By the end of his life, Aubrey had been widely decorated in recognition of his work amongst the people of Newport. This was particularly remarkable considering that he had initially refused all honours that had been offered to him. The most significant honour was the Freedom of Newport which was awarded to him just four months before he died in February 1998, having previously turned this down in 1987. All other honours were awarded to him without being given the opportunity to refuse. His refusal to accept any recognition for the work that he carried out or his achievements also explains the lack of any national honours. It is known that he refused at least one national honour, although it is not clear what this (or these) were.
By the end of his life, Aubrey was an Honorary Alderman, a Freeman of the Borough of Newport, a holder of a Silver Jubilee Medal and had also had a road named after him in Newport. There is even a poem written in his honour. Many other honours have also been bestowed upon Aubrey, including a town mural within which he is depicted, and his name appears on many local landmarks, including within the foyer of the Newport Centre.
Freedom of the Borough of Newport and Honorary Alderman
Following Aubrey’s retirement as Leader of Newport Borough Council in May 1987, he was offered the Freedom of the Borough of Newport for his services to Newport, and for the high esteem in which he was held. However, Aubrey, not interested in any honours refused saying that this honour was “too good to waste” on a politician1. However, undeterred, the council without asking him first, made him an Honorary Alderman. He was the first person to be given this title in Newport since it was abolished under the Local Government Act 1972 in 1974. This was an ironic touch, considering Aubrey had fought fiercely in the late 1950s to reform the system of electing Aldermen to the then Borough Council.
Not able to rest after leaving the council, Aubrey then threw himself into charity work. Working just as hard and successfully as in his political life, by the time he died 10 years later in 1998, the charities that he was instrumental in founding2 were responsible for approximately 60% of all the local charitable income that came into Newport.
This included the largest, Newport Action for the Single Homeless (now known as Solas). In total, he had a hand in almost 30 charities.
In 1998 therefore the council offered him the Freedom of the Borough of Newport for a second time, using his charity work as a justifiable reason to give him this award. Harry Jones, Aubrey’s successor as Leader of Newport Borough Council, tried several times to get Aubrey to accept this honour. By this time, seriously weakened by cancer that meant that there were few hours in the day when he wasn’t in immense pain, and urged on by his wife Mary (and not for the first time), he eventually reluctantly accepted this honour3.
Aubrey was therefore made a Freeman of the Borough of Newport on 19th February 1998. The first to receive this honour since Aubrey as mayor himself made the award to the 104 Light Air Defence Regiment in 1977.
Aubrey was the third individual to receive this award since the war (including Field Marshall Bernard Law Montgomery in 1945), and the first since 1954.
With the pain of his cancer making it difficult to do even simple tasks by this time, Aubrey had to be put on powerful painkillers, and a bed was also installed in the Council Chamber as it was recognized that he might not be able to make it through the ceremony.
At the end of his speech, Aubrey dedicated his award to the woman of the labour group of his local ward who took him under his wing as a young Labour councillor in the early 1950s.
Aubrey’s Freedom Ceremony was videoed, and a link to this is available here. It should be noted that this video has been digitised from a VHS video and contains background noise. This video will be cleaned up in the future, and replaced with a higher quality copy.
“Freedom of the Borough/City of Newport”
- 1909 Hon. Godfrey Charles Morgan, Lord Tredegar, Lord Lieutenant of the County of Monmouthshire
- 1909 Alderman John Moses JP
- 1922 Albert Augustus Newman
- 1924 Hon. James Henry Thomas MP
- 1927 Alderman John Parry JP
- 1934 Horace Sampson Lyne MBE
- 1935 Alderman John Moxon OBE
- 1936 William Royse Lysaught CBE, JP
- 1936 Alderman Frederick Phillips JP
- 1936 Alderman John Lloyd Davies JP
- 1945 Field Marshall Sir Bernard Law Montgomery
- 1947 Corps of the South Wales Border 24th Foot
- 1954 Mrs Mary Ann Hart OBE, JP
- 1969 Royal Regiment of Wales(24th / 41st Foot)
- 1978 104th Air Defence Regiment Royal Artillery (Volunteers)
- 1998 Aubrey Hames
- 2001 Royal Welsh Fusiliers
- 2002 Merchant Navy Association (Red Duster)
- 2004 Sir Harry Jones CBE
- 2006 HMS Severn
- 2013 Newport County AFC
- 2013 Newport RFC
Aubrey Hames Close
Just over a year after retiring from local politics, Newport Borough Council further honoured Aubrey by naming a road after him in the ward that he served as a local councillor for most of his political career.
The honour of having a road named after a politician in Gwent is rare.
An article written in 2002 speculating on Tony Blair, the then Prime Minister having a road named after him in Gwent indicated that few former politicians had had a road named after their full name in Gwent, namely Keir Hardie, Aneurin Bevan, Clement Attlee, John Frost and Aubrey.
Aubrey had the singular honour of having a road named after him in his lifetime. Even Nelson Mandela, who was proposed for the honour in 1988, ultimately failed.
For his Freedom of Newport ceremony, a poem was written about Aubrey by Goff Morgan Newport Town Poet, and read out at the ceremony.
Silver Jubilee Medal
The Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal was a commemorative medal created in 1977 to mark the 25th anniversary of the accession to the throne of Queen Elizabeth II.
30,000 of these medals were distributed around the UK, mainly to members of the armed forces and civilian services, although a number were also handed out to other upstanding figures of UK society, including Aubrey.
“Signs” around Newport
Aubrey’s image or name appears on a number of plaques etc around Newport. These include Aneurin Bevan Court, which he opened in 1987 and a mural bearing his image
1. The exact phrase is slightly different from two newspaper sources, however, the meaning is unchanged.
2. This was based on a comment from the Freedom of Newport Ceremony. However, it is not sure whether the comment related to the Charities he had founded, had helped fund or something else. Unfortunately, this comment is missing from the tape of the ceremony, so cannot currently be collaborated. However, it is believed that the exact phrase was “the charities that he had founded”.
3. Aubrey truly did not want any honours to be given to him for his work in Newport. He was genuinely frustrated at having his words turned against him to receive the Freedom of Newport, and even his family was undecided over whether he should have been given this honour effectively against his wishes.