THE DEATH of Bill Morgan has robbed the South Wales valleys of an outstanding champion of the values which sustain communities, especially at times like the present when the going is tough. He stood four-square for the belief that there is such a thing as society. He amply demonstrated that commitment to the common good is worth a good deal more than any number of injunctions to stand on your own feet and look after Number One.
Bill Morgan was born in the mining village of Trelewis, a few miles from Merthyr Tydfil. After attending school at nearby Bargoed he worked in one of the collieries which provided the raison d'etre for much of South Wales. In 1965 he gained a B Sc degree at the University of Wales in Cardiff before studying at Ripon Hall, Oxford. He was ordained in 1972 and settled in Merthyr. In recognition of his work with the unemployed he was made an Honorary Canon of the Church in Wales in 1988. Three years later he became Rural Dean of Merthyr Tydfil.
Like many clergy in industrial areas, he combined church work with political activity. A leading figure in valley politics and a member of the Transport and General Workers' Union, he was in the forefront of many battles for trade-union rights.
As a tireless fighter for the underdog he helped to rescue many young people from the dole queue - the Merthyr Action Programme, launched in the late 1970s, stands testimony to his persistence. He served on Merthyr Borough Council as leader of the Labour group and held office as mayor. Ill-health forced his retirement from the council in 1986 but his interest in municipal affairs never wavered.
As Labour candidate at Worcester in the general elections of February and October 1974 he succeeded in reducing the majority of the incumbent Peter Walker from 7,000 to 5,000. When Archbishop Desmond Tutu visited Britain in February 1989 it was natural that Tutu should return to Merthyr where a couple of years earlier he had been made a Freeman of the Borough. It was also entirely natural that he should renew his friendship with Bill Morgan; journalists covering the archbishop's visit retain vivid memories of the warmth of their meeting in a hall just across the road from the site of one of the town's long-gone iron-works.
Today the borough faces the loss of its remaining colliery, Taff Merthyr, which is one of the top 10 on the Government's closure list. It stands a stone's throw from Bill Morgan's birthplace. As time passes and the valleys green over, people like Bill Morgan, no less than the colliery communities in which they grew up, will continue to hold a special place in Welsh hearts. The valleys are that sort of place.