Ablett, Noah

First name/s: Noah
Last name: Ablett
Known names / nicknames:
Date of birth: 04/10/1883
Year of birth: 1883

Life before Ruskin

Date and place of birth: 4 October 1883, Ynys-hir, near Porth, Rhondda, Glamorgan

Family: Tenth of eleven children; son of John Ablett, miner and Jane, née Williams

Work: Standard colliery, Ynys-hir from age of 12

Politics/Trade union activity: member of ILP; member of South Wales Miners’ Federation.

Trade Union membership (at time of entry to Ruskin) ~ other Trade Union

Life at Ruskin

Dates at Ruskin: 1907 -8

Source of funding: correspondence course scholarship and then scholarship from Rhondda no. 1 district of the South Wales Miners’ Federation

Campaigns/political activity: member of Marxian Society; although he had left in 1908 he was a founder member of the Plebs’ League which attacked the curriculum at Ruskin; involved in the 1909 student ‘strike’ in support of sacked principal Dennis Hird who had supported students’ demands; one of the main founders of the breakaway Central Labour College in 1909.

Subjects studied at Ruskin: Economics[?]



Life after Ruskin

Education: Established Marxist education classes in the Rhondda from 1908; chairman of South Wales branch of the Plebs’ League 1909; leading proponent of independent working-class education (IWCE) – see publications below; agitated for alternative to Ruskin College within SWMF; member of provisional committee of Central Labour College 1909-1911 representing the Plebs’ League; member of CLC management board 1911-15, representing Rhondda District No.1

Work: 1909 returned to coalfield: Maerdy Colliery (elected checkweighman)

Politics/trade union activity: Left ILP 1910; Central figure in Cambrian combine dispute of 1910-11; SWMF executive member 1911; critical of conciliatory attitude of SWMF executive committee towards employers, wrote very influential pamphlet The Miners’ Next Step (1912) – see publications below; represented S. Wales miners at Leeds Convention 1918; executive member of Miners’ Federation of Great Britain 1921-6.

Family: married Annie Howells 1912; one son and one daughter.

Place & date of death: Rock Villa, Dyke Street, Merthyr Tydfil 31 October 1935

Date of death: 31/10/1935
Year of death: 1935

Achievements / Publications

As well as his trade union work, and important role in the Plebs’ League and Central Labour College, Ablett’s Plebs’ League textbook Easy Outlines in Economics (1919) was important in the popularisation of Marxist economics.

[Noah Ablett] The Miners’ Next Step: Being a Suggested Scheme for the Reorganisation of the Federation, Tonypandy: Unofficial Reform Committee, 1912.

Noah Ablett, Easy Outlines in Economics [Based on a series of articles written for the Plebs in 1909], Sheffield: Plebs’ League, 1919.

Material in archives or already published articles

Some material in the W.H. Mainwaring Papers, National Library of Wales.

H. Francis, ‘Ablett, Noah (1883–1935)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [, accessed 28 Oct 2013]

J. Bellamy and J. Saville, entry in Bellamy and Saville eds., Dictionary of Labour Biography, vol. 3.

W. W. Craik, The Central Labour College, 1909–1929: a chapter in the history of working-class education (1964)

D. Egan, ‘The unofficial reform committee and the miners’ next step’, Llafur, 2/3 (1978), 64–80 · D. Egan, ‘Noah Ablett, 1883–1935’, Llafur, 4/3 (1985), 19–30

H. Francis and D. Smith, The Fed: a history of the south Wales miners in the twentieth century (1980)

R. Lewis, ‘The South Wales miners and the Ruskin strike of 1909’, Llafur, 2/1 (1976)

Huw Morris-Jones in Dictionary of Welsh Biography


Notes on Image/s

Comment of contributor/s and sources

H. Francis, ‘Ablett, Noah (1883–1935)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [, accessed 28 Oct 2013]

J. Bellamy and J. Saville, eds., Dictionary of Labour Biography, vol. 3.


Catherine Feely

created 29/10/2013 at 11:15 pm, updated 07/11/2013 at 1:07 pm

2 thoughts on “Ablett, Noah

  1. Rob

    I am hoping to write something on Noah Ablett for the Ragged University Project in Edinburgh. Info on Noah’s life after the mid 1920’s is scare. mainly due to his increasing dependence on alcohol. If anybody comes up with anything please would they let me know?


    Rob (Ruskin 1994-1995)

  2. ian wright

    I am researching the life of john williams who was close friend of Noah Ablett and is sitting next to him in the photo which is normally used. It is very likely that john Williams attended the Central Labour College but I have no confirmation. I am trying to track down more details of their friendship.
    Here is some info:

    John Williams was the trade union agent representing the Forest of Dean Miners from 1922 to 1953. His job involved the day to day running of the local union organisation and negotiations with the employers. He worked tirelessly representing the interests of the Forest of Dean miners through the General Strike of 1926, the Depression of the 1930s, the Second World War and nationalisation of the coal mining industry until his retirement in 1953.

    John was born in 1888 at Kenfig Hill, near the Gawr Valley. His father was a hewer and his grandfather had worked as a mechanic in the mines. John was sent down the pits at the age of 13 at the International Colliery at Blaengarw where he worked with his father. His brother Emyln was born in 1893 and his sister Minnie was born in 1897. In 1901 the family were living in Llangeinor.

    In the years before he got the agency job in the Forest he was very active within the South Wales Miners’ Federation (SWMF). He was the SWMF representative at the International Colliery and the Secretary for the Gawr district covering 3,000 men. He was on the Executive of the Mid Glamorgan Labour Party and Chairman of the Bleangawr Workmen’s Institute. He also worked at the Ocean colliery and in the Gawr Valley. In 1914 he became a check weigher in 1914 at Cicely Colliery in the Rhondda.

    I am collecting facts and stories about John Williams with the view of writing a short biography. If you have any information about him I would be very grateful if you send it to me. Please note there is a little confusion over his name as he was sometimes called Jack Williams, perhaps to distinguish him from other Welsh union men who were called John Williams. Many thanks I am from the Forest of Dean


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