|Born||c. 1945 (age 71–72)
Chairman of Tower Colliery
|Spouse(s)||Elaine O'Sullivan; 2 children|
O'Sullivan was born in the heart of the South Wales coalfield, into a mining family - both his father and grandfather were coal miners. After he joined Tower Colliery as an apprentice electrician, in 1963 (three years before the Aberfan disaster), his father was killed at Tower Colliery in a roof collapse.
O’Sullivan became the Branch Secretary of the NUM branch of Tower Colliery in 1973. As an NUM activist, he became a flying picket, moving around Wales at the behest of Arthur Scargill, in the 1973 and 1974 strikes to oust Prime Minister Edward Heath's Conservative government.
When National Coal Board boss Ian MacGregor announced plans to close 20 pits and do away with 25,000 jobs in 1984, the planned closure of Cortonwood provoked a movement of Yorkshire miners who appealed to other coalfields for support. In light of the lack of support from Yorkshire with regards closures in South Wales, the South Wales branch as a region voted 3:1 against a strike.
O'Sullivan explained to his members at Tower the probable result of not fighting the closures, and gained 99% support:
|“||I phoned Emlyn Williams who was President of the South Wales area of the NUM and told him of my unease. His pit had voted for action but they were not going out on strike as they had been beaten by the area vote. I suggested something could be done. Emlyn said - do what you can, but don't tell me.||”|
O’Sullivan led flying pickets, a highly mobile type of picketing, from Tower over the following week to every pit in the South Wales region, as a result of which the pits had met and agreed to support the 1984/5 national miners strike. O'Sullivan later led the group of miners leaders against a national ballot during the strike, as it would have needed to include the Nottinghamshire branch, who would have voted against it - its leadership later formed the breakaway Union of Democratic Mineworkers.
He disclosed on the closure of Tower Colliery that he and his family knew at the time of the strike that their private home telephone had been bugged by MI5. Throughout the strike, O’Sullivan led groups of Tower miners around the country, drumming up support for the strike — O'Sullivan later joking that during the strike he spent more time in various bedrooms around the country with Glynn Roberts (later head of Human Resources at Tower Colliery), than his wife. These actions included a group who went to the village of Wivenhoe, where a group of Tower miners went to stop overseas import coal from coming into the harbour. O’Sullivan also acknowledged the changed role of women during the strike:
|“||It is likely that the actions of these women changed attitudes forever about the role of women. They no longer waited for their miner husbands to come home on a Friday and hand over a pay packet. Now the support they gave to the miners' cause was fundamental in the fight to save the mining communities.||”|
Goitre Tower Anthracite Ltd
In October 1992, the Conservative Government as part of a privatisation program of British Coal, announced closure of 31 of Britain's 50 working mines. After public outcry, the Government reviewed the status of 21 of them, with 12 temporarily reprieved, including Tower. However, in 1994, after its closure was ordered by Michael Heseltine of the Conservative government of John Major, the Tower miners decided to mount publicity campaign. It didn't work, and on 23 April 1994 British Coal announced the closure of Tower. After the mine closed, the miners retreated to the club in Penywaun and agreed to O’Sullivan's suggestion for the buyout of the mine. The deal was secured when 239 miners each paid £8,000 from their redundancy payouts to buy shares in Goitre Tower Anthracite Ltd, the vehicle which then borrowed an additional £2million to buy the pit from British Coal. The pit was reopened on 2 January 1995, after the miners led a triumphant march back to the colliery. O’Sullivan had by now been appointed personnel director of the new company. His famed 1994 quote later became a line in a locally produced opera by Welsh composer Alun Hoddinott:
|“||We were ordinary men, we wanted jobs, we bought a pit.||”|
O'Sullivan was probably nearer to the truth in that quote than any other reason for buying the pit, as local unemployment then was 30% in Aberdare, and would have risen to 40% had Tower and its 400 employees joined the dole queue.
O'Sullivan lives in Mumbles with his wife, Elaine. The couple have two daughters, and three grandchildren.
Awarded the OBE in the 1996 New Year Honours, O'Sullivan was formerly an adviser to the now discontinued Welsh Development Agency and is an Honorary Fellow of University of Wales Institute, Cardiff.
- Tower of Strength, Mainstream Publishing, 29 October 2001; ISBN 1-84018-500-7
- John Darnton (24 January 1995). "Hirwaun Journal; For These Miners, How Green Is Their Valley Now". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-01-28.
- "Last day at Tower". The Independent. 27 January 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-28.
- Robin Turner (19 January 2008). "Bugged by MI5 - Tyrone's revelation". Western Mail. Retrieved 2008-01-28.
- "Tyrone O'Sullivan's famous words to return to stage". Rhondda Cynon Taff. Retrieved 2008-01-28.[dead link]
- "Miners save their valley's pit Men facing the dole raised pounds 2m". The Independent. 23 December 1994. Retrieved 2008-01-28.[dead link]
- "Tyron O'Sullivan". UWIC. Retrieved 2008-01-28.