Obituary: Dr Carl Clowes, first chair of pioneering community co-op

Antur Aelhaearn was established in 1974 to create local opportunities and prevent depopulation in Llanaelhaearn village, Gwynedd

Dr Carl Clowes, who played a key role in an early community co-op alongside his roles as GP, health official and social campaigner, has died following a short illness.

A leading campaigner on education and other issues in North Wales, he became the inaugural chairman of the UK’s first community co-operative, Antur Aelhaearn, which was established in 1974.

Dr Clowes was campaigning to fight de-population and economic decline in Gwynedd, and set up the co-op – which comprised three basic home industries and a shop – in the village of Llanaelhaearn to promote employment and development to help sustain the local community.

He was inspired to create the venture by a trip to Oileán Chléire, an island off County Cork, where islanders had formed a co-op Comharchumann Chléire Teoranta to administer the electric system and create employment through fishing, farming and tourism. 

Interviewed at the time by the BBC, he said: “I as a doctor need patients, the shop locally needs customers, the nurse similarly or the police station or the garage, we’re all dependent one upon another. And if population continues to decline … it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to appreciate that within 30, 40 years the population funnel here … would have declined to a degree which would have taken it beyond viability.”

He added: “We created momentum – we see people, young people living in the village today, connected with a village who wouldn’t be living here”.

He also founded the charity Nant Gwrtheyrn Trust, to foster education in Welsh language, literature and culture, in 1978; he was initially its chair and later became president.

The trust was founded in 1978 while Dr Clowes was physician in Bro’r Eifl and he was initially appointed Chairman of the centre, later becoming President. And as chair of the National Language Forum, he steered the first comprehensive language strategy for the Welsh language which led to the 1993 Language Act.

Born in Manchester, his parents returned to north Wales where he worked for eight years as a doctor after qualifying in 1967. He the gained a masters in social medicine from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

He also served as a medical director and a non-executive board member with Public Health Wales, a public health fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and was made an honorary fellow of the Royal College of General Practitioners for his contributions to medicine.