Genealogy Page

What It Was like in 1888


David and Brian Randell

This appeared in the Llanelli Star (10 May 2001), and is provided here with the Editor's permission.

The starting flag has dropped on the General Election for 2001.

But what were elections like more than 100 years ago?

The following notes, about one of, our ancestors, may be of interest to students of politics today.

David Randell, Solicitor, was elected MP for 'Llanelly' in 1888.

He was born in 1854, the second son of John Randell and Mary Jones, both of Llanelly.

He was educated at the Rev. Thomas James School, Llanelly and Dr Condor's school Wandsworth.

He qualified as a solicitor in 1878 and went into partnership with Mr Griffith Saunders, who had an extensive practice in West Wales and with whom he acted for many years for the South Wales Tinplate Workers Union, the Llanelly Urban District Council and the Harbour Commissioners.

David Randell was described as 'a radical, an ardent Welsh Nationist opposed to Church Establishments' in the Who's Who of British Members of Parliament, (vol 2, page 296.) The Harvester Press, 1978.

He married Sarah Ann daughter of Richard George of Llanidloes in 1880; they had two children, the elder being Thomas Jones Randell who joined him in his law practice.

When the Parliamentary representation of the 'Gower Division' became vacant in 1888 by the death of Mr. Franck Ash Yeo the Liberal Association adopted Sir Horace, afterwards Lord Davey, as their candidate.

So strong, however, was the feeling in the constituency in favour of a local candidate that Sir Horace declined to pursue the contest and Mr Randell, the nominee of the tinplate workers who formed a large proportion of the electorate, was returned, the voting being David Randell 3964 votes, Sir John Llewellyn 3354 votes.

David Randell in his manifesto to the electors said. "To the Electors of the Western or Gower Division of, Glamorgan

"Gentlemen, in response to the urgent requests of the Labour interests of the Constituency, I have consented to come forward as a candidate for the seat rendered vacant by the lamented death of Mr Yeo.

"I solicit your sufferages as a Welsh Nationalist, and am in favour of the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the English Church in Wales, the Appropriation of Tithes for National Purposes, Intermediate Education for Wales, and the establishment of a Welsh University with the power to grant degrees and the appointment of all Administration and Judical in Wales of men conversant with the language of the people.

"I am also in favour of a Welsh National Executive with power to deal with exclusively Welsh Questions.

"As one who for many years has been closely identified with the labouring classes of South Wales, I am in favour amending the Employers Liability Act, of the Settlement of Wages at short periods, of payment of Wages before Rent in all Bankruptcy Cases, of the payment of members of Parliament' and a thorough Revision of Royalties, and also of all Industrial Measures tending to the amelioration of the condition of the Working Classes.

"As you are aware, I am an advanced Radical and a thorough Home Ruler.

"I strongly advocate, amongst other measure, Manhood Sufferage, Free Education, the Abolition of Perpetual Pentions, Leasehold Enfranchisement, the control of the Liquor Traffic by the people, Land Reform, including Fixity of Tenure, Free Sale, and Fair Rents; the Abolision of Gate Tolls, the Compulsory Cultivation of Land and the Restitution of Common Lands to the people.

"I am, your Obedient Servant, David Randell. 9 Somerset Place Swansea, March 17th. 1888" (Cambrian, 23rd. March 1888).

David Randell proved himself an excellent member in and out of the House and by his outstanding record of public and private work in his local town he was returned in the following election with an increased majority of 4000 votes.

One reason for his popularity was the fact that he never took up a case of an employer against a workman and that he had the reputation of winning many a legal fight for Trade Unionists throughout South Wales.

Some of his activities in Parliament were recorded thus -

David Randell was a great friend of the famous Welsh leader William Abraham, know as "Mabon", who had been elected a Member of Parliament for the Rhondda in 1895.

As well as being very radical in politics, he also wanted Wales to have its own Parliament, as indeed did most Liberal MP's in those days.

It is interesting to read what was proposed more than 100 Years ago.

Brian Randell, 27 Aug 2001