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This report is taken from PN Review 139, Volume 27 Number 5, May - June 2001.

Letter from Wales Sam Adams

The week that bridged January and February was a bad one for the people of Wales. The cursed uncertainty and speculation about the steel industry that had disfigured the headlines in local newspapers in previous weeks gave way to confirmation of serious job losses. Saturday's defeat in the Six Nations tournament at the hands and feet of the English thickened the gloom. Sports journalists, and that large proportion of the population for whom rugby football has replaced religion, spoke of the outcome of the test match as 'a disaster'. The true calamity was that visited by the management of Corus, the Anglo-Dutch inheritors of British Steel, on the workers at Llanwern and Ebbw Vale, on their families and all whose livelihoods depend on supplying the industry's needs. The removal of 780 jobs from Ebbw Vale, where unemployment already stands at eleven per cent, will be devastating.

Train passengers approaching Newport by day or night cannot fail to notice Llanwern. If the wind is in the right direction a roar that I imagine is the blast furnace going full pelt can be heard in Caerleon. The plant extends for miles it seems along what was once a marshy zone between the railway track and the Severn shore. When the pits were being closed and the spoil-heaps of the Valleys bulldozed into a semblance of normal topography, a few alert entrepreneurs made fortunes selling thousands of tons of well-roasted coke and shale (many of the old tips smouldered sulphurously ...


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