Gaabriel Becket


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Category: Welsh American History

Fun with genealogy

By gaabi, 2021-08-26

I’m slowly working on family genealogy and I got some wonderful family photos recently. Ceri had done his article on a Welshman who was at Little Big Horn and I have an ancestor with a very tangential connection to this.  

My first (so far) Welsh ancestor in North America was James B. Morgan, Sr.  I haven’t got to see much in the way of primary source documents so far, only research other people have done, so I’ve got a ways to go to reach confident certainty on his history. 

James Morgan was born in Llandaff, which is now part of modern-day Cardiff, in 1607. In about 1635, James sailed from Bristol to Boston with his two younger brothers, John and Miles, an ancestor of J. P. Morgan.  James became a freeman in the Plymouth colony and a farmer. 

Some generations later, his many-greats granddaughter, my mother’s great grandmother, Francis Henrietta Steele was born. 

Francis Henrietta (Steele) Bubb

Francis Henrietta (Steele) Bubb

Francis married John Wilson Bubb, who had fought in the union army in the US Civil War and had recently returned to his home in Washington, DC, after spending the end of the war as a captive on a Confederate prison ship. 

John Wilson Bubb

John Bubb went on to become a lieutenant under General George Crook at the Battle of Slim Buttes, to lead an attack on a Lakota village and experience Crook’s Starvation March, also called ”The Horsemeat March" as the punishing 35-mile-a-day pace killed so many mules and horses and soldiers slaughtered them to survive when the few remaining supplies ran out. Bubb was sent to Deadwood to try to secure food and successfully cleaned out the town's stores for his men.

A Campaign from Hell - True West Magazine

Soldier's camp in Cook's Starvation March, from "A Campaign From Hell", by Mike Coppock in True West,

He went on to serve in the Phillipines and become Brig. Gen. John Wilson Bubb. He commanded at least one fort, I’m not sure which one(s) but in the photos I’ve received are some wonderful old shots of life at Fort Sherman, Idaho, and Fort Spokane, Washington, and I’m sharing those below.

Below is a photograph of a June 1893 game of tennis on the lawn at Fort Sherman, which was on the banks of the Spokane River in what is now Coeur d'Alene, in northern Idaho. 


A group of soldiers on a porch at Fort Sherman, Gen. Bubb is seated in the center row, on the right. This photo is undated but other photos in the group had handwritten notes indicating they were from 1893 and 1894. 


Frances Bubb (standing in the back) and a group of ladies at Fort Sherman 1894


Unless otherwise noted, all these photos are from a family collection of John and Henrietta Bubb's effects.

‘Nawr Yr Arwr/Now The Hero is a multi-artform, site-specific project created by Swansea born interdisciplinary artist Marc Rees for 14-18-NOW. This bold and exciting commemoration of WWI will take place in and around the Brangwyn Hall, Swansea during Harvest, September 2018.’

The website introduces me to the performance. My problem was that I didn’t have the humility to research the project before hand.

‘Harvest’ why Harvest? Now I know. The connected ‘Graft - A Soil Based Syllabus’ curated by artist Owen Griffiths has been going on for months in and around the city. The plants of Sir Frank Brangwyn’s commemorative artwork have been grown and gathered in for the making of a cawl. As an audience we will ingest the panels. We are part of the process. We are part of the commemoration.

‘I’m not hungry,’ I said when my mate asked if I fancied some soup!

‘Look Eddie’s coming down the tower. Wow!’

Eddie Ladd, The Peace Protester, travels through the experiences and images presented to us with a message of peace. She commentates/narrates throughout, a ball of energy at all times.

Performed to a dystopian soundscape, she digs, traces in the sand the aerial view of trenches, spills black earth onto them God like, child-like playing in the sand. Black earth? Scarred earth? Black blood? Bad blood? Or was it just mud?

This is my problem. I see an action: a scene, a tableaux I’m asking questions. The finale has her abseiling forward down the clock tower. No mean feat! Why? Is it for effect or is there a meaning behind the statement. Is it her? It’s got to be! Is it a stunt? Perhaps it would have been more impressive the other way?

The siren wails, calls our protagonists to action. Three warriors, aboard a power boat enter the stage. The three interlinking stories through the evening are introduced: the Celtic warrior, the Great War officer the modern day soldier. The poem ‘Y Gododdin’ reverberates through the night. The seventh century battle of 300 Celtic warriors is evoked.

The promenade performance follows Eddie through the streets of the city. The Home Front, the war work of women supporting their men. Shrouds for the dead soldiers. A WW1 tank made of coal doing the rounds fund raising, only to buy more tanks.

The last time I was at Brangwyn Hall I charged the doors as a teenager to watch the glam rock band, Slade. What was I thinking? Now Modern young soldiers charge screaming at the doors as if in bayonet practice, racing to war.

I now walk reverently into the beautiful arena of blood red trenches, adorned with Brangwyn’s panels. The wonderful Polyphony choir patiently bide their time on the stage for us to find our seats. The impressive Celtic Warrior has an authentic aura. He also waits. We settle, silence, the light show begins dramatically and the music centrepiece of the performance begins. I find myself transfixed by the choir and the bellowing sound of the organ. A lengthy dance of death as the dead warrior is swallowed by the bloody earth. The introduction of young men performing a very slow macabre dance as they, likewise, are swallowed into the graves of the bloody trench mud. I just wish I could see a bit more.

I’m woken from my libretto trance by a public announcement: 30 minutes to look round the hall and then the finale will take place.

The different rooms of the Brangwyn are adorned in tableaux and scenes from the three stories. More questions bounce around. Why is the soldier crawling? Why are the women slowly walking the length of the room with a fluorescent light travelling over the soldier’s head? Does the light represent bullets? Is the soldier a tunneller? Why are there women? Did they send the soldiers to battle? And on it goes. A peace room, a wedding room, a wake room, a locker room, t.v. installations etc etc.

We are called out, the finale begins. Nearly 500 people queue for the harvest fare and the unveiling of a flag. I think it was Eddie’s peace banner but the weather had been too kind. There was no rain. There was no wind to unfurl the flag. After post performance reading I now wish perhaps it had rained.

I’m still asking questions. I’m still discovering, as a Welshman, who I am and where I’ve come from.

Marc Rees’ Nawr Yr Arwr/Now The Hero is epic but it doesn’t answer all my questions.

by Andy Edwards

646pxRoyal_British_Legions_Paper_Poppy__white_background.jpg Today (11/11/2017) is Remembrance Day in Wales and the UK. Remembrance Day (sometimes known informally as Poppy Day) is a memorial day observed in Commonwealth of Nations member states since the end of the First World War to remember the members of their armed forces who have died in the line of duty. Following a tradition inaugurated by King George V in 1919. To mark the occasion AmeriCymru is honored to present an interview with Jonah Jones, Director of 'Letters Home' which won the ‘Best Short Welsh Film’ award at the recent inaugural Cardiff International Film Festival

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Letters Home from Jaye L Swift on Vimeo .

AmeriCymru: How did it feel to win the Cardiff International Film Festival?

Jonah: It was a surprise to be honest. The various criticisms we’d had up to that point varied from reasonable to downright mean-minded but we’d had a couple of minor hits with some festivals – best foreign film, best war film and a commended or two. Neither Jaye (the writer/producer) nor I had even thought about what to say when we got to the stage. She chickened out and I said something or other but I can’t remember what. I still hardly believe it.

AmeriCymru: How would you describe the film?

Jonah: It’s an intense snapshot of what it must be like to face such numb horror as the slaughter of WW1. We tried to give each of the soldiers a loving and hope-filled home-life, against which we set the stark claustrophobia they experienced in the trench before going over the top.

AmeriCymru: How did the project begin and what was your role in it?

Jonah: Jaye and I were part of a writer’s group based in Bridgend, South Wales and we had often whinged about not being able to sell our work. In the past I had some success with stage and radio plays and she had some more recent success with stage plays – one of which was Letters Home. She had started to put together a team to make the play as a film and asked me to direct it. We took her original script and changed it to make it more filmic – adding the three women and the baby – real name Josh, who behaved immaculately throughout his scenes. I thought of using Suo Gan as a theme throughout and a well-behaved baby gave me the perfect excuse. Jaye found Andy Edwards, a WW1 enthusiast who had built a trench at Morfa Bay Adventure Park near Pendine in Pembrokeshire, West Wales.
Some of the uniforms and weapons came from The Barry at War Museum , South Wales, some from the Tin Shed, Laugharne , West Wales and the rest we hired.

AmeriCymru: How easy was it working with a small crew and budget?

Jonah: If we’d known what we were doing we would have costed the whole project very differently but we ragged and tagged our way through it. Cast and crew did the whole thing for expenses only. That’s how persuasive Jaye can be. We used kickstarter - crowd funding site to get the money for hiring locations and equipment.

The actors were professionals, working for Fluellen Theatre in Swansea and Pontardawe, South Wales but most of whom had never performed on film. AJ (sound) and Matt (camera) were both starting their careers in this field. I had directed stage and radio but this was my first attempt at film.

Because we were a small crew, we were flexible and willing to learn as we went. There were no what we call jobs-worths in the gang. This was very much a team effort. Whatever needed doing got done by whoever was standing nearest.

Filming began on October 11th 2015.

We used a farmhouse owned by a friend of mine for the several “home” locations and filmed the whole project over three days. Problems along the way were circumnavigated as best we could. When the actress playing Tomos’ mother pulled out, Jaye and I looked at each other and decided that of the two of us, she would stand a better chance of playing the role. After that, she was muddying up the soldiers in between takes and dishing out the food while Mark (runner, armourer and smoke-machine operator) was helping them put on their puttees every morning. How they did it during the war is beyond me. It seemed to take forever.

Having shot the “home” sequences in one day, we all stayed at Morfa Bay for two further days to shoot the rest of the film. One consideration was the weather. Jaye had an alternative script for if the weather was wet, changing the location to Passchendaele. Fortunately, the weather remained dry and so we were able to stick to the original idea.

Editing and sound mixing was completed by the team during spare weekends either side of Christmas and we were able to show it to all the people who had supported us at Barry at War museum on 21st of May 2016.

The premiere proper was at Pontardawe Arts Centre (where most of the actors were based) on July 1st 2016 – the centenary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

AmeriCymru: You funded some (or all?) of the making of “Letters Home” with a kickstarter campaign, how hard was that to make happen? Did it make getting to make the film easier? Do you think crowdfunding opens more opportunities to independent artists?

Jonah: Because we needed specific locations and costumes, the project would have been too expensive for us to fund from our bank-balances, even though we cut it down to the bare minimum. Thank goodness there are people out there who want to fund films for very little reward. In the case of Letters Home all they got was a private showing and a signed DVD. Our crowdfunding experience was entirely positive and much easier than I had been led to believe. If you have a project and you need crowdfunding, my advice is to treat all the sponsors as members of the team, as we did. Keep them in the information loop, tell them about the disasters and the triumphs of the process, show them the out-takes and the team is stronger for it. The film wouldn’t have been made without them.

The kickstarter page; Letters Home

AmeriCymru: Have you had a chance to watch the film as part of an audience? What effect do think it’s had on the people who’ve seen it and was it what you hoped or expected?

Jonah: We’ve seen it a few times and in various locations: Barry at War Museum, Pontardawe Arts Centre, a hotel in Llanelli, Brecon Cathedral (on Armistice Day 2016 – very moving) and most recently in the Vue Cinema in Cardiff as part of the Cardiff Independent Film Festival. Each one of those locations had something special and emotional about it. On three occasions, Trenchfoot – Andy Edwards’ band played. Great band – check them out.

Technically our favourite was the Vue Cinema because the sound of the mine (synthesised by AJ) came up through your feet when you had professional loudspeakers of that size.

Jaye is a very skilful writer and people responded strongly to the suppressed emotions in the film. Most people talked to me about how sad and hopeless thoughts were mixed with heroism and flashes of love, for a real knot of emotions. That pleased me most; that we managed to get across that range of emotions in such a short piece.

AmeriCymru: What was the most challenging thing about making “Letters Home”?

Jonah: Trying to show the size of this horror with such limited resources. We chose to focus on the three men and get inside their heads, rather than try to show the battle. We couldn’t advance across no man’s land, because there were houses surrounding the one in Morfa Bay, therefore we had the soldiers passing camera as they began the assault. Ok – I sort of stole that from All Quiet on the Western Front. I was determined not to show them dying, so that we could all believe that they might have survived.

AmeriCymru: Where can people see “Letters Home”?


We’d be very happy for any feed-back from AmeriCymru readers.

The review in Wales Arts Review

AmeriCymru: You worked at the BBC for many years, what was your career there and had you had prior experience as a film or video director?

Jonah: I worked at the BBC in Cardiff as a sound engineer but the way that the BBC was organised in my day meant that if you fancied a go at something different, they would often let you do it. Along the way, I presented, wrote and presented, directed (radio) and produced. I never directed TV – now you’ve made me feel a bit of a charlatan – but worked on big network productions, so was able to watch the process from the side-lines. Before I joined the BBC however, I was a peg-bar animator, making films that I had written. That meant that I had a good sense of pre-editing (you don’t want to draw stuff that won’t end up in the film).

AmeriCymru: You have another film, “The Caterer’s Reckoning,” which you direct and also wrote, what can you tell us about it?

Jonah: Once Letters Home was done and dusted, Jaye and I thought about the next project. Keep it cheap and make it very different. What can we film in my house? I looked at the creative mess in my computer and came up with a black comedy which had been performed in the New Venture Theatre, Brighton a few years before. Jaye laughed at the script and so I set about turning it into a film. This time we paid everyone – except Jaye and me. If you’re going to this business, do it for love, not money.

The plot? Too many possibilities for spoilers. Suffice it to say; a ghastly married couple who can’t stand each other, wake up after a party in their house to discover something unexpected behind the sofa. We’re just gluing on the music and the effects as I write. Once we have draft one, we’ll show it to people at an arts centre in Cardiff and collect their thoughts before possibly a final tweak or two. Hopefully we’ll start on the festivals circuit with it before Christmas.

AmeriCymru: What’s next for you? What else would you like to do?

Jonah: Two possible films (one written by Jaye) on the subject of Earth’s annihilation as part of the Create 50 Impact project. Three possible monologues of mine to be filmed in Welsh and English. Jaye also has an expensive-sounding script for which we’re trying to get Ffilm Cymru Wales funding. There’s a vague idea of mine for a longer film involving spooky goings-on in Merthyr Mawr (not far from Bridgend, South Wales – wonderfully strange-looking place) but we’ll probably stick to the short ones first.

I also have to come up with a logo for 2 Jays productions.

AmeriCymru: Any final message for the readers and members of AmeriCymru?.

Jonah: This year was my first ever trip to America and I think I hit two of the best parts of it with the best local guides. The first was Portland, Oregon where we were looked after by the AmeriCymru team of Gabby and Ceri, who took us out into the sort of wilds you don’t get in Llantwit Major, where we are based. The second was San Francisco where a friend of the family showed us around. My partner, the author Mari Griffith (featured elsewhere in AmeriCymru) and I were delighted to make the connections between the Old Country and the New. Hopefully that will be the first of many trips here. Tell your Hollywood friends, maybe they’ll invite us over.

Any other questions or observations – please contact me through AmeriCymru.


Interview by Gaabriel Becket

Posted in: Movies | 0 comments

Shipwreck at Morning Light  Cefn Sidan Pembrey.jpg

Shipwreck at Morning Light – Cefn Sidan, Pembrey from the Vyvyan collection

vyvyan.jpg AmeriCymru: How would you describe your work? If you had to choose a genre, what would it be?

Vyvyan: It is a well known fact that Wales is a truly beautiful country with majestic countryside and breathtaking coastline. Most of my work is based on seascapes although from time-to-time, an occasional countryside scene will capture my imagination. Living by the sea with a splendid view overlooking the Gower Peninsula, painting coastline scenes provides me with the “passion" to paint.

The overall style of my work can be described as contemporary and having practised as a graphic designer, my profession has provided me with a strong structural approach to my work especially with the use of colour, composition and technique.

AmeriCymru: How did you evolve as a visual artist, did you have particular influences or was it just more organic? What was your education as an artist?

From very early days, I always knew that art would play an important part in my life. As my education progressed, art became my favourite subject in school and I was extremely fortunate to have the support of my art teacher Wally Jones, who encouraged me to develop my interest in this subject.

Between 1966 & 1968, I studied graphics and fine art at Llanelli School of Art. My fine art lecturer was the well known Welsh artist, Tom Nash. He was greatly influenced by the renowned Welsh artist, Ceri Richards and on numerous occasions, Tom Nash demonstrated the style and contemporary approach Ceri Richards adopted to his work. This obviously left a lasting impression on me and to some degree, has had some influence in the way I approach my work.

During the two year period at the Llanelli School of Art, I also participated in a graphic design course which I enjoyed immensely and found that both these courses provided a perfect blend which has remained with me to this day. My lecturer in graphic design Howie Jones provided me with the platform to develop a keen awareness in graphic design.

Following my Pre-Dip course at Llanelli School Art, I went on to study graphic design at Ravensbourne College of Art & Design between 1998 - 1971. I qualified with a First Class Honours and then my career in graphic design commenced with a London Advertising Agency.

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AmeriCymru: What media do you work in? Do you mix your own paints and pigments? What do you use?

Vyvyan: I tend to work mostly with oil paints as I generally paint with a palette knife on a large format canvas. Apart from the odd watercolour and acrylic, the majority of my work tends to be in the medium of oils and on average, I use a maximum of six colours to achieve the tone of colour for a painting and I never use black paint. Instead, I always use Pain's Grey

AmeriCymru: How do you usually choose your subjects, is it planned - “today a seascape” - or more that you see something and it grows on you or you have to recreate it?

Vyvyan: My work ethic allows me to choose a suitable subject matter weeks in advance. Once I have a subject matter in mind, the planning of when to paint will largely depend on my work commitments with graphic design commissions. When a slot in my programme of work is made available, I make the most of the balance between fine art and graphics.

AmeriCymru: What is your process following the choice of subject?

Vyvyan: Planning is a crucial part of the preparation. Choosing the format (landscape or portrait), composition and styling is the first step and once I set my mind on the approach to take, I am then eager to start. If an opening from my graphics work allows me the time to commence with a painting, I’m in paradise!

AmeriCymru: Do you work mostly in a studio or en plein or both?

Vyvyan: Most of my work is undertaken in my studio as I find everything is at hand and I’m in control of the environment. Having practised as a graphic designer for nearly 40 years, I’m used to working in a comfortable studio environment. When weather permits, I go on location with my camera to photograph scenes that I can use as a reference. However, it has been my ambition to paint on location in Italy one day!

AmeriCymru: (If both) Which do you prefer and why?

Vyvyan: Given the choice, a studio environment would be my preference from the simple reason that I would be in control of the environment to work in.

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AmeriCymru: What would be your ideal creating space and what would be in it?

Vyvyan: I am fortunate to have two studios - one for graphics and one for fine art. In both cases, they are bespoke and have been set up specifically for the type of work to be carried out. My graphics studio focuses on the right environment for computer work - dust-free and well structured interior - contains large format Apple Macs, library and reception area whilst the fine art studio has more of a care-free surrounding with modular display units, large flat white table, working desk and drawing board, paint cabinet, two large easels and daylight freestanding lamps.

AmeriCymru: In the studio, what do you use for visual reference?

Vyvyan: With recent advancement in technology, I now work mainly from photographs taken of various scenes and I use my iPad as a working tool to enable me to scale and view images as a whole or in sections. This is a perfect reference tool for a studio environment.

AmeriCymru: Do you have a favorite work that you’ve created and why is it your favorite?

Vyvyan: My favourite piece of work is titled “Shipwreck at Morning Light” (see attached). It is a large format oil painting (60in x 29in) painted with a palette knife of a well known shipwreck of “SV Paul" which beached during a storm in the 19th Century at Cefn Sidan, Carmarthenshire. The skeletal remains of the wreck emerge from the sand when the tide retreats and at certain conditions, the striking silhouette of the wreck forms a very powerful image. This is a scene which I have a very personal connection since my youth. The original which had been on display at our local Golf Club for a year has now found place in our home - as a special gift to my wife! Large format limited edition canvas print of this painting and one other have been purchased by the Golf Club and are now proudly displayed in the restaurant area.

AmeriCymru: Do you teach or collaborate on projects with other artists?

Vyvyan: As my design business his still an active profession, I haven’t had much free-time to be involved in teaching or collaborating with other artists. However, I am fully aware of the need to do so and it is one of my ambitions to form an Art Centre whereby local people can be encouraged to show their talent. I have met a number of local people since I moved to this area who are interested in art and with some support, I am sure that this dream of mine can become a reality.

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AmeriCymru: If you had advice for a young artist, what would it be?

Vyvyan: Based on experience, I would advise young artist to find a way in developing their talent. Whether it is through education, visiting art galleries, seminars, art is a special gift and one must capitalise and built on this opportunity and find the passion to move forward.

AmeriCymru: Do you paint commissioned pieces as well?

Vyvyan: I have produced some portrait work but I tend to stick to my personal plan. There is so much more painting I want to do which leaves very little time for special commission pieces to be undertaken.

AmeriCymru: Where can people see your work?

Vyvyan: For the majority of people, my work can be viewed on my personal website I have exhibited in galleries in London and Cardiff but I have found a niche to display my work in an environment that complements my style of paintings. Currently, I have furnished two of the top restaurants in West Wales, the Coast restaurant in Coppet Hall, Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire and the Beach House restaurant, Oxwich Bay, Gower. In addition, I have a selection of work displayed at the luxury hotel, The Grove of Narberth in Pembrokeshire.

AmeriCymru: Any final message for the readers and members of AmeriCymru?

Vyvyan: Readers and members of AmeriCymru can hopefully relate to some of my work. Through some of my paintings of landscapes and seascapes of Wales, “Hiraeth” can fill some of people with national pride for their homeland and “a longing to be where one’s true spirit lives - a place and belonging."

Posted in: Art | 0 comments

This is a hilarious portrait series by Washington state photographer, Kevin Horan, for a show in Dallas, Texas called "Critters." I would love to go see this whole show!

Happy US Independence Day -

By gaabi, 2016-07-04

(I sent this out as a broadcast email but putting up a blog, too)

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Happy 4th of July to All!

If you're a US citizen, enjoy the fireworks and we wish you and your family a wonderful day, full of great fireworks and whatever fun you want!

If you're not, we wish you a wonderful day today and please think fondly of us here in the US, even though according to Quentin Whistleton Thynne, our lease is almost up .

Happy US Independence Day!

#009; font-size: 120%; text-align: right; padding-right: 20px;"> from Ceri and Gaabi at AmeriCymru

from image of Uncle Dai

Posted in: Books | 1 comments

Walking around Hay today

By gaabi, 2016-06-03

Ceri and I are in Talgarth, Powys, in Wales attending the annual Hay Book Festival. Today we went to the festival first and then to the town of Hay-on-Wye, to wait for Niall Griffiths to arrive and meet us at the Blue Boar pub.

The town is full of people milling around window shopping, eating ice cream, a dad brought a giant bubble loop to play with his and other children in the parking lot just below the castle - a lovely pack of wild, happy, bouncing kids running and dancing after giant bubbles which floated out and over the wall of the castle grounds.

three sidewalk poets at Hay-on-Wye

Ceri met three poets for hire, sitting at a table on the very narrow sidewalk. Selling poems they pounded out for passersby on typewriters set on rickety tables in front of them, they were surrounded and fortified by glasses of beer and cider.  We decided to commission a poem for the landlady and all the other wonderful people at the Castle Hotel and this is what we got:

Ode to Talgarth

The G & T certainly helped.

Steadied me in that

Sea of writers.

I swam with ideas.

Landlady, hold the lantern on the mooring

as I approach.

I won't drip too much on the rug,

but you'll have to sit up with me a while.

( - Tim Siddall, Lewis Parker, Edmund Davie)

Posted in: travel | 0 comments

In January this year, a  well-known publishing company in Wales decided to challenge the UK Government’s decision to include the Union Jack on new driving licenses by producing Red Dragon stickers to be placed in their place.


Now, Y Lolfa publishers and printers have confirmed that over 3,000 stickers have been sold and have since been reprinted.


‘We recieved a very positive response to our campaign since its launch’ said Fflur Arwel, Y Lolfa’s head of marketing. ‘There has been a very great demand for the stickers. Its clear people very strongly about this and do not feel represented by the Union Flag – nor that their Welsh nationality is being respected.’


‘The people of Wales have chosen their own flag over the Union Flag.’ she added.


Those who wish to have the red dragon of Wales on their driver’s license can purchase the stickers produced by Y Lolfa.


The pack of six red dragon stickers is priced £2 and are available from all good bookshops and Y Lolfa website

Posted in: Book News | 0 comments

Newport and the Sylvia Beach Hotel

By gaabi, 2015-12-24

Out And About In Oregon (3)

Sylvia Beach Hotel Gallery

This last week, Ceri took me down to the Oregon Coast, to the most fantastic hotel I’ve ever stayed in.  As a disclaimer, I’ll say that I’ve stayed in a lot of hotels, a lot of bad hotels and a lot of expensive hotels, and my idea of fantastic is not any kind of chain, regardless of cost, so it doesn’t include Motel 6 and it doesn’t include the 4 Seasons.

Like, apparently, every other state in the United States, Oregon has a town called Newport.  Our Newport is a small town, both a rest or fun destination and a working commercial fishing port. A classic, old-Oregon coast, beach-town tourist strip lines the street across from the harbor -- in just a few blocks you can get taffy or fudge, anything anyone could think of made of shells, hand blown glass, a trip through a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museum, a visit to the “Undersea Gardens” or pounds of fish or shellfish, including Dungeness crab.  The Oregon Coast Aquarium is a few miles down the road and across the bay, a world-class conservation and education facility, in addition to being a well-curated collection of marine species. As a kid, Newport was one of my favorite family trips; as a teen, I was lucky enough to get to travel there for a job as a deckhand on a boat going down to California to join the tuna fleet. I was wildly excited, crouching in the bow to hang over the rail and look down into the green water as we left the harbor and headed out to sea.

 Newport, Oregon fishing boats

I’d seen the building that was to become the Sylvia Beach Hotel all my life and often wondered what it was, above the sand on a short cliff. As a kid, I daydreamed my family would buy it and we’d all live there, conveniently next to my favorite place in the world, and live on fish and crabs.  I found the hotel online and shared the link with Ceri, who decided this would be a great place to read and review a book each and booked a room for two nights.

Sylvia Beach hotel

Sylvia Beach was a person, not a beach. Born in Maryland in 1887, she travelled to Spain and then to Paris, where she was to run a bookstore, Shakespeare and Company, until the 1950s. With her partner, Adrienne Monnier, she hosted, encouraged and even published some of the greatest authors in the western world. Shakespeare and Company became a Paris destination for writers; young and newly arrived authors were allowed to work and stay at the store until they got themselves established. Beach befriended Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce and many other writers arriving in Paris.  Beach was Joyce’s first publisher of Ulysses and arranged for it to be smuggled into the US and Canada, where it was banned. She also published Hemingway’s first book, Three Stories and Ten Poems . She had no personal connection to the city of Newport, to the hotel or to Oregon, the owners just found her inspiring. When you’ve seen the hotel, you know why they were inspired to name it after her.

Garden entry to the Sylvia Beach hotel

The Sylvia Beach Hotel is a literary hotel.  There are no televisions, no computers except one laptop at the desk, no wifi, no phones in the rooms, nothing to distract you from relaxation and reading.  Each room in the hotel is named after an author and furnished in a style either inspired by their work or by their own style, including plenty of books by the author for occupants to enjoy.

According to the history in the lobby, the hotel was originally built in 1913 as The New Cliff House.  Chicken farmer Peter Gilmore bought it in 1920 and ran it with his wife, Cecile, and their family as the Gilmore Hotel until 1957.  The Gilmores kept chickens in the backyard and served chicken and eggs three times a day, with chicken pot pie and eggnog on Sundays. From 1957 into the 1980s, the building was variously a hotel, a Greyhound bus station and then a $10.00-a-week boarding house until 1984, when it was sold to the present owners, Goody Cable and Sally Ford.

The new owners found the building in worn and neglected condition.  They and their friends and family members would put the next three years into gutting and rehabilitating it with the help of an historic architect, using period fixtures and materials, adding private baths to the rooms and designing one-of-a-kind spaces.  When the Sylvia Beach formally opened in 1987, a hundred people were expected to attend.  Several hundred showed up.  The front desk clerk told the story of an elderly man who stood crying quietly in front of the Alice Walker room, he was a nephew of the Gilmores who had stayed there as a boy and this had been his room.

The first floor of the hotel includes a small outdoor garden area leading to its lobby and gift shop, and a hall of guest rooms.  The second and third floors contain halls of guest rooms and a portion of the third floor and the garret attic contain the hotel library, full of comfortable couches and chairs for reading and views of the ocean.  We didn’t go up for this but I was told that the staff serve mulled wine in the library at 10PM.

The most spectacular rooms on the first floor include Agatha Christie, John Steinbeck and Jules Verne.

Two walls in Agatha Christie have large windows facing the beach and the ocean.  This comfortable, opulent room includes a fireplace and very comfortable reading nook. 

Bed and window in Agatha Christie room


sitting area in Agatha Christie room


fireplace in Agatha Christie room

John Steinbeck features two twin beds, separated by a mural and sculpture of the front end of the Joads’ dust bowl era truck, ala The Grapes of Wrath , its headlights the reading lamps for each bed.  Hotel cat, Shelly, demonstrates their comfort, below.  The room also contains a collection of jars of things found on a beach and other allusions to Steinbeck works and, of course, a collection of his novels to enjoy, and ocean views out the windows.


John Steinbeck room

Jules Verne faces the garden at the entry way but it’s so imaginative that I didn’t care if there was an ocean view, because there was a giant cephalopod tentacle coming out of the wall. The room is furnished a though it were Captain Nemo's suite from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and the door in the hallway to this room looks like a pressurized entry to the Nautilus. Just opening that promised fun things inside.

Bed and desk in Jules Verne room


desk and giant octopus tentacle in Jules Verne room

Upstairs, a fantastic wooden medieval/gothic style chair and four poster bed sit in Shakespeare. Above the bed sits a paper Globe Theater with paper players and the bathroom contains a cheeky question, “to pee or not to pee?”

Bed and chair in Shakespeare room

J. K. Rowling is all fun, sumptuous red Harry Potter, including a framed set of wands on the wall, a Nimbus 2000 hanging from the ceiling, a stuffed three-headed puppy curled up on the four-poster bed with its velvety curtains, owls at the windows, “stone” walls and a mural of the hapless Moaning Mabe, frowning sadly behind the toilet.

Bed in J. K. Rowling room

Dr. Suess is on the second floor, in bright colors, murals, stuffed toys and other Suess memorabilia. The full bed includes Ned’s furry feet sticking out of the footboard and the toilet tank is a fish tank for a red fish and a blue fish.

bed in Dr. Suess room


More rooms than we’ve mentioned here include Mark Twain, Colette, Herman Melville, Alice Walker, Jane Austen, J. R. R. Tolkien, Ken Kesey, Virginia Wolf, Amy Tan, Emily Dickinson, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.

The restaurant in the hotel, Table of Contents, served an included really excellent breakfast and also offers dinner service (not included) by reservation, with three entree choices - meat, seafood and vegetarian, and beer and wine. The dining room has fantastic ocean views with two walls of windows and a patio area for better weather. Residents of the surrounding area came for special occasion dinners,  which was a good sign of dependable quality from their two chefs.  The two nights we were there, the meat entrees were an absolutely excellent flank steak and Earl Grey crusted pork tenderloin, with a choice of local oyster dishes for seafood.

By foot, there are other restaurants, shops and several bookstores in the blocks nearby, an area known as Nye Beach. The Newport Visual Arts Center is across the street.  The Newport Symphony Orchestra is at the performing arts center, only two blocks away. We found a promising looking Irish pub and a great wine shop with a very helpful owner just a block away from the hotel.

The beach itself is right around the corner of the hotel and down a short hill.  High tide comes all the way up the sand and it’s not particularly safe at night, the ocean throws up trees and stumps onto the sand, but during the day you can walk forever down the beach, from lighthouse to lighthouse, and possibly not see another person, except in the summer.

If you want to visit or find out more about the Sylvia Beach Hotel, find them here:

The Sylvia Beach Hotel

267 N.W. Cliff, Newport, Oregon 97365

Reservations and Cancellations 888-795-8422 


I hope we get to go back soon and I’ll close with this shot of Shelly, the hotel cat, who boldly visited us in our room for a long nap, on Ceri, and to receive appreciative kitty massage.

Shelly the cat sleeping on bed

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Aberystwyth Boy , A Collection of Short Stories by Gwynn Davis

cover image Aberystwyth Boy by Gwynn Davis
Thirteen short stories, with all but one set in Aberystwyth when the author was between the ages of 10 and 18. What was it like to be a young boy growing up in Aberystwyth in the 1950 and '60s?

The author of this collection of thirteen delightful short stories recalling those times - often, as he would be the first admit, not very reliably.

But he remembers his school days at Ardwyn, the trips to the Urdd camp in Llangrannog, his brother Owen's distinctive approach to sporting competition and the characters of the town who made his adolescence truly memorable.

Gwynn Davis attended Ardwyn Grammar School, Aberystwyth from 1957 to 1965. Having tried and failed to be a school teacher and then probation officer, he spent most of his working life on the staff at Bristol University. He is now retired and living in Cardiff. These stories, which have been a long time coming, are his only attempt at fiction.

Aberystwyth Boy is available from Y Lolfa  and on Amazon.


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