Hywel Francis (seated) with Richard Baxell at an IBMT event at the London Welsh Centre, September 2012, to launch the second edition of ‘Miners Against Fascism’.
Hywel Francis, IBMT Patron, historian and former Labour MP for Aberavon, died on Sunday 14 February, aged 74.
He was the author of ‘Miners Against Fascism: Wales and the Spanish Civil War’, first published in 1984 and then in a revised edition in 2012. The book was a pioneering study of the role of Welsh volunteers in the International Brigades, especially the contributions made by those from mining communities.
His other works similarly dealt with Welsh working-class history. In ‘Stories of Solidarity’ (2018), for example, he celebrates the traditions of solidarity and internationalism among Welsh communities, including the generosity and warmth with which Basque refugee children were welcomed during the Spanish Civil War.
Born to a mining family himself, Hywel championed labour causes throughout his life, founding the South Wales Miners’ Library and serving as the President of the South Wales Miners' Museum.
Hywel served as an IBMT Patron from 2013 until his death. At the IBMT’s Annual General Meeting in Cardiff in 2017 he took part in the commemoration at the memorial at the Big Pit National Coal Museum in Pontypool to the miners who went to Spain.
Sending condolences to his family, IBMT Chair Jim Jump said Hywel had made a unique contribution to the knowledge and understanding of the support given by Welsh mining communities to the cause of anti-fascism in the Spanish Civil War. ‘Their sacrifice and commitment to the fight in Spain was matched only by their warmth and generosity for the refugees who arrived in Wales to escape the horrors of that war.’
He added: ‘We were proud that Hywel was an IBMT Patron. Books like ‘Miners Against Fascism’ and ‘Stories of Solidarity’ will stand as lasting tributes not only to his own personal values but also to the solidarity and internationalism of the Welsh people.’
IBMT President Marlene Sidaway writes: ‘Dr Francis' book is a very valuable addition to the vast amount of literature which has been written about the Spanish Civil War – written by a man who had great sympathy for the plight of the disadvantaged in our own society and around the world’.
Posted on 16 February 2021.