Michael was perhaps Wales's most brilliant adopted son.
Never again will we see such soaring oratory, socialist passion and wit.
Michael Foot, who died March 3, 2010, at the age of 96, served as Ebbw Vale’s MP for thirty-two years. Foot was a grand old man of the British Labour party, an unreconstructed radical, one of the last of his kind. He was known equally for his erudition and his disheveled appearance, most notably the jacket he wore at the Remembrance Day ceremony in 1981. (Not all were opposed to his sartorial choice: the Queen Mother complimented him on choosing “a smart, sensible coat for a day like this.”)
The Economist described him,
He died a much-loved Englishman, renowned for his untidy shock of white hair, his shambling wanderings on Hampstead Heath with his dog Dizzy, his devotion to literature, and the modesty that allowed him, when leader of the Labour Party, to stand in his anorak waiting at the bus stop, comme tout le monde. Deep into old age, half-blind, he never failed to keep up with the latest works on his great loves, Shelley and Byron, and to hold forth over breakfast—several eggs running all over his plate—about the latest troubles of his beloved party, and its prospects for the future.Foot wasn’t Welsh, but he worked for his constituency tirelessly, and the citizens of Ebbw Vale re-elected him until he retired in 1992. This was so despite his position as employment secretary when Ebbw Vale’s steel mills closed, which, rest assured, did not go unremarked.
Though politically engineered rather than home-grown, the connection of Foot to Ebbw Vale has its own kind of logic: Ebbw Vale has a reputation as a rough and rundown place with its better days well behind it. (Have I shared with you the story of the six-month-old mince pie?)
first integrated steelworks in Europe. Today, not a single steel mill remains. In 1992, a steelworks site was used for a national garden festival that attracted over two million visitors, but the festival turned out to be the last of its kind. The site is now home to a shopping mall.
in more than fifty years, the National Eisteddfod of Wales will be held in Ebbw Vale. The Eisteddfod is the national celebration of Welsh poetry, song, culture, and language. Every event is held in Welsh. Like the garden festival, the Eisteddfod’s reappearance at Ebbw Vale will take place on the grounds of an old steelworks, purpose-built for the occasion. The site is part of a development called “The Works”:
Out of the demolition and reclamation of the iconic old steelworks, Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council and the Welsh Assembly Government are working together to create a new vision for Ebbw Vale.One has to wonder, in these hard economic times, how “The Works” project is faring. We hope for the best. As for the Eisteddfod, Welsh harpist Catrin Finch will perform at the closing concert. We’ll be there, cheering for her and for Michael Foot’s former constituency, Ebbw Vale.
Oh, and, as promised, here’s the story of the six-month-old mince pie, as told by Welsh comedian Rhod Gilbert (though the Welsh are profligate in their use of consonants, Gilbert’s last name has one “l,” not two):