Dilwyn Roberts-Young, Ysgrifennydd Cyffredinol/General Secretary UCAC
Last week Undeb Cenedlaethol Athrawon Cymru (UCAC) is celebrating eighty years since it was first established in Tŷ’r Cymry, Gordon Road, Cardiff.
According to Dr Rhodri Llwyd Morgan, “UCAC was an innovative organization. UCAC was the first professional trade union to be established in Wales by Welsh people and for Wales.”
It may be difficult to comprehend the resolve of those who were instrumental in the formation of UCAC given that the discussion was happening in the early years of the Second World War. In gathering support for the possible formation of UCAC individuals such as T H. Evans of Llandudoch declared that for educators in Wales: “mae’n hen bryd inni sefyll ar ein sodlau ein hunain” (“it’s about time we stood on our own two feet”).
Iorwerth Morgan’s lecture on the 50th anniversary of the formation of UCAC described a time of uncertainty for the Welsh nation. The burning of the Bombing School in Penyberth had seen three Welshmen tried for arson in London and it was Lloyd George himself who declared the event as the first example of ‘a Government putting Wales on trial at the Old Bailey’.
One of the three on trial, D J Williams, was to become the first Vice President of UCAC. It was D J Williams who argued that the word ‘Cenedlaethol’ (“National”) was essential in the name of the Union and had no time for those who wanted to distance themselves from declaring Wales an independent ‘nation’.
This was during a period when other education trade unions could be resolute in their opposition to not only the Welsh language but to Welsh identity within a school curriculum. As two founders of UCAC stated at the time: “We cannot subscribe to any professional union that denies the main entitlements of Welsh studies in Welsh schools”. UCAC has been synonymous with the development of Welsh medium education throughout Wales.
The resolve of Gwyn M. Daniel, Cassie Davies, Eic Davies, Enid P. Jones, Victor Hampton Jones, Gwenan Jones, Evan John Jones and Griffith John Williams led to the formation of a trade union which had the joint aims of:
- Ensuring a better education system for Wales.
- Protecting the interests of the individual teacher.
It should be noted that although the word ‘athrawon’ (“teachers”) is used in the name of the union it has always represented teachers and lecturers with Dr Gwenan Jones and Dr Jac L. Williams being giants of the movement.
Today, UCAC has its main office in Aberystwyth, having moved from Tŷ’r Cymry initially to Pen Roc on the sea front before moving to its present offices which opened on June 13th, 2009. UCAC’s National Council has members from every local authority in Wales and committees including those representing school leaders, lecturers in further and higher education. The union is a full and active member of the TUC and of TUC Cymru.
As we approach the end of a challenging year UCAC continues to provide support for individual teachers and for the profession and has been a crucial and often lone voice in ensuring an independent education system for Wales, a curriculum specific to Wales and the devolution of pay and conditions.