Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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

Born at Risca, Mon. , 23 Sept. 1865 , s. 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 m. Nellie , dau. of William and Harriet Humphreys of Cwmcarn, Mon. 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 d. 12 Oct. 1947 .


  • Ness Edwards , History of the South Wales Miners Federation (London, 1938);
  • L. Twiston Davies , Men of Monmouthshire (Cardiff, 1933) , vol. II;
  • E. W. Evans , ‘A history of industrial relations in the South Wales coalfield to 1912’, University of Wales Ph.D. thesis, 1955 ;
  • E. W. Evans , Mabon, William Abraham, 1842-1922, a study in trade union leadership, etc. (Cardiff, 1959) ;
  • Brinley Evans , ‘A history of the Trade Disputes … in the South Wales Coal Trade …,’ University of Wales M.A. thesis, 1944 ;
  • Who was who? , 1941-50 ;
  • Western Mail , 14 Oct. 1947 ;
  • The Times , 14 Oct. 1947 ;
  • Who's who in Wales (1921).


Griffith Milwyn Griffiths, M.A., Aberystwyth

Published date: 2001