Truss and wooden leg register (Dowlais Iron Company Employees), 1891-1902.
Glamorgan Archives, DX83/9/1
What were Miners' Agents and what did they do?
Miners' Agents worked for local Miners' Federations, which acted as trade unions for mining communities. Agents dealt with disputes between miners and their employers, with issues including unemployment, compensation, pay, and working hours at the forefront of their attention.
Davies' campaign for election as Miners' Agent
In 1918, Davies’ attention turned to the vacancy as agent of the Dowlais district of the South Wales Miners’ Federation: he was one of 45 men to submit their names and one of twenty selected by the district committee to go onto the ballot. The competition was fierce, but it soon fell to a choice of two men: W. H. Mainwaring, a radical miner from Swansea then living in Blaenclydach in the Rhondda, and one of the authors of the Miners’ Next Step in 1912, and S.O. himself. Mainwaring, who later became MP for Rhondda East, was a challenging opponent but he lacked the flair of S.O. and sometimes came across as a little too serious. In the end, S.O. triumphed by just over 100 votes. One London newspaper reported on S.O.’s appointment that ‘it is significant that thousands of miners should choose such a man as their leader, and it is all to the good that such a man should be found willing to lead them’.
What did Davies do as a Miners' Agent?
S.O.’s letter books from this period (held at Glamorgan Archives) reveal the extent to which his day-to-day life was taken up with representation of miners injured underground whom the company refused liability for, meeting with medical practitioners to secure medical certificates for colleagues, and negotiating industrial disputes. It was, in many ways, ideal training for his later career as Member of Parliament, during which he would become heavily involved in legislation affecting local mining communities.