Bevan’s town marks NHS anniversary

Image caption First Minister Carwyn Jones joined Blaenau Gwent’s AM Alun Davies, MP Nick Smith and shadow Welsh secretary Christina Rees in the parade

Hundreds of people have descended on the hometown of Aneurin Bevan to mark 70 years since he founded the NHS.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and First Minister Carwyn Jones are addressing Sunday’s event at Bedwellty Park in Tredegar, Blaenau Gwent.

Aneurin Bevan Day began with a banner parade from his former home on Charles Street involving about 200 people.

Bevan, the architect of the NHS as minister of health in 1948, was born and brought up in Tredegar.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Aneurin Bevan speaks to the first NHS patient, 13-year-old Sylvia Diggory at Trafford General in 1948

He was inspired by a late Victorian system that saw local miners and steel workers paying subscriptions every week to be covered for medical and hospital expenses.

It spread to involve almost the whole town – and to include dental treatment, visits by a district nurse and even access to a physiotherapist.

It was so successful that by the early 1930s more than 20,000 people were members of the Tredegar Workmen’s Medical Aid Society.

Image caption The world famous Tredegar Town Band will premiere a new work based on Bevan’s life during celebrations

Bevan said in 1947: “All I am doing is extending to the entire population of Britain the benefits we had in Tredegar for a generation or more. We are going to Tredegar-ise you.”

Organised by the town council, Bevan Day will also include Tredegar Comprehensive School pupils performing music and school oration and debating competitions.

At 15:00 Tredegar Town Band will play in the bandstand and a commemorative miner’s lamp will be lit before Mr Bevan’s great niece Nygaire Bevan takes it to Westminster via the Miners’ Mural at Llandough Hospital in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Other speakers expected at the event are Welsh Labour deputy leader Carolyn Harris, Health Secretary Vaughan Gething and shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth.

Who was Aneurin Bevan?

Image copyright Kurt Hutton/Getty Images
Image caption Aneurin Bevan overcame a speech impediment to become a noted orator

Aneurin Bevan was born at 32 Charles Street, Tredegar, on 15 November 1897.

His father was a miner and he was one of 10 children.

He struggled at school and left at 13 to begin working in a local colliery before becoming a union activist and winning a scholarship to study in London.

During the 1926 General Strike, he emerged as one of the leaders of the south Wales miners.

In 1929, he was elected as the Labour MP for Ebbw Vale – which included Tredegar – and in 1934 married another Labour MP, Jennie Lee.

After the landslide Labour victory in the 1945 general election, Bevan was appointed minister of health, responsible for establishing the National Health Service.

Image copyright Nicholas Mutton/Geograph
Image caption The centre stone at the Bevan Memorial Stones has a plaque marking the spot where Aneurin Bevan held open air meetings to speak to his constituents

In 1951 he resigned from the government in protest at the introduction of prescription charges for dental care and spectacles.

He died from cancer on 6 July 1960, aged 62.

His ashes were scattered on the hills above Tredegar, and it was here that the Bevan Memorial Stones were unveiled by Michael Foot in 1972.

Image caption Rita Hale, 96, who attended Sunday’s event, said she remembers hearing “brilliant” Aneurin Bevan speak

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