on 58., 68., or 7s. a week. The debts to the tradesmen have accumulated so much that nothing, in many instances, can be obtained unless tne money is tendered for it. In almost every colliery village the number of public-houses is large, and when there is no fire in the grate at home the cheer. ful fire in the publican's kitchen is a sore temptation to the collier, and a small debt to the publican may still further reduce the cash he has taken from the colliery. Whatever business these persons may have done in the good timaa they certainly do not seem to be doing much now. This state of things exists more or less among the great bulk of the population in the valley, and in other districts where collieries are working shorter time the distress must be greater." The clergy and gentry of the afflicted districts are doing their best, by distributions of soup and bread, to check the advance of hunger. Even if they ruined themselves in trying to perform the task which is the affair of the whole nation they could scarcely accomplish it. The Rev. Mr. Wil- liams, of Dukestown, Tredegar, writes to tell us that the-children in the schools come barefoot, ragged, and unfed, and that the poor creatures "betray their misery in the afternoon by burst- ing out into piteous cries." It is a hard thing to see children cry for very hunger. Mr. Williams is ready to receive and expend subscriptions, and to establish a soup-kitchen. It is not money only that is neces- sary. Clothes, and especially boots and shoes, are almost as much needed as food. For," as a cor- respondent writes, of course the poor people have no means of renewing their stock, and the trouble has been prevalent so long now that what they have started with is all worn out." The women are so ill-clad that they are ashamed to carry babies born into this misery to church to be christened. Mr. Henry Richard, M.P., has forwarded even more painful details of the condition of the children than any that a correspondent has observed. The School Board Visitor finds little truants of necessity, boys and girls absolutely naked in their fathers' houses. The Rev. John Griffith, Rector of Merthyr, as a correspondent informs us, is ready to receive sub- scriptions and other help for that town; aid destined for Aberdare may be sent to the vicar, the Rev.Wynno Jones; while contributions for the relief of Mountain Ash may be forwarded to Lady Aberdare, Duffryn. Mr. Richard also is willing to receive subscriptions, and to see that they are properly distributed. It is not likely that the charitable people in South Wales will long be straitened for want of means when once the public understands that it is only in extent, not in quality,of suffering that Merthyr and the surrounding country differs from India.

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