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A notable Person. Thora Craig (nee Silverthorne).
Thora Silverthorne was born on the 25th November 1910 the daughter of George Richard Silverthorne a coal hewer and Sarah Boyt the daughter of a Hauler from Bargoed. The family lived at170 Alma Street, Abertillery. Thora was one of eight Silverthorne children, Olive, Ivy, John (Shun), Betty, Roy and Beleta, Reg, Thora being named after a popular song of the day. Her father worked at the Vivian and Six Bells pits and was an activist in the South Wales Miners Federation (MinersUnion) and a founder member of the Abertillery Communist Party. Thora attended the Blaenau Gwent Baptist Chapel Sunday School and was a member of the Choir, which gave Thora a life long love of music. Thora attended theNantgyloOverflowSchoolin a big old house at Hafod -y-ddol and passed her scholarship at 10 and half in order to attendAbertilleryCountySchool.
Her childhood, like so many in theSouth Walesvalleys, was clouded in poverty, however Thora was always quick to point to "richness of the working class life in Abertillery" and the working class solidaridity, describing her childhood as "very happy". One of her memories was the feeding centre for the miners during the 1921 miners strike However her childhood was turned upside down when her mother died suddenly throwing the family deeper into poverty. At 16 Thora joined the Abertillery Young Communist League and chaired many meetings at the Institute including those addressed by Arthur Horner the great communist miners leader; "everyone talked politics in Abertillery" stated Thora.
In 1935 Thora moved toReading, where her Auntie lived in order to secure work and a new start. Her first job was as a ticket office clerk at the new cinema, then she secured the post of nanny to the local Labour Leading member of Parliament for Sutcliffe-Bartlett .she Joined the Labour Party selling the Daily Worker to local Railwaymen.. Later her father secured employment in theReadinggas works. In 1931 Thora won a place as a probationary nurse at the prestigiousJohnRadcliffeHospitalInfirmaryOxford, where her sister Olive was already a senior nurse. She rejoined the communist party under the leadership of Harry Waterhouse, making lasting friendships with leading communists, such as historians Christopher Hill and Chris Thorneycroft Thora was one of a team of medical and nursing staff from Oxford who tended to the needs of the many Hunger marches (many from Wales) that passed through the City, many were in very poor health, particularly their feet. After her qualification Thora moved to a sister's position at the Theatres at Hammersmith hospital London teaming up with Dr Charles Brook of the Socialist Medical Association, and his nursing wife Iris, both active in the Labour Party. In 1936 after a Fascist coup against the democratically left government inSpainthe Socialist Medical Association was formed into the Spanish Medical Aid Committee. Thora keen to help in the struggle to defend Europe from fascism volunteered to nurse in Spain where Thora was democratically elected Matron of a 36 bedded British hospital, a former primitive farm house in Granen near Huesca, Aragon. The conditions resembled that of World War 1, Thora and Dr Alexander Tudor Hart turned the hospital into a model of efficiency. The 14 hour shifts and stress took its toll on Thora’s health. Thora noted that many of her patients were German anti fascists from the Thaelmann Centuria, British International Brigade casualties including her close friend Michael Livesay who died in her arms in June l937. The Nusuing and medical staff were integrated into the International Brigade and Thora was promoted to Sergeant. Thora returned toEnglandand married Dr Kenneth Sinclair Loutit who had also served inSpainalong with Thora and set up home inGreat Ormond Street. He was elected as a "Unity Front" Councillor prior to the War in Holborn,London. Thora was still continuing to help raise money for Spain,. Later she was onVictoriastation to welcome the painter Picasso from the train when he arrived inLondon. Thora then became sub editor on a publication called Nursing Illustrated, the pay and conditions of nurses forced her to help establish the first union for nurses, the National Association of Nurses in 1937, much to the disapproval of the nursing hierarchy and the establishment. Thora was regulary accused by hospital managers and the RoyalcollegeofNursingof being paid by "MoscowGold" or not even being a qualified nurse all lies. The National Association of Nurses grew and Thora became its General Secretary.the role was taken over by Nancy Blackburn (Zinkin). The Association was transferred to NUPE led by another Abertillery native Bryn Roberts, who Thora greatly admired.
During the War Thora went to Radbridge,High Wycombe. After the War Thora became Assistant Secretary of the Socialist Medical Association, working to establish the National Health Service, which was achieved on July 5th 1945, also meeting Clem Attlee to discuss the SMA plans. In 1946 Thora married Nares Craig from Clitheroe,Lancashirea fellow communist party member engineer and architect (and a relative of Lord Craigavon). Thora became a full time union official for the Civil Service Clerical Association and on her retirement moved back to Llynoes, Powys in North Wales for 25 years, where Clive Jenkins and Frank Cousins were regular visitors, returning toLondona few years before her death. Thora Siiverthorne died on 17th January, 1999 and her service was held at Marylebone cemetery 25th January, the Valley of Jarama, the Internationale, Cwm Rhondda and a recording of the Welsh hymn "Land of my fathers" by Paul Robeson were all part of the service. Thora's coffin was draped with the International Brigade banner.
Overlooking the Town Hall Square, the Silverthorne Room is ideal for meetings, working lunches or training sessions. Complete with power, telephone and a.v. points.
Area (square metres) 40
Area (square feet) 681
Ceiling height (metres) 5.5
Access door (metres)
Height x width 2.230 x 0.970
U shape 30
Theatre style 40
The Town Hall, Blagrave Street,
Reading RG1 1QH
Tel: 0118 937 3400