Roberts, Bryn

First name/s: Arthur Bryn
Last name: Roberts
Known names / nicknames:
Date of birth: 07/04/1897
Year of birth: 1897

Life before Ruskin

Date and place of birth: Abertillery

Family: Mary (mother) and William (father). According to Dupre (2011), William was a mining engineer and a Tory.

Work: Collier (Penybont Colliery, Abertillery), from 1910.

Politics/Trade union activity: SWMF

Trade Union membership (at time of entry to Ruskin) NUM

Life at Ruskin

Dates at Ruskin: pre-1919

Source of funding:

Campaigns/political activity:

Subjects studied at Ruskin:



Life after Ruskin

Education: Central Labour College

Work:  Checkweighman;

Politics/trade union activity:  Secretary, SWMF, Rhymney Valley 1926. Labour Party – stood for nomination for Ebbw Vale parliamentary seat 1929 – second to Aneurin Bevan.

1933 – Appointed General Secretary of National Union of Public Employees, Retired in 1962.


Family: married Violet Mary Sheenan, 1922. One son and two daughters

Place & date of death: Shortlands, Kent, 26/8/1964

Date of death: 26/08/1964
Year of death: 1964

Achievements / Publications

NUPE grew first among manual workers in local government. As General Secretary Roberts created a structure of recruitment and organisation that led to a rapid growth in NUPE membership, from the 1930s on: “By 1939, compared with 1933, NUPE had more than quadrupled its membership and annual income. But this was just the hors d’oeuvres.   By 1947, Roadmen wages had increased by over 100% and NUPE was a leading union in the fledgling NHS, campaigning for national wages and conditions, as well. By 1949 its membership had increased to 170,000 members.” (Dupre 2011. ) From the 1940s onwards, NUPE began recruiting, effectively in the NHS.

The internal union structure that Roberts created in the course of these achievements was criticised by some as undemocratic: “Roberts ruled NUPE supreme. In 1937 he persuaded the conference to move from yearly to two-yearly conferences. The number of full time officials grew rapidly, from 5 in 1934 to 25 in 1936 to 45 in 1954. These officials were accountable solely to Roberts, who decided their pay and appointment individually. Whenever the rank and file stepped out of line they were stamped on hard. In 1951 Roberts, not usually a ‘cold war warrior’, expelled the three Communist leaders of a 10-day unofficial strike in Edinburgh Corporation.” (Callinicos 1977).






Material in archives or already published articles

Alex Callinicos, ‘Alan Fisher, NUPE and the New Reformism’ International Socialism 96 (177)

W.W. Craik Bryn Roberts and the National Union of Public Employees Allen & Unwin 1955

D.Dupre ‘Bryn Roberts, a Forgotten Trade Union Hero’, Parts 1 & 2 Bevan Foundation 2011




Notes on Image/s

Comment of contributor/s and sources

From the cover of the book by Craik.



Ken Jones

created 25/05/2015 at 10:45 pm, updated 03/06/2015 at 8:43 am

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