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Decision on memorial to war hero and slave colony governor Thomas Picton

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THE TOWERING 80ft high memorial at Carmarthen to war hero and slave colony governor Sir Thomas Picton will not be demolished, removed or renamed – but information boards telling his story in full will be erected. The decision was made by the Plaid Cymru led Carmarthenshire County Council’s Executive Board today after they’d heard that a substantial majority of the 2,500 people who replied to a public consultation favoured keeping the monument at its present location. Cllr Cefin Campell, Chair of the cross-party group tasked with holding the consultation, said that more must be done to fully educate people about the life and times of colonial era people like Thomas Picton, and that information boards placed in prominent positions near the monument and elsewhere is a step towards achieving that aim.

“The fact that almost 2,500 people responded to our questionnaire justifies our decision to ask the people of Carmarthenshire for their opinion on the future of this historical landmark and associated street names, in view of the worldwide attention given to statues of people with known links to slavery,” said Cllr Cefin Campbell, Chair of the cross-party Task and Finish group which held the public consultation.

“Our result clearly shows that a majority were in favour of keeping the monument, as it commemorates a war hero who fell in the great battle against Napoleon at Waterloo. But others felt that commemorating a cruel slave owner who permitted legalised atrocities against black people when he was Governor of Trinidad was totally unacceptable.

Given the level of opinion, and the fact that respondents on both sides of the debate felt that more should be done to fully educate people about Sir Thomas Picton and other historical figures, it was unanimously decided that information boards be prominently placed near the monument and in the vicinity of the former courtroom in the Guildhall where his portrait hangs. The Group believed we all have a responsibility for how historical figures are understood and remembered and how their history is presented, especially for future generations. The provision of information boards is a step towards achieving this aim.”

Cllr Gareth John, who took part in the consultation as Mayor of Carmarthen, pointed out that the monument debate is just part of the County Council’s wider approach to addressing racism and discrimination in the society.

“Whilst others focused on the clamour to remove public monuments, Carmarthenshire County Council are formulating a wide-reaching set of policy actions to address all the issues surrounding discrimination and inequality within our society, which included racism and the appropriateness of monuments and memorials such as the one to Thomas Picton.

“It really saddened me at the time this consultation began that the main topic of discussion centred around the future of the Picton monument. Regretfully, this was fuelled by certain individuals spreading the false information that the council had already decided that the monument should be removed, which resulted in opinion becoming very polarized extremely quickly, with many becoming totally intolerant of any debate.”

“Picton’s appalling role and actions in the Trinidad sugar slave colony must be weighed against his subsequent military career and death as a war hero, laid to rest in St Paul’s Cathedral. The original memorial in Carmarthen was paid for by local public subscription and as Mayor I’m glad that the recommendations being made reflect the views of the present residents of our town.”

“Removing or demolishing the massive Picton monument would have been out of the question – not to mention hugely expensive,” said Cllr Alun Lenny, who represents Carmarthen Town South and is a local historian. “Iconoclasm, being the destruction of monuments for political or religious purposes, is just sweeping history under the carpet. Renaming or rededicating it to someone else, no matter how worthy, would be disingenuous. It was erected by the people of Carmarthen in a past age for a specific purpose. It is a visible historical edifice which speaks eloquently about the values of our ancestors, both good and bad. However, since most contemporary values and attitudes differ to theirs, we, the people of Carmarthen today, must tell Sir Thomas Picton’s story in the round.

“General Picton was a product of the British colonial era, of which conquest, slavery and the looting of other countries were central elements. That dark story, and his part in it, must be told. But Picton was also a brave man, as demonstrated by his heroic conduct during the hour of his death at Waterloo, a battle which changed the course of European history.”

The Council have confirmed to The Carmarthenshire Herald that the Picton monument issue is just one element of a far-reaching inquiry to address racism and discrimination in Carmarthenshire by the Task and Finish group, which was set up following a Notice of Motion to full council last July by Plaid Cymru members. The cross-party group will take evidence and ensure that the concerns and suggestions of black and ethnic communities are fully heard in order to inform future policy. Amongst a raft of other measures, the council agreed to work with schools to include such themes as colonialism and exploitation in the new National Curriculum, encourage more members of the BAME community to apply for posts on the County Council, and work with the police on addressing racism and discrimination within the judicial system.

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Family of power station worker calls on former colleagues to help with asbestos claim

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THE WIFE of a Carmarthenshire man, who was just 66 when he died of an asbestos-related cancer, is calling on colleagues who worked with him in the 1970s to help understand where and how he contracted the disease.

Peter Colton, from Llanelli, died in July 2021 after being diagnosed with the asbestos-related disease, mesothelioma.

He worked as a conveyor and weighbridge operator for the CEGB at Carmarthen Bay Power Station. During his time at the power station, his duties included offloading coal wagons and conveying coal to the boilers.

It is possible that Mr Colton was exposed to asbestos during those years and now his family has sought the help of local asbestos specialists J.M Parsons, to investigate a claim for compensation.

Ann Colton, Mr Colton’s wife, wants answers. She said: “Peter was diagnosed with mesothelioma and died just six weeks later. He had been suffering from shortness of breath and just had no quality of life.

“It was devastating to see someone who had been so healthy and active slowly get worse and worse. We just want to know where and how he was exposed to asbestos and hope someone out there can help us.”

According to data from the Health and Safety Executive, annual mesothelioma deaths in Britain increased steeply over the last 50 years, a consequence of mainly occupational asbestos exposures that occurred because of the widespread industrial use of asbestos during 1950-1980.

Amanda Jones is one of the specialists at J.M Parsons, which is owned by Thompsons Solicitors. Thompsons has paved the way for asbestos litigation in the UK ever since it brought about the first successful asbestos disease claim to the House of Lords in 1972, 50 years ago.

She said: “We would be grateful to hear from anyone who remembers working with Peter Colton in Carmarthen Bay Power Station in the 1970s or anyone who worked in the same field as Peter beyond the 1970s.

“Such individuals will be invaluable to Mr Colton’s family as they may be able to add important information that will assist us in building a civil claim. We hope that we will then be able to answer questions about the conditions that Mr Colton worked in during his working life.”

Anyone with information should contact Amanda Jones on 01554 779940, or via email at amanda@jmplaw.co.uk.

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Business

Carmarthenshire cheese maker secures Co-op listing

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Caws Cenarth award

A CHEESEMAKER from Carmarthenshire has secured its first listing with the Co-op as part of the retailer’s continued focus on local and community sourcing.

Family-owned Caws Cenarth, which has cheese making in the family dating back to 1903, will now see two of its cheeses listed in more than 20 Co-op stores across the region.

Made on farm in Glyneithinog, Caws Cenarth will supply Co-op with its Organic Caerffili – which has a light and lemony taste with hints of sea salt – and, one of its best known cheeses the Organic Perl Las Mini – which is described as a blue cheese, golden in colour, with a creamy, gently salty taste that grows stronger with maturity.

Carwyn Adams, whose parents rekindled the family tradition for cheese making in 1987 with the creation of Caws Cenarth, said: “We are absolutely thrilled. I shop in our local Co-op and regularly thought how nice it would be to see our cheese on the shelf and, now that is to become a reality. Working with Co-op will support our business development, and raise awareness of our cheeses, not only across the region, but also further afield as visitors to the area often look for local produce to take back home with them as gifts or to remind them of their stay in the area.”

Jo Wadsworth, Co-op’s Community Buying Manager, said: “We are delighted to welcome Caws Cenarth onto our shelves. We know that our Members and customers value the quality and provenance of locally produced food and drink and, here at the Co-op we are focussed on supporting local suppliers as part of our commitment to creating value and making a difference in our local communities.”

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Education

Carmarthenshire Council offers career opportunities through new Care Academi 

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Cllr Jane Tremlett, Cabinet Member for Social Care

CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council has launched a new Care Academi which offers exciting opportunities to those looking for a career in social work or social care.

Open to all ages, the Academi will provide training, support and guidance to successful applicants, enabling them to earn while they learn and choose a career path that suits them best.

With a blend of on-the-job training and education, there are various opportunities to explore the variety of social care and social work roles on offer.

All applicants must have a minimum of two GCSEs (grade A* – D) or equivalent in English, Welsh or Maths.

Cllr Jane Tremlett, Cabinet Member for Social Care said: “Our new Care Academi offers fantastic opportunities to those looking for a career in social work or care.

“Successful applicants could achieve a degree in social work or a level five management qualification, but there are also opportunities throughout the programme to find an alternative role that suits you best if completing a degree isn’t for you.

“If you are motivated, have a positive attitude and are looking for the first exciting step in a new career then we want to hear from you and welcome your application.”

For more information or to apply please visit www.Carmarthenshire.gov.wales/careacademi 

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