Emrys Hughes

emrys hughes

Cymraeg

Emrys Hughes was born in the South Wales Valleys in 1894. As a young man, he refused military service in the First World War and was imprisoned as a Conscientious Objector. He served sentences in a number of civil and military prisons, often in harsh conditions, and wrote about his experiences in his ‘Journal of a Coward’. In later life, Emrys Hughes became an MP for South Ayrshire in Scotland. He was married to Nan Hardie, daughter of Labour politician Keir Hardie, herself an active local politician. Emrys Hughes died in 1969.

Emrys Hughes was born in Tonypandy, the son of Rev. J.R. Hughes and Annie Hughes. He was educated in a primary school in Abercynon, and at Mountain Ash Secondary School. Deciding to become a teacher, he left the South Wales Valleys in 1913 for a training college in Leeds.

During the summer of 1914, at the end of his first year in college, Emrys followed news of the events leading up to the start of the war with great concern. He was already involved in politics, and his Socialist political beliefs led him to be convinced that war was wrong, and that ordinary people would suffer most. He watched with alarm as he saw many people being caught up in an atmosphere of patriotic excitement, and it became very unpopular to speak out against the conflict.

Returning to college for his second year, he found that a military hospital had been established in the building, and that his fellow students were being invited to join in with military training and parades. One day, he passed a military band as he walked back from the library on a Sunday afternoon: ‘I looked straight on and pretended to take no notice…I hated, detested it, loathed it…it would be the same in every town in England, in France, Germany, Austria and Russia, the same buoyant vitality being exploited in this shameful way’.

As the war went on, the threat of conscription began to loom as more troops were needed. Now a qualified teacher back in South Wales, Emrys was clear that he would resist conscription when it came, whatever the consequences. He was summoned to appear in front of various officials, but his political objections to military service were dismissed and he was told to report for duty. He knew it was only a matter of time before he was arrested.

The arrest happened without warning, as he arrived at a railway station one day. He was handed over to the military authorities, and taken away, catching a last glimpse of the familiar hillsides and valleys of home as he went. He knew it might be a long time before he saw them again. Immediately, Emrys’ refusal to submit to military orders got him into trouble; he would not call the sergeant major ‘Sir’ or undress for a medical examination. He was sent to a ‘court martial’ or military court; the sergeant-major told Emrys and other conscientious objectors that he hoped they would all be shot.

At the court martial, the sergeant-major claimed that Emrys had used aggressive language towards him, threatened to ‘do him in’, and provided ‘witnesses’ to back up this story. Emrys was astonished and strongly denied that he had done any of this. He was sentenced to 9 months detention in a military prison.

emerys hughes 2So began a pattern that was repeated many times. Emrys stated his political opposition to war, and the military authorities tried to force him to become a soldier. He and his friends were ordered to put on uniforms; they refused. Emrys was dragged away, his feet kicked from under him, and his clothes torn off. The next day he refused again to put on the uniform, and was struck in the face and forcibly undressed. His head was shaved. The prisoners were taken outside and ordered to march and to carry a gun; when Emrys refused, he was pushed to the ground. Eventually they had no choice but to walk around in a circle for two hours, trying to resist the rhythm of the shouts of ‘Left, right, left, right’.

Each act of resistance brought a punishment, for example missing dinner, or just having bread and water for a day. Much of the time, Emrys was locked up alone, and communication with other prisoners was often forbidden. Until the end of the war in 1918, Emrys was tried and re-tried many times, given further sentences for his refusal to serve in the military, and moved to various different military and civil (non-military) prisons. The civil prisons such as Wormwood Scrubs, although grim in many ways, at least brought relief from the pressure to wear army uniform and take part in ‘drills’. His health suffered because of poor food and lack of sleep and fresh air. During the winter, cells were often bitterly cold, and infested with mice and cockroaches.

Very occasionally, there were times when restrictions were relaxed, and he was allowed to go out and meet people briefly in local communities. Although an atheist himself, he often looked for local church ministers and Quaker communities where he thought he might find people who would be sympathetic. ‘Long hours of loneliness had made me deeply sensitive to little acts of kindness’, he reflected.

Throughout the war, Emrys remained true to his principles, whatever the consequences. He did this not only because of his personal beliefs, but also because he hoped it might encourage others to stand up to the military too.

After the war, he returned to his political activities, and in 1946 became a Labour MP for Ayrshire in Scotland, which he represented in parliament until his death in 1969. He described his experiences in the First World War in a hand-written document which he called ‘Journal of a Coward’, and he hoped that lessons would be learned: ‘It is well that the next generation should understand things as they were in the Great War, it will learn to loathe the stupidities of its fathers and rectify their results.’


Emrys Hughes

Ganwyd Emrys Hughes yng Nghymoedd De Cymru ym 1894. Fel dyn ifanc, gwrthododd wasanaeth emrys hughesmilwrol yn y Rhyfel Byd Cyntaf a chafodd ei garcharu fel Gwrthwynebwr Cydwybodol. Gwnaeth ei benyd mewn nifer o garchardai sifil a milwrol, yn aml mewn amodau garw, ac ysgrifennodd am ei
brofiadau yn ei lyfr ‘Journal of a Coward’. Yn ddiweddarach yn ei fywyd, daeth Emrys Hughes yn Aelod Seneddol dros Dde Ayrshire yn yr Alban. Roedd yn briod â Nan Hardie, merch y gwleidydd Llafur, Keir Hardie, ac roedd hithau hefyd yn wleidydd lleol gweithgar. Bu farw Emrys Hughes ym 1969.

Ganwyd Emrys Hughes yn Nhonypandy, yn fab i’r Parch J.R. Hughes ac Annie Hughes. Cafodd ei addysg mewn ysgol gynradd yn Abercynon, ac yn Ysgol Uwchradd Aberpennar. Penderfynodd fynd yn athro, a gadawodd Cymoedd De Cymru ym 1913 i fynd i goleg hyfforddi yn Leeds.

Yn ystod gwyliau’r haf 1914, ar ddiwedd ei flwyddyn gyntaf yn y coleg, bu Emrys yn dilyn y newyddion am y digwyddiadau a arweiniodd at ddechrau’r rhyfel gyda phryder mawr. Roedd eisoes yn ymddiddori mewn gwleidyddiaeth, ac oherwydd ei gredoau gwleidyddol Sosialaidd, cafodd ei argyhoeddi bod rhyfel yn anghywir, ac mai pobl gyffredin fyddai’n dioddef fwyaf. Gwyliodd gyda phryder wrth weld pobl yn cael eu cipio gan yr awyrgylch o gyffro gwladgarol, a daeth yn amhoblogaidd iawn i siarad yn erbyn y gwrthdaro.

Ar ôl dychwelyd i’r coleg ar gyfer ei ail flwyddyn, darganfu bod ysbyty milwrol wedi cael ei agor yn yr adeilad, a bod ei gyd-fyfyrwyr yn cael eu gwahodd i ymuno â hyfforddiant milwrol a gorymdeithiau. Un diwrnod, aeth heibio band milwrol wrth iddo gerdded yn ôl o’r llyfrgell ar brynhawn dydd Sul: ‘I looked straight on and pretended to take no notice…I hated, detested it, loathed it…it would be the same in every town in England, in France, Germany, Austria and Russia, the same buoyant vitality being exploited in this shameful way’.

Wrth i’r rhyfel fynd yn ei flaen, dechreuodd y bygythiad o orfodaeth filwrol ei amlygu ei hun, gan fod angen mwy o filwyr. Bellach, yn athro cymwysedig yn ôl yn Ne Cymru, roedd Emrys yn sicr y byddai’n gwrthsefyll gorfodaeth filwrol pan gyrhaeddai honno, pa beth bynnag fyddai’r canlyniadau. Cafodd ei alw i ymddangos o flaen swyddogion amrywiol, ond anwybyddwyd ei wrthwynebiad gwleidyddol i wasanaeth milwrol, a dywedwyd wrtho am ymbresenoli ar gyfer dyletswydd. Roedd yn gwybod mai dim ond mater o amser oedd hi cyn iddo gael ei arestio.

emerys hughes 2Cafodd ei arestio heb rybudd, wrth iddo gyrraedd gorsaf reilffordd un diwrnod. Cafodd ei drosglwyddo i’r awdurdodau milwrol, a’i hebrwng i ffwrdd, yn dal cipolwg olaf o fryniau a chymoedd cyfarwydd gartref wrth iddo fynd yn ei flaen. Roedd yn gwybod y gallai fod yn amser hir cyn iddo eu gweld nhw eto. Ar unwaith, aeth Emrys i helynt oherwydd iddo wrthod ymateb i orchmynion milwrol; nid oedd yn fodlon galw’r uwch-ringyll yn ‘Syr’ neu ddadwisgo er mwyn cael archwiliad meddygol. Cafodd ei anfon i ‘lys marsial’ neu lys milwrol; dywedodd yr uwch- ringyll wrth Emrys a gwrthwynebwyr cydwybodol eraill ei fod yn gobeithio y byddai pob un ohonynt yn cael eu saethu.

Yn y llys marsial, honnodd yr uwch-ringyll bod Emrys wedi defnyddio iaith ymosodol tuag ato ac wedi bygwth ymosod arno, a chyflwynodd ‘dystion’ i gefnogi’r stori hon. Roedd Emrys wedi’i synnu ac yn gwadu’n gryf ei fod wedi gwneud unrhyw rai o’r pethau hyn. Cafodd ei ddedfrydu i naw mis mewn carchar milwrol.

Felly dechreuodd batrwm a gafodd ei ailadrodd sawl gwaith. Datganodd Emrys ei wrthwynebiad gwleidyddol i ryfel, a cheisiodd yr awdurdodau milwrol ei orfodi i fod yn filwr. Gorchymynnwyd ef a’i ffrindiau i wisgo iwnifformau; gwrthodont. Llusgwyd Emrys i ffwrdd, ciciwyd ei draed oddi tano a rhwygwyd ei ddillad oddi arno. Y diwrnod wedyn gwrthododd eto i wisgo’r iwnifform, a chafodd ei daro yn ei wyneb a’i orfodi i ddadwisgo. Eilliwyd ei ben. Aethpwyd â’r carcharorion allan a gorchmynnwyd iddynt orymdeithio a chario gwn; pan wrthododd Emrys, cafodd ei wthio i’r llawr. Yn y pen draw, doedd ganddynt ddim dewis ond cerdded o gwmpas mewn cylch am ddwy awr, yn ceisio gwrthsefyll rhythm y gweiddi ‘Chwith, dde, chwith, dde’.

Rhoddwyd cosb bob tro y gwrthodwyd gwneud rhywbeth, er enghraifft colli pryd nos, neu dim ond cael bara a dŵr am ddiwrnod. Roedd Emrys dan glo ar ei ben ei hun y rhan fwyaf o’r amser, ac yn aml, gwaharddwyd ef rhag cyfathrebu gyda charcharorion eraill. Tan ddiwedd y rhyfel ym 1918, aeth Emrys gerbron llys sawl gwaith, a rhoddwyd rhagor o ddedfrydau iddo am iddo wrthod gwasanaethu yn y lluoedd arfog, a symudodd i amryw o wahanol garchardai milwrol a charchardai sifil (heb fod yn filwrol). Roedd y carchardai sifil fel Wormwood Scrubs, er yn ofnadwy mewn sawl ffordd, yn cyflwyno rhywfaint o ryddhad o leiaf rhag y pwysau i wisgo iwnifform a chymryd rhan mewn ‘driliau’. Dioddefodd ei iechyd oherwydd bwyd gwael a diffyg cwsg ac awyr iach. Yn y gaeaf, roedd y celloedd yn aml yn ofnadwy o oer, ac yn bla o lygod a chwilod duon.

O dro i dro, roedd adegau pan leddfwyd tipyn ar y cyfyngiadau, ac roedd yn cael mynd allan a chwrdd â phobl am dipyn mewn cymunedau lleol. Er yn anffyddiwr ei hun, roedd yn aml yn edrych am weinidogion eglwysi lleol a chymunedau Crynwyr lle meddyliai y gallai ddod o hyd i bobl a fyddai’n cydymdeimlo. Meddai ‘Long hours of loneliness had made me deeply sensitive to little acts of kindness’,

Trwy gydol y rhyfel, bu Emrys yn driw i’w egwyddorion, beth bynnag y canlyniadau. Gwnaeth hyn, nid yn unig oherwydd ei gredoau personol, ond hefyd, oherwydd ei fod yn gobeithio y gallai annog pobl eraill i herio’r fyddin hefyd.

Ar ôl y rhyfel, dychwelodd at ei weithgareddau gwleidyddol ac ym 1946, daeth yn AS Llafur dros Ayrshire yn yr Alban, lle bu’n cynrychioli yn y senedd tan ei farwolaeth ym 1969. Disgrifiodd ei brofiadau yn y Rhyfel Byd Cyntaf mewn dogfen a ysgrifennodd â llaw y galwodd yn ‘Journal of a Coward’, ac roedd yn gobeithio y byddai gwersi’n cael eu dysgu: ‘It is well that the next generation should understand things as they were in the Great War, it will learn to loathe the stupidities of its fathers and rectify their results.’

 

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