In May, IWW Cymru received a query about a marble memorial plaque from a representative of the Pembrey Community Forum. Pembrey is a village near Carmarthen in South West Wales and perhaps an incongruous location for a plaque celebrating the centenary of the IWW, remembering Judi Bari and the radical syndicalists in South Wales who produced The Miners Next Step in 1911.

We already knew that Fellow Worker Ilyan Thomas who lived in the area had erected this plaque. Ilyan was a very longstanding “member at large” of the IWW whose membership long preceded the existence of the IWW in Wales. He had contacted us when the Cymru branch was formed in 2013 as follows:

There is Self sufficient Hobo camping available in Pembrey end of June for people willing to maintain the IWW centennial marble that delivered itself from Carrara*. That is timed so they cut the bracken to make a mattress before the bracken get toxic spores. Quite welcome at other times not using bracken.

However the query from Pembrey Community Forum had piqued our curiosity as well as theirs and we asked Jill – a friend of Ilyan and the IWW – to find out more of the story behind the plaque. Here is the story she writes:

The stone itself came from Italy and was set in place in June 2005 in Carreg Lwyd Woods, Camarthenshire, by Ilyan Thomas, a lifelong Wobbly. It commemorates the Centenary of the IWW, is also a memorial to Judi Bari, Earth First and IWW activist (d. 1997); it mentions the Unofficial Reform Committee, authors of The Miners’ Next Step.

Ilyan had cards printed in 2011 to coincide with the Centenary of The Miners’ Next Step. On the card there is a quote from Ilyan about the stone:

It took millions of years to create this piece of marble. It was a miracle that it was able to hitch a lift over 1100 miles from Carrara to Carmarthen to be delivered for free, just in time to be inscribed and set in rock to become the IWW centenary marker.

Sadly Ilyan is now in poor health or he would have written this article himself! On visits to various protest camps, demonstrations and gatherings, armed with free leaflets and compilations of 20th Century international protest songs, interviews and films, Ilyan used to collect endangered tree saplings and bring them to his woodland in Pembrey. He also propagated hundreds of sequoias and other trees which he planted around South West Wales. The woodland he looked after is a special place with a lot of history and is still accessible to the public. The Stone will be a memorial for future generations to consider.

* Carrara itself has quite an interesting story – The Tuscan Town Famous for Anarchists, Marble, and Lard