Remembering Terry Thomas

by Patricia Beaver and Tom Hansell.

This Friday, January 20, a ceremony will be held at the Gorseinon Workingmen’s Club near Swansea to honor the life of miner and labor organizer Terry Thomas, who died this fall at the age of 78. Terry was an important voice in the After Coal documentary.

Terry went into the coal mines in his native Wales in 1960, working underground, and became involved in the National Union of Mineworkers, as local branch secretary. Terry went on to serve as Vice President of the South Wales NUM between 1983 and 1989, coordinating strikes and difficult negotiations throughout the 1984-85 strike year. He then served as a chairman of the Wales Executive Committee of the Labour Party.

In After Coal we first see Terry in 1974, interviewed by John Gaventa, in the successful strike which brought in the Labour Government. Terry is also on screen responding to the exchange of videos between Appalachia and Wales on the Brookside strike in Appalachia.

TerryThomasTribute from T. Hansell on Vimeo.

We met Terry while researching this film. We visited his home in Gowerton, where we admired his lovely garden. As we toured South Wales mining sites he taught us about the solidarity of Welsh miners, about the strength of Welsh Labour, and the hardships and devotion of Welsh families.

We filmed Terry on an abandoned mine site, and with Hywel Francis at the Miners library. Terry also came to Appalachia, where he joined us for a presentation on After Coal at the University of Kentucky, speaking with fervor about the strength of communities and the hard organizing work of Welsh labor during the past century. Then he travelled to Harlan County, Kentucky, where retired miner Carl Shoupe met him for a spirited exchange and tour of mining sites in Benham, Kentucky.

Terry was a key figure in the NUM, then in the Labour Party in Wales over many decades. He was also devoted to his family. He travelled to California to winter with his relative, winning bowls competitions and arguing with republicans for the wisdom of socialized medicine.

Terry was wise, passionate, adventurous, and full of stories, and we will miss him.