Obituary: Mogg Williams

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The Independent Online
Proof that industrial communities do not live by bread alone was for decades supplied by the Welsh poet Mogg Will-iams. Like W.H. Davies, the Monmouthshire-born "tramp poet", he is entitled to be regarded as a "people's poet". He wrote almost exclusively about his native South Wales coalfield.

Born David Morgan Williams in Ogmore Vale in 1928, he left school at the age of 14 and followed the traditional route of those times by working underground. A pit accident forced him to leave the mines after some 20 years and he took to writing.

"Spin blind wheel", he wrote in his poem "The Pitwheel",

You bastard spin

From boy to man

I have seen you win.

A stream of coal from the


Into the running light of day.

The titles of his collections include Poets, Pitwheels and Apples (1975), Mogg's People (1985), Of Breads, Gods and Men (1987) and Ropes of Smoke (1992). He published much of his work himself and gave away any profits to good causes, particularly those which helped to sustain mining communities.

At the 1974 South Wales Miners' Eisteddfod he was presented with a silver miner's lamp in recognition of his contribution to Wales's working-class culture.

Williams's work was frowned on by the stiff necks of Wales's cultural establishment; it was their loss. Undeterred, he roamed the valleys reading poetry in public houses and social clubs.

During the 1984-85 miners' strike his readings verged on the inspirational, helping to satisfy the embattled valleys' thirst for relief from the hardships of picketing and making ends meet. He played a similar role a decade later when the miners of Tower Colliery, in the Cynon valley, waged a successful campaign to buy their pit, which has just celebrated its second anniversary as a profitable co-operative.

Some of his poetry and prose was broadcast on radio and television and his first stage play, On Wordberry Hill, was directed at the Sherman Theatre in Cardiff by Karl Francis, now head of drama at BBC Wales, in 1980.

David Morgan ("Mogg") Williams, poet and miner: born Ogmore Vale, Glamorgan 15 February 1928; married 1949 Joyce Barrett (one son, one daughter); died Ogmore Vale 11 January 1997.