AS 1995 dawned, the South Wales Argus published a story about the winding up of the Tredegar Medical Aid Society.

Readers were informed that, as its paying membership had dwindled to a mere 80, and funds were declining, it was closing after 105 years.

It was a muted finale for an organisation that, at its peak during the three decades before the advent of the NHS, had upwards of 20,000 members, catered for the medical needs of more than 95 per cent of population of Tredegar, and played a pivotal role as an inspiration for Aneurin Bevan's vision for a national health service.

Oft-cited on NHS anniversaries is a quote attributed to Bevan as Minister for Health during the run-up to its instigation: “All I am doing is extending to the entire population of Britain the benefits we had in Tredegar for a generation or more. We are going to ‘Tredegar-ise’ you.”

Where and when he said this, appears lost in the mists of 20th Century political time. Bevan's most recently published biographer Nick Thomas-Symonds did not include it in his 2014 book Nye: The Political Life of Aneurin Bevan because he could not locate its source.

It does not require much immersion in the writings and speeches of the erstwhile architect of the NHS however, to recognise the quote as quintessential Bevan - and it neatly encapsulates the model he had in mind when formulating his blueprint for the NHS.

His inspiration was the Tredegar Workmen's Medical Aid Society, which operated in the town as he grew up.

It also had as its secretary from 1915 until his death in 1933 a man - Walter Conway - who, as well as being a dedicated and extremely able administrator, was a key figure in Bevan's early life.

The Tredegar Workmen's Medical Aid and Sick Relief Fund was seven years old when Bevan was born, in the town's Charles Street in 1897.

It was founded through the coming together of schemes run by benevolent societies in the town, and the Health and Education Fund, set up in the early 1870s by the Tredegar Iron and Coal Company.

The valleys of south Wales, heavily industrialised as they were, hosted a number of similar company-based schemes into which the employees of mines, iron and coal firms and the like paid a small proportion of their wages, for instance 2d or 3d in the pound.

In return they received medical care when required, for themselves and their families. The scope of such cover varied from scheme to scheme.

The Tredegar fund was also open to people not directly employed by the Tredegar Iron and Coal Company, though their contributions did not cover sick pay, as employees' did.

Following the merger of the town's schemes, and the combining of their funds, membership of the Tredegar Workmen's Medical Aid and Sick Relief Fund increased, and by 1901 it was proposing that a hospital be built in the town.

Built on land donated by Lord Tredegar and paid for by the Tredegar Iron and Coal Company, Tredegar Cottage Hospital opened in 1904 in the town's Park Row. It was run by the Fund with weekly contributions from ironworkers.

In 1911, the National Insurance Act, the 20th Century's first great piece of reforming social legislation, introduced the concepts - through contributions by workers, their employers and the State - of unemployment benefit and sick pay.

It also prompted changes to the Tredegar Workmen's Medical Aid and Sick Relief Fund, as it was no longer allowed to provide sick pay. It was converted into a benevolent society, becoming known as the Tredegar Workmen's Medical Aid Society.

That year also saw the opening of the society's Central Surgery, in Church Street, which contained consulting and treatment rooms, a pharmacy, a waiting room, and accommodation for two doctors and their families.

The importance of such provision in a period where poverty was a stark reality or an ever-present threat for a large majority of people, cannot be under-estimated, and the Tredegar Workmen's Medical Aid Society was by this time regarded as among the best in the country.

The influence of the Tredegar Iron and Coal Company was also being eroded.

In 1915, the society appointed as its secretary Walter Conway, a miner who had been brought up at the Bedwellty Union Workhouse in Tredegar after his single parent father died.

At the workhouse he learned the lesson 'to do everything well', and applied it with vigour thereafter in his public life.

In 1908, in his mid-30s, he was appointed to the Board of Guardians of the workhouse, a role he occupied for more than 20 years, including a stint as the chairman.

It is his role at the Tredegar Workmen's Medical Aid Society however - and a more unofficial but no less important one as a mentor to a young Aneurin Bevan - for which Conway is best known.

The society opened an office in the town - at 10 The Circle - and through his dedication and commitment it developed to the point where it had a membership of more than 20,000.

In 1925 it bought the old Palace Cinema on Vale Terrace and turned it into an extra surgery.

Years earlier Conway had become a friend and mentor to Bevan, 24 years his junior, and the pair, with others, had in the early1920s formed the Query Club, a radical debating society and crucible of left wing ideas and ideals.

A striking iron sculpture/seat in The Circle represents the importance of the pair's relationship. Bevan is depicted leaning against the seat, while Conway sits just feet away.

Conway died in 1933, and by then, thanks to his unstinting efforts, the Society was supplying medical aid to 95 per cent of the population of Tredegar. At one point, it employed five doctors, two dentists - each with a mechanic, pharmacists and a nurse.

Having grown up in Tredegar, Bevan - who served in the late 1920s on the Cottage Hospital management committee, and was its chairman in 1929/30 - had seen close-up the benefits of a free-at-the-point-of-use health service. Wherever and whenever he used the term 'Tredegar-ise', the Medical Aid Society was his reference point.

After Bevan steered the NHS into existence in 1948, the Tredegar Workmen's Medical Aid Society might understandably have wound up, its provisions for members now being the responsibility of the State.

Instead, it continued to provide benefits for those members, such as grants for specialist treatment, and for convalescence, as well as donating equipment to the town's hospital.

Membership dwindled over the decades however, as people saw less need for its services, and as heavy industries in the area downsized and closed. The final straw came in the form of new regulations from the Friendly Society Commission in the early 1990s.

Committee members had to be under 70, and expensive three-yearly asset valuations were required. Following a vote to wind up the Society, the remaining £7,000 in funds was donated to Tredegar Hospital.

Norah Childs - a lifelong society employee and its last secretary - told the Argus in January 1995: "We didn't have the money or the members to carry on. It is very, very sad."

It was the end of a remarkable and a nation-changing journey.

Nowadays the Central Surgery - until recently a care home - is a supported housing scheme, the Palace Cinema is the Mark Williams Snooker Club, Tredegar Hospital is closed and boarded up.

But they remain monuments to a pioneering programme. In providing vital healthcare pre-NHS, and inspiring the formation of the NHS we continue to benefit from today, Tredegar Workmen's Medical Aid Society has left a positive and priceless legacy.