Dyddiaduron Henry Fothergill: Cysylltiadau Llafur a Streic Aberdâr 1861

Mae’n anodd i ni heddiw werthfawrogi’n llawn rym perchnogion glo a haearn De Cymru yng nghanol y bedwaredd ganrif ar bymtheg. Roedd llawer yn ymddwyn fel arglwyddi maenorol a phob gweithred o’u heiddo yn effeithio ar fywydau eu gweithwyr – cyflogaeth, tai, cynhaliaeth ac iechyd. Fodd bynnag, doedd bod yn berchennog ar, a rhedeg gwaith haearn ddim i’r gwangalon – roedd gofyn am grebwyll busnes cryf, nerfau o ddur, gallu technegol ac enw da yn y gymdeithas i allu llwyddo.  A llawer o gyfalaf. Roedd elw anferth yn barod ar eich cyfer os oeddech yn ddigon cyfoethog, yn ddigon didrugaredd a digon dewr i oroesi troeon bywyd yn y fasnach haearn.

Mae dyddiaduron cynnar Henry (1860-64) yn rhoi golwg unigryw i ni ar ei berthynas â’i weithwyr, gan roi disgrifiad cyfredol o anghydfodau diwydiannol ar ddechrau’r 1860au o safbwynt y meistr haearn.

I feistr haearn yn cyflogi niferoedd anferth o lowyr a gweithwyr haearn, roedd gostyngiadau bychan i gyflog unigolyn yn gallu golygu’r gwahaniaeth rhwng elw (a difidendau i fuddsoddwyr awyddus) a cholled. Yn ddealladwy, roedd y rheiny a weithiai yn galed yn y pyllau a’r gwaith haearn, mewn amodau dychrynllyd am ychydig o gyflog, yn gwrthwynebu unrhyw doriadau mewn cyflog yn chwerw. Doedd y fasnach haearn ei hun, oedd yn enwog am ei natur anwadal lle byddai pris haearn yn amrywio yn ddramatig a sydyn, ddim yn helpu ‘r sefyllfa. Pan fyddai pris haearn yn uchel, disgwyliai’r gweithwyr dderbyn cyflogau uwch ond roeddent yn amharod i dderbyn gostyngiadau os oedd pris haearn yn disgyn unwaith eto. Roedd hyn yn gur pen i’r perchnogion oedd yn ceisio cadw cydbwysedd rhwng disgwyliadau’r gweithwyr a rhai’r buddsoddwyr mewn economi ansicr – cur pen digon cyfarwydd i’r teulu Fothergill.

Mae adroddiadau papur newydd ar Derfysg Merthyr ym 1831 yn honni:

…they originated from a recent reduction in the men’s wages at Merthyr, arising from the depressed state of the Iron Trade, and from the pernicious and oppressive nature of the Truck Shops in the surrounding districts [The Cambrian, 11 Meh 1831].

Targedwyd ewythr Henry, Rowland Fothergill, a oedd bryd hynny yn bartner rheoli yng Nghwmni Haearn Aberdâr, gan y terfysgwyr a ruthrodd dros y bryn o Ferthyr i Abernant ac ysbeilio ei gartref:

…with clubs and menaces compelled him under penalty of his life, to sign a paper, stating that he had not declared that the miners of Mr. Crawshay were getting 5s. per week more than his own [The Cambrian, 11 Meh 1831].

Gyda thwf diweddarach y Siartwyr ac undebau llafur daeth anghydfodau a streiciau yn fyw cyfarwydd. Yn ddealladwy efallai, doedd Rowland Fothergill ddim yn goddef cynhyrfwyr gwleidyddol.  Ysgrifennodd The Welshman, 8 Gorff 1842, Some of the leading men from the Aberdare Iron Works, connected with the Chartists, have been dismissed from works in consequence of their political views. The Distress everywhere is great.

Dyma fwrw ymlaen i fis Ionawr 1860, pan ddechreuodd dyddiaduron Henry. Roedd estyniad ac adnewyddiad Richard, brawd Henry, o Dŷ Abernant bron wedi ei gwblhau, a Henry ei hun yn symud i’w gartref newydd Canal House yng Nghwmbach, Aberdâr.

Does dim rhaid i ni ddarllen yn hir yn y dyddiadur cyntaf [D553/1] i ddod o hyd i natur ddidostur Henry:

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t.43, Thu 12 Jul 1860, The 2nd Heaters in no 1 mill standing out because I make them turn the piles twice properly so I stopped the mill for rest of week and shall send all the Puddled Iron to Taff Vale.

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t. 44, Mon 16 July 1860, By first train to Aberdare mill men wanting to work again, won’t let them begin yet as a slight punishment

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t.84, Thu 13 Dec 1860, Called on James 8 a.m. about a man trying to obtain money from me in the County Court under plea of my having hit him which I did do with a good will as he was neglecting his work, after breakfasting Edwards and James went with me to see Rees of the County Court and left the matter of the lad in his hands to compromise the matter and so end it.

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t.120, Thu 25 Apr 1861, …caught a puddler stealing a long puddled Bar from Railway. Collared him and made him beg to pay and have stopped against him 20/- for the trick.

Ym mis Ionawr 1861, mae Henry yn cwyno am ddirywiad yn y farchnad. Erbyn Ebrill, mae’r gweithwyr yn poeni am doriadau yn eu cyflogau ac yn grac am fod y teulu Fothergill yn parhau i weithredu’r system Tryc, er iddyn nhw gael eu dirwyo yn drwm am wneud hynny ddeng mlynedd ynghynt.

Gyda streic gostus ar y gorwel, mae Richard Fothergill, brawd Henry, yn ceisio ymgynghreirio â meistri haearn eraill Cymru i osod lefel cyflog is ar draws gweithfeydd haearn De Cymru. Roedd yn awyddus i weithwyr weld eu hunain yn cael eu trin yn hafal, yn enwedig yng nghymoedd Merthyr ac Aberdâr, er mwyn osgoi anghydfodau.

Mae Casgliad Cwmni Haearn Dowlais yn cynnwys gohebiaeth rhwng Richard Fothergill a George Clark, rheolwr Dowlais.

16 Ebr 1861 – Richard Fothergill i Clark [DG/C/5/9/2]:

I am favoured with your letter of yesterday and note all your remarks. I quite agree with you in your opinion of the Trades and also that the selling price of Iron must leave a loss in the manufacture only to be mitigated by a reduction in the rate paid for labour: a readjustment of wages such as you and I have discussed would sensibly relieve cost, for owing to the improved appliances of the day and the changed system of manufacture that obtains; the Firemen generally are in receipt of wages preposterously in excess of the other classes of workmen, who ought also though “to take” (as you most properly urge) their share in the distress……

Individually I am old fashioned enough to think a good deal of a sovereign spent in vain, it is therefore to my mind very trying to see so many of my hard earned sovereigns swilled away each Pay Saturday, and though our Wages account of £3,000 a week looks small alongside your operations; 20 percent in Firemen and 10 percent with Colliers and others would save us upwards of £20,000 a year.

Mae ymdrechion Richard yn methu – all y meistri haearn ddim cytuno a ddylai’r gostyngiad fod yn weithredol ar gyflogau’r glowyr yn ogystal â’r gweithwyr haearn ac mae’r gweithwyr yn mynd ar streic [D553/1].

t.119, Tues 23-Wed 24 Apr 1861, To Cardiff, I mean Merthyr, with A Hankey & arranged with Menelaus of Dowlais to give notice of a reduction generally!!!

t.127, Tues 7 May 1861, Mill going badly short of men.           

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t.131, Wed 29 May 1861, Message sent over – Rhymney etc, would only reduce 10% forges and mills our men all out still.

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t.132, Mon 3 June 1861, Aberdare – heap of puddlers round me at my office wanting discharges, I refused to give them.

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t.133, Thu 6 June 1861, Telegraph from Richard to blow out remainder furnaces which is consequently being done No 2 Abernant is now going out only two will then be left and those are at Aberdare.

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t.134, Fri 7 June 1861, Wrote to Rich asking consent to light should the men wish to work (Puddlers).

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t.134, Sat 8 June 1861, Meeting with James in office, after discussion gave orders to Evan Evans to blow out No 2 Aberdare immediately- Puddlers being still stubborn.

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t.134, Mon 10 June 1861, Showery- Train to Aberdare – called at James in James’ office No2 furnace now out therefore only 1 furnace out of the six is now in blast which is No1 Aberdare mill men at Taff Vale.

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t.135, Wednesday 12 June 1861, …out in works about 2 o’clock –“very slow” – nothing going on except gradually blowing out the blast furnaces and sending off coal for sale….

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t.136, Thursday 13 June 1861, walked to Eaglesbush [home of the Miers family]….A splendid, Lobster, Ham Strawberries etc for breakfast.

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t.137, Friday 14 June 1861, …deputation of Puddlers wanting to work again “but on their own Terms” – I refused to entertain the idea.

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t.139, Wednesday 19 June 1861, Telegram from Richard – “start one” forge and only one, and keep furnace at Llwydcoed ‘in’….Arranged with John Evans to light mills at No 3 forge tonight.

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t.139, Thursday 20 June 1861, Wrote to Richard in London. No 3 forges started 20 furnaces, and mill 4 on 2 Morayshire Rails slow.

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t.141, Monday 24 June 1861, Started No 3 and 4 forges No 1 mill 6 on 3 –No 2 mill 2 on 1 saw Richard by the office.

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t.144, Monday July 1 1861, To Abernant with Richard and I went through the various degrees of reduction with regard to the workmen.

t.145, Thursday July 4 1861, At the office went through the proposed different reductions with John Evans, in the works late in the evening.

Mae cofnod diweddarach yn y dyddiadur [D553/6] yn cadarnhau gelyniaeth Henry at yr Undebau:

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t.109, 11 Mar 1864, In the mill at 9.30am trying a yield & pricing on the work, in one furnace especially (David Darby a lazy plotting “Union” man)

Mae’n anodd dod o hyd i enghraifft well o agwedd ffroenuchel Henry na’i ymffrost iddo fwyta cimwch, ham a mefus i frecwast tra bod ei weithwyr yn cael eu llwgu nes gorfod mynd nôl i’r gwaith.

Erbyn Hydref y flwyddyn honno, ymddengys fod pethau wedi tawelu. Roedd cyflogaeth dda i weithwyr ac roedd y mwyn haearn wedi’i brosesu yn dilyn cau gwaith haearn Hirwaun yn 1859. Ond ni pharodd yr heddwch yn hir ac fe effeithiwyd ar Gwmni Haearn Aberdâr ynghyd â nifer o byllau glo a gweithfeydd haearn eraill yng Nghymru gan streiciau am flynyddoedd i ddod.

Corinne Evans, Gwirfoddolydd Archifau Morgannwg

 

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