Thursday, June 03, 2010

A Llandrindod Correspondent

The time was that non-conformist Wales was one of the more philo-semitic corners of the planet. There's little left of that world now, apart from the names of a few emptying chapels and Old Testament Welsh surnames such as Moses, Israel and Jeremiah. Nowadays Welsh opinion formers are more likely to take a lead from the increasingly anti-semitic London media than from the traditions of their own country.

Given that historic philo-semtism, Tredegar's anti-Jewish riots of 1911 were something of an aberration. Attacking the businesses of unpopular shopkeepers was fairly common in the nascent revolutionary years of 1910 and 1911 in the coalfield. The attacks on specifically Jewish businesses in Tredegar lasted only a couple of days before being subsumed into more general unrest. Still it would be interesting to discover exactly who the anti-Jewish rioters were, given the ethnic and religious hotchpotch of Edwardian Monmouthshire.

The London press made a meal of the whole thing, comparing the riots to the pogroms of Russia, but Jewish correspondents from South Wales were quick to dismiss such sensationalised journalism in letters to the press. Indeed there was only one letter from Wales, it was published in the Jewish Chronicle, which hinted at any wider anti-semitism in the country. This came from a Jewish minister, Herbert Sandheim of Llandrindod Wells who seemingly blamed Jewish comedians in the music hall for the situation!

So was there something about Llandrindod and its entertainments which caused Mr Sandheim to express opinions not generally shared by his co-religionists? Infact a glance at the 1911 Census shows that Mr Sandheim was a 28 year old Glaswegian - he must have been holidaying in Llandrindod when he wrote the letter as he had been living in Swansea, with his Russian born wife, for at least a year. Radnorshire can have played little part in forming Mr Sandheim's opinions. You can read about the Tredegar riots here.

The illustration shows Staniforth's Dame Wales apologizing to a Jewish shopkeeper for the depredations of the rioters. Nowadays the BBC would probably call them peace activists.

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