Founders' dream that came true

23rd December 2005 at 00:00
Wales's only home-grown teaching union has celebrated its 65th birthday with a tribute to its founding fathers.

Members of UCAC remembered the passion of the men who paved the way for Welsh-medium education. Among those in the hall of fame is Gwyn Daniel, a former general secretary, who was the driving force behind the emergence of Welsh-language schools in many anglicised areas of Wales.

Many of UCAC's big men were academics who believed the Welsh education system should be freed from the shackles of Westminster. Gruff Hughes, the union's general secretary, said devolution would have been a dream come true for UCAC's founders.

He said: "We owe so much to these men as we celebrate our 65th anniversary.

Many of their dreams, such as Welsh-medium education for every child in Wales and an independent education system, are now being realised."

UCAC, a 3,948-member teaching union, had humble beginnings as a one-man support group set up for teachers in the midst of the 1926 Great Strike.

Its founders are famed for being firebrands.

Their passionate beliefs were fuelled by the "treachery" of the blue books in the 1840s - reports by English academics that claimed Welsh education was inadequate. They also criticised many teachers for not being able to speak English.

However, the passionate nationalistic fervour of some of UCAC's founders was not translated in its constitution.

The association was from the outset non-political and remains so. At one time members of UCAC were even allowed to belong to other unions - much to the annoyance of some members.

Resignations from some leading figures led to a rule change and a ban from members joining other unions. UCAC achieved full trade union status in 1976.

Its 65th birthday was last week, but members plan to celebrate at the annual conference next May, in the presence of past presidents.

Mr Hughes admitted that 2005 had not been an easy year for the union. The shock departure of Moelwen Gwyndaf, the first woman leader, meant members voted for their third leader in just two years.

Mr Hughes won the two-horse race over Richard Morse by more than 800 votes in September. He said the union plans to open a new office next year. It now has a general secretary, four full-time workers, regional officers, a policy officer and an administrative team.

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