The Viscount Hall of Cynon Valley was a title in the Peerage of the United Kingdom which was created in 1946 and became extinct in 1985, and had the distinction of being the very first peerage title ever awarded to a coal miner.
George Hall was a native of Marshfield in Gloucestershire who married Ann Guard of Midsomer Norton but relocated to South Wales and worked as a colliery ostler. His son George Henry Hall was born on the 31st December 1881 at Penrhiwceiber, Mountain Ash in Glamorganshire, was educated at the local Penrhiwceiber elementary school until the age of twelve until he left to work in the Penrikyber Colliery, largely because the elder George Hall had died in 1889 and so the younger was required to contribute to the family finances. He worked at the coal face until 1911 when he became a checkweigher, although perhaps more significantly, at the age of twenty-one he suffered an accident at work which obliged him to take a leave of absence for thirteen months, and enabled him to embark on a programme of self education and led to a conviction that he should seek a career in politics.
In 1908 he won a seat on the Mountain Ash Urban District Council, and at the General Election of 1922 he was elected as the Labour Member of Parliament for Aberdare. He later served as a minister in the wartime coalition government and with the election of a Labour Government in July 1945 he became Secretary of State for the Colonies, being subsequently created the Viscount Hall of Cynon Valley on the 28th October 1946 and appointed First Lord of the Admiralty. He retired from politics in May 1951 and subsequently died in Leicester Hospital on the 8th November 1965. He had two sons by his first marriage to Margaret Jones of Ynysybwl, and as one was killed on active service when serving as a First Lieutenant in the Royal Navy during World War II, he was therefore succeeded by his surviving son William George Leonard.
The 2nd Viscount was born in Penrhiwceiber on the 9th March 1913, educated at Christ College, Brecon, and briefly worked as a miner, before joining the merchant navy, and then training to be a doctor at the University College Hospital, London. He also served in the Royal Navy during World War II, later worked for Powell Duffryn as their medical officer, moved into management and was employed by the International Finance Corporation. This rather varied employment history likely explained why the Postmaster-General one John Stonehouse, announced on the 22nd May 1969 that the Viscount Hall was his choice to take office as the very first chairman of the Post Office Corporation on the 1st October 1969. Unfortunately, there was a change in government following the General Election of 1970, and on the 25th November 1970 the new Minister of Posts and Telecommunications Christopher Chattaway demanded Hall's resignation, largely because (it was said) that the minister believed that Hall was unsympathetic to any idea of privatisation. His dismissal prompted a wave of protest strikes which singularly failed to change the minister's mind.
The Viscount was naturally disappointed at this turn of events as he had given up no less than fourteen directorships on taking up the chairmanship and therefore considered taking legal action. However he soon found alternative employment as the chairman of the Christopher Moran Group, but resigned in 1980; a decision not unconnected with the fact that Christopher Moran was on £100,000 bail having been charged with conspiracy to defraud, and announced that he would now be going to France to help his wife with her sheep.
But despite the fact that he was married three times, (his third wife, Marie-Colette Bach being the one who kept the sheep at St Viatre in France) the 2nd Viscount failed to produce any sons, and being the only surviving son of the 1st Viscount his death on the 24th July 1985 rendered his title extinct.
THE VISCOUNTS HALL OF CYNON VALLEY
- ‘HALL’, Who Was Who, A & C Black, 1920–2008; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2007
- A. Thomas Lane, Biographical dictionary of European labor leaders (Found on Google Books)
From The Times Digital archive
- Viscount Hall Obituaries, The Times, Saturday, Jul 27, 1985
- Maurice Corina and David Jones, Waves of protest strikes over the dismissal of Lord Hall, The Times, Thursday, Nov 26, 1970;
- Philip Robinson, Mr Moran stays director but board resigns, The Times, Saturday, Nov 01, 1980