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Story of south Wales’s Co-operative movement

Story of south Wales’s Co-operative movement
‘completely neglected’ according to new book

In its heyday, the Co-operative movement in South Wales had 300,000 members – it was one of the most significant social movements in South Wales. But according to Alun Burge in his new biography of William Hazell, this movement and its culture has disappeared from our historical consciousness.

William Hazell, a key figure in the Cooperative movement, has also been forgotten according to Alun Burge in his book William Hazell’s Gleaming Vision: a Co-operative Life in South Wales.

Alun Burge says: “Hazell is a key figure to belatedly emerge from the South Wales coalfield. He worked tirelessly to promote the cooperative movement including in the Ynysybwl Co-operative Society where he was president for nearly 30 years until his death in 1964. To discover a previously unknown individual whose life illuminates a community, a society and a social movement is rare. When that ordinary working man is a writer and thinker as well as a man of action who had a powerful and articulate voice that still resonates over a half a century, it is truly remarkable.”

Hazell’s lifelong commitment to the co-operative movement was inspired by his vision of co-operation as a means of building a better future. He epitomised the deep and loyal relationship that developed between the people of the valleys and their co-operative societies and which became a central part of their way of life. Co-operation provided an economic and social culture which is an alternative to the usual ways in which the South Wales valleys societies have been portrayed.

A ‘renaissance man’, Hazell was a coal miner who grew into a polymath. In many of his values and ideals Hazell could be seen as a man before his time that could slip comfortably into the early 21st Century. Throughout his life he was gender aware and had an environmental consciousness. In other ways, however, he belonged firmly to the first half of the twentieth century. With his belief in God, co-operation, and the need for socialism he lived his beliefs through his actions.

Hazell wrote three histories of co-operative societies as well as around 400 articles. Alun Burge says: “His valleys experience from the Great War until the 1960s typified that of South Wales and over four decades his writings built into a compendium of valleys life as well as a commentary on national and international affairs. It is remarkable that so little is known about this man.” The role of the co-operative movement in the 1921 and 1926 lockouts and during the Depression are explored in the book as are Hazell’s role as Chairman of the Lady Windsor Colliery lodge and local councillor in the Cynon Valley from the 1920s to the 1950s.

Title William Hazell’s Gleaming Vision
Publication Date 15.11.14
Price & ISBN £9.95 pb (9781784610081), £14.95 hb (9781784610449)
Author Alun Burge / alun.burge@googlemail.com
William Hazell’s Gleaming Vision will be launched by Y Lolfa at Pontypridd Museum at 10.30 on Saturday the 15th of November. Author Alun Burge is a historian of the co-operative movement and lives in Swansea. He is a former Chair of Llafur, The Welsh People’s History Society and has published regularly in the journal and elsewhere. Alun did international work, mainly on Latin America, for 15 years including five years living in Nicaragua. Much of his work was with co-operatives. After returning to Wales, Alun worked in the Department of Social Justice of the Welsh Government.