From shaky beginnings FUW determined as ever

Two of the founder members of the Farmers Union of Wales braved wintry conditions to unveil a plaque marking the organisation’s creation in 1955.

Gareth Vaughan, FUW president, said Dewi Thomas and Llew Jones were continuing to demonstrate the fortitude and determination shown by the small group of Carmarthenshire farmers who broke away from the NFU to start an independent Welsh union.

“They were brave people who faced real animosity from those they previously considered to be their friends,” said Mr Vaughan.

“They took the insults and battled on.

Those of us who have come afterwards have reaped the rewards of their courage and hard work.

“If the founder members had not taken the huge step to create the FUW, agriculture and the rural economy of Wales would be in a much poorer state than it is.”

He believed that the union’s future was rosy.

Good insurance business meant that there were no plans to close the network of county offices, which was one of the FUW’s greatest strengths.

The bi-lingual plaque, which commemorates the first meeting of the fledgling union’s provisional committee, was unveiled on 8 December at the entrance to the hotel where it was held.

“Carmarthenshire was the birthplace of the FUW and the Castle Hotel at Llandeilo has played a major part in the history of the union,” Mr Vaughan claimed.

Mr Jones and Mr Thomas recalled the way they were ostracised by other farmers, and on one occasion threatened with physical violence.

Llew Jones said: “I was ignored or kept at arms length by those who stuck with the NFU.

In some cases that estrangement did not end until 15 years ago.”

Mr Thomas, who had represented the county at NFU annual meetings, and whose father had actually founded a local NFU branch, received similar treatment.

At the time he was struggling to make a living on a tiny smallholding, but he used the time between milking to speak at membership recruitment meetings all over Wales.

“At first there were few rebels and we had no money, staff or offices, said Mr Thomas.

“Looking back it is amazing that an organisation with the current strength of the FUW could have been founded on such shaky foundations.”