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BBC Wales's Matthew Richards
"His charisma, passion and eloquence singled him out as the man that brought Britain to a halt"
 real 56k

Thursday, 14 September, 2000, 20:05 GMT
The Welsh farmer behind the protest
Brynle
Brynle Williams led an initial convoy from a farmers' mart
The beginning of the fuel protest has been largely attributed to the actions of a single cattle farmer from north Wales.

The blockades which were to bring the UK to a virtual standstill forcing the prime minister to put the NHS on red alert, had escalated from a small meeting organised by Brynle Williams in the cattle mart of a rural town.

Closed petrol pump
Forecourts throughout Wales are dry

From that initial gathering in St Asaph near Rhyl, the father-of-two led a convoy of 150 farmers and hauliers to Britain's largest oil refinery in Cheshire, a week ago today.

At the height of the protest, the picket numbers had mushroomed to around 500 with the knock-on effect of blockades being set up around the rest of the UK.

Mr Williams said he went to the initial meeting to vent "outrage" at the price of red diesel which many believed to be a "nail on the coffin" of an already beleaguered farming industry.

'Moral victory'

According to him, the rising cost had meant spending an extra 80 a month on fuel for his farm which had already been hit by the BSE crisis.

His week-long vigil outside the plant is reported to have been only broken when he returned to his farm in Cilcain near Mold, to celebrate his 29th wedding anniversary on Monday.

As soon as he returned to the blockade on Tuesday, he resumed his role of meetings co-ordinator and media spokesman.

Claiming a "moral victory", it was Mr Williams who announced in the early hours of Thursday morning that the blockade outside the Stanlow Shell Oil Refinery in Cheshire, was to end.

But such deft handling of mass demonstration and confidence when faced with scrambling camera crews, could be put down to experience.

As vice chairman of the Farmers' Union of Wales, Mr Williams also helped set up the more militant Farmers for Action.

And he was instrumental in organising mass demonstrations at Holyhead in north Wales two years ago over meat imports.

After disturbances with police resulted in the arrest of seven protesters, Mr Williams decreed that the violence should mark the end of the demonstrations.

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See also:

12 Sep 00 | Wales
Fuel crisis in Wales deepens
07 Sep 00 | Business
Oil price eases back
13 Sep 00 | UK
Tips for saving petrol
14 Sep 00 | Europe
European paralysis set to spread
14 Sep 00 | Wales
Welsh fuel blockades over
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