Eileen Beasley

Catherine Eileen James was born into a farming family on 4th April 1921, in the village of Henllan Amgoed, Carmarthenshire. During the Second World War, she studied at University College Cardiff (now Cardiff University) before working as a teacher.

After marrying coal miner Trefor Beasley in 1951, the couple moved to Llanelli. Having met at a Plaid Cymru gathering, (and with Trefor being involved with union activity), the pair were politically engaged long before the subsequent recognition they received for their activism and Welsh-language advocacy.

During the 1950s, the Welsh language had no official status in Wales and Eileen Beasley protested against this by refusing to pay her rates to Llanelli Rural District Council until she received a bilingual demand. In a region where 90% of the population spoke Welsh, Eileen’s battle lasted over eight years, during which time she and Trefor were summoned to court 16 times. Bailiffs also visited their home on several occasions and took personal items, wedding gifts and even their carpets, in lieu of the unpaid taxes.

By the end of the dispute, the Beasleys and their children owned only a table, four chairs and their beds, yet public support for their campaign had gained momentum. By 1958, Eileen was elected county councilor (the only female public official in the area) and received letters of support from around the world. In 1960, Llanelli Rural District Council finally agreed to print bilingual rates demand notices and Eileen Beasley became known as the Mother of Direct Action and the Welsh Rosa Parks.

Eileen Beasley died in August 2012, but her legacy is felt across Wales. Plaid Cymru founder Saunders Lewis advocated her actions in a speech that led to the creation of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, while Eileen’s determination inspires others to continue to fight for our language.

Categories: Public Servants | Revolutionaries | Survivors

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