Sam LongThe article headline in the South Wales Gazette dated 12 January 1923 said 'Abertillery Man Hanged' but in reality Sam Long spent very little of his short and colourful life in Abertillery.
Samuel Alfred (Taffy) Long was born in Woodford, a small village near Berkeley in Gloucestershire in 1891, the son of Thomas Long. Nothing is known about his education and he first appears on the census of 1901 as a collector of rags, a menial job that would have paid a pittance. He allegedly ran away from home the same year at age 10 looking for work in the coalfields of the Forest of Dean, but when he enlisted for the army on 21 August 1911 he gave his occupation as farm labourer.
Prior to the onset of The Great War he was working at the Cwmtillery Colliery in Abertillery, before joining the 29th Divisional Artillery a unit of the Royal Field Artillery in 1914. Long was wounded at Gallipoli on 14 June 1915 and returned to South Wales to recuperate prior to returning to the fray in France. He was seriously wounded at Cambrai, France on 02 December 1917 and after returning home again was discharged from the army on 13 September 1918. Bombardier Long (66744) was awarded the Mons Star (B1396) for his service.
Long returned to Abertillery and found a position at the Penybont Colliery, where he struck up a friendship with fellow miner and would be politician Tom Gale, but the disillusioned Long yearned for a better life and in late 1919 he sailed from Newport Docks for South Africa, arriving in February 1920. Long applied to join the Mounted Police in Pretoria but was turned down because he couldn't speak Afrikaans, so he joined Crown Mines and became a timberman and part time machine operator. Long was a regular churchgoer and by 1922 had a young wife and a child. He was dark haired, handsome and well built and he lived in the working class western suburb of Fordsburgh. He was a paid up member of the South African Miners' Union, and attended the mine soccer club. Allegedly Long didn't play a leading role either at work or in his social circles.
At the outbreak of the 1922 Rand strike, Long was on leave, and did not return to work. As a resident of Fordsburg and a trade union member he was entitled to draw rations at Market Hall, the headquarters of the Miner Workers' Union. He volunteered to help combat looting in the chaos of the strike, and sjambokked nine people for looting.
On 15 March 1922, after the defeat of Fordsburg, Long was arrested for the murder of Alwyn Petrus Marais, a Forsburg shopkeeper. Marais had been found guilty by the strike committee of being a police informant and was sentenced to death. He was taken by a party of three to a back street and shot on 11 March. He died in the Johannesburg hospital the following day but allegedly named the Irish Commando Taffy Long as his assailant.
A Special Criminal Court was formed for the trial of those charged during the 1922 revolt. The Transvaal Strike Legal Defence Committee was formed by the trade unions to provide free legal defence for the accused. Long's case was the only one to undergo two trials 'each of which was the longest of all the hearings' and to serve before the Appeal Court in Bloemfontein. During the first trial the defence disproved or discredited much of the evidence, and also gave testimony, which implicated Percy Fisher in the murder. After eight days of cross-examination, the three trial judges failed to come to a unanimous verdict and declared they had no option but to return no verdict. They stated that the case rested with the Crown. Another Special Criminal Court with three other judges was constituted for the specific purpose of trying Long.
Prior to the second trial Long had written to Tom Gale who was residing in Castle Street, Abertillery at the time asking if he had any money to help with his defence. Gale was unable to help financially but approached George Barker MP and William Brace about Long's case. They in turn contacted the Duke of Devonshire to seek a government intervention, which was not forthcoming.
The second trial, which lasted for 04 to 20 October, began with the defence contesting the jurisdiction of the second court. The Appeal Court in Bloemfontein eventually overruled this objection on 06 November. On virtually the same evidence, the three new judges found Long guilty of murder and sentenced him to death. There was widespread public reaction to this verdict, particularly among members of the Labour Party and National Party, who claimed that this was yet another example of the Smuts-Hoggenheimer alliance against the worker. Subsequent mass protest and political meetings demanded a reprieve while the Transvaal Strike Legal Defence Committee resolved that long was innocent and declared that trial without a jury was a gross violation of the constitutional rights of British subjects.
On 17 November 1922 Long was hanged at the Central Prison in Pretoria, together with Herbert Hull and David Lewis, both strikers, who had been sentenced to death for the murder of Lieutenant Rupert William Taylor. When they were brought from their cell, the three men sang the 'Red Flag' the official anthem of early socialists and communists in South Africa. Their remains were handed to their relatives to be buried under the auspices of the Industrial Federation.
The funeral of Long, Hull and Lewis on 19 November at Brixton Cemetery in Johannesburg was attended by over 10,000 people. On the call of the National Executive of Trade Unions, they marched under the banners of the South African Mine Workers' Union and the Communist Party of South Africa, and the ceremony commenced and concluded with the singing of the 'Red Flag'. Though Anglican, the church refused to bury Long and so the rites were read by a minister of the Methodist Church. Both Mr H W Sampson and Mr J Cowan, secretary of the Mine Workers' Union addressed the crowd. They averred that their deceased comrades had left a charge to those assembled to champion the workers' cause. Subsequent labour histories heralded Long as one of South Africa's greatest working class martyrs.
Taffy Long was survived by his eighteen year old wife, Maria Elizabeth (Ria) born (Hammergren), whom he had married on 30 July 1921, and their infant son Samuel Thomas.