Brynle Williams: Farmer who became a fuel protest leader and popular Welsh Assembly member

The farmer Brynle Williams shot to public prominence in 2000 when he was among those who led protests at the gates of the Stanlow oil refinery at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire. The week-long blockades in which road hauliers and others demonstrated against escalating petrol prices that were ruining their businesses brought the country to a standstill and challenged the economic policies of the Labour government of the day. He was proud that the demonstrations, though raucous, had not turned violent, and he advocated such direct action as a means of making a political point. "The aim of our protests," he said, "was to bring to Tony Blair's attention that all was not well in the countryside."

He admitted privately that before 2000 he had never seen himself as a politician or even as someone who would ever stride upon a public stage, but as a Member of the National Assembly in Cardiff he was often in the news on account of his forthright opinions. He had been thrust into the limelight, he thought, because he cared passionately about issues that impacted upon his livelihood as a farmer and cattle breeder and because, unlike some politicians, he was prepared to speak up and take action on behalf of the farming industry.

The protest at Stanlow was not the first in which Brynle Williams had been involved. He had also taken part in demonstrations against the importation of beef from Ireland in 1997, when 40 tons of meat were thrown into the sea at Holyhead. But it was the fury of the televised scenes in Ellesmere Port and the masterly way in which he acted as spokesman for his fellow protesters which made his name as a farmers' leader. It seemed inevitable that he would be persuaded to stand for public office.

Born at Cilcain near Mold in Flintshire in 1949, he had begun working on the land at the age of 15 and, after studying at the Welsh College of Horticulture in Northop, spent the rest of his life at Cefn Melyn, the farm where he and his wife Mary raised sheep and cattle. He made his name as a beef producer and as a breeder and judge of Welsh ponies and cobs. The delight of his life was in the showing of these beautiful creatures, both at home and abroad, and he was often to be seen winning rosettes in the ring at the Royal Welsh Show or, natty in a bowler hat, judging the entries of others.

First elected to the National Assembly in 2003, he won a regional seat for the Conservatives again in 2007 and was hoping to return to political life when the Fourth Assembly, rejuvenated for having been given law-making powers by the people of Wales, is convened after the elections on 5 May. He chaired the North Wales Regional Committee during the First Assembly of 1999-2003 and also sat on the Sustainability, Local Government, Rural Development and Standards of Conduct Committees.

His transparent honesty made him many friends in political circles. His ruddy complexion, large frame and earthy manner were in contrast with the sleeker, sharper-suited politicos now to be seen in Cardiff Bay. Although he had made his name with his outspoken responses to journalists' questions during the fuel protests, he was, as it turned out, no rabble-rouser and there was nothing of the rantipole about him. His Welsh was rich in idiom redolent of the Clwydian hills and he listed the language as one of the causes in which he had a special interest as an Assembly Member. It was his amiable nature that always came to the fore when he got to his feet.

His speeches in the chamber were not much given to rhetoric or point-scoring but had a certain bluntness in their homely turn of phrase that many found refreshing, even charming. Some of his fellow AMs have said they will miss his larger-than-life presence in the Senedd, as the Assembly is generally known, especially his singing and whistling in the corridors and his infectious sense of humour in debates.

Brynle Williams was, by common assent, an honest man speaking up for the rural communities of Wales of which he was such a splendid representative and in whose way of life he believed passionately. As Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs from 2007 to 2011, he had an excellent working relationship with Elin Jones, the more politically experienced Plaid Cymru Minister, each holding the other in high regard. We have it on the good authority of Betsan Powys, the BBC Wales political editor, that he was the only AM who would dare wink at female journalists in the press gallery.

Among the many posts he held in the agricultural community was the chair of the Flintshire branch of the Farmers' Union of Wales, to which he devoted a great deal of his time and energies. He also served as a member of the Council of the Royal Welsh Show and the Welsh Pony and Cob Society.

The affection in which he was held by Welsh Conservatives and political opponents alike was borne out by the many tributes paid by such prominent figures as Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas, Presiding Officer of the National Assembly in its most recent incarnation, Carwyn Jones the Labour First Minister, Nick Bourne the leader of the Welsh Conservatives, and Ieuan Wyn Jones the Plaid Cymru Deputy First Minister, who called him "a thoroughly honourable and decent man".

Meic Stephens

Brynle Williams, farmer, fuel protester and Conservative Member of the National Assembly of Wales; born Cilcain, Flintshire 9 January 1949; married (one son, one daughter); died Wrexham 1 April 2011.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine