Community, work and religion : mentalities in the villages of the North Wales coalfield, c.1930 - c.1960
This study uses oral evidence in conjunction with other sources to attempt an empirical reconstruction of local social milieux but also considers the subjective dimensions of narratives and considers the extent to which respondents draw on a communal store of reminiscences. It considers that particular genres of narratives and other oral formats may have originated as social actors discussed contemporary events, may have been shaped by subsequent discussion, and may have functioned as integrative ideologies for local groups and communities. Oral evidence is used to gain access to the informal and undocumented aspects of local life but also investigates the potential of oral evidence as a means of gaining access to the social and oral culture of the communities under study. The study posits that if the mores of communities are socially constructed - are constructed as a by-product of routine social interaction - that this process should leave a discernable legacy in the oral culture of these communities. The study considers two mining villages in what was formerly East Deabighshire: Rhosllanerchrugog, an open village first settled by squatters in the late eighteenth century; and Llay, a village which began as a model housing estate constructed by a paternalist colliery company in the 1920s. The study considers three areas of local social life: the community, the workplace and local religious organisations. After attempting a general description of the social milieu to be found in each, the study presents a series of case studies. The chapter on the community considers the ways in which the different origins of the two communities have impacted on their respective social organisations, The chapter considers social and oral culture, and describes the decline of the Welsh speaking community as indices of changing patterns of social organisation. It also considers the ways in which local people have contributed to the construction of the self images of their respective communities. The chapter on religious life examines relations between the Nonconformist churches, which are widely imputed to have had a defining effect on Welsh society, and the local population. It describes a general reluctance to embrace the full implications of Nonconformist creeds and describes instances of resistance to Nonconformist asceticism. The first chapter on the workplace considers the impact of new extractive technology which shifted the frontier of control in favour of the colliery management. It describes attempts to reassert control made by the workmen and considers the development of a culture of informal pay bargaining in the conditions presented by cost push inflation and institutional sclerosis in the early years of the nationalized industry. The second chapter on the workplace considers workplace narratives and describes the lore about occupational beliefs as a consolatory folklore which helped workmen accommodate themselves to a harsh physical environment. The chapter also considers how the circulation of narratives about the conventions of oral culture were used to describe and articulate relations within the work group and enabled workmen to resist the demands of supervisors.