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Category: New Titles


iolo morganwg.jpgAn author who moved to the Vale of Glamorgan has been inspired by the story of Iolo Morganwg so much that he wrote a novel about him.

Gareth Thomas moved to the Vale of Glamorgan six years ago following a career in England as an actor, teacher and director.

Like many others he had heard of Iolo Morganwg but knew little of his story or significance.

His imagination was fired by the attention given to ‘Old Iolo’ in the National Eisteddfod in Llandow and visits to the places in the Vale associated with the bard such as his memorial in the church in Flemingston, the Samson Pillar in Llantwit Major, St Mary Church where he was married, the examples of his work as a mason that can be seen across the Vale and Cowbridge and The Bear Hotel where Iolo performed much of his seditious verses and delivered passionate speeches on political issues.

‘The more I learnt, the more I marvelled at his story’ said Gareth Thomas, ‘It’s a tale that needs to be told.’

But Iolo proved to be an enigma. There were differing opinions amongst his friends on the subject of Iolo - some of whom admired him as a hero who helped form the national identity of Wales and others who saw him as a cheat and con-man. Having read the research of Gwyneth Lewis, Geraint Jenkins, Mary-Ann Constantine and others, Gareth came to the conclusion that here was a story with real contemporary significance.

The result is  Myfi Iolo, a new Welsh language historical novel which recounts Iolo’s true story which is published this week.

The novel is set at the end of the 18th century where Iolo is a young man with a host of talents and limitless energy. He is full of anger against the injustice he sees and is committed to the cause of freedom in Europe.

‘Iolo’s story has every element you would wish for in an historical novel: adventure, mystery, love, revolution, violence, drugs, passion, spies and betrayal’ said Gareth.

The scene moves from Cowbride to the grand drawing rooms of Mayfair, from Gorsedd ceremonies on inhospitable hillsides to the luxurious bordellos of Covent Garden, from his cottage in Flemingston to a hearing before the Privy Council in Downing Street.

‘Here was a man who inspired friendship but turned friends into enemies. Here was an incredibly talented man who ultimately failed to win a livelihood in any field.’ said Gareth, ‘Was Iolo a conscious trickster – or was he inspired by a bigger vision?’

The novel has already recieved substantial praise by the author Dr Mary-Ann Constantine calling it ‘a fasincating novel about a fasinating person’.

The novel will be launched in the Georgian ballroom in the Bear Hotel in Cowbridge on November 23 at 7pm.

‘It was in The Bear hotel in Cowbridge that Iolo Morganwg performed his poetry and spoke passionately about politics. So there’s no better place to launch the novel!’ added Gareth.

The launch will be led by Carys Whelen who will be interviewing the author and there will be readings from actors Eiry Palfrey (Gwaith/Cartref, Dinas) as ‘Peggy’ and Danny Grehan (Harri Tudur, Casualty) as Iolo Morganwg.

Gareth Thomas was born to parents from Cwm Rhondda and studied drama in the Barry and London. He worked in England as an actor, teacher and director before learning Welsh aged fifty. His first novel, A Welsh Dawn, was published in 2014. He currently lives in Cowbridge.

Myfi, Iolo by Gareth Thomas (£9.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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CELEBRATING THE BEST OF WELSH MYTHOLOGY


By AmeriCymru, 2017-10-31

colouring welsh tales.jpgWith this year designated the Year of Legends in Wales, an artist has gone on to celebrate the best of Welsh mythology by publishing a sequel to her bestselling colouring book.

Lliwio’r Chwedlau / Colouring Welsh Tales by artist Dawn Williams published this week includes 21 beautiful pictures of scenes from popular Welsh folk tales to colour in, including Gelert, Pwyll Pendefi g Dyfed, Branwen and Llyn y Fan Fach.

The book is a follow-up to the incredibly popular Lliwio Cymru / Colouring Wales, the first Welsh colouring book for adults published last year which sold over a thousand copies in its first run.

‘Following the success of Colouring Wales we thought it would be an ideal time to publish a colouring book depicting scenes from some of Wales’s most popular folk tales and well-known legends’ said Meinir Edwards, an editor at Y Lolfa publishers.

‘The book contains some beautiful, exciting and dramatic scenes from the ancient Mabinogion, Britain’s earliest prose tales. Stories such as Blodeuwedd and Culhwch and Olwen were compiled in Middle Welsh in the 12th–13th centuries from earlier oral traditions’ said Meinir, ‘The book also includes some historical figures such as Dwynwen, the patron saint of lovers, and the Red Bandits of Mawddwy, plus favourite childhood stories such as Twm Siôn Cati and The Lady of the Lake. The stories are our heritage, and they fire the imagination.’

‘I’m so glad to have been given the opportunity to create a second Welsh colouring book based on the best of our mythology,’ said Dawn, ‘Welsh mythology is an integral part of our culture and history as the people of Wales and has formed the backbone of our literature. I hope this book will be a different way to tell these stories – and encourage people to relax as well.’

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.

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.

Lliwio’r Chwedlau / Colouring Welsh Tales by Dawn Williams (£4.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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A well known Welsh artist has accused the art scene of being ‘too elitist’.

The famous artist, Wynne Melville Jones, said that ‘art needs to be for everyone and not just for a select few who are financially privileged’.

‘Too often public galleries and private business concentrate more on people who are wealthy’ said Wynne, ‘But I strongly believe art should be a medium that enriches everybody’s life’.

His comments follows the publishing of Darluniau o Gymru / Paintings of Wales this week.

This striking bilingual book shares some of Wynne Melville Jones’s most well-known paintings, as well as telling the story behind the pictures.

Best known for his images of west Wales, the artist now paints landscapes from all over the country and some of his works have created interest far beyond. His painting of Soar-y-Mynydd chapel is owned by former US president Jimmy Carter, and his picture of ‘Elvis Rock’ at Eisteddfa Gurig, Ceredigion, is now on display in Graceland Tennessee.

Most recently his painting of Pantycelyn went on a tour around Wales including visiting the Senedd in Cardiff, as a response to the lack of celebration and recognition for influential national figure Williams Pantycelyn, three hundred years after his death.

The book was launched last Saturday at an exhibition of some of the works featured in the book at Oriel Rhiannon, Tregaron in the company of Ben Lake MP and Sulwyn Thomas with Bois y Fro and Merched Soar performing

‘I sincerely hope the paintings in this volume will appeal to a variety of people and that it will bring fine art to a new audience’ said Wynne,

‘Many of my paintings include Welsh iconography. This is where I’m from and I feel pride in my Welshness, my heritage, and my language and culture. I feel passion and responsibility for all things Welsh’ added Wynne.

‘These paintings will enrich your lives – enjoy the book, the feast awaits you.’ Added David Meredith, Chairman of The Sir Kyffin Williams Trust.

‘Painting brings me great pleasure. I hope I can share this pleasure with others – that is all I need’ said Wynne.

Best known for his pioneering work in bilingual communications Wynne Melville Jones (Wyn Mel) is a former art student, who has rediscovered his zest for painting and is establishing himself as one of the most prolific artists in Wales.

Darluniau o Gymru / Paintings of Wales by Wynne Melville Jones (£12.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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Welsh Cowboys - 'All Through The Night'


By AmeriCymru, 2017-10-05

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ORDER HERE

Essentially, this novel, set at the end of the eighteenth century, shows that cowboys were as much invented in Wales as in Wyoming.

Running through this Welsh Western, with its personalities, adventure and incidents, the storyline has the strong cultural, emotional and human elements that make Westerns so appealing – by exploring how people act in the drama of their own lives.

Written very much in the style of an old-fashioned Western, this tale of Welsh drovers taking a large herd of cattle from the 'wild west' of North Wales to London in the 1790s stakes a claim for these interesting characters to be the first cowboys. What happens in Westerns happened here to drovers on their cattle drive.

Engaging the reader with its authentic period feel and rich in excitement, All Through the Night tells the rights-of-passage tale of a young man seeking to escape his background. Relations between the drovers and the good and bad people they encounter on their cattle drive make for a lively and emotional tale.

Combining romance and the romantic appeal of life in the saddle with the struggle to ensure that relationships and families survive against all the odds, this book has all the ingredients needed for a satisfying tale of strong individuals being tried and tested on life's journey.

At heart, it is about loss, which is, perhaps, the basic story arc of all our lives; losing people, losing cultural heritage, losing our innocence - all in the relentless unfolding of our life's experiences.

AUTHOR

Neil Thomas was born in Wales and, in his mind at least, is never far from it. In All Through the Night, his first work of fiction, he has taken delight in trying to demonstrate that we should not think that Americans have the monopoly over the Wild West, cowboys, trailhands, rawhide and cattle drives.

MARKET

The book is for all readers of general historical fiction who will enjoy its quirky, original angle – that everything we have come to expect from a good Western happened in Britain, only many years before. The salute to the cultural heritage of Wales will add a regional appeal to its wider national and international appeal.



A NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR

A Welsh Western?

You might think it too eccentric, but is it?

A new novel (All Through the Night) published by Thorogood on the 30th September has the following idea as its ‘elevator pitch’ (to use the jargon of the film world): that cowboys were invented as much in Wales as in Wyoming.

How so? Well drovers took large herds of cattle across country from Wales to London and it is easy to develop the notion that everything that happens in Westerns could have happened to them.

The book is set in the 1790s and the story revolves around the ‘cowboyos’ who take one particular cattle drive from Anglesey to London, crossing the Menai Strait (ok, so it’s not the Rio Grande, but…) and finishing by selling the herd to Smithfield dealers.

But, it is really a novel about the characters of the drovers themselves, of those they leave behind and meet on the way, of the adventures and adversities they face and how the experiences they have shape their lives.

All the ingredients of a classic western, in other words, but featuring the culture and personalities of the Wild Welsh rather than the Wild West.

Neil Thomas

October 2017

“It’s the best Welsh Western ever published ” – says the author, who just happens to be Neil Thomas!

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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.


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