Activities outside Parliament

In Praise of Aberavon!

22nd January 2009

I was once asked to play for Neath but I turned them down: I was never good enough to play for Aberavon. I remember a few years later a local trade unionist who gave me a useful piece of advice: "Don't attack that Manager – he wears an Aberavon jersey!"

These stories explain why I love my constituency of Aberavon, - Port Talbot, the Afan Valley, Skewen and Briton Ferry (although these last two communities will have their own views of Aberavon, the rugby team!). There is a fierce pride in our locality based on a strong sense of community. The bonding of families and neighbours so evident in our industrial communities is still with us today in Aberavon.

What is special about Aberavon is the people – industrious, compassionate, proud of their local history and increasingly environmentally conscious.

We are proud of the beauty of the "blue flag" Aberavon Beach, the "little Switzerland" of the Afan Valley and the splendour of Margam Park and its Castle. What is really special about these attractions is that they are all proudly "ours" – open to us and our visitors through our local authority for sailing, cycling, surfing, swimming and walking.

What locality can lay claim also to Wales's greatest working class heroes of the nineteenth century – Dic Penderyn, Wales's first working class martyr, and Mabon of Cwmafan, the first great leader of the Welsh miners! And what constituency can lay claim to electing Britain's first Labour Prime Minister, Ramsay McDonald!

Aberavon is a constituency with a great sense of its own history, from its beautiful churches and chapels and Margam's remarkable ancient Abbey, its mining history in Skewen and the Afan Valley – especially the Welsh Miners' Museum, the Brunel Dock at Briton Ferry and the preservation of the earliest form of tourism with the Tower at Jersey Marine.

Today the people of Aberavon are creating a new future through a new manufacturing and knowledge economy with global links via many trans-national companies, notably Tata and GE, and through University links with Glamorgan and Swansea.

Richard Burton, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Michael Sheen and Sir Christopher Evans are but a few of the many citizens of Aberavon who have achieved great eminence and who cherish their local roots.

This commitment to our communities is best illustrated by four friends of mine who have given so much, often voluntarily. Babs Walters, an accomplished writer, and David Walters, a stalwart of the Brass Band Movement and Choral Music. They have given much to Glyncorrwg and further afield over many decades.

And so have Barbara and Cled Phillips of Port Talbot. Cled is well known for his work in many spheres of public life. Barbara has managed the local Oxfam shop for nearly thirty years.

I am also honoured to represent a constituency that is welcoming to newcomers – from the Irish in the past to the Bangladeshi and Filipino communities more recently. The Port Talbot Tigers football team represents a new generation of young citizens, proud, tolerant, educated and contributing so much to our local communities.

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