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Category: New Titles

HEDD WYN INSPIRES YOUNG ADULT NOVEL


By AmeriCymru, 2017-07-26

haf llywelyn.jpgA historical novel for young adults published this week has been inspired by the life of Hedd Wyn, the famous Welsh poet who fought in the First World War.

An Empty Chair by acclaimed author Haf Llewelyn follows young poet Ellis, and when the First World War arrives, he has to join up and go and be a soldier like dozens of other young men from rural Trawsfynydd. His teenage sister Anni longs to have him home again on their family farm, Yr Ysgwrn, especially after seeing the terrible effect of the war on her best friend Lora’s father.

Meanwhile Ellis is in the trenches in Belgium, hoping to make it home safely, and to win the Chair at the National Eisteddfod – the most important prize in Welsh poetry.

The novel is published as part of the centenary commemorations for World War I, and particularly to mark the centenary of the battle of Passchendaele in July 1917, and Hedd Wyn’s involvement in it.

The novel follows the huge impact of the war on village life through the eyes of Hedd Wyn’s 14-year-old sister Anni, bringing the incredibly moving events to life for teenagers through a vivid voice of their own age. At the centre of everything is Anni’s relationship with her best friend Lora, and the difficult decisions the two have to face concerning family, friendship, love and honesty, as well the effects of the war on their whole community.

The original Welsh-language version of the novel (Diffodd y Sêr, Y Lolfa, 2013) is highly critically acclaimed and won the Tir na n-Og secondary fiction prize in 2014. Since 2015, it has been a set text on the Welsh Literature GCSE syllabus.

A farmer’s son from Trawsfynydd, Hedd Wyn – real name Ellis Humphrey Evans – fought in the trenches in the First World War as part of the 15th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers, and fought at Passchendaele in July 1917, one hundred years ago this month, and is famous for being awarded the Chair at the 1917 National Eisteddfod, held in Birkenhead shortly afterwards.

Haf Llewelyn comes from Ardudwy and was brought up very near Trawsfynydd and Yr Ysgwrn. She now lives in Llanuwchllyn and is a full-time author. After travelling to the small town of Ypres in Belgium, she was struck by the thousands of white gravestones in the World War I cemeteries there, and what the stories of those who fought at Passchendaele might be. Her inspiration to write this novel stemmed from that trip.

‘Seeing the names and ages of the young men carved on those white gravestones in Ypres made me realise the terrible price of war’ said Haf, ‘Sometimes it's difficult for us to connect with a time that has passed, but when visiting Yr Ysgwrn, the home of Hedd Wyn, time has somehow stood still.’

‘The scale of the loss is just incomprehensible when you see those thousands of gravestones, but when you bring it all down to one story about one actual person and the people at home who loved him, it somehow seems more real’ added Haf, ‘The terrible events of July 1917 continue to cast a shadow over the home of one of Wales's best-known poets.’

An Empty Chair by Haf Llewelyn (£5.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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galar a fi.jpgA book published this week will aim to break the taboo around grief whilst offering supporting through the medium of Welsh to those who are going through grief.

Galar a Fi (Grief and Me) contains the experiences of 14 people who have been through grief after losing a brother, sister, friend, son, daughter, father, mother or lover – and the way they coped with their grief and loss. The responses to grief vary from poems, letters, diaries, essays and short stories.

The volume was compiled and edited by Esyllt Maelor, who has experienced grief herself.

The book follows Gyrru drwy Storom (y Lolfa) which was published in 2015 – a book that presented moving accounts of living with mental health issues.

‘In her preface to that book, Alaw Griffiths noted that she could not find sufficient websites or books on mental health in Welsh. And there’s very little available in Welsh about grief too.’ explained Esyllt, ‘If reading is a form of counselling, then I wanted to read in Welsh.’

‘Like with mental health, there’s a taboo associated with grief too. So this book is an attempt to give a voice to the voiceless,’ said Esyllt.

The contributions are varied – with many young people in ther midst – Luned Rhys who wrote a poem about losing her father; Llio Maddocks who wrote a short story about losing her friend, Mared; Sara Maredudd Jones who notes how important it is to talk after losing a loved one; and Manon Gravell who wrote a diary of her last holiday with her father, Ray Gravell.

Branwen Haf Williams writes a letter to her father, Derek, the author Sharon Marie Jones talks to her son Ned, Nia Gwyndaf talks to her husbans, Eifion Gwynne, Mair Tomos Ifans sees grief as being ‘in a tunnel’ and Cris Dafis conveys his deep hiraeth and longing. The other contributors are Dafydd John Pritchard, Arthur Roberts, Iola Lloyd Owen, Manon Steffan Ros a Gareth Roberts.

‘I am forever grateful to the authors for their willingness to share and in doing to opening many doors for us, the reader. I hope this book will be of help to those who need it,’ added Esyllt, ‘Whenever you find yourself turning to it, I hope that one thing stays with you through the grief and pain of these pages. That thing is love. A deep, priceless love.’

Galar a Fi (£7.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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trawsfynydd.jpgThe secrets of Trawsfynydd’s history are told anew in a new book published this week.

Traws-Olwg - Trawsfynydd a'r Ardal Fel y Bu is full of impressive photographs telling the dramatic story of Trawsfynydd. The memorable book was produced by the photographer Keith O’Brien and the community company Traws-Newid which was founded in 1998 with the aim of improving the economy, environment and social aspects of the area.

From opening the railway between Bala and Blaenau Ffestiniog to establishing a military training camp on the outskirts of the village, building a dam to create Trawsfynydd Lake and building the nuclear power station - the history of Trawsfynydd area is certainly interesting.

The book is published to commemorate the centenary of the death of Hedd Wyn and the Eisteddfod of the Black Chair in the summer of 2017 and contains a foreword by the writer Dewi Prysor who’s from the area himself.

‘Many volumes have already been published about Hedd Wyn this year, but we hope with this volume to show another side to Traws, her history, culture and industry from the beginning of the last century – something that will open the eyes of the reader to this close community that has seen remarkable changes to her landscape and society over the past years’ explained Keith O’Brien.

‘One of the most interesting stories that I came across was the history of the balloon that broke free from its moorings at the Camp and flew in the direction of Bala – and the people of Llŷn thought the Germans were attacking!’ said Keith.

Cyfeillion Yr Ysgwrn – the home of Hedd Wyn, have organised a number of events to remember Hedd Wyn’s death in 2017, and Traws-Newid agreed to publish the book as a contribution to support them.

‘Every picture tells a story, and we are all part of that story’ added Dewi Prysor.

Born in Trawsfynydd, mae Keith o’Brien is a Community and Sustainability Officer at Snowdonia National Park Authority and is the chair of Traws-Newid. He is married with two daughters.

The book will be launched at 7pm at the village hall in Trawsfynydd on Friday 21st of July.

Traws-Olwg - Trawsfynydd a'r Ardal Fel y Bu (£9.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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williams pantycelyn.jpgA book which is being published to coincide with the 300th anniversary of the birth of Williams Pantycelyn, will celebrate the contribution of the two most notable hymn-writers in Welsh history.

Flame in the Mountains draws together Professor H. A. Hodges’ published work on Williams Pantycelyn, Ann Griffiths and the Welsh hymn, together with his notes on Ann’s hymns and letters, which are published here for the very first time. Placing these hymn-writers in both a Welsh and an international context, the volume will not only be an invaluable introduction to William Williams and Ann Griffiths for those unfamiliar with their work, but will also provide valuable new insights and will be an essential tool for anyone wishing to study their work further.

Also included is Hodges’ English translations of Ann Griffiths’ hymns and letters and his translation of the celebrated lecture on her by the prominent Welsh literary critic, Saunders Lewis, which enthralled the audience when he delivered it at the National Eisteddfod of Wales in 1965.

A. Hodges (1905–76), for many years Professor of Philosophy at the University of Reading, learned Welsh in order to study Welsh hymnody. He was described by his fellow-student of Welsh spirituality, Canon A. M. Allchin, as ‘one of the most distinguished lay theologians that the Church of England has known in the twentieth century’.

A. Hodges once described himself as a ‘fortunate foreigner’ who, in exploring Welsh literature, had found himself in a ‘new world’; and he became an enthusiastic ambassador for the riches of Welsh Christian literature in general and for Williams Pantycelyn and Ann Griffiths in particular. He was keen to promote them internationally and to place Welsh spirituality in an international context, and he succeeded in doing so sensitively, knowledgeably and perceptively.

According to H. A. Hodges, Ann Griffiths had a tremendous ‘spiritual vision of a distinctive quality’ and he could say of William Williams that through his hymns, ‘with their rich content of experience and their outstanding lyrical beauty, he has cast a spell over the mind of Welsh-speaking Wales which endures to this day’.

‘The hymn is one of the great highlights of Welsh literature, and the two most outstanding of all Welsh hymn-writers, William Williams (1717–91) of Pantycelyn and Ann Griffiths (1776–1805), are not only giants of the literary, cultural and religious life of Wales, but are also figures of international status and significance. Professor Hodges’ writings are an important contribution to our understanding of these exceptional authors’, said Professor E. Wyn James, editor of Flame in the Mountains.

Professor E. Wyn James is a leading authority on the Welsh hymn. He has added to the volume his own edited version of Ann Griffiths’ remarkable hymns in the original Welsh, which are placed side by side with Hodges’ metrical translations. Raised in the industrial valleys of south Wales he was, until his retirement, a Professor in the School of Welsh at Cardiff University and co-Director of the Cardiff Centre for Welsh American Studies.

Flame in the Mountains: Williams Pantycelyn, Ann Griffiths and the Welsh Hymn by H. A. Hodges; edited by E. Wyn James (£12.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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THE UNDEFEATED 1974 LIONS


By AmeriCymru, 2017-06-21

undefeated 1974 lions.jpgAs the British and Irish Lions prepare for their latest against all odds oddyssey to the southern hemisphere, what better time to relive the tour that eclipsed all others in terms of achievement and controversy. After their predecessors in 1971 had gained an historic first ever series win against the All Blacks in New Zealand, the 1974 Lions went one better. They took on and conquered the mighty Springboks of South Africa, returning from a 22 match series unbeaten.

In Undefeated - The Story of the 1974 Lions, Rhodri Davies not only brings the legendary 1971 tour to life, adding new perspective and insight, but he then proceeds to give the often unheralded 1974 Lions their historical due. With first hand contributions from Lions legends such as Willie John McBride, Fran Cotton, Gareth Edwards, JPR Williams, Phil Bennett, Andy Irvine and many more, the author captures the very essence of the greatest Lions of all time. The tour itself was brutal and scintillating in equal measure, but as well as contending with the fearsome on-field challenges the tourists also faced unprecedented political opposition both at home and abroad.

Should they have gone to apartheid South Africa at all? What exactly did they achieve by going? And how do they feel about it almost half a century later? Undefeated is a searingly honest reappraisal of the tour of '74 by the Lions legends who achieved the impossible. Their account is so compelling that 'Undefeated' was shortlisted for the British Rugby Book of the Year award on its first publication in 2014.

Here are "The Greatest Lions" - in their own words.

Undefeated - The Story of the 1974 Lions by Rhodri Davies is available now.

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dechrau canu dechrau wafflo.jpgIn the book Dechrau Canu, Dechrau Wafflo, published this week, the story of Kees Huysmans is told – a singer and successful businessman from the Netherlands who moved to the Welsh countryside in the 1980s, adopting Welsh language and culture and established the company Tregroes Waffles.

The company has since gone from strength to strength and has put the village of Tregroes on the map worldwide.

Kees began his musical career as a child in the Catholic church choir in the Netherlands and after moving to Wales he was encouraged to join the local choir, mainly as a way to learn Welsh. He developed a taste for competing at the Eisteddfod and in 2016 he won the Blue Ribbon in the national Eisteddfod in Abergavenny.

The experience of singing in the choir and having the opportunity to converse with the customers on his marketplace stall became a way for him to develop his use of the Welsh lanaguge. He is now fluent and uses the Welsh language naturally in his workplace and in the community.

After making a special effort to embrace all the customs and traditions that belonged to the local society, he appreciated the support he received from residents in the area when he faced a dark period in his life as told in his book.

‘In a way, this book has allowed me to give something back to the village and the society of Tregroes where I have now lived for over thirty years’ explained Kees.

As a result, any profits from the book will go directly towards the cost of refurbishing the old school to become a centre of the village and surrounding area.

Said activist and friend Emyr Llywelyn, ‘This book is the interesting and readable story of a very special man, Kees Huysmans. The strength of the book lies in the honesty and sincerity of the author and that is sure to touch all who will read it.’

‘It creates an unique picture of the virtues of a rural Welsh community through the eyes of an immigrant. I doubt anybody has managed to tell their life story in a way that is as memorable as this singer, businessman and adopted Cardi.’

The book will be launched at three events at St Ffraed church in Tregroes at am 7.30pm on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evening the 19th, 20th and 21st of June.

‘Dechrau Canu, Dechrau Wafflo’ by Kees Huysmans (£9.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.


tregroes waffles.jpg

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a welsh wander.jpgOn 26th July 2016, Tom Davies left his home in Presteigne. Nine weeks later he arrived home, having walked the 1,100-mile perimeter of Wales, raising £6,700 for Alzheimer`s Society.

Now his newly published book, A Welsh Wander – An Epic Trek Right Around Wales, is his heart-warmingly open and honest story, bursting with facts about places along his route. With vivid descriptions and photos of stunning scenery on the Offa`s Dyke Path and Wales Coast Path, Tom describes magical wildlife encounters, bizarre anecdotes, random and life-reaffirming generosity from strangers, and even a few dark moments when he felt like he’d bitten off more than he could chew.

‘During my years of teaching, my maternal grandma developed Alzheimer’s and while in the middle stages of the disease, passed away very suddenly. Two years later, my maternal grandfather was diagnosed with vascular dementia,’ explained Tom, ‘Seeing two people who I love very dearly afflicted by such a personal and confusing illness inspired me to begin fundraising for Alzheimer’s Society.’

It was for this reason that Tom had the idea for his challenge – to circumnavigate his home country in one go, carrying everything he needed to survive in his loyal backpack, Wilson,. 1,100 miles, two months away from home, a £1,100 sponsorship target and a daily online blog called Tom’s Welsh Wander that would become far bigger than he ever dreamed possible.

‘Each night, I would sit in a quiet corner of a pub, or a bedroom, or my tent, and pour my heart into my blog,’ said Tom, ‘It became a friend in whom I could confide my every thought, feeling and emotion, and that is why I have decided to share it now.’

Tom’s blog hits eventually climbed to over a staggering 26,500 and his fundraising reached a total of £6,700 – well above his original £1100 target. His journey also drew the support of one famous follower, TV presenter and Welsh meterologist Derek Brockway.

‘I first heard about Tom and his Welsh Wander after his mum got in touch with me in August 2016. She told me all about her son’s challenge to walk the whole perimeter of Wales and raise money for charity’ said Derek Brockway. ‘My dad suffered from dementia, Tom’s grandmother died of Alzheimer’s and now his grandfather has developed the illness too. I decided to offer my support and join him on part of his trek of a lifetime, to help raise awareness of this terrible condition.’

‘Tom is a proud Welshman who loves his country and his love of the Welsh countryside, its beauty, history and magical wildlife really shine through in his writing,’ added Derek, ‘It has been a pleasure for me to get to know Tom and one day I hope to follow in his footsteps and complete my own Welsh Wander!’

‘My Welsh Wander has been the single greatest experience of my life. I’ve seen so many breathtaking sights, had some incredibly special moments and battled through some tough ones too,’ added Tom, ‘‘I hope it will inspire people to explore the countryside on foot and to learn new things about the area they live in as well as making want to visit other corners of the incredible country that is Wales!’

The book also includes practical tips and checklists for anyone thinking of taking up long-distance walking.

Offa’s Dyke National Trail Officer Rob Dingle said, ‘For anyone planning to walk around Wales, the Offa’s Dyke Path or who just wants a good read about one person’s walking adventure, I would highly recommend that you have a read of Tom’s A Welsh Wander.

Tom Davies grew up in a close farming family in Presteigne, developing a love for nature and the great outdoors. While at Bangor University studying Primary Education, he joined the Mountain Walking Club, becoming treasurer and a leader, and spent most weekends taking groups into Snowdonia. After graduating, he spent four years teaching. He is now combining his love for teaching and the great outdoors by working as an outdoor activities instructor.

The book will be launched in Presteigne in late June in the company of Tom Davies and Derek Brockway.

A Welsh Wander – An Epic Trek Right Around Wales by Tom Davies (£12.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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welsh mining valley.jpgA new memoir published this week paints a vivid picture of life in the South Wales Valleys during the 1930s, and evokes the strong community spirit of the valleys in that period.

In A Childhood in a Welsh Mining Valley, author and ex-Congregational Minister Vivian Jones recounts with great warmth his childhood in a working class family within the community of Garnant, a small mining village in Cwm Aman, Carmarthenshire.

In those inter-war years, times were hard, labour was back-breaking and money, leisure time and material luxuries were in very short supply, but it’s clear that what joys people did find were really valued. As well as hymn-singing and preaching festivals attended by multitudes, there was the fun of the annual chapel daytrip to the seaside, when elders let their hair down and rolled their trouser-legs up. There was the chance to devour classic adventure novels such as Robinson Crusoe and The Three Musketeers, bought as a series from the News Chronicle. And there was the local people’s love of the cinema whose construction they themselves had funded.

‘The raising of the Workmen’s Hall was a stunning political statement for its day, a statement made by the organised working men of the community. It was a statement about the shape of things to come, the direction of the community’s life, and the readiness and ability of the working men to guide it.’ explained Vivian Jones, ‘It was a statement all the more powerful for being made at a time of very, very great hardship for them. Paid for by Union funds put together by subscriptions from miners’ wages over time, it cost £12,000, in 1927 – just one year after the General Strike of 1926.’

‘The underlying theme of this autobiography is the seemingly understated pride in the integrity and decency of these people and their culture,’ said Professor Hywel Francis, formerly professor in adult continuing education at Swansea University ‘and it shines through the powerful descriptions of family, work and community life, which created strong bonds of fellowship and solidarity in an era long before the divisive and fractured consumer society of today.’

A wealth of lively and humorous anecdotes bring the detail of this time, place and culture vividly back to life. Vivian’s autobiography is also a graphic explanation of how his family, community and chapel roots in the Amman Valley in the rural Welsh-speaking anthracite coalfield of West Wales created his reflective outlook, what he calls ‘my basic philosophy for living’ which shaped what he went on to do in life. These were the origins of his ‘radical bent’, his emphasis on community spirit and his concern for individual integrity. From the little boy described in the book, Vivian Jones grew up to be Minister of several Congregational Churches in Wales before leading the Plymouth Church, Minneapolis, USA for 15 years and then retiring back to South Wales.

Vivian’s principal motivation in writing this autobiography originally was to give an account of his humble yet proud Welsh origins for his American congregation, which he served from 1980 until 1995. ‘Most of the immigrants to Minnesota came from Scandinavia. Coming from a background so different to the vast majority of them, it seemed fair to me that the congregation I served had a right to know something of the influences that had shaped the mind of the preacher they listened to graciously Sunday after Sunday, so I wrote this book,’ explained Vivian.

‘Now, years later, the book has resurfaced, and it seems to me that the contents might give to some Welsh people my age the pleasure it has given me of retrieved memories,’ explained Vivian. ‘I would also hope that it would give my children and grandchildren a more rounded view of where they have come from, and that it could help young Welsh people at large to understand a little better how completely the world of some of us has changed in our lifetime.’

‘These reminiscences will preserve for posterity a way of life – a thoroughly Welsh way of life, both in language and culture,’ added Huw Walters, formerly Head of the Bibliography of Wales Unit, National Library of Wales.

A Childhood in a Mining Valley by Vivian Jones (£12.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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highlights from welsh history.jpgWe ‘must use Welsh history as a means of giving the Welsh more confidence in the world today’ – this is the message that is emphasised in a new book published this week by Y Lolfa publishers.

Highlights from Welsh History by Emrys Roberts is a brand new history book that shines new light on Wales. It gives a concise yet comprehensive overview of Welsh history from the Brythonic period to the present day, whilst presenting a new and alternative portrayal of Welsh history – with the emphasis being on the nation’s successes and strengths.

The book contains many revelatory facts about Wales including that she produced a man ‘probably more responsible than Charles Darwin for developing the theory of evolution’ and a woman who was ‘at least as responsible as Florence Nightingale for developing the nursing profession’. Also reveleaed is the way that Wales was the world leader during the early Industrial Revolution; contained the world’s first industrial town; and was home to the world’s first steam train.

‘Our small nation of some three million people have a past of which we can be immensely proud’ said the author, Emrys Roberts, ‘It pays sometimes to look in the rear-view mirror and I believe that if only the people of Wales were more fully aware of our past – our history, our story – it would give us much greater confidence in facing – and building – our future’.

He was inspired to write the book – in both English and Welsh, after a friend of his confessed that during the Scottish independence referendum in 2014 that he ‘did not feel very Welsh’ and that he ‘did not know much about Wales’ either.

‘Wales has made a huge contribution to the world but very few people are aware of it – even people in Wales itself’ added Emrys, ‘And that’s why I wrote this book. To give us confidence as a nation’.

Emrys Roberts was born in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, in 1931. He began to learn Welsh when his family moved to Cardiff during the Second World War. He secured an honours degree in History in the same year as he was President of the Students’ Union at University College, Cardiff, and has lectured in American and Welsh History at the college’s Extra-Mural Department.

He was Deputy President of Plaid Cymru in the late 70s. He was sent to Cardiff prison in 1952 for refusing to join the British armed forces after MPs in Wales voted against conscription during a time of peace. He was placed in the cells under Westminster after intervening and disrupting a debate from the public gallery.

Highlights from Welsh History by Emrys Roberts (£3.99, Y Lolfa) is available now. A Welsh version has also been published, titled Ein Stori Ni – Golwg Newydd ar Hanes y Cymry.

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A walk with the Wildlife Wanderer…


By AmeriCymru, 2017-03-23

wildlife_wanderer.jpg



One of the UK’s foremost wildlife photographers, David Bailey, will be publishing a striking collection of images in his first book, Wildlife Wanderer

Tireless in his search for species and their habitats, David Bailey is also full of concern and care for those animals he photographs, earning their trust and the right to document their comings and goings.

With a soft spot for squirrels, hares and owls, for kingfishers, foxes and deer, his camera has captured many of the wildlife wonders of Wales and England. In this book alone he features over 50 different species, including otters and beavers, dolphins and dragonflies, hedgehogs and herons, puffins and peregrine falcons, salmon and seals.

Though he likes to let his pictures do the talking, David Bailey also has the odd word of advice for would-be wildlife photographers, some pointers for less experienced naturalists and plenty of personal anecdotes, just to remind us that he really has walked on the wild side.

In the foreword to the book Dr Rhys Jones says that “the life of the wildlife cameraman is anything but glamorous. I’ve spent many a day sat with Dave at remote locations, knowing what it is to be both frozen in winter and eaten alive by mosquitoes in the summer. A wildlife cameraman needs skill, saint-like patience and luck. However I’m a firm believer that people create their own luck in life and Dave’s ability to read the landscape, coupled with his constant research into the lives of animals, puts him in the right place at the right time to secure that coveted photograph.”

David Bailey says “I do witness some odd sights while quietly sitting in the hide: courting couples, drugs drops, joy riders, poachers. I’ve even frightened the life out of some innocent people stood near my well camouflaged hide, as I pop my head out of an opening to say hello.”

“Working in the most beautiful locations, dealing with many wildlife projects and trusts, seeing wildlife which so many people will never set eyes on and meeting those with a love of animals, means that there is no such thing as a normal day. And I’m grateful for this. I often think I’m the luckiest person on the planet, and this book is my chance to share that luck with you.”

David Bailey is hugely respected for his enthusiasm and expertise in the field – he has been cameraman and consultant on the BBC series Rhys Jones’s Wildlife Patrol and has appeared on Springwatch with Nick Baker. Such is his reputation that he received the Brand Laureate International Personality Award in 2016 in recognition of his photography. Though Dorset and the New Forest have claims on him, he now lives in mid-Wales.

Wildlife Wanderer is now available from all good bookshops and online retailers or directly from the publishers Gomer Press on www.gomer.co.uk

It will be launched at the Drill Hall in Chepstow on 27 April. Tickets (£2) for the event are available from the Chepstow Bookshop on www.chepstowbooks.co.uk

David Bailey will also be in conversation with Dr Rhys Jones at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth on 6 May. Tickets (£6) are available from www.nlw.org.uk

"Stunning photography by a man who really understands his subject” Iolo Williams



Bibliographic details

Wildlife Wanderer

David Bailey

Published by Gomer Press

ISBN 9781785621833

£19.99

Hardback, 144 pages

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WHAT IS THE TRUE NATIONAL SPORT OF WALES?


By AmeriCymru, 2017-03-20

handball.jpgThe debate about the true national sport of Wales has been raging for years between rugby and football fans. But a new book claims that the first and true national sport of Wales is neither of these, but the little less know sport of Handball.

In industrial Wales Hanbdball (or Pêl-law) was the predominant sport – drawing crowds of thousands to watch the game that could be described as similar to squash, but without the rackets. Courts were to be seen in many parts of the Welsh valleys and it was played in yards of pubs in front of betting spectators. The game was a national obsession, with people travelling from far and wide to watch thrilling matches between the sporting heroes of the day, and fortunes being won and lost through side stakes and gambling.

Today only one ball court survives, in the village of Nelson in the Caerphilly Borough.

In Handball - The Story of Wales' First National Sport, handball player and former miner Kevin Dicks’ meticulous research traces the long history of this folk sport played with any ball on any wall, from Welsh myth and folklore and the outlawed ‘devil’s game’ of the churchyard, through its glory years in the 18th and 19th centuries and strong links with the mining industry, to its decline in the 20th century as it failed to modernise, and its reboot in the present day. He questions the origins of the grammar school version of the game known as fives, and precisely dates the Nelson ball court – a date that has eluded historians for years.

The book also shatters a widespread modern myth regarding an Irish origin to the court and therefore to the sport in Wales.

‘This is untold story of Wales deserves a wider audience’ said Kevin Dicks, ‘Nothing has been written as in depth as this on any folk sport in the UK’.

‘After a while it dawned upon me that I’m the last miner to play handball in Wales, and it then became somewhat of duty continue the research and complete a work on the subject. It was as if the last man left in had to tell the tale’ added Kevin.

The cover of the book feature the classic 1906 handball at Nelson. Two players and two officials stand on the ball court with a crowd of 1,200 in attendance.

The author Kevin Dicks has been a Welsh handball player and official for nearly fifty years. He has written extensively on handball for various outlets including the BBC, the Daily Mail, the American Welsh paper Y Drych and the Caerphilly Campaign. He has also spoken on the subject abroad in Ireland, Canada and Italy and has contributed to the United States Handball magazine, and this book is the product of 22 years of trawling the archives. An ex-miner, he formerly worked as a Surveyor’s Assistant at Deep Navigation, Treharris. A part-time writer he now works for Admiral and currently lives in Ystrad Mynach, Hengoed.

A refreshing look at a sport devoid of modern commercialism, this is a lively story full of colourful characters, a revealing glimpse into social history, folk sport and the passions of the working man, and a fascinating insight into what can fairly be claimed as Wales’ first national sport.

Handball - The Story of Wales' First National Sport by Kevin Dicks (£14.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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return from darkness.jpgA famous Welsh legend has inspired a new novel which is published this week.

Return from Darkness by Graham Jones is based on the story of the Twrch Trwyth, a deep vein in Welsh Mabinogi folklore.

The publishing of the novel follows the Welsh Government’s 2017 tourism campaign celebrating the ‘Year of Legends’.

‘I learned Welsh after I moved to Pembrokeshire and relished exploring the county and beyond on foot. As time passed I learned more about the myths and traditions associated with Wales until it became such a fascination that the seeds of this book were sown’ explained Graham.

‘The American writer and mythologist Joseph Campbell said once, ‘Myths live in all of us, in our darkness’ I realised that my novel had been waiting in my own darkness for the right time to re-emerge’ said Graham, ‘I then started to write inspired by the Mabinogi story’.

The novel begins when schoolboy David’s life is changed for the better by an encounter with the guarded and mysterious headmaster of his school. A storyteller and mystic, he opens the timid boy’s eyes to the reality of ‘other worlds’ beyond our own. Twenty-five years later, having returned to Pembrokeshire, David embarks on a quest that will take him deeper into these alien realms.

Pressing into the darkness, he is menaced by cruel ancient enemies desperate to possess his power for their own ends. And following him is a beast formed from the very fabric of Celtic mythology − the animistic form of a great boar, Twrch Trwyth.

An adventure story of a journey into Celtic mythology, Return from Darkness has been described as ‘a spellbinding journey to find the shining light inside all our darknesses’.

‘Mythology can be seen as a series of ancient messages passed down by our ancestors to help future generations through the challenges of life’ added Graham, ‘and perhaps this book may help to draw some of these messages out of the darkness so we can ‘read’ and understand them’.

Graham Jones was born in Cardiff. He taught Physical Education and Outdoor Pursuits before taking early retirement and settling down in north Pembrokeshire. He now lives in the White Mountains of Crete.

Return from Darkness by Graham Jones (£9.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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thomas jones of pencerrig.jpgThis first biography of the famous Welsh painter Thomas Jones has been published this week.

Thomas Jones of Pencerrig: artist, traveller, country squire by Richard Veasey is the full-length biography of the eighteenth-century landscape painter and seeks to draw together the different threads of his life.

Born in September 1742, Thomas Jones moved with his parents from Llandrindod Wells to Pencerrig close to Builth Wells when he was around seven years old. He was educated first by Dissenting ministers before being sent with his elder brother to Christ College in Brecon.

Following in the footsteps of his master Richard Wilson, he travelled to Italy and spent six and a half years there first in Rome among English artists then in Naples where he was welcomed into the local artistic milieu.

His career led him to return to London in 1783 until the unexpected death of his elder brother in 1787. Thereafter he had to assume responsibility for the running of the family estate of Pencerrig in Radnorshire, where he remained until his death in 1803.

Two of his most prominent works include The Bard (1774) and A Wall in Naples (1782).

He was the first Welsh - and British, artist to write his memoirs.

‘As an artist Jones has come to be recognised above all for his striking images of buildings in Naples and for the freshness of his pictures of the Radnorshire countryside’ said author Richard Veasey, ‘But the view we now have of him runs somewhat counter to the story he tells in his memoirs of a thwarted professional career.’

‘There is indeed a tension between the pictures he produced largely for his own pleasure and what he achieved as a pupil and follower of Richard Wilson. It is the difference between his own direct and personal vision and a classically derived and idealised one’ explained Richard.

The memoirs, which he wrote when he was settled at Pencerrig, offer a vivid account of his life in London, of his travels through France to Italy, of what he did in Rome and Naples and of the long journey home by boat. The Day Book provides a similar record of life on the estate in Wales.

Together with a handful of other documents, these give us further insights into the life Jones led when he set up home with Maria in Naples and what was involved in the running of a large country estate.

Richard Veasey was a lecturer in French and European Studies at the University of Sussex. After he retired, he lived for a number of years in converted farm buildings on the former estate of Thomas Jones and became familiar with the landscape the artist both transformed and painted. He currently lives in Kington, Herefordshire.

Thomas Jones of Pencerrig: artist, traveller, country squire by Richard Veasey (£12.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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TARENI COLLIERY by Clive Reed


By AmeriCymru, 2016-12-16

The story of a deep coalmine in Cwmtawe, the Swansea Valley.

'A tribute to those Tareni miners, their trials and tribulations but also their joys and successes both in and outside of work, and to their families and to all those others who worked the hard anthracite coalmines of the Swansea Valley.'


£30 plus P&P £4.95. Cheques to be made out to
Clive Reed at 17 Smithfield Road, Pontardawe, Swansea SA8 4LA.

For more information please email lynnegent46 at gmail.com

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unnamed.jpg‘A general poverty of ambition for Wales is undermining its development potential as the confidence of a whole generation of our young people is challenged on a daily basis’.

In his newly-released autobiography Carl Clowes, founder of the iconic language Centre at Nant Gwrtheyrn and prime motivator for the unique link between Wales and Lesotho, describes how communities the length and breadth of Wales are struggling to survive, rarely believing that they have the potential to overcome the disadvantages they are faced with. And when the occasional aspiring entrepreneurial spirit does come along it is often shot down by an unimaginative bureaucracy.

In his book Super Furries, Prins Seeiso, Miss Siberia – a Fi, he claims the need for a real injection of vision and leadership is glaringly obvious.

‘Wales suffers from a lack of confidence’, he says, ‘even at the highest level, something that stems from centuries of being dominated by a culture that has always believed it has the right answer for us and, indeed, everyone else in the world’.

Quoting from a conversation with a former European Commission representative in Wales, ‘from my many meetings since I`ve been in this country, there is an obvious tension between Wales and England. It is something that nobody is willing to talk about publicly but it clearly exists and is of real concern’.

Carl Clowes concludes: ‘Only by establishing Wales as a sovereign state will we see servitude replaced by an empowered people, confidence regained and a belief in our capacity to move forward and away from the bottom half of virtually every table of performance in Europe’.

‘If we don`t take ourselves seriously, nobody else will. We deserve better but we need a vision and the political leadership to enable us to get there’ he concludes.



About the Author

A medical doctor by background, Carl Clowes was the Medical Director for Powys having started his career as a General Practitioner on the Llŷn peninsula where he established Antur Aelhaearn, the UK`s first community cooperative in 1974.

He has been honoured by the National Eisteddfod for his contribution `locally, nationally and internationally`, given the University of Manchester`s alumni Award for Social Responsibility and, latterly became the first doctor with an earlier career in General Practice to be made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of General Practitioners for his work with the Royal College in Lesotho. He is the Honorary Consul for Lesotho in Wales.

He was awarded the OBE in 2012 and in 2009 was given Lesotho`s highest Civil honour when he was made a Member of the Most Loyal Order of Ramatseatsana by His Majesty King Letsie III.



Super Furries, Prins Seeiso, Miss Siberia a Fi by Carl Clowes (£12.99, Y Lolfa) is availble now.

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EFFECTS OF GLOBAL WARMING SEEN IN WALES?


By AmeriCymru, 2016-12-06

tywyddmawr.jpgAre the effects of global warming seen in Wales? That is the driving question behind the new publication Tywydd Mawr – Extreme Weather in Wales published this week.

To look for the answer, the photographer Iestyn Hughes studied countless archives for evidence of the consequences of weather over the centuries.

As the world’s climate changes each year, the book shows the impact of these effects on the Alps and glacier shrinkage in Canada but primarily the dramatic views from across Wales – snow of 1947 and 1978, the summer drought of 1976, the 2003 floods, and the storms of 2013/14 along the west coast of Wales.

Tywydd Mawr – Extreme Weather in Wales is a comprehensive volume that contains well over a hundred photographs and drawings of extreme weather in Wales. It houses a treasure trove of facts, memories, photogarphs, folklore and the science of weather and climate.

‘I was motivated to compile this book following the terrific storms of 2013/2014 which thrust Aberystwyth into the media spotlight. Having always been someone who took a peculiar delight in storm watching, I hung around and documented much of this exceptional period with my camera’ explained Iestyn Hughes.

‘I was asked to contribute to a film on the weather and climate change, and this stirred my interest in the broader historical context of the weather as it had affected Wales over the centuries.’ added Iestyn, ‘Is the recent unpredictable weather brought about by climate change, or, when set in the context that’s longer than a memory of a generation, is it part of a natural long term pattern?’

‘Although this is primarily a Welsh-language book, the picture captions are bilingual, helping the less-fluent reader to appreciate their context.’ added Iestyn.

The images presented in the book come from different sources including a collection from the National Library of Wales, which includes the first ever photograph of a snowman taken around 1854 and one of the people skating on the Teifi in 1891. In addition to photographs, there are also paintings such as those by Breugel, Aneurin Jones and Kyffin Williams.

‘To us as Welsh people, and to the other residents of the British Isles, the weather is a large part of our lives. When we experience extreme weather, our social and cultural responses are direct, instinctive and highly creative.’ says Dr Hywel Griffiths, who wrote the introduction to the book and is a lecturer in the Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences at Aberystwyth University.

‘In poetry or myth, paintings or photographs, something about the weather inspires. In recent years we in Wales have experienced a number of examples of extreme weather, including storms and floods.’ said Dr Griffiths.

‘This book is an important contribution to the public conversation about weather and climate as it shows historical and cultural evidence that we as individuals and communities have proven, and coped with these extreme events in the past,’ he added ‘When we, who experienced the storms of 2013/2014, are no longer here to tell the tale, the pictures, as art and record, will endure.’

Originally from Llaniestyn, Sir Fôn, Iestyn became a native of Ceredigion after 35 years working at the National Library. In 2011 he left the establishment to follow new and creative endeavours. He has made a substantial contribution to books

He has contributed extensively to books by several publishers since, either as a picture researcher, or as a photographer. Tywydd Mawr – Extreme Weather in Wales is the fourth book to bear his name as the author, and it is a book that combines his interest in archive footage and his photographic talent.

Tywydd Mawr – Extreme Weather in Wales by Iestyn Hughes (£14.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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All_For_Freedom_COVERwithblurb.jpg

A remarkable story of military courage….

As Wales prepares to remember those who lost their lives in wars across the world a 98 year-old veteran from Carmarthenshire

publishes a book detailing his incredible experiences as a prisoner of war.

In All for Freedom D.T. Davies from Dryslwyn, near Llandeilo, provides an emotional account of some of the harrowing scenes he witnessed as a prisoner at Nazi camps across Europe.

D.T. Davies was captured at the Battle of Crete at the end of May 1941. He was among hundreds of troops who were herded on to

cramped wagon trains in Greece and taken on a three-day journey, with very little food or water, to the infamous Stalag 18A Nazi prison camp at Wolfsberg, in southern Austria.

He spent three years as a prisoner of war, in Austria, then Hungary and finally at the barbaric concentration camp of Zemun, near Belgrade. He describes Zemun as “quite simply hell on earth.”

These places were far removed from the rural Carmarthenshire where he was brought up, but their stench remains with him to this day.

“He witnessed dark deeds. But, all the while, one thing kept him going – the urge to escape. His is an amazing and uplifting story. It is the tale of one man’s fight for a basic human right – freedom – against a backdrop of unimaginable cruelty and suffering. For his bravery, he was awarded the Military Medal,” says Ioan Wyn Evans, television producer and co-author of the book.

Over 70 years after the end of the war, DT Davies recounts his incredible experiences in All for Freedom: A True Story of Escape from the Nazis , published by Gomer Press.

“Whatever your views on war, D.T. Davies’s courage, determination and humility should be highlighted and respected. This is the story of a man who truly deserves to be called a ‘hero’,” says Ioan Wyn.

After returning home from the war he didn’t talk about his time as a POW for years on end, not even to his family. But he says “When I reached my 90s, my sons insisted I put my experiences on paper for the sake of my two grandsons and five granddaughters.”

D.T. Davies says “For me, the most important thing is that we remember. Remember those who lost their lives, from every nation across the world; and to remember their sacrifice. I think everyone needs to bear that in mind, people of all ages and backgrounds, but especially the young. Because without the sacrifices of others, where would they be today? Whatever your views on war, it’s imperative that we remember those who didn’t come home, and my biggest hope is that we will never see anything like it again. Ever.”

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THE WELSH IMPACT ON MANCHESTER UNITED FC


By AmeriCymru, 2016-11-10

alunthebear.jpgThe Manchester United Welsh by Gwyn Jenkins and Ioan Gwyn offers an insight into Wales' contribution to one of football's most famous clubs.

From its early beginnings nearly a century and a half ago and players such as Jack Powell and Billy Meredith, through the Golden Age of the 1950-60s when Jimmy Murphy was Matt Busby's right-hand man, and on to the latter-day glory years under Alex Ferguson with worldwide icons such as Mark Hughes and Ryan Giggs, Welshmen have played a vital role in shaping the history of a club supported right across the world.

‘What is unique about the book is that it views the club from a Welsh perspective, tracing the considerable contribution to its enormous success made by a few key individuals with one important thing in common – their roots in this small but proud nation’ said co-author, Gwyn Jenkins.

The book provides fascinating historic detail  by travelling back to the birth of the club. It includes countless anecdotes about life and matches at the club in bygone eras making it the essential book for all Manchester United and Wales fans and for those interested in the development of football over the years.

Gwyn Jenkins has written numerous books on the history of Wales and on football. He lives in Talybont, Ceredigion. His son, Ioan Gwyn, is an actor who has inherited his father’s keen interest in football and currently resides in London.

The Manchester United Welsh by Gwyn Jenkins and Ioan Gwyn (£6.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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alunthebear.jpg‘Caryl Lewis is the new queen of our literature’ according to prominent Welsh book reviewer Bethan Mair.

Her comments come following the publishing of a new volume of stories by Caryl Lewis this week as well as Caryl’s phenomenal success at the Book of the Year awards this year.

Y Gwreiddyn by Caryl Lewis is a collection of short stories on the relationships people have with their fellows, love, loss and roots.

‘I love the idea that there is a ‘tree’ of roots underneath each tree that shapes and drives it’ says Caryl, ‘After writing the title story I imagined that the idea fitted the short story format – that there’s a world underneath us that drives us. The important things about us are often hidden.’


‘Roots anchor us and let us grow but they can also hinder us’ says Caryl, ‘There is a popular saying that says that we need roots and wings, but there is tension between the two’

The stories often a wide range of characters including Hazel and Trefor in the story Chwarae Cardiau (Playing Cards), Piotr in Y Llif (The Flow) and Eben in the story Gwahaddod (Moles) – and each one looks at the root of the relationships between the characters.

‘Caryl understands the rural characters that fill the pages so much so that we forget they are works of fiction’ says Bethan Mair, ‘I read the volume in one evening but I will spend the rest of my life in her presence. Caryl is the new queen of our literature’

Caryl Lewis lives in Goginan near Aberystwyth with her hsuband and three children. She won Book of the Year for two of her novels – Martha Jac a Sianco in 2005 and Y Bwthyn in 2016. She has also won Tir na n-Og twice. This is her second volume of shrot stories following Plu which was published in 2008.

The past year has been a very busy year for Caryl after winning three awards at the Book of the Year awards and now publishing a volume of stories. She also worked alongside artist Aneurin Jones on a new exhibition in Aberteifi castle.  

‘It has been exciting but tiring!’ says Caryl ‘I tend to have periods of creativity when ideas come to me and then ideas lead to more ideas’

‘But its important to take advantage of such periods and let the ideas guide you’ she added.

The book is presented to local artist Aneurin Jones.

Y Gwreiddyn by Caryl Lewis is available now (£7.99, Y Lolfa)

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when_dragons_dare_to_dream.jpgThe first Welsh colouring book for adults is published this week by Y Lolfa publishers. 

Lliwio Cymru / Colouring Wales is the first adult colouring book for adults with a Welsh theme running throughout the pictures. It contains 21 beautiful hand-drawn Welsh pictures by the artist from Llanrug, Dawn Williams, including pictures of Branwen, Saint David, Blodeuwedd, the Red Dragon, ‘Cariad’, and Calon Lân and the Welsh national anthem, Hen Wlad fy Nhadau.

There has been a recent growth in the sales of colouring books for adults and psychologists claim that focusing on colouring can remove or hinder negative thoughts or encourage relaxation. 

According to the Mental Health Foundation 59% of adults in Britain say they are under more stressed today than they were five years ago. Although colouring is an activity for children it is now being used as a form of alternative theraphy to help adults relieve stress and anxiety. 

‘This is a unqiue and innovative book within the Welsh publishing industry,’ said Fflur Arwel, Head of Marketing for Y Lolfa, ‘Hundreds of colouring books for adults have been published in recent years but this is the only one with a Welsh dimension to it.’ 

‘Research has shown that colouring can alleviate conditions such as stress or transport people back to the easier days of childhood,’ Fflur added. 

The professional artist Dawn Williams was born in Bangor and raised in Ynys Môn. She now lives in Llanrug and is married with three sons. 

‘From the moment I used my pencils for the first time I became hooked on art!’ explained Dawn, ‘I was very young – a child in a children’s home in Llandudno and loved to sit at the desk in the playing room and show the other children how to draw.’ 

‘It was a way of escaping to another world the second the pencil would touch the paper,’ said Dawn, ‘and I am encouraged by the need to escape to my own kingdom of colours and inspired by nature and people and all the world around me!’

‘I jumped at the chance to create a Welsh colouring book – art is important to me and I am very grateful for the opportunity. Its theraputic and a chance to escape to somewhere if I feel down,’ added Dawn.

Lliwio Cymru / Colouring Wales by Dawn Williams (£4.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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When Dragons Dare To Dream




when_dragons_dare_to_dream.jpgPlayers from the Wales football team have sung the praises of a new book that details the incredible success story of the team during the summer of 2016. 

Published this week, When Dragons Dare to Dream is the follow-up to Jamie Thomas’ successful The Dragon Roars Again and starts where that left off, charting the amazing progress of the Welsh football team through the Euro 2016 finals. 

‘Qualification for Euro 2016 meant absolutely everything to us, as a team, as a nation of people who have waited our whole lives to see Wales competing at a a major tournament,’ said Joe Ledley. ‘That feeling of qualifying was just amazing, and we couldn’t wait to get to France to put our country on the map and make a nation proud of us once more.’ 

‘We players had the time of our lives – every single day was a pleasure, and I like to think the fans enjoyed it just as much as we did; we just didn’t want it to end!’ said Joe, ‘To try and tell our nation’s incredible story over the summer is no easy task, but Jamie’s done a brilliant job of it with this new book. It’s a must-read for any football fan!’ he added. 

Euro 2016 was the first major tournament for the national team since 1958. The success of the team was a dream come true for many fans and culminated with the team reaching the Euro 2016 semi-finals.

The book includes in-depth analysis of and insight into the journey taken during the summer of 2016, including an exclusive interview with Mark Evans of the FAW which offers a glimpse into the  preparations for and events in the team base during the tournament. Players and team staff also offer their exclusive comments, including Joe Ledley and Chris Gunter. 

‘I’m very pleased to say that this is another very good book that tells Wales’ incredible story from the perspective of so many people who were involved: players, coaches, fans, journalists, everyone!’ said Chris Gunter. 

Raised on Anglesey, author Jamie Thomas is a 23-year-old Media Masters graduate and lifelong Wales fan who writes on many aspects of Welsh football for various media outlets. 

‘I was ecstatic with the reception my first book received from everyone – whether that be people involved with the Wales squad on a day-to-day basis, fellow Wales fans or other journalists,’ said Jamie.

 When Dragons Dare to Dream by Jamie Thomas (£9.99, Y Lolfa) is published on November 1st.

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THE RUGBY UNION HAS BECOME TOO DANGEROUS


By AmeriCymru, 2016-09-26

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‘The hugely successful 2015 World Cup obscured the reality rugby union has become too dangerous’ according to John Dawes - architect of the historic 1971 Lions triumph in New Zealand.

His views come from the new updated edition of John Dawes: The Man who Changed the World of Rugby by Ross Reyburn in which Dawes and the late Carwyn James cite their views on what could be done to transform the modern game for the better. 

Reyburn’s biography is the only first-hand account of the 1971 Lions in print backtracking the tour’s success to its birthplace at Old Deer Park where Dawes created the  spectacular London Welsh side in the late 1960s. And it also provides as shrewd an analysis of the faults of modern rugby as you will find anywhere in The Legacy of the Dawes Era chapter.   

Carwyn James and the late Daily Telegraph rugby correspondent John Reason in their book  The World of Rugby – A History of Rugby Union Football  published in 1979 with prophetic foresight attacked a new  law allowing tackled players to pass the ball if they kept it off the ground wrote:

‘If the tackler is not rewarded with at least an interruption in the attacking side’s control of  the ball ...he will  stand up and maul for the ball, as they do in rugby league. Is that really what the International Board wants from rugby union football?

The changes in the tackle law ...have introduced the pile-up, as players seek to keep the ball off the ground and opponents  seek to smother it. The solution is obvious. Return to the old law which required a player immediately to release the ball once he had been brought to the ground.’ 

John  Dawes, who translated his vision of attacking 15-man rugby perfected at London Welsh to the 1971 Lions in his great partnership  with  James, echoed similar concerns telling Reyburn in 2013:

‘What the game has developed now is physicality. These days the first thing you look at in a player is how big he is, how strong he is.  You don’t see the ball go down the line from set pieces. What you see is a mess. You would be penalized in our day for a pile-up. But now they just dive in jumping on each ther. I can’t  understand how the referee allows it. Playing physically as they do now injuries will increase.’

Dawes’s injuries prediction has proved all too true and in April  2015 Prof Allyson Pollock  argued the game was too dangerous in its existing form for schools. Reyburn argues backing the views of Carwyn James and John Dawes need not be complex. World Rugby needs to return to the old tackle law, ensure existing laws are strictly enforced so the straight scrum feed returns and solo clear-out charges are penalised and return rugby to its traditional role as a 15-man game cutting the substitutes bench to four players available only as blood or injury replacements.

It is now over 30 years since Carwyn James sadly died aged just 53 and John Dawes’s direct involvement in the game has passed. But rugby union’s debt to these two visionaries from the Welsh valleys need not have ended.

The updated edition of Ross Reyburn’s biography, The Man Who Changed the World of Rugby – John Dawes and the Legendary 1971 British Lions (Y Lolfa, paperback £9.99) is available now. 

It includes articles by former Wales and Lions flanker John Taylor, the late Evening Standard sports editor  JL Manning and former Birmingham Post rugby correspondent Michael Blair highlighting the debt the game owes Dawes.

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In a time of war and instability a new book published this week by Y Lolfa will ‘restore your faith in humanity’ according to a former politican.

Originally published in Welsh, Evacuee – From the Liverpool Blitz to Wales is the remarkable story of Barbara Warlow Davies, an English-speaking four year old, who was evacuated from Liverpool to Talgarreg in Cardiganshire during the Second World War.

The memoir recieved wide acclaim with former politican Cynog Dafis praising the volume and saying, ‘I don’t believe I have ever read such wonderful, moving and appreciative tributes that are yet so real and sincere than the ones Barbara pays to her aunt and uncle.’

‘If you feel the need to restore your faith in humanity, I urge you to read this book.’ he added.

Born in Liverpool three years before the outbreak of the Second World War, Barbara had already experienced the Blitz of May 1941 in Liverpool when thousands died at the hands of the Luftwaffe before her arrival in Wales.

Here she recounts her life story, from losing her Mum six weeks before her third birthday, to being rescued from an explosion which killed 164 people at the Ernest Brown School before her move to live in rural Wales.

She had such a great welcome in Talgarreg that she decided to stay there after the war at the home of John and Rachel Davies in Pantglas who were like parents to her.

‘I am deeply indebted to Talgarreg School: to the two teachers, Miss Watson from New Quay and Miss Elen Thomas of Green Grove, Talgarreg, and especially Mr Tom Stephens, the headmaster, for the care, kindness and education I received,’ says Barbara,

‘Tom Stephens’ love for the Welsh language soon became ingrained in me, and I still have a great love for all things Welsh.’ she added.

Barbara recalls her wartime experiences and remembers Rural Cardiganshire after the war, with descriptions of farming customs, such as the day when the pig was killed, and how everyone coped with rationing.

The book contains moving portraits of some of the characters of the area; penned by a woman who is forever grateful for the warm welcome she received in the community of Talgarreg.

Evacuee by Barbara Davies (£7.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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The first serious study of the life and work of William Salesbury, published this week, will investigate the disparity between his very real achievements and the hostility shown to him by twentieth century academics.

The Life and Work of William Salesbury by James Pierce is the long awaited biography of William Salesbury, a gifted linguist, scholar and lawyer who dedicated and risked his life to bring to his people the learning and benefits of the Humanist revolution.

He was the principal translator of the 1567 Welsh New Testament and is considered one of the most significant figures in the history of the Welsh language.

William Salesbury was the Deputy Attorney General for Wales from 1532. His abiding passion was language and he succeeded in steering the first Welsh dictionary and the first translation of the New Testament into Welsh through the political perils of the reigns of four Tudor monarchs.

He introduced his country to the printed word, to Renaissance and Humanist learning, and his lifetime’s work was arguably responsible for saving the Welsh language from extinction.

Salesbury was a determined and politically astute man, yet his posthumous reputation has been blighted by academic controversy.

The Life and Work of William Salesbury will illustrate his major contribution to language and linguistics and should re-instate him as one of Wales’ most influential scholars.

‘A colleague of Ridley, Cecil, William Herbert and John Dee and employed by the notorious Richard Rich, his private life was dogged by marital strife, internal exile, a disputed will, physical assault and the seizure of his property,’ said the author, James Pierce.

‘Yet he pioneered Welsh printing, wrote propaganda for Ridley, compiled a dictionary, produced the first extensive translations of the scriptures into Welsh and the first science book in English and oversaw the passage of key legislation through Parliament.’ he added.

‘His contribution to the culture and history of both England and Wales is substantial,’ said James.

‘This is a well written, coherent argument that makes an original contribution to scholarship,’ said Dr Adrian Morgan, ‘It is a much needed and long awaited biography of one of the most significant figures in the history of the Welsh language.’

Born in Gwent, James Pierce studied Art before joining the teaching profession, eventually becoming an EAL specialist working with children from around the world. He learned Welsh as an adult and has had a lifelong interest in language and literature. He is married with two children and two grandsons.

The Life and Work of William Salesbury by James Pierce (£14.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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HOW AN ASSEMBLY MEMBER INSPIRED A NOVEL


By AmeriCymru, 2016-09-02

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The assembly member Elin Jones was one of the main inspirations behind a new novel by a local Aberystwyth author it has been revealed.

The Morlan centre in Aberystwyth was packed last week when over a hundred people came to listen to a conversation between Elin Jones AC, the reviewer Catrin Beard and local author Dana Edwards.

The three were there to discuss the inspiration and background behind Dana’s new Welsh lanaguage novel, Pam?

Pam? tells the story of Pam, Gwennan and Rhodri as they leave university and make their way in the world during the tumultuous decade that leads to the establishment of the Welsh Assembly.

But the three share a secret. As they begin to enjoy the status and privilege that comes from successful careers, what happened in Abersytwyth threatens to destroy everything.

The novel is set during the late 90s – the era of establishing the National Assembly in Cardiff, dramatic elections, and the growth of Welsh media in the form of Radio Ceredigion.

Dana explained that she chose to set the novel during the 90s because it was ‘a hopeful time, where there was a real feeling that it was possible to change society through the activism and enthusiasm of ordinary people’.

To reflect the nostalgia of the period old pop classics from the 90s were played during the evening and old issues of the contemporary magazine Golwg were placed around the hall.

It was noted that there was an element of the career of Elin Jones in the form of the main character, Pam, with both having been elected as local councillors and both having previously been a part of Radio Ceredigion.

‘It was never my intention to write the life story of Elin Jones,’ says Dana, ‘but of course Elin’s success, like many other women who secured a seat in the first Assembly, was an inspiration’.

‘A brilliant crowd came to launch Dana Edwards’ new novel in the Morlan ond a wonderful summer’s evening in Aberystwyth,’ said Elin Jones AM, ‘I enjoyed the conversation with Dana and Catrin Beard – and to stress the point once more, I am not Pam!’

This is Dana’s second novel, following the success of the English language novel The Other Half and it was chosen as the Welsh Books Council Book of the Month for August.

Pam? by Dana Edwards (£8.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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Gwenno Dafydd and Joan Rivers

Gwenno Dafydd, professional broadcaster, singer, actress and leadership coach, writes the ultimate canon of female stand-up comics.

‘Funny is funny’, as Joan Rivers said, regardless of gender—and with Stand Up and Sock it to them Sister, Gwenno Dafydd has finally managed to upend the old stereotype that women lack humour. She has tirelessly interviewed eighty four people working professionally in the comedy industry including numerous funny feisty females of all ages and backgrounds who share their success stories about their love affair with comedy and the challenges they faced and overcame in the male-dominated, aggressively competitive world of stand-up comedy.

A product of 20 years of research, Stand Up and Sock it to them Sister, an empowering story with resonance for every woman who wants to make it in any man’s world, was long overdue. Through thorough research with plenty of laughs interspersed, Dafydd looks at the genesis of female comedy from the time of music hall and supper clubs in Victorian London through to the excitement and challenge of the international world of comedy today. Featuring a unique section of Tips for the Top and interviews with over sixty-five comics working world-wide, from the pioneering Joan Rivers, Jo Brand, Jenny Eclair, and Helen Lederer, to relative newcomers such as Nina Conti, Shazia Mirzah, and Amy Schumer, Stand Up and Sock it to them Sister offers a practical guide and invaluable advice on the practice and challenges of being a stand-up comic and how to make it in the world of comedy. Stand Up & Sock It to Them Sister is an inspiring and unique read for everybody who is interested in reading about their favourite stand-up comics and learning about the history of women and comedy. According to Roy Hudd, Author and world expert on the British Music Hall ‘It was about time that a book of this nature was written and female performers given the recognition that they deserve. These amazing Role Models from the last hundred and fifty years or so that Gwenno has compiled can only inspire future generations of funny women. She has done a great job.

The book will be launched at Edinburgh Fringe Festival on 17 August 2016.

Publication date 1 August 2016

Paperback £11.99

978 1 910901 55 7

Find more about Gwenno on her website: www.gwennodafydd.co.uk.



Gwenno Dafydd with Amy Schumer

Mae’r ddarlledwraig gantores actores ac annogydd arweinyddiaeth broffesiyniol Gwenno Dafydd wedi ysgrifennu casgliad di-guro o ferched sy’n creu comedi ‘dal dy dir', fel mae hi yn ei alw. (stand-up)

Digri yw Digrifel wedodd Joan Rivers, s’dim ots beth yw rhyw y person sy’n creu y comedi a gyda Stand Up and Sock it to them Sister, mae Gwenno Dafydd wedi llwyddo unwaith ac am byth i chwalu’r myth wirion fod merched ddim yn ddigri. Mae hi wedi cyfweld wyth deg pedwar o bobl sydd yn gweithio yn broffesiynol yn y diwidiant comedi, gan gynnwys nifer helaeth o Difas Digri a Genod Gwirion (Enw trafodaeth ddiweddar Tafwyl gyda Jon Gower am y llyfr) o bob oedran a chefndiroedd sydd yn rhannu eu storiau o lwyddiant am eu carwriaethau gyda comedi a’r her barhaol sydd yn eu wynebu. Mae hi’n dangos sut mae nhw wedi llwyddo i oresgyn y rhwystrau yn y byd yma sydd wedi ei boblogi yn hanesyddol gan ddynionbyd treisgar, cystadleuol a heriol byd comedi dal dy dir.

Bu Stand Up and Sock it to them Sister yn lafur cariad 20 mlynedd o waith ymchwil dwys ac maen llawn o storiau sy’n adleisio’n gryf iawn i unrhyw ddynes sydd eisiau creu llwyddiant mewn byd o reolau dynion. Hen bryd i’r storiau yma gael eu hadrodd. Ymysg y gwaith ymchwil gofalus mae digon o ddigrifwch a mae Gwenno Dafydd yn edrych ar gomedi merched yn blaguro o gyfnod y ‘music halls’ a clwbiau swper yn Llundain hyd nes y dyddiau presennol a’r cyffro a’r her o’r byd comedi rhyngwladol. Gan gynnwys pennod arbennig o Ganllawiau i Lwyddo (Tips for the Top) a chyfweliadau gyda dros chwe deg pump o gomics benywaidd yn gweithio ar hyd y byd, o’r arloesol Joan Rivers, Jo Brand, Jenny Eclair a Helen Lederer, i gomics fwy diweddar megis Nina Conti, Shazia Mirzah, a’r anhygoel Amy Schumer(Trainwreck) mae Stand Up and Sock it to them Sister yn cynnig canllawiau ymarferol a chyngor amhrisiadwy ar yr arfer a’r sialensau o fod yn gomic dal dy dir a sut i lwyddo yn y byd comedi. Mae Stand Up & Sock It to Them Sister yn lyfr unigryw, llawn ysbrydoliaeth ar gyfer unrhywun sydd a diddordeb mewn darllen am eu hoff gomics benywaidd a dysgu mwy am hanes merched mewn comedi. Yn ol Roy Hudd, (Arbenigwr ac Awdur fyd eang ar Music Hall Prydeinig) mae’n dweud, R’oedd hi’n hen bryd i lyfr fel hwn gael ei ysgrifennu ac i berfformwyr benywaidd i gael y clod haeddiannol. Mae’r Rol Fodelau anhygoel yma or ganrif a hanner ddiwethaf a mwy mae Gwenno wedi eu casglu ond yn mynd i ysbrydoli cenedlaethau o ferched digri sydd i ddod. Mae hi wedi gneud job wych!

Caiff y llyfr ei lawnsio yng Ngwyl Ymylol Gomedi Caeredin ar y’r 17eg o Awst 2016

Diwrnod cyhoeddi 1af o Awst 2016

Clawr meddal £11.99

978 1 910901 55 7


Neu darganfyddwch mwy am Gwenno ar ei gwefan: www.gwennodafydd.co.uk



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A collection of Welsh wartime songs…

A unique collection of Welsh songs from the First World War will be launched at the National Eisteddfod in Abergavenny this year. The author, Meic Birtwistle, along with Welsh folk singer and harpist Siân James, will present Rhyfelgan in a special event at the Tŷ Gwerin on Wednesday, 3 August at 3pm.

A century after the First World War, this book features Welsh-language songs composed and sung at the time, some in support of the war, others expressing vociferous opposition to it.

A number of the songs haven’t seen the light of day for a hundred years, and many of them are published here for the very first time.

The author’s interest in these compositions began when he learnt that one of his relatives, John Volander Jones – a minister, writer and keen supporter of David Lloyd George – was in fact the author of a number of popular Welsh songs about the war.

Meic Birtwistle says: “It’s often the case that soldiers who have been through war don’t want to discuss their experiences. This was true of my father and his experience of the Second World War. This is why it’s so important that such wars are not forgotten, and it’s our responsibility to ensure that this doesn’t happen”.

“A century after the Great War, I feel that there’s been a tendency to sanitize and moralize the war, and portray it as a just war. However, that’s not how I was taught about it in school, in college or by my community and family. One of the aims of this book is to

highlight the voices raised – in song – against this unnecessary fighting.”

“My family’s history has given me a distinct perspective and responsibility to study and declare my conclusions about the use of songs to support or oppose the war.”

As someone who was originally destined to be a soldier himself, Meic Birtwistle is aware of the danger of romanticizing the war, as happens in a number of the songs in the collection.

Following his research into the musical context of the time, Meic reveals some treasures that still resonate through the years. They are in the tradition of ‘Oh! What a lovely War’.

The new book Rhyfelgan by Meic Birtwistle will be available at your local bookshop or directly from the publisher, Gomer Press on www.gomer.co.uk

Bibliographical details

Rhyfelgan

Meic Birtwistle

Gomer Press

ISBN 9781848518872

paperback

134 pages


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 Meic Birtwistle is an experienced journalist and

television producer.

 He studied for a BA and MA in History and Welsh

History at Swansea and Aberystwyth Universities.

 He lives in Mynydd Bach, Ceredigion and enjoys his

work, politics and rowing in his spare time.

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Jack Scarrott’s Prize Fighters – Memoirs of a Welsh Boxing Booth Showman

by Lawrence Davies

ISBN : 978-0-9570342-3-5
Price £14.99
Published : 31/8/2016

451 Pages, 56 black and white photos and illustrations




This book, a continuation of the previously unrecorded Welsh boxing history covered in the book Mountain Fighters, Lost Tales of Welsh Boxing, by Lawrence Davies (Peerless Press, 2011) and explores the world of the mountain fighters and early glove fighters of South Wales in the form of an expanded commentary on the memoirs of John ('Jack') Scarrott (1870-1947) the famous boxing booth proprietor and boxing promoter who assisted such well known Welsh boxers as Jim Driscoll, Tom Thomas and Jimmy Wilde on the road to boxing glory.  Many of the first of the most famous fighting men to have emerged from South Wales are profiled within this book including:

Martin Fury and Jack Hearn- two of the most famous bare-knuckle fighters to have emerged from the gypsy camps of South Wales, and the forgotten story of their great battle.

Shoni Engineer - the one-time claimant of the Welsh middleweight title, with full accounts of his battles against 'Dublin Tom', Tom 'Books' Davies, Jem Guidrell of Bristol, John O'Brien and William Samuels.

William Samuels - the flamboyant heavyweight champion of Wales, with an expanded accounts of his rivalries with Bob Dunbar, Toff Wall, Tom Vincent, and Shoni Engineer, as well as an in-depth look at his later career and his remarkable impact on the history of Welsh boxing.

Dai St. John - The towering miner from Resolven, who whipped 'man after man' with bare knuckles as a teenager before his great rivalry with John O'Brien the Cardiff born Welsh middleweight champion, and his dramatic rise to the status of national hero in the Boer War.

Bob Dunbar - the fearsome bare-knuckle fighter and booth boxer, who went on to claim the lightweight championship of Wales, his great defeat of William Samuels in 1882, and the tragic untold story of the events following his retirement from the ring.

Dai Dollings - the bare knuckle fighter and booth boxer from Swansea who would become one of the most famous and influential boxing trainers of the early 20th century after emigrating to New York and becoming the chief trainer at the world famous Grupp's gym - where he seconded some of the most famous fighters of the squared circle, and tutored the renowned boxing trainer, Ray Arcel.

Numerous fighters who featured on Jack Scarrott's boxing booth are also fully explored within the book, along with tales of their early fights on Scarrott's 'Pavilion' including such luminaries of Welsh gloved boxing as:

Tom Thomas - The gentle farmer's son from Penygraig who would become British middleweight Champion after many battles on the travelling boxing booth of Jack Scarrott, and the tale of how the cruel lick of a gypsy's whip made him pull on the boxing gloves.

Jim Driscoll - The Cardiff boxer known as 'Peerless' Jim who was crowned British featherweight champion, and became the toast of Great Britain following his defeat of Abe Attell, the world featherweight champion.

Jimmy Wilde - the astonishing tale of Wilde's rise to fame as world flyweight champion and arguably the greatest boxer of all  time, his many knockout victories on the boxing booth, and the legendary day when he knocked out 23 seperate challengers.

Pedlar McMahon - a 'pocket Hercules' and boxing booth champion, his rise to fame on the boxing booth of William Samuels, his great rivalry with booth boxer Frank Lowry and tales from his time as a champion of Jack Scarrott's booth. 

Joe White - A Swiss-Canadian middleweight who became one of the favourites on Scarrott's boxing booth, his early contests on the boxing booths of South Wales through to his challenge to a young Freddie Welsh as a battle hardened veteran.

'Dangerous Jack' - one of Scarrott's early champions, a ferocious black fighter, known for his slashing style who put down mountain fighter after mountain fighter, and the hilarious story of his discovery by Jack Scarrott himself. 

'Yuko Sako' - The 'Japanese Strangler from Yokohama' - the strange but true story of one of Jack Scarrott's booth boxers - a compact Welshman disguised as a mysterious Japanese fighter to draw the interest of the fairground crowds. 

Details of the early careers of many Welsh champions and notable booth boxers of the period are explored within the book, including Percy Jones of Porth - the first Welsh world champion, Frank Moody of Pontypridd - British & Empire Middleweight Champion, Johny Basham of Newport - British & European Welterweight Champion, Jack Davis of Pontypridd - who once challenged for the British heavyweight title, Freddie Welsh of Pontypridd - lightweight champion of the world, Patsy Perkins - lightweight champion of Wales, Jimmy Dean - the famous 'Cast Iron Man' of Pontypridd, 'Darkey' Thomas, Frank Reed, William 'Mother' Lee, Dai 'Rush', Thomas 'Bungy' Lambert, Arthur and William Butcher of Talywain, 'Twm' Edwards of Aberdare, and 'Bullo' Rees of Aberavon.

Prior to the publication of this book, many of these men have never been recorded in any other book of Welsh boxing history, and along with Mountain Fighters, Lost Tales of Welsh Boxing by the same author, they comprise the most complete recorded history of the origins of Welsh boxing and the early Welsh glove fighters ever published.  Both books represent over fifteen years of intensive Welsh boxing research on the part of the author, and have a combined length of nearly 1,000 pages covering a century of Welsh boxing history.  Illustrated with over 50 mostly unpublished photographs and illustrations, 'Jack Scarrott’s Prize Fighters - Memoirs of a Welsh Boxing Booth Showman' is a must buy for any boxing fan who wishes to re-discover the origins of Welsh boxing, and read the astonishing story of Jack Scarrott, the acclaimed showman and boxing pioneer, who until now had been consigned to little more than a footnote in the careers of the great Welsh boxing champions. 

From the Back Cover :

‘Fifty years I’ve been in the game, mister, and all that time I’ve been right here in the mining valleys.  I know every town and village in South Wales, and I knew every boxer worth calling a fighting man they ever turned out. Dai St. John, Tom Thomas, Jim Driscoll, Freddy Welsh, Johnny Basham, Jimmy Wilde, Percy Jones, and many more that were before their time. I knew them all, and a good few started with me in my booth.  I was scrapping for a living in a boxing booth before I started a booth on my own, and I was only about twenty one when I started on my own. Believe me, the life of a booth boxer in those days was tough.  Mountain fighters! That’s what they called the miners who used to fight bare-knuckle on the mountains…’ 

Jack Scarrott was born into a family of travelling people in 1870, and travelled throughout South Wales in his youth, coming into contact with many of the bareknuckle fighters of his time before starting his own fairground boxing booth where spectators were invited to ‘step up’ and stand against his own boxing champions for a number of rounds in order to claim a cash prize.  Travelling throughout South Wales in the years that followed, Scarrott’s travelling ‘Pavilion’ would become famous for the number of boxers that it would start on the way to national acclaim.   In addition to the more familiar names of gloved boxing champions that Jack Scarrott recalls, there are also numerous tales of the early knuckle fighters of South Wales, including such notable fighters as William Samuels, Martin Fury, Shoni Engineer, Robert Dunbar, Dai St John, and John O’Brien.  Jack Scarrott’s memoirs, first printed in serialised form in 1936 have never been published in book form until now, and benefit from an expanded in-depth look at the events that comprise his recollections of nearly fifty years of boxing history, from the days of the forgotten bare-knuckle men of the mountains to the boxing champions that would start their careers under the flapping canvas of his boxing booth.  Illustrated with over 50 rare photographs and illustrations,  Jack Scarrott’s Prize Fighters- Memoirs of a Welsh Boxing Booth Showman, stands as one of very few accounts of a time long forgotten when bare-knuckle battlers and fledgling glove fighters fought for supremacy on the  fairgrounds of South Wales.

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No Job For A Little Girl


By AmeriCymru, 2016-07-13

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no job for a little girl by Rosemary Scadden , front cover detailOur fascination with societies and households united by social, class and occupational division continues unabated.The popularity of Downton Abbey, Upstairs Downstairs and Gosford Parkbears testimony to this. But how much do we really know about the true experiences of domestic servants and the conditions in which they lived?

Buy the book here

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No Job for a Little Girl by Rosemary Scadden is based on interviews with those women who had to leave home in the 1920s and 1930s – some when they were as young as fourteen years old – to work as low-paid maids in the big cities.

Domestic service was Britain''s biggest employer a century ago with 1.5 million people working as servants – more than those who worked on farms or in factories. In a period where there were very few opportunities for young women, many had to leave home in search of work. And, as No Job for a Little Girl proves, the young girls of Wales were no exception.

The women’s own words bring an immediacy and vibrancy to the memoir. Their experiences highlight how much chance played in their conditions of service. Their precise duties and personal feelings are described, bringing to life a forgotten world of deference and social immobility. Ironically, it was the outbreak of the Second World War that transformed the lives of this lost generation of women.



rosemary-scaddenOriginally from Newport, Rosemary Scadden lives in Cardiff, where she was for many years a programme researcher with both HTV and BBC Wales. She was involved in the landmark oral history series, All Our Lives,and worked with Sir Harry Secombe for eight years on Highway. Rosemary also spent twelve years working overseas, in Uganda and the Solomon Islands. Since her retirement she has become a popular speaker on many subjects and is an active member of the Women’s Archive of Wales.


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No Job for a Little Girl is available from all good bookshops and online retailers.

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For more information, please visit www.gomer.co.uk

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Marking The 50th Anniversary Of Aberfan


By AmeriCymru, 2016-07-08

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A Story Of Survival, Love And Community  In One Of Britain's Worst Disasters.




On the 21st of October 1966, the village of Aberfan in Merthyr Tudfyl was shattered by one of the worst disasters in Welsh and British history.

Following days of bad weather, water from a spring had destabilized a huge coal slag tip – one of the black man-made mountains which surrounded the village. Thousands of tonnes of coal tip waste slid down a mountainside and devastated the mining village of Aberfan. The black mass crashed through the local school, where pupils were  celebrating the last day of term.

One hundred and forty-four people were killed. One hundred and sixteen were schoolchildren. Gaynor Madgwick was there. She was eight years old and severely injured. Her brother and sister were in  classrooms either side of her. Both died.

Recalling the horrific event in a diary four years later, Gaynor wrote,

‘I heard a terrible, terrible sound, a rumbling sound. It was so loud. I just didn’t know what it was. It seemed like the school went numb, you could hear a pin drop. I was suddenly petrified and glued to the chair. It sounded like the end of the world had come.’

In Aberfan – A Story of Survival, Love and Community in One Of Britain’s Worst Disasters, Gaynor tells her own story and interviews people affected by that day – from the bereaved and the rescuers, to the police and royalty. She explores the nature of courage, grief and faith, to create both a moving personal story of one family’s pain and a definitive account of the events that shook the nation and the world.

‘For the past 50 years I have lived as a sort of prisoner or victim of my past. Now I am trying to break free.’ said Gaynor. ‘I started this book by looking again at the writings of my young self. I’ve tried to explore the determination, courage and resilience which got me through. Then, I set out on a journey, to find those same qualities in my community, to see how it had coped, survived and often thrived.’

The Earl of Snowdon – who was there hours after the disaster – described it as ‘one of the most moving experiences of my life.’

‘Gaynor Madgwick’s book, Aberfan, is a brave, heartbreaking and inspiring journey in which she re-visits the story of what happened to her and to the whole community of Aberfan on that dreadful day.’ he said. ‘It is a book that should be read by all of us in memory of those who died and those who survived.’

Said Broadcaster Vincent Kane,

‘Gaynor Madgwick was pulled injured from one of the classrooms where her friends died. She was left behind to live out her life. This is her story, sad, sweet, sentimental, and authentic. I commend it to you.’

‘October 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of that awful day. For 50 years we have been trying to recover from the Aberfan disaster. It’s a long road, and we take it one day at a time.’ said Gaynor.

 ‘I’ve tried to tell this story in a way in which it has never been told before, beginning by reliving Aberfan through the eyes of a survivor.  As a survivor, now 58 years old, I have been haunted by the memories of the Aberfan disaster.’she continued ‘I wanted to create the fullest picture of the disaster and its aftermath while people were still around to tell their story.’ 

‘For me, I can’t start the next chapter of my life if I keep rereading the last one; this book will help me move on. My hope is that it will help others move on too.’

Aberfan - A Story of Survival, Love and Community in One of Britain's Worst Disasters by Gaynor Madgwick (£9.99, Y Lolfa) is available now. 

Aberfan will be launched at Ynysowen Community Primary School in Aberfan, Merthyr Tydfil at 6pm on Wednesday the 13th of July in the company of Vincent Kane (OBE), Iain Mclean (FBA, FRSE), Greg Lewis, Gaynor Madgwick, Melanie Doel, and Ynysowen Male Voice Choir. 

A press conference with Gaynor Madgwick will be held prior to the launch at the school between 4.00pm and 5.00pm which the press are encouraged to attend.

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THE WELSH AT MAMETZ WOOD, THE SOMME 1916




Today will see national interest in the hundredth anniversary of the Battle for Mametz Wood on the Somme which began on the 7th of July, 1916, and a new work containing previously unpublished personal accounts from both sides will aim to give hitherto unseen balance to the conflict.

‘The Welsh at Mametz Wood, The Somme 1916’ by Jonathan Hicks is a brand new interpretation of the First World War battle for Mametz Wood, telling the story of those terrible days from the viewpoint of soldiers who were actually there.

Using material from his extensive research, as well as sources translated from the original Welsh and the memories left behind by German survivors - many unpublished in English before – Jonathan Hicks gives a fresh insight into the battle.

Drawing extensively on survivors’ accounts and original photographs, the author allows the soldiers to speak for themselves to tell the full story of those dark days. In the words of one soldier: ‘Hell cannot be much worse.’

The 38th (Welsh) Division began the attack on Mametz Wood on the 7th of July 1916 – the second week of the Battle of the Somme. The division was a citizen force composed of miners from the Rhondda, farmers from Caernarfon and Anglesey, coal trimmers from the docks at Barry and Cardiff, bank workers from Swansea and men from a whole host of other backgrounds and occupations from the counties of Wales.

‘All hell broke loose as machine guns opened up on us from the front and from the flank. We stood no chance and the boys were everywhere falling, but we kept moving forward,’ wrote Private Albert Evans, 16th (Cardiff City) Battalion of The Welsh Regiment.

When it was over, Field Marshal Haig did not consider the performance of the 38th (Welsh) Division at Mametz Wood to be a success, but the fact remains that after days of ferocious hand-to-hand fighting with an enemy from the most effective army in Europe at that time, and terrible loss of life, the division finally succeeded in capturing the largest wood on the Somme.

There were some 4,000 British casualties during the battle.

The book’s publication follows the opening of the new ‘War’s Hell’ exhibition at the National Museum in Cardiff which is an exhibition of paintings, poetry and artefacts associated with the Welsh soldiers at Mametz Wood.

Dr Jonathan Hicks is an award-winning military historian and novelist, and his meticulous research provides new insight into this famous battle. He has previously won the Victorian Military Society’s top award for his work on the Anglo-Zulu War and in 2010 he was awarded the Western Front Association Shield for his work on Barry and the Great War.

Jonathan is also a member of the First World War Programme Board which advises the Welsh Government on the centenary commemorations.

He has previously written novels on the battle at Mametz Wood, including ‘The Dead of Mametz’ and ‘Demons Walk Among Us’.

He has dedicated his book to the fallen and writes:

‘I dedicate this book to the men who fought there in the second week of July 1916, those who died and who were buried in France, and those who are still missing with no known grave.’

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Where’s your favourite Welsh café?


By AmeriCymru, 2016-07-08

A striking new book giving a taste of fifty exceptional cafes in Wales has been published.

Caffis Cymru by Lowri Haf Cooke will be launched on 9 July at Gŵyl Arall / Another Festival, Caernarfon and 16 July at Sesiwn Fawr, Dolgellau.

Across Wales there’s a wealth of cosy, cool and quirky cafes to suit everyone’s tastes. Behind every teapot and cafetière there’s a treasury of personal stories, anecdotes and snippets of local history.

Lowri Haf Cooke says “Welsh cafes in their various guises have been meeting points and great social hotspots for many years. From the 18th and 19th century coffee houses to the Victorian tea rooms,from the Bracchi cafes to the Milk bars (established in Colwyn Bay in 1933), they’ve all played an important part in Wales’s social history….”

“By the turn of the millenium, a number of local cafes were usurped by the high street giants. But there has been a new trend in recent years as we turn back to independent cafes, tearooms and artisan coffee. And as I discovered on my travels, there’s a new cross-pollination too – the caférestaurant-deli-bakery-bar.”

Lowri says, “Whichever café you enjoy visiting at the moment, you’re sure to discover a new favourite in this book, Caffis Cymru. This is a book for everyone, and at the end of the day you don’t need to spend a fortune to enjoy yourself in one of these cafes. So, reach for a cuppa, sit back, relax and arrange your own whistle-stop tour of cafes in Wales!”

Caffis Cymru will be available at your local bookshop for £6.99 or directly from the publisherGomer Press on www.gomer.co.uk

Lowri Haf Cooke will be launching her new book at:

Gŵyl Arall / Another Festival, Caernarfon

Saturday, 9 July at 11.30am. Tickets: £4. For more information go to www.gwylarall.com

Sesiwn Fawr, Dolgellau

Saturday, 16 July at 4pm at T.H.Roberts Café. For more information go to www.sesiwnfawr.cymru

Bibliographical details

Caffis Cymru by Lowri Haf Cooke

Photographs: Emyr Young

ISBN 9781785620690 Publisher: Gomer Press

paperback 152 pages £6.99

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Tolkien And WelshBuy 'Rebel Rebel' here

The influence of popular Anglo-American culture is what drives author Jon Gower’s latest newly-published volume of short stories.

Rebel Rebel by Jon Gower is a collection of 21 short stories taking place all around the world, whilst introducing the reader to fictional and historical characters in believable and fantastic scenarios.

‘The literature of the United States, particularly novels, have had a big influence on me since I was a child – especially my hero John Updike and other giants such as Saul Bellow and Cormac McCarthy.’ says Jon Gower.

‘Later on I came to know the works of great authors such as Annie Proulx and Lorrie Moore and the love affair continues to this day.’ he continued.

His inspiration of combining popular Anglo-American culture with the Welsh short story came from various American authors – including Ernest Hemingway.

‘Some of these short stories I owe to Ernest Hemingway. One in particular tries to emulate his feat of writing a short story in only a handful of words,’ says Jon. ‘I was inspired by other authors too, especially contemporary American authors who write short stories – such as Wells Tower and Christopher Coake.’

But it was not just from authors that Jon was inspired and he is indebted to one artist in particular for his influence on him.

‘I had not realised just how great David Bowie’s influence was on me until he died, and the emptiness and the loss proved just how much that man was present in my life before then,’ Jon explained.

‘One of the most wonderful things about him was his latest and last work – his art blossoming even as he slipped deeper into illness. I had to include a new story to try and convey the greatness of his last album – a masterpiece he created despite the cancer, and in doing so succeded in creating an original and powerful piece to the every end.’

‘Jon takes us all over the world, to share the lustful secrets of David Bowie and Mick Jagger, to searching for a submarine from North Korea, to seeing the leader of the only extremist organisation left in Wales painting his toenails red in the colour ‘Coral Explosion,’ says Catrin Beard.

‘He wields the talent of Ellis Wynne as he provokes and satirises, and uses his vast knowledge of the films, literature, popular music and geography of America,’ added Manon Rhys.

Jon Gower writes in Welsh and in English, and has since written a vast array of books including Y Storïwr (Book of the Year 2012), Norte and The Story of Wales. Rebel Rebel is his fourth volume of short stories.

Rebel Rebel by Jon Gower (£7.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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All parties say that they want more ‘real people’ in politics, but one man’s experience perhaps suggests otherwise.

In the normally sedate rural constituency of Ceredigion, the general election of 2015 exploded into sensationalist headlines and the dirtiest campaign in living memory. At the centre of the fray was Plaid Cymru’s English-born, first-time candidate, author and broadcaster Mike Parker.

The Greasy Poll is Mike’s witheringly honest diary of the campaign, in which he chronicles the exhilaration and exhaustion of this knife-edge fight, from the many moments of great hope to the controversies that saw him vilified in sensationalist newspaper headlines, and his ultimate defeat by three thousand votes to the incumbent Liberal Democrat MP.

‘As an incomer to Wales and an outsider in politics,’ says Mike Parker, ‘I wanted to find out for myself if our electoral system really was as broken as I feared.’

‘When I heard that Mike had been chosen as Plaid’s candidate in Ceredigion, I knew he would face some problems,’ says former Plaid Cymru President and musician, Dafydd Iwan, ‘He was not only from outside the county, but was from Kidderminster, had outspoken left-field radical views, was gay and – wait for it – sported an ear-ring. At the same time, I was elated at the news because I knew he would bring something different to Plaid’s cause.’

‘The fact that Mike is English born, and has learnt Welsh as a second language gives him a refreshingly different perspective on Wales and its people,’ added Dafydd.

The book throws a searching light on many aspects of contemporary Welsh and British politics, as well as the means by which the press and media deal with it.

‘He paid a harsh and high price as an individual and a writer for choosing to take a stand instead of grumbling from the sidelines,’ says author Dr Jasmine Donahaye, ‘But he returns as a writer with this damning, unflinching exposé of the foul practices of politicians, political parties and the press when an outsider threatens entrenched, corrupt power.’

From the perils of social media to the drumbeat rise of neo-fascism, The Greasy Poll details the splits, sags and soggy compromises of modern Welsh politics, and how badly it is failing us.

‘The rise of UKIP is based almost entirely on the increasing acceptability of racism in public life,’ says Mike Parker. ‘We see it happening all over the world, from Trump to Le Pen, and we need to call it out for what it is. But it’s not just UKIP. Our media and other political parties are playing their disreputable part in its rise.’

‘We need to discuss it far more, and with greater understanding of its historical context.’ he added.

Mike also touches upon the homophobia he experienced as a candidate, especially during the controversy, and the effect it had on his mental health.

‘Only after the election did I come to realise just how mentally battered I was by the whole experience,’ he says. ‘It’s one of the reasons that I wanted to try and understand what happened by unpicking and writing about it. Politics is a rough game, we all know that, but this shouldn’t be the norm. Small wonder that it tends to attract some odd and rather lost people.’

Based near Machynlleth in mid Wales but originally from Worcestershire, Mike Parker has written numerous critically acclaimed books inspired by his sense of place. In 25 years of self-employment, he's also been a columnist, TV and radio presenter and stand-up comedian.

The Greasy Poll – Diary of a Controversial Election will be launched at Wiff Waff Bar in Aberystwyth on the 19th of May at 7pm.

On the 9th of June at 5.30pm Mike Parker will be in discussion with Adrian Masters at the Gallery at y Senedd building in Cardiff Bay.

Events will also be held on the 7th of June at 7.30pm at the Black Lion Hotel in Llanbed and on the 14th of June at 7.30pm at the Grosvenor in Cardigan.

The Greasy Poll – Diary of a Controversial Election by Mike Parker (£9.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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MEMOIRS OF A VALLEYS BOYHOOD


By AmeriCymru, 2016-03-09

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The turbulent history of the south Wales coalfield is a constant theme of this complex story of childhood and family history viewed through the eyes and in the memory of an acclaimed writer and editor.

Where the Stream Ran Red is the story of one place, one family (yet, in many ways hauntingly true of families throughout the south Wales coalfield) whose narrative takes us as far as the West Indies in the time of slavery, the high seas off Singapore and the pogroms of Tsarist Ukraine.

This is the story of the entry of Gilfach Goch into history as a mining valley, separate from the anthill of the forked valleys of Rhondda, with its own curious tripartite administration and its own special part to play in the turbulence of the south Wales coalfield. The red-tinted bed of a slim stream rising in the moorland overlooking a small, isolated unpopulated valley, a cil fach, gave its name to the writer’s birthplace.

Out of the years of productivity and optimism, and the grinding misery of long, bitter strikes and economic depression, rises a compendium of stories, in which stark and sobering facts jostle with speculative reconstruction of events in past centuries and memories of boyhood in the Valleys.

‘I was prompted to write by a sense of my own failure to ask my parents, sisters and others, who were witnesses of events before I was born and during forgotten childhood years, about their experiences in two wars and the years of strikes and depression between them.’ explained author Sam Adams.

‘In the boyhood times I recall the pits were busy day and night, all able-bodied men and increasing numbers of women were employed - and we all had ration books. Families had to bear the pain of the loss of loved ones in the war, sickness had to be borne, but people simply got on with it, in the valleys as elsewhere.’

‘Stoicism and understatement were ingrained in the code of the mining valleys; I do not think my family differed from others in telling me very little about their own histories. In my case, by the time I was thoughtful enough to want to find out, it was already too late. There was nothing I could do about all the lost personal testimony, except try to ensure that our children and grandchildren would not regret, as I have done, missed chances to ask how we came to be where we are.’

‘I decided I would write for them what I remembered, and what I could find out, about the family and the times in which they lived.’ he added.

In common with many in south Wales, the author’s family has roots spread wide – from Derbyshire and Somerset to Cardiganshire, Carmarthenshire and Breconshire, and tales of origins (lost glories even) carefully preserved and passed down from generation to generation.

Writer and editor Sam Adams was born and brought up in Gilfach Goch, Glamorgan, when it was still a busy mining valley, his elementary school days there coinciding with the Second World War. Having studied English at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, he combined a career in education with work as writer and editor.

His poems and critical writing have appeared in all the magazines of Welsh writing in English and he has made more than a hundred contributions to the Carcanet Press magazine PN Review. His editorial work includes the Collected Poems and Collected Stories of Roland Mathias and among his other publications are three monographs in the Writers of Wales series, three collections of poems and the novel Prichard’s Nose (Y Lolfa, 2010).

Where the Stream Ran Red – Memories and Histories of a Welsh Mining Valley by Sam Adams (£9.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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On World Book Day this year, Thursday, 3 March,Gomer Press will launch Ceredigion: At my Feet /Wrth fy Nhraed.

Talented photographer Iestyn Hughes will present his new book at the Drwm in the National Library of Wales at 7pm.

His striking pictures take us on a personal journey around Ceredigion looking at past and present images of the county. We travel from coast to uplands, through towns and villages in good times and bad, through the eyes of an adopted ‘Cardi’ whose love for his county is visible in every frame ...

Iestyn Hughes, who lives in Bow Street, says that “Our formative years (mine were spent inAnglesey) are incredibly important in forging a sense of belonging and community, and I lacked such an emotional bond with Ceredigion. So the idea of a photographic project based on Ceredigion formed in my mind. At the very least, it would get me out of the house and at best, it might help me feel less of a stranger to the place. I upgraded my camera gear, put on my boots, and began a long process of wandering here, there and everywhere, getting acquainted with parts of the landscape and some of the people around me ...”

According to Iestyn, capturing the county is “like trying to paint a portrait of a bored teenager who won’t sit still. The best I can do is to offer a glimpse of a ‘then and now’, with or without the blemishes, some of it real, some of it imagined and idealized, some of it lost forever, in the hope of leaving an impression. After all, as details, words and images fade away, all that remains is an impression. I just hope it’s an interesting and lasting one.

“It is a visual journey – a combination of past impressions, formed from pictures I saw and was sometimes captivated by as a curator over many years, and a contemporary pictorial record, a moment in time that anyone can experience for themselves now, if they travel thoughtfully around the county.

“Many of the places I’ve photographed are easy to reach by car. As you turn the pages, you’re taken, more or less, on a journey eastwards to the remote uplands, then clockwise around the county, popping inland now and again, up the coast from the Teifi right up to the Dyfi, sometimes setting foot in neighbouring counties, then home sweet home again, back to Aberystwyth.

”Iestyn adds that Ceredigion is “like a flower waiting for sun, it bursts open with life in the glow of any social event! Those I met at carnivals, races, theatrical performances, food festivals, farmers’marts, livestock sales, village shows, young farmers’ rallies, eisteddfodau, elections, Welsh-language classes, choral evenings, society meetings, protests, seaside cleanups, lectures, and myriad gatherings, proved to me that Ceredigion is alive and brimming with people who care for its heritage and who are passionate about securing its future. It’s the Cardis, more than any particular spot on the landscape, that have left the most abiding impression.



”Ceredigion: At my Feet / Wrth fy Nhraed by Iestyn Hughes will be launched at the National Library of Wales on 3 March at 7pm. Spaces for the launch are limited, so please contact GomerPress in advance if you wish to attend (elen@gomer.co.uk / 01559 363090).Iestyn Hughes will also be signing copies of the book in Aberystwyth on Saturday, 5 March, at Siop y Pethe at 11am and Siop Inc at 2.30pm.Ceredigion:

At My Feet / Wrth fy Nhraed is now available from your local bookshop or directly from the publisher, Gomer Press, Llandysul on www.gomer.co.uk. It’s an ideal gift for all Cardis and a wonderful souvenir for visitors to the county. Bibliographic details

Ceredigion: At my Feet / Wrth fy NhraedIestyn HughesPublished by Gomer Press

ISBN 9781848517516, £14.99, paperback, 216 pages

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From the Six Nations to the European football finals, flying the Red Dragon flag of Wales will be very popular this year. However, the author of a new book on the history of the Welsh flag has called upon the people of Wales not to fly the Union Jack. Highly regarded popular author Siôn Jobbins believes that for Welsh people to fly the Union Jack is to "hoist up the white flag and surrender Welsh nationality".

His comments appear in a new comprehensive history of the iconic Welsh flag published by Y Lolfa– the publishers who recently launched little Red Dragon flag stickers for motorists to place over the Union Jack flag on the newly designed driving license.

‘Flying the Union Jack means always, in the final analysis, deferring to Westminster and airbrushing Wales from the picture.’ says Sion Jobbins ‘Where we have the Union Flag – such as the Olympic Games in a few months’ time, we’ll see that Wales is invisible and doesn’t exist. To fly the Union Jack is to agree ultimately that our Welshness can only by in the image allowed within Westminster rule and sensibilities.’

The book details the story behind one of the world’s most distinctive flags and Wales’s greatest symbol. Jobbins also makes some very interesting discoveries. Readers may be surprised to know that the popular flag was only made the official flag of Wales in 1959. Jobbins recalls campaigns to have the Welsh flag recognised had included local nationalist activists and Bangor students climbing up the flag pole on Caernarfon Castle’s Eagle Tower on St David’s Day in 1932 to tear down the Union Jack.

The vast majority of Welsh people may also be unaware that the official flag of Wales in the 1950s was not the one they now know and love. Rather, it was the ‘Welsh Office’ design which was the official flag. It was only following a mass campaign lead by the Eisteddfod Gorsedd in 1958 that the Cabinet decided in 1959 in that the familiar and popular flag would, at last, be the official flag.

Jobbins also suggests 28th of May be the ‘Flag Day’ of the Red Dragon as it was on this day in 1865 that the first recorded flying of the flag in its modern incarnation was made. The flag was flown aboard the Mimosa ship as it sailed from Liverpool with the first settlers for the Welsh colony in Patagonia.

Sion Jobbins was born in Zambia and raised in Cardiff and is also the author of the popular book ‘The Welsh National Anthem: its story, its meaning’ also published by Y Lolfa.

The Red Dragon – The Story of the Welsh Flag is full of photographs, cuttings and illustrations and sure to appeal to both visitors to Wales and locals alike and is keenly priced for the impulsive buyer.

The Red Dragon - The Story of the Welsh Flag by Siôn Jobbins (£3.99, Y Lolfa) is available now from all good bookshops.

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Llywelyn Ap Gruffudd, The Death Of A Warrior PrinceA Welsh historical novella based on true events has been published to coincide with the anniversary of the death of Welsh Prince Llywelyn ap Gruffudd - or Llywelyn the Last, who died on the 11th of December, 1282.

In Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, The Life and Death of a Warrior Prince, Llywelyn narrates his own life story and the attempt to free Wales from English hegemony.

His life and death has always confronted us with a puzzling contradiction - he was the only Welsh leader to be officially recognised by the English as Prince of Wales, yet, within a year of his death, Wales lay crushed beneath the iron heel of the rapacious English.

The author Peter Gordon Williams was born in Merthyr Tydfil. A mathmatics graduate, he served for two years in the RAF before pursuing a career as a teacher in further and higher education.  The author has already published four novels, including very well-received novel on the life of Owain Glyndŵr in 2011.

Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, The Life and Death of a Warrior Prince by Peter Gordon Williams (£6.95, Y Lolfa) is available now.


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Daniel Hughes : The Sledgehammer Pastor


By AmeriCymru, 2015-07-18

Welsh preacher Daniel Hughes (1875-1972) filled his long life with challenge and controversy. He is one of the most remarkable characters of 20th-century Wales, yet surprisingly unknown. Though a maverick, his story is part of the history of the new political and theological ideas in Welsh life, not least the conflict between young Socialists and the mammoth Liberal establishment of pre-1914 Nonconformity.

A friend of the unemployed and Socialist intelligentsia alike - he was visited during his time in Detroit by Welsh statesman Jim Griffiths and in Machen by black singer and human rights activist Paul Robeson - he was a fearless champion of the underdog, though, perhaps, got carried away sometimes by the power of his own oratory. A polyglot and a cultured man of many interests, he succeeded in disturbing the waters almost everywhere he went..

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About the author

A native of Treherbert in the Rhondda Valley and a miner's son, the Revd Ivor Thomas Rees served Congregational and United Reformed Church pastorates in Port Talbot, Clapham, Manselton and Rochdale before retiring to Swansea in 1996.

 
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The Picture that Made Time Fly published by Pont Books takes us headlong into the Victorian world of Cardiff’s past, in a story full of tension and mystery.

Both the Welsh Books Council and the National Museum have chosen the debut novel by author Sheila Harries as their July Children’s Book of the Month and Book of the Month respectively.

Over 50 shops have signed up to the Welsh Books Council’s scheme and Cathryn Gwynn, editor at Pont Books says

“We are delighted that The Picture that Made Time Fly has been chosen as the first English-language title since the scheme was launched in March.

“Pont publish English-language books that have a strong Welsh identity and our aim is to build a connection between the young people of the different cultures of Wales and their country through great stories and lovely books”.  

Originally from Northampton and a former school librarian in Oxfordshire, Sheila Harries has had many years’ experience of talking to young people about what makes a good book, and has welcomed great authors and illustrators such as Philip Pullman, Malorie Blackman, Caroline Lawrence and Nick Sharratt into her library to inspire and entertain.

Now living in Penarth, the author is a frequent visitor to the National Museum of Wales which is where the novel opens, with a group of children on a school trip.

It was just another picture in the art gallery – or so Megan and Rhys thought, as they stared at it long and hard. But it wasn’t…

All of a sudden, a normal school trip day at the museum turns into a spinning vortex through time, dragging them both into a strange place where they have to survive on their wits.

Embroiled in dangers and facing challenges far away from the present, the question is always there… can they ever get back? How?

 

The Picture that Made Time Fly is available from all good bookshops and online retailers and is suitable for readers aged 8 – 11 years

For more information, visit www.gomer.co.uk

 


About the author

It’s fair to say that Sheila Harries loves books. In her career as a school librarian in Oxfordshire, she has had many years’ experience of talking to young people about what makes a good book, and has welcomed great authors and illustrators such as Philip Pullman, Malorie Blackman, Caroline Lawrence and Nick Sharratt into her library to inspire and entertain. Now she has written an entertaining and inspiring book herself. The book, like Sheila, is based around Cardiff and reflects her love of history, languages, and art – and a good adventure. Living in Penarth, she is a frequent visitor to the National Museum of Wales which is where the novel opens, with a group of children on a school trip. It’s a familiar scenario to her as someone who enjoys taking her grandchildren to see interesting places. She is also a keen traveller herself – but loves coming back to her garden and the cats!

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William Hazell's Gleaming Vision


By AmeriCymru, 2015-02-15

A CO-OPERATIVE LIFE IN SOUTH WALES 1890-1964



In his lifetime, William Hazell was a leading figure in the co-operative movement of South Wales, but since his death in 1964 he has been all but forgotten. In this book, Alun Burge has unearthed an authentic, but previously unknown, working-class voice of the South Wales valleys. This book charts the journeys of Hazell and the Ynysybwl co-operative movement through strikes, lockouts, personal tragedy, political turmoil, and two world wars. It is a unique and absorbing account of life in a South Wales village which also sheds a much-needed light on the forgotten history of the co-operative movement in Britain. William Hazell is a key figure belatedly emerging from the history of the south Wales coalfield. His lifelong commitment to the co-operative movement was inspired by his vision of co-operation as a means of building a better future. He epitomised the deep and loyal relationship that developed between the people of the Valleys and their co-operative societies, and which became a central part of their way of life. A writer and a thinker, as well as a man of action, his powerful and articulate voice still resonates half a century later.

'a most impressive, important and original historical work which reconstructs a culture in its fullest sense.Neil Evans, Cardiff University

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alun Burge is a historian of the co-operative movement. He has worked with co-operatives since 1985 in a variety of national and international roles, including five years living in Nicaragua. After returning to Wales, he worked in the Welsh Government's Department of Social Justice.

 

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Ynysybwl in south Wales. Home of the co-operative movement.
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In a brave new memoir, best selling author, Anthony Bunko from Merthyr Tydfil reveals all about the hilariously funny and scandalous world of the business consultant after spending 15 years in the job. Lord Forgive Me… But I was a (Business) Bullshit Consultant (published by Y Lolfa) is a laugh-our loud ‘consultant had enough’ memoir based on true events, and is a rollercoaster ride full of fist-fights, muggings, kidnapping, gun chases, ghosts, psychopaths. hookers, back stabbing, bullshit, weird sex, strong drugs and the odd plate of sausage rolls…….It was a bloody nightmare!!!

BUY ''Lord Forgive me'' here

,,,



“There are 100,000 business consultants in the world,” says Anthony Griffiths, who writes as Anthony Bunko. “For a fee, they enter organisations and watch their workers for a short period of time. They pull buzzwords out of the air, answer direct questions with other questions, and use flip charts to make them sound brainy so they can charge lots of money.

“When I landed by dream job I thought it would mean a life of travelling to exotic places, meeting interesting people and making lots of money,” explains Anthony. “15 years along the line, and at the age of 46, I woke up one morning in yet another hotel room in yet another city with yet another bag of Post-it notes in my briefcase. That’s when I decided there had to be more to life.

“Before breakfast, I emailed the other partners in one of the longest standing and most respected business improvement consultancy companies in the UK to inform them I was quitting my highly paid job to become a writer,” adds Anthony, author of Stuart Cable’s and Spikey Watkins’s autobiography as well as Hugh Jackman and Hugh Laurie’s biographies,

“My family, colleague and friends thought I’d gone mental (well more mental than usual). However they didn’t know the truth of what had brought me to the decision after ten years of living in the fast lane. What many considered to be a glamorous profession had nearly got me murdered in New York, kidnapped in Amsterdam, mugged by the fat police in Moscow, got me in a fist fight in Germany, arrested by the mafia in Italy and scared me half to death on seeing the ghost of a dead girl in North Wales, plus loads of other weird and funny adventures.

“In this hilarious laugh-out loud ‘consultant had enough’ memoir based on true events, I will spills the beans on what goes on in the two faced world of BMW’s, smart suits, flip charts and ever changing buzz words, while trying to cope with my mid-life crisis. There are loads of business and consultant books on the shelf but not many tell it like it really is.”

These are some of the reviews from some top welsh stars about the book:-

This is a cool and very funny exploration of an amazing life. It reads like a dream. Unputdownable!Boyd Clack, actor and writer, Satellite City and High Hopes

The way of the transgressor is hard. Don''t share this very enjoyable book with your children,Kevin Allen, director, producer and writer of cult movie, Twin Town

Quick witted and heartwarming, with a bona fide laugh-out-loud on every page,Rachel Trezise, awarding winning author and playwright

Anthony Bunko, was born in Merthyr Tydfil in 1962. He is the author of several highly acclaimed comedy fiction novels including The Tale of the Shagging Monkeys, and is also a poet and songwriter.

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"One of the saddest and most inspirational sports autobiographies you''ll ever read"


The poignant story of Bryan ''Yogi'' Davies who, during a rugby scrum at a match in Bala in 2007, broke his neck and was paralyzed. The book follows his day-to-day struggle to come to terms with the horrific incident. "

Five minutes into a rugby match between Bala and nant Conwy on 21st April 2007, the first scrum collapsed leaving Bala hooker, Bryan ''Yogi'' Davies, with life changing injuries: a broken neck and damaged lungs.

This book tells the story of his life before the accident and his heroic fight for survival following the scrum that changed his life.

The book is set in three parts: part one of each chapter follows developments since his accident, part two looks back at Yogi''s life before the tragic scrum and his struggle against the odds even then, whilst part three conveys the thoughts and reactions of his wife Susan to events - the policewoman who has been a tower of strength throughout to Yogi and the children.

The book is full of humour and sadness, and is a picture of optimism and fortitude in the face of tragedy. Sadly weeks before publication, Yogi passed away. But, with a postscript, a tribute by his daughter and his final letter, the book should prove to be an inspiration to everyone.

Buy 'The Scrum That Changed My Life ' here

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Biography of the ‘Welsh Gandhi’


By AmeriCymru, 2008-05-28

Rhys with a copy of Gwynfor Evans: A Portrait of a Patriot

2006 Welsh Book of the Year winner Rhys Evans has just launched the biography of Gwynfor Evans, hailed by many as the ‘Welsh Gandhi’, at the Hay festival. The launch was chaired by newly appointed Director of Communications to Boris Johnson, Guto Harri. During the event at the Sky Movie stage Rhys was questioned on Gwynfor Evans and his vast contribution to Welsh politics.

Comparisons were made between the pressure Gordon Brown is presently under to what Gwynfor Evans suffered on numerous periods during his career. But Rhys Evans explained that Gwynfor just kept on going through thick and thin to become one of the main Welsh political figures of the 20th century. Rhys Evans said: “For Gwynfor to be preseident of a nationalist party for 36 is unsurpassed anywhere in Europe as far as I know, except maybe for Tito in the old Yugoslavia!”

Regarding his contribution, Rhys Evans said: “Wales and Wales's position within a devolved UK would be unrecognisable were it not for the labours of Gwynfor Evans over four decades. The central argument of this book is that Gwynfor Evans should be critically regarded as one of the three Welsh architects of post-war Wales. Whilst the lives of the other two key figures, Aneurin Bevan and Lloyd George, have been dispassionately chronicled, this is the first attempt to tell the complex and often tortured story of Gwynfor Evans."

Gwynfor Evans propelled Welsh politics onto the UK stage. He was one of the rare politicians to have forced Margaret Thatcher to make a U-turn, when he threatened a hunger strike to campaign for a Welsh-language TV channel, and was the winner of one of the most famous by-elections when he became Wales’ first nationalist MP. His leadership of the Welsh resistance against the flooding of Welsh valleys gained Plaid Cymru UK-wide publicity, and he is credited with paving the way for our post-devolution UK-politics.

The 500 page hardback book, Gwynfor Evans: Portrait of a Patriot is published by Y Lolfa. The original Welsh version won Welsh Book of the Year award in 2006 and Hywel Williams in The Guardian described Rhys Evans’s “sumptuous new biography” as a “major event”. It has also been described as a “masterpiece, both comprehensive and extremely interesting” by International Politics lecture Dr Richard Wyn Jones.

Author Rhys Evans was born in Carmarthen and raised in Aberystwyth. He graduated at Hertford College, Oxford where he studied Modern History. He’s been a journalist in Cardiff for more than a decade and is currently BBC Wales’ Deputy Head of News and Current Affairs.

Buy the book here

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