The unveiling of a plaque at Rhondda Heritage Park Museum commemorating the life of John Hopla was attended by Mrs Helen O’Sullivan, Mrs Claire Thomas and Mrs Julie Atkins last week.
College staff joined with other benefactors in their support of the John Hopla society led by Mr David Maddox and Councillor Sylvia Jones.
John Hopla was one of Wales’ foremost miners and played a huge role in the miners’ movement. The original marble tablet that was unveiled in 1916 outside the former Llwynypia Workmen’s Institute and library is being restored to go along with the new plaque. The restorations are being headed up by the John Hopla Society led by Llwynypia ward member Cllr Sylvia Jones and Historian David Maddox, who raised substantial funds to rediscover and restore the original marble tablet.
John Hopla was born In Pembrokeshire in 1882 and his family moved to the Mid Rhondda to work in the mines and Hopla soon advanced to become a Checkweigher at the Glamorgan Colliery in Llwynypia. As a young activist in the South Wales Miners Union he was at the forefront in campaigning to obtain better wages and to improve the conditions for miners and their families. The respect and trust that his colleagues had for him led to his appointment as Chairman of the Lodge of the Glamorgan Colliery, representing over 3,000 men. He established a medical scheme in the district to help sick and injured miners and their families. During the Cambrian Combine Strike of 1910-11, which resulted in the Tonypandy Riots, Hopla was one of the foremost of the miners’ leaders and together with Will John (later a Rhondda MP) formed the Cambrian Joint Strike Committee to co-ordinate the strike campaign. Even in the later stages of the strike with strike funds running low and facing hardship he was still prepared to continue the strike and hoped to get lodges across the coalfield in both Wales and England to join in an all-out strike for minimum wage. Always at the forefront of any action to win the strike he was a main target of the police. A major confrontation in July 1911 outside the Ely Pit, Penygraig where men had started to break the strike and return to work led to violent confrontation with the police and the military had to be brought in to restore order. John Hopla and Will John were both arrested and accused of inciting the riot. In November 1911 both men were sentenced to a year’s imprisonment. In 1912 the Home Secretary as a show of clemency commuted the sentences to six months. Both men received a hero’s welcome when they were released. Hopla returned to work but his health was deteriorating and he passed away in April 1916 aged just 37.
Both men received a hero’s welcome when they were released.
Cllr Sylvia Jones said, “Today’s generation has largely forgotten the name John Hopla let alone the major contribution he made to the welfare of the miners during some of the most turbulent years in industrial South Wales. The restoration of the plaque and rededication is a fitting tribute to a miners’ leader who gave his life to improve working and pay conditions in this the most dangerous of industries. During his days at least 50 Rhondda miners died every year from small accidents in the Valley, let alone the large-scale pit disasters that claimed literally hundreds.”