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Alfred Mond: industrialist and benefactor

Phil Carradice

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People driving up the A4067 from Swansea towards Ystradgynlais and the Brecon Beacons area might be excused for failing to realise the significance of the golf course they pass on the left at the turning for Clydach.

The course, like the bowling green attached to it and several other sporting amenities in the immediate area, was created by the industrialist Alfred Mond for the benefit and enjoyment of his workforce at the nearby Clydach Nickel Works.

Mond knew the importance of a settled and happy workforce, and the provision of amenities such as a golf course – very much the sport of the upper classes in those days – was a far-sighted and sensible move.

Alfred Mond was an an industrialist, financier and politician. He was also an active Zionist and someone who cared about the men and women who worked for him.

Mond was born on 23 October 1868, the younger son of Ludwig Mond who had emigrated from Germany and already founded the Brunner-Mond Chemical Company. Young Alfred was educated at Cheltenham and Cambridge, where he failed his natural sciences Tripos. He went on to study at Edinburgh, became a lawyer and was called to the bar in 1894.

Mond Nickel Company

Just a year later, Alfred joined the board of his father's company and, with Ludwig and his elder brother Robert, went on to found the Mond Nickel Company at Clydach just outside Swansea. In 1902 he was made managing director and, in 1923, chairman of the company.

In 1926 Brunner-Mond and the Mond Nickel Company were two of several companies that merged to form ICI. Alfred Mond was the first chairman of the new company. Before long the company's works at Clydach were the largest nickel works in the world.

MP for Chester, Swansea, Swansea West and Carmarthen

Alfred Mond had always advocated cooperation between workers and employers and in the wake of the 1926 general strike he organised and facilitated talks between the TUC and employers. Always interested in politics, Mond served as MP for Chester, Swansea, Swansea West and Carmarthen between 1910 and 1928.

He was a strong supporter of the Liberal Party and even served as minister of health between 1921 and 1922. A falling out with prime minister David Lloyd George led to his resignation and Mond joined the Conservative Party for the rest of his political career.

British Zionist Foundation

A visit to Palestine in 1921 reignited his interest in the idea of a Jewish homeland. Mond's family came from German Jewish stock and thereafter he was a regular contributor of funds to the Jewish Colonisation Corporation for Palestine. In due course he became the president of the British Zionist Foundation.

Alfred Mond remained interested in Palestine and the concept of a Jewish homeland to the end of his life. He even founded a town in what is now the state of Israel, Tel Mond.

Raised to the peerage in 1928, Alfred Mond took the title of 1st Baron Melchett – he had been Sir Alfred Mond since 1910.

Despite his elevation, Mond never forgot his debt to the workers in Wales. Without their skill and dedication, his company would have been powerless and would have undoubtedly failed at the first hurdle. They, for their part, gave him loyalty and unstinting support.

For many people in south Wales he was best known for pele mond. This was a mix of small coal – of little use in industry – and cement. It was ideal as a household fuel and was widely used across the south Wales area.

Alfred Mond died on 27 December 1930. His children followed him into the business, and the nickel works at Clydach are still there – so, too, is the golf course.

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