Over a hundred years ago, during the first national railway stoppage in Britain, the military were called out in force to quell the strike. They were deployed in Llanelli where mass picketing had stopped all rail traffic. Troops from the Worcestershire Regiment shot dead two unarmed men and wounded two others, sparking the Llanelli Rising of 1911. Strikers and their supporters battled it out with soldiers on the streets, and three more people died after a rail waggon was torched. This was the last time troops were ordered to fire in the course of a British industrial dispute.
Since the centenary in 2011 the Llanelli 1911 Railway Strike commemoration committee has organised a festival each August, including a public meeting with speakers, a poetry and music night, and a march and rally. In previous years our speakers have included Mark Serwotka (General Secretary PCS and President TUC), Mark Drakeford (First Minister and Leader of Welsh Labour), Leanne Wood (previously leader of Plaid Cymru), the late Bob Crow (RMT General Secretary), and Steve Hedley (RMT Assistant General Secretary). We ended with a ceremony at the graves of the shot railway workers. This year the event will be online, using Zoom and Facebook. Take a look at our Facebook page – 1911 Llanelli Railway Strike.
Confirmed speakers so far include: Dr Louise Raw, author of the book Striking a Light (about the 1888 match-women’s strike); Professor Ralph Darlington, author of Radical Unionism: the rise and fall of revolutionary syndicalism; Steve Hedley, Assistant General Secretary, National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT); and Hussein Said of Stand Up to Racism Wales.
This year’s events are scheduled as follows:
History Forum Thursday 13th August 2020
Live Poets Monday 17th August
Online Rally Saturday 22nd August
Christopher Norris is Distinguished Research Professor in Philosophy at the University of Cardiff. He is the author of more than thirty books on aspects of philosophy, politics, literature, the history of ideas, and music.