I have never worked so hard

Lord Morris of Aberavon recalls how as deputy general secretary (1956-58) he rose to the challenge of
spreading FUW’s wings…

REVAMPED PAVILION: From left, Lord Morris with main building contractor Guy Walker, architect Gareth Thomas, past FUW president Emyr Jones and architect Gareth Lewis when he formally opened the revamped FUW pavilion during the 2013 Royal Welsh Show.

REVAMPED PAVILION: From left, Lord Morris with main building contractor Guy Walker, architect Gareth Thomas, past FUW president Emyr Jones and architect Gareth Lewis when he formally opened the revamped FUW pavilion during the 2013 Royal Welsh Show.

AS the first editor of Y Tir it is a privilege to write an article to celebrate its 60th anniversary. It must be one of the oldest industry magazines in Wales. On a very personal note, I recall attending an FUW campaigning meeting at the old Lion Royal Hotel in Aberystwyth with my step-father, Evan Lewis, Abernant, I was home for Christmas having just left the army as a young officer and had started my professional training to practice as a Barrister in one of the best London Welsh Chambers under the to be Sir William Mars-Jones. The speeches I heard at the meeting, in support of a new Welsh farmers’ union, I found very moving. D J Davies, Aberaeron, an old friend was one of the speakers. J B Evans, of course, and possibly Llewelyn Bebb, a good political cross-section. When the meeting came to an end, D J came up to me and ascertained what I was doing as a young Barrister. He put forward the amazing proposition, inviting me to join the union as its legal adviser. Three months was the period contemplated. This was roughly the time the critics thought the union might last. It was ridiculed as a bunch of “preachers, nationalists, conscientious objectors” and curiously “taxi drivers”. It was even more amazing to my family that I accepted the offer. My departure from a prize pupillage was looked on with disfavour in London. How I could get back from my time with the union was never settled, time would tell. Three months became a year, and then a second year. I had made a firm commitment to myself not to go beyond this. My book “50 Years in Politics and the Law” has a detailed chapter on the formation of the union, with the difficulties I faced as its lawyer, an organiser and campaign speaker. I have never worked so hard in all my life, and mine has been quite a busy life. A Minister of the Crown for 13 years, an MP for 41 years, as well as my profession as a criminal Barrister, and later Queen’s Counsel and Attorney General. J B, to whom I pay the highest tribute, and the “founding fathers” were determined to extend the union to become a national Welsh union, spreading its wings from the comfort zones of Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion. A missionary was required for the task. J B had to keep the home fires burning, and as the former NFU county secretary he could not abandon so many farmers who were dependent on him for advice. As the deputy, I was the man to be sent to North Wales. As I relate in my book our rejection in Merionethshire was a body blow. We had such high hopes from our contacts there; the county would be difficult from then on. The executive decided on another plan. We would leap-frog Merioneth and I would be sent to Caernarfonshire. This was the soldier in me – go round the insurmountable block. When I got to Caernarfon the prospects there too were quite bleak. I hired a peculiar little office in Caernarfon, called a press conference and issued a press statement. I got a lot of publicity from this, and a Mr O T L Huws, if I remember correctly, came to my aid. My instructions were to draw up a list of meetings, book halls, and willing members of the executive would leave their farms and travel from Carmarthen and Ceredigion to speak. There were no executive members outside those counties. It was fortunate that it was a quiet period on the farms, their families carried out the essential tasks on the farms. Caernarfon proved a difficult nut to crack. The potential members were mainly small farmers, and economics made them wary of joining a new union. We got going, night after night, and in response to a challenge, I organised a major debate between speakers from the NFU and the FUW. It was a tactical mistake for the NFU to expose their argument before a gathering of hundreds of farmers at Chwilog mart. Curiosity at least brought them there that evening. Anglesey was my next target. The farmers there were judged to be larger and more confident, and my task was easier. Some of the meetings were robust, and the talents of Glyngwyn Roberts, a future member and vice-president of the union, came to the fore. Success in Anglesey with people like John Williams, Brynsiencyn, gave confidence in Caernarfon, and the recruiting of people like D T Rowlands in the east of the county. And so we continued from county to county. I was a legal adviser in the day, and out most evenings at meetings. Eventually I had six or seven county offices to service. I was away from home most of the time. How I did it I do not know. At the same time I managed to lose the Labour nomination for the Carmarthenshire Suez byelection to Lady Megan Lloyd George by one vote. I found time to open her election campaign on the same platform as ex-prime minister Attlee at Penygroes. Eventually I was the surprise choice as candidate for Aberavon. This added to the urgency to leave the union, resume my legal training as a Barrister, this time in Swansea, so that I could nurse my future constituency. In the meantime, above all else, I was fortunate to meet my future wife Margaret, and she agreed to marry me. Ar y nodyn hapus hwn, gadewais yr undeb yn Ionawr 1958, a’i gweld yn tyfu ac yn cryfhau. Nid yn anhebyg i sefydliad arall – Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru, a gefais y fraint hefyd o chwarae rhan yn ei chreu. “50 Years in Politics and the Law” by Lord Morris of Aberavon is published by the University of Wales Press, Cardiff, and is available at all bookshops and Amazon.

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