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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 July, 2003, 12:13 GMT 13:13 UK
Colliery riot re-enacted
Actor in play
Soldiers were called in to tackle the riots
A violent piece of Mold's history is to be re-enacted in a new play opening at its theatre, Clwyd Theatr Cymru.

The Mold Riots tells the story of events in 1869 when four miners from the Leeswood Green colliery were shot dead by soldiers.

The riot was provoked by the harsh sentences given to two workers found guilty of assaulting their manager after tensions over treatment by the ruling classes ran high.

Flint-based Mikrokosmos Theatre Company are performing the play, devised by its founder member, Michael Stevens.

According to Mike Griffiths, who co-wrote a book called The Mold Tragedy of 1869, language and discrimination issues formed a large part of the problem.

"The local Welsh people were made to be second-class citizens by the incoming English people, and many of the mine owners were Englishmen.

"They brought English people in and paid them more than the local Welsh people for doing exactly the same job."

Mr Griffiths said he and his wife Jenny, who both had great-grandfathers working at the colliery, had investigated the alleged attack on the mine's manager and found discrepancies in his claim.

What was happening was that people were expressing their grievances out on the street.
Michael Stevens
"He's alleged to have been kicked all the way round the coal face," he told BBC Radio Wales.

"Now, miners in those days wore leather boots with steel toe caps. If he'd had the kicking he alleged he was given, he wouldn't have been able to walk, there would have been broken bones.

"None of this evidence was given in court; there was no evidence of injuries.

"It's very doubtful as to whether he was assaulted at all, but he was an Englishman and the Welshmen were arrested for doing it."

As a result of the incident, in which an innocent bystander was shot dead, the British Army revised its policy on dealing with unrest in the streets, according to the book.

Playwright Michael Stevens said he had wrestled with how to portray the problem of languages from the time, given that the play is in English.

A rehearsal for the play
"What I've done is to have the whole of the Welsh-speaking characters speaking in English, and the English-speaking characters speaking in Welsh.

"That may sound a bit of double Dutch, but it's a way that I've got, because language is so fundamental and people didn't understand one another.

"The problem was as much about us against them, and I think that's one of the things the play is about, how do we as a group get our grievances known to the authorities.

"Traditionally, unions and Chartists were not very effective and what was happening was that people were expressing their grievances out on the street.

"That was the only way they could say 'enough is enough' - you have got our wages and we want some redress."

The Mold Riots runs from Wednesday to Sunday at the Emlyn Williams Theatre, Clwyd Theatr Cymru in Mold.

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13 May 00  |  Wales

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