BRACE, WILLIAM (1865 - 1947), miners’ leader and M.P.

Name: William Brace

Date of birth: 1865

Date of death: 1947

Spouse: Nellie Brace (née Humphreys )

Child: Ivor Llewellyn Brace

Parent: Ann Brace

Parent: Thomas Brace

Gender: Male

Occupation: miners’ leader and M.P.

Area of activity: Politics, Government and Political Movements

Author: Griffith Milwyn Griffiths

Born at Risca, Monmouth, 23 September 1865, son of Thomas and Ann Brace; ed. at Risca board school. When he was 12 years of age he began to earn his living as a collier at Risca colliery, and as he grew older he took a keen interest in labour problems.

In 1890 he married Nellie, daughter of William and Harriet Humphreys of Cwmcarn, Monmouth. In the same year he was appointed miners’ agent for the local branch of the Miners’ Federation of Great Britain. At that time one of the major controversies in the south Wales coalfield was the sliding scale arrangement for paying miners. At the head of those who favoured the sliding scale principle was William Abraham (Mabon). Brace became the leader of the opposition movement, and the activities of the two men brought them into official and personal conflict. This antagonism led to successful legal proceedings for libel being taken by Abraham against Brace. At the conclusion of the miners’ strike of 1898, however, the South Wales Miners’ Federation was formed, with Abraham as president and Brace as vice-president of the executive council.

In 1899 Brace, along with Abraham and John Williams, attended the annual conference of the Miners’ Federation of Great Britain, to seek (successfully) the affiliation of the South Wales union to the national body. In 1901 he was asked to serve on a Royal Commission appointed to inquire into the coal reserves of the United Kingdom. Five years later he entered Parliament as Labour member for the South Glamorgan division, defeating Colonel Wyndham-Quin, later earl of Dunraven. He continued to represent that constituency until 1918. During this period he maintained his connection with the South Wales Miners’ Federation and in 1912 became its president. There was, however, by now, some opposition to his policies from amongst the miners on the grounds that he was not sufficiently radical.

In 1915 he became under-secretary at the Home Office in the wartime coalition government, and the following year was appointed a member of the Privy Council. He remained a member of the government until the Labour Party withdrew from it in 1918. From 1918-20 he served as M.P. for the Abertillery division, and in the latter years he accepted the position of chief labour adviser to the Government Mines Department, a full-time post which necessitated his resignation as a M.P. In 1922 he was asked to serve as one of the four members of a Royal Commission set up by the government of South Africa to investigate economic conditions in that country after industrial unrest amongst the miners.

He retired in 1927 and died 12 October 1947.