ALDERMAN "BILL" SMITH
THE story of a life such as that of Alderman Smith, exMayor of Newport, is useful as a reminder of the changes that have taken place in this century.
Bill Smith was born in 1884. At the age of eleven he was working twelve hours a day as a Irani conductor.
His total schooling, until at the age of 30 he went to the Catholic Workers' College, was live years. His own description of his early years is that he consorted with bargees and drovers, for which he got, he says, the biggest hiding of his life.
The jobs he had in his youth were typical of the blind alley jobs into which so many young boys drift.
He lasted as a train conductor for one year. Then he was an errand boy for a wine merchant. He worked as a collier for a time. Then in a " stinking " smith's shop where he worked from 7 a.m. to 8h.i3sOliepr.m. every day and worked harder than at any other period of
Then at the age of 18 he started on the Great Western Railway as a eleatier. Later he became a fireman and for 41 years held that job and that of a driver. He is now retired on pension. Starting on the G.W.R. he naturally joined the trade union and soon became aware of the need for education. Seeing an advertisement for the Catholic Social Guild he took up a correspondence course and also went to W.E.A. lectures.
He remembers in those days the present Foreign Minister travelling to lecture in Newport at 3s. 6d, a time.
HIS new found love for education stimulated his mind and at trade union branch meetings he was always asking questions. The result was the usual; he became chairman of the branch.
The crowning educational achievement was to go to the Catholic Workers' College as one of its foundation members. Be claims that securing the university diploma was an accident. Be that as it may, he left the college with the diploma in social science and political economy and at once began to organise classes in the C.Y.M.S.
Since that year, 1923, his life is typical of very many others. He married—there was one child, a daughter. He worked. He went to his union and political meetings. He entered Newport Council. in 1924. Ten years later he was Mayor. Later still appointed LP. He is now chairman or the Finance and Education Committees.
With that work went on his own Catholic work and he conducted his classes and his study circles year after year inculcating into others that love for knowing the answer and that ambition to be able to give the answer to others that took him to the Catholic Workers' College.
In his quiet way he has influenced very many in South Wales, where he is respected and admired. In the Labour Party, in the trade unions, in the adult educational movement as well as in ordinary Catholic life Bill has fought his way to the top and has become a profound influence.
'THIS year marks the 25th birthday of the Catholic Workers' 1 College and Bill is one of the many living proofs of its need and of its value.
From a 11-years-old train conductor to finance committee chairs man of a very large county borough is no mean record. It is something of which Bill Smith might well be proud. But if you say that to him he will probably remark, " It's a handful."