Thursday, 18 August 2016

The Young Lloyd George

David Lloyd George, the most famous of Welshmen, was actually born in Manchester in January 1863; the son of two schoolteachers. Eighteen months later his father died, leaving his widow pregnant, and with a baby son. Fortunately her brother, Richard Lloyd, came to the rescue, helping the family move to his home at Llanystumdwy, a village in north Wales.
   Lloyd George later boasted that he was the first "cottage-raised man" to rise to the Premiership. This was strictly accurate, but Richard Lloyd was no downtrodden proletarian. He was a shoemaker (factory-made shoes had yet to appear), and as a skilled craftsman and a lay preacher in the Baptist chapel he was a respected member of the village community. He took great interest in his nephew's upbringing.
   Despite the limitations of local educational opportunities, Lloyd George was able to qualify as a solicitor, and set up a law firm in partnership with his younger brother William. (It was named, rather oddly, "Lloyd George and George"). He was active in local politics whilst still a teenager, and rose to prominence by his campaigns for the rights of local Nonconformists against the power of the established Anglican church, to which hardly any of the villagers belonged. As a result he was adopted as Liberal Party candidate for the local constituency of Caernarfon Boroughs, and in March 1890, following the death of its Tory M.P., was elected to Parliament by a majority of just 18 votes. He was to represent the constituency through to when he was elevated to a peerage just weeks before his death in 1945.
   There can hardly be a greater contrast between Lloyd George's background and that of Winston Churchill, his friend and colleague in the great reforming Liberal government before the First World War. Churchill was the grandson of the Duke of Marlborough, born in the splendour of Blenheim Palace and expensively educated at Harrow school; though he maintained he derived little benefit from it, and largely educated himself by extensive reading whilst a subaltern in the army in India. As an angry Conservative M.P. later remarked to Stanley Baldwin, the party's leader, "L.G. was born a cad and never forgot it: Winston was born a gentleman and never rememebered it".

Richard Lloyd's cottage can still be seen in Llanystumdwy.
This is the back door. The shoemaker's workshop is on the right. Inside there was a kitchen and parlour downstairs and two bedrooms upstairs. As was usual in such cottages, there was no indoor lavatory; instead there was a privy at the end of the garden.
Inside, the cottage and workshop are maintained as they would have appeared. No photography is permitted inside, but instead there is an excellent Lloyd George museum in a modern building next door, which is well worth a visit.

No comments:

Post a Comment