Monday, February 16, 2009

Working Class Hero

In the good old days when Llanelli was spelt Llanelly, the authorities were always ready to send for the troops when things threatened to get out of hand in South Wales.

The long hot summer of 1911 was one such occasion, when a national rail strike led to militants in Llanelli blocking the main line to Ireland. Four hundred troops ensured that the Fishguard trains got through, but renewed trouble led to two rioters being shot dead by the military. At around the same time a goods train carrying detonators was set on fire and four more townsfolk were killed in the subsequent explosion. The Llanelli rioters took their revenge on the property of local magistrates, finally being dispersed after repeated bayonet charges by the stout fellows of the Sussex regiment.

What has this fracas involving the hot-blooded southerners to do with Radnorshire? Well a Private Spiers of the Worcestershire Regiment was ordered to shoot a man whom his officer had identified as a leader of the rioters. Private Spiers refused, was placed under arrest but managed to escape. A week later he was apprehended in New Radnor, gaining that sleepy Radnorshire village a brief mention in the papers of the day. Surprisingly Spiers was treated leniently at his subsequent court martial, being sentenced to a mere fourteen days imprisonment. No doubt the authorities wished to draw a line under the whole bloody business.

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