Ceri Shaw



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It’s not too late to enter the stage and Visual Arts competitions at the North American Festival of Wales in Milwaukee (Aug. 29 - Sept. 1)! 

Once again, we have seven different stage competitions in singing or poetic recitation - suiting all ages and different levels of proficiency in Welsh.  Singers can join our Semi-Professional competition to win the Welsh North America Prize - a generous cash scholarship for travel to compete at next year's National Eisteddfod of Wales (Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Cymru) in Tregaron (Ceredigion).  We’ve also got Instrumental Solo, open to unaccompanied soloists on any musical instrument.  All stage competitions are on Fri. and Sat., Aug. 30 and 31, and are time-limited to help you enjoy the rest of the Festival!

Also, the new Visual Arts Competition is open to entrants submitting visual artistic submissions (painting, sketch, sculpture, etc.) based on a Welsh theme, for popular adjudication at the Festival (setup is Fri., Aug. 30 and viewing is that day and Sat., Aug. 31).  We will only need a description of your piece before the deadline.

Go to the link shown here for information and guidelines on all of our competitions!  You will also find there our new online entry form for the stage competitions and Visual Arts… deadline is August 20, so fill out your form today and we’ll see you soon in Milwaukee! 

(NAFOW Eisteddfod link:http://thewnaa.org/eisteddfod-competition.html )

Posted in: NAFOW | 0 comments

in the vale.jpgA new novel by Welsh author Sam Adams was inspired by a family Bible. The novel called In the Vale, published by Y Lolfa, is a family saga that takes the reader from London to the Vale of Glamorgan and outwards into the social ferment and bloody turmoil of the Napoleonic era. It was inspired by the Williams family, who lived in the Vale of Glamorgan. George Williams, Rector of Llantrithyd was the Bible’s original owner, and used it to record the births and deaths of his and his wife Sarah’s children. Sam Adams received the Bible, which has been passed down from father to son since his great-great-great grandfather’s time, from a cousin. 

Author Sam Adams said:

“To be in possession of only half a story is frustrating – you want to know the whole thing!

George was an impoverished curate when he married, and was gifted the rectory, the land and income that went with it as a result of the marriage, which (very oddly) was announced in the Gentleman's Magazine in London. There the bride’s address was listed as 'Ash Hall, Ystradowen', the home of Richard Aubrey, youngest son of Sir Thomas Aubrey of Llantrithyd Place.

How did this union come about? Why isn't the name of their first child, George, recorded in the Family Bible? These were among the earliest puzzles that tormented me.” 

This led to much research in libraries and on-line searches for any information linked with George Williams and his family. Successes included the discovery in a library at Saint Fagans of a diary kept by John Perkins, a gentleman farmer of Llantrithyd – and a friend of the Reverend George Williams. 

“The story of the Williams family was unfolding during one of the most turbulent periods in European history – the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. The strife and suffering caused by conflict affected everyone, at home and overseas: military action, disease, a bad economy. These were the realties of the time. While in a familial context, George and Sarah’s first son, also named George, died in infancy due to being vaccinated against smallpox,” says Sam Adams.

“I have tried to recapture, through choice of vocabulary and cadence of expression in dialogue, narrative and description, the tone of the period, while seeking to fill imaginatively the many gaps in a story of real people against a background of bloody turmoil.” 

Sam Adams has been involved in Welsh writing in English since the late 1960s. He is a former editor of Poetry Wales and former chairman of the English-language section of Yr Academi Gymreig. His scholarly writing includes editions of the Collected Poems and Collected Short Stories of Roland Mathias, and three monographs in the Writers of Wales series, the latest on Thomas Jeffery Llewelyn Prichard, who is also the subject of several articles published in the Journal of Welsh Writing in English. He has contributed poems and well over a hundred ‘Letters from Wales’ to the Carcanet Press magazine PN Review. His work from Y Lolfa includes, in addition to Prichard’s Nose, a collection of poetry and Where the Stream Ran Red, a delightful and moving history of his family and of Gilfach Goch, the mining valley where he was born and brought up.  

In the Vale by Sam Adams (£9.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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Spragins Elizabeth Headshot 300 dpi.JPG Spragins Elizabeth Book Cover 300 dpi.jpg

AmeriCymru: Hi Elizabeth and many thanks for agreeing to this interview. Care to introduce your collection The Language of Bones for our readership?

Elizabeth: The Language of Bones: American Journeys Through Bardic Verse features Celtic-style poems that bear witness to the power of place and cultural memory. It is a poetic journey from Jamestown, Virginia, to Muir Woods, California, that gives voice to the unspoken, the overlooked, and the forgotten. As I walked along paths that bear the weight of so many triumphs and tragedies, I felt compelled to document those stories in a manner that reflected the timeless elements of the terrain. Traditional Welsh meters like the rhupunt, the clogyrnach, the cyhydedd hir, and the cywydd llosgyrnog provided such a structure and added a layer of musicality.

The topics addressed in the collection are as diverse as the American landscape. Readers will encounter Native American legends, historical events, and current events. Since we Virginians love our ghost stories, a few spirits even make an appearance! In summary, the book is an invitation to explore America, both past and present, from unusual perspectives. Copies are available from Kelsaybooks.com and on Amazon.

AmeriCymru: You write "bardic verse in the Celtic style" and you "find traditional Welsh meters particularly alluring." What is at the root of your fascination with these forms and how would you rate their contemporary relevance?

Elizabeth: Bardic verse is, of course, meant to be read aloud. For me, doing so is a transformative experience. There is something magical about hearing contemporary poetry written in Welsh forms that were codified in the fourteenth century. In some ways the rhythms are almost primal.

I should note that all of the poems in the collection are in English because that is my native language. Welsh bardic forms seem to have a universal dimension that transfers into English quite well. Perhaps rhyme and meter feed an instinctive hunger for predictable patterns.

Many contemporary poets have embraced free verse to the exclusion of all else, but I foresee a renewed interest in traditional forms. Western artistry has long celebrated balance and symmetry, and formal verse extends that aesthetic to linguistic expression. Musical culture offers a few examples of our innate preference for patterns. Just listen to people flounder when they attempt to sing the concluding note of a piece that does not end in its home key! Of course, rhyme is still prevalent in song lyrics.

I think that traditional poetic styles speak to the heart on levels beyond understanding. The trick is to make both the language and the message meaningful. Convoluted lines that engage in linguistic gymnastics for the sake of rhyme come across as contrived and awkward. Such contortions mar the beauty of the form and detract from the meaning. However, formal verse that rises to the challenge of accessibility is most certainly relevant, and a number of modern publications recognize that. Many of the poems in my collection previously appeared in literary journals in the United States and the United Kingdom. I hope that The Language of Bones will spark greater interest in conveying contemporary messages through traditional poetic forms.

AmeriCymru: “The intricate syllabic forms, cross-rhyming, internal echoes, and circular returns of Celtic verse forms are not within the competence of every poet, even those skilled in set forms, but Elizabeth Spragins shows us that they can be wielded with power and grace." Can you tell us how you became acquainted with these forms and how would you advise others to study them?

Elizabeth: I first heard the Welsh language when I happened upon a Celtic radio station that featured Siân James, a traditional folk singer and harpist. Her music had an ethereal quality that mesmerized me even though I had no idea what her words meant! That chance encounter sparked a fascination with all things Welsh. I muddled through some rather musty books on Welsh literature and had the good fortune to stumble across some excellent online resources. The Welsh Society of Fredericksburg opened other doors to me, and I was eventually invited to become a book reviewer for Ninnau, the North American Welsh newspaper. I focused on poetry written in English, and I found myself wondering why more contemporary writers did not explore the rich patterns of the 24 official Welsh meters. It was a challenge I could not resist! The age-old compulsion to tell our stories seems to cry out for the musicality of formal verse, and the Welsh meters have exciting variations that give me chills. Once I started dabbling in those literary jigsaw puzzles, I was well and truly hooked.

For those who would like to explore Welsh bardic meters in depth, I would suggest reading anthologies that include representative pieces from different time periods. With regard to the mechanics, a number of resources are available in print and online. Lewis Turco’s New Book of Forms: A Handbook of Poetics offers a succinct description of every poetic form I have ever encountered. His work, which is international in scope, is an essential reference for any student of poetry or aspiring poet. For those ready to pick up a pen, my article “How to Write a Rhupunt (With Example)” may prove helpful.

How to Write a Rhupunt (with Example)This article details the process of writing the rhupunt, one of the traditional Welsh poetic forms.

The British Isles produced countless other bardic forms that were never codified. A broad exploration was beyond the scope of my book, but those interested in Celtic literary traditions might want to delve into the work of the Irish bards in particular. I have found Gaelic patterns especially challenging to write in English, but I do include a representative form, the rannaigheacht ghairid, in The Language of Bones.

I would caution readers that the popularity of “Celtic” elements in the film and music industries has spawned a number of books that capitalize on the popularity of the term without having a direct connection. Hence, a collection of “Celtic poetry” may have nothing to do with traditional bardic verse.

AmeriCymru: Do you have a personal favorite in your new collection? Is there one poem that stands out for you and if so why?

Elizabeth: Your question made me laugh. My answer changes daily! The technical elements of some of my earlier pieces may wobble in places, but I think that all of the stories shared in The Language of Bones are vitally important. That said, the two poems that leave me in emotional knots at readings are the ones that speak most powerfully of people and events too easily forgotten. “Jane” pays homage to an unknown girl, most likely an indentured servant, who died at Jamestown during the “starving time” of 1609-1610. “At Standing Rock” addresses racial and cultural tensions that remain unresolved as Native Americans speak in defense of the lands they hold by treaty.

AmeriCymru: What's next for Elizabeth Spragins? Any new titles, promotional readings in the works?

Elizabeth: I am thrilled to announce that Shanti Arts Publishing just released my second collection of poetry. With No Bridle for the Breeze: Ungrounded Verse explores the spirit and magic of flight through feathers, paired wings, and dreams. These poems are based on the Japanese tanka form. Additional details are available on the publisher’s website: With No Bridle for the Breeze, Elizabeth Spencer Spragins.

With No Bridle for the Breeze, Elizabeth Spencer Spragins

Another collection of my bardic verse, A Walk with Shades and Shadows, is in search of a publisher. Two other volumes are underway. At the moment my writing studio has several disorganized mountains of promising material, as well as drivel.

As for readings, I am in the process of scheduling several local events and hope to finalize details shortly.

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

Elizabeth: Thank you for taking the time to share your day with me through this interview, and thank you for supporting the beautiful elements of Welsh culture that continue to enrich the fabric of our collective heritage. Special thanks to you, Ceri, for inviting me to share my passion for Welsh bardic verse!

Sample Poem from The Language of Bones:

At Standing Rock (A Rhupunt)

The serpent comes.
Its black blood hums
As venom numbs
The lakes and land.

No treaties hold.
The white men sold
Their word for gold
Before they manned

The hungry drill
That pierced Black Hill.
Soon oil will fill
The veins law banned.

They tunneled deep—
Black bile will seep
Where old bones sleep
In sacred sand.

At death, at birth,
Red feet kiss earth.
Her life is worth
The flames we fanned

At Standing Rock.
Our bodies block
The fangs that lock
On Mother’s hand.

Our home we hold
Despite the cold.
We will not fold
On rocks that stand.

~Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, North Dakota

First published in America, We Call Your Name: Poems of Resistance and Resilience. San Francisco, CA: Sixteen Rivers Press, 2018. 95. Print.

The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 recognized the sovereignty of the Lakota Sioux over the Great Plains “as long as the river flows and the eagle flies.” The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 prohibited white settlement in the Black Hills for all time, but the subsequent discovery of gold generated an influx of miners who violated the treaty with impunity.

The Lakota protested construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline on the grounds that the project would contaminate their sole source of drinking water and disrupt their sacred lands. The completed pipeline passes under the Missouri River less than one mile upstream of the Standing Rock Reservation.

Posted in: Poetry | 3 comments

nobonesjones.jpgThis week sees the publication of a book of delicious vegetarian and vegan recipes from the hugely successful catering company No Bones Jones. No Bones Jones: Festival Cookbook shines a spotlight on the authentic, wholesome vegetarian and vegan food that the company supplies to festivalgoers across the UK. 

No Bones Jones started after Hugh Jones returned from a long period driving an overland tourist bus around India, Nepal and Turkey in the 1980s. 

“When he left, he knew little about food or catering, and cared even less. When he came back, he was a man transformed! He seemed to have gone food-mad and enthused at length about the exotic salads, magical spices and fabulous flavours he had discovered in far-flung lands. He seemed to have set his heart on crafting here at home these same delicious, mainly veggie dishes of vibrant colour and fragrance,” says Mark Jones, friend, translator and co-author of the book. 

In the meantime, Hugh’s former girlfriend from his school days had started a vegetarian and wholefood café in their home town. With Jill’s cooking experience and Hugh’s new-found love of exotic vegetarian food, together they developed what is now No Bones Jones, a catering company that feeds thousands of happy customers at a host of festivals over the summer months every year – from Glastonbury to the National Eisteddfod of Wales to numerous folk festivals. 

“Our aim was to provide a mixed, nutritious vegetarian meal. This was something most unusual in those early days, but it was what we ourselves wanted to eat. We started with two dishes: lentil stew and chickpea curry with brown rice and salad. In 1995 this was considered off piste, but we knew we were on the right track and we’ve never looked back,” says Hugh, who is nowadays a frequent guest on BBC Radio Wales, where he cooks live on air for a following of regular listeners. 

No Bones Jones: Festival Cookbook is more than a recipe book as it also discusses the company’s ethos and ideas. The work tirelessly to keep their carbon footprint as low as possible, which has won them the coveted Green Trader Gold Award at Glastonbury (awarded by Greenpeace, the Soil Association, the Fairtrade Foundation and the Nationwide Caterers Association to one out of 400 on-site food traders). Their vehicles run on bio diesel, their lighting is solar-powered, and packaging is kept to a minimum by staples in 20kg sacks, spices by the kilo and all vegetables in returnable crates. 

Hugh Jones cites two people as being the main influencers of the company’s approach. The first was his mother:

“Like all mothers of that era, she knew how to prepare a nutritious meal from very little and how to make do and mend. It's nothing new to recycle, reuse and repair. People back then had grown up during the war with very little, so their whole ‘3Rs’ approach was not so much a virtue as a necessity, and at the time was simply called good housekeeping.”

The second was a young Nepalese woman who cooked her dal-bhat (Nepalese lentil and rice dish) on a dried cow dung-fuelled stove in a little shack on the side of the Rajpath, the road leading to Kathmandu, for 3 rupees.

“Barefoot she was with her two young children, but nevertheless successfully eking out a humble living. In her hut I was dining in the original ‘lean start-up’, the antithesis of a modern restaurant and for me far more exciting,” says Hugh. 

The book recounts the fascinating and often highly amusing anecdotes behind the discovery and development of their recipes. It also tells the story of a man who got out of his rut and chose a path less trodden. Throughout the book, Hugh’s enthusiasm for distant locations, and his passion for not impacting the planet and for vegetarian food is infectious. Hugh states “you don’t have to be a vegetarian to eat veggie food! You’re not a pigeon, so don’t pigeonhole yourself.” 

Hugh and Jill Jones live in Montgomery in Powys, where they were well known in the local community.

Hugh’s lifelong friend Mark Jones is a freelance writer and translator based in Avignon in France. 

No Bones Jones: Festival Cookbook by Hugh and Jill Jones with Mark Jones (£12.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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'Rabbit Hole' is the first single from SERA's collection of songs for 2019 and from her new collaboration with producer Andi Bonsai.

SERA played a mellow acoustic 'Rabbit Hole' on her guitar to Andi one wet and windy October morning and by the end of the day, that song had transformed into the high energy version you hear today. 'Rabbit Hole' stays true to SERA's Americana/folk style but takes on some bold new ideas.The chorus explodes into Come with me to incredible things, where the oysters march from the sea, inviting you into a world of the fantastic. SERA's new songs will continue to follow in this theme of the mythic-surreal rooted in very real experiences.

'Rabbit Hole' is a journey through an addictive relationship, leading through naivety and self destruction to escape. SERA hails from Caernarfon in North Wales and is a busy bilingual (Welsh and English) performer and songwriter, part of the CEG Records family.

In addition to great support from Welsh media and festival such as BBC Radio Wales/ Radio Cymru, S4C and Focus Wales, support for SERA's music has come from Chris Hawkins 6Music, Claire Blading Radio 2, specialist shows, North American Festival of Wales, How the Light Gets in, Festival Number 6, Henley Festival and more and continues to grow....

'Rabbit Hole' will be released officially on CEG Records via PYST on June 7th along with a music video.

For all social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Soundcloud) go to @serasongs

'Rabbit Hole' yw'r sengl gyntaf o gasgliad o ganeuon gan SERA am 2019 ac o gyd-weithio a'r cynhyrchydd Andi Bonsai.

Chwaraeodd SERA Rabbit Hole yn acwstig ar ei gitâr i Andi un bore Hydref gwlyb a gwyntog, ac erbyn diwedd y dydd, roedd y gân honno wedi trawsnewid i'r fersiwn egnïol a glywch heddiw. Mae 'Rabbit Hole'yn aros yn wir i arddull Americana/gwerin SERA ond yn datblygu rhai syniadau newydd beiddgar. Mae'r cytgan yn ffrwydro i mewn i Come with me to incredible things where the oysters march from the sea, gan eich gwahodd i fyd swreal. Bydd caneuon newydd SERA yn parhau i ddilyn yn y thema hon o'r swreal-chwedlonol sydd wedi'i gwreiddio mewn profiadau go iawn.

Mae 'Rabbit Hole' yn siwrne trwy berthynas gaethiwus, gan arwain trwy naïfder a hunan-ddinistrio i ddianc. Mae SERA yn hanu o Gaernarfon yng Ngogledd Cymru ac mae'n berfformiwr a chyfansoddwr caneuon prysur dwyieithog (Cymraeg a Saesneg) ac yn rhan o deulu CEG Records. Yn ogystal â radio a'r cyfryngau yng Nghymru, megis BBC Radio Wales/Radio Cymru a S4C, mae cefnogaeth i gerddoriaeth SERA wedi dod gan Chris Hawkins 6Music, Claire Blading BBC Radio 2, Gŵyl Cymru Gogledd America, Focus Wales, How the Light Gets in, Festival Number 6, Gŵyl Henley a mwy ac yn parhau i dyfu...

Bydd 'Rabbit Hole' yn cael ei ryddhau'n swyddogol ar Recordiau CEG trwy PYST ar y 7fed o Fehefin ynghyd â fideo.

Ar gyfer yr holl gyfryngau cymdeithasol (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Soundcloud) ewch i @serasongs

Live dates / Dyddiadau Byw May 23 - Beaumaris Festival
May 23 - Curiad Bangor Pulse
May 26 - Rhuddfest
May 28 - Eisteddfod yr Urdd, Cardiff
May 30 - Eisteddfod yr Urdd, Cardiff
June 7 - Single release
June 16 - Leamington Peace Festival
June 21 - Catch 22, Anglesey

Posted in: Music | 0 comments

1 tom jones story of welsh boxing lawrence davies.jpg 4 The Story of Welsh Boxing Prize Fighters of Wales Lawrence Davies.jpg 2 tom jones muhammad ali story of welsh boxing lawrence davies.jpg

It may come as a surprise to some readers that Tom Jones has been formally inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.  Many readers will be aware of the fact that Tom has had a long standing interest in the squared circle...except in this instance we aren't talking about the famous singer, but a lesser known Welsh namesake, who was actually added to the famous Boxing Hall of Fame back in 2010.  He may not be as familiar to boxing fans as other Welsh inductees, which include Joe Calzaghe and 'Peerless' Jim Driscoll, but Tom 'Paddington' Jones was one of the greatest fighters of  his day.  

Tom 'Paddington' Jones is said to have been born on November 18, 1771 in Montgomeryshire to Welsh parents, and was taken to London as a child.  His parents settled in the area of Paddington, which in time earned the youngster the nickname of 'Paddington' Jones.  Jones was little more than a boy when he fought a man named Ned Holmes at Paddington fields, which ended in defeat for the Welshman.  It was to be the only time that the fist of Paddington Jones wasn't raised in victory until 1799 when he battled valiantly but ultimately in vain against a youthful fighting phenomenon named Jem Belcher.

In the days of Paddington Jones, before the adoption of boxing gloves, fights within the 'prize ring' were bare-knuckle battles, and there can be no doubt that as a knuckle fighter, Jones was amongst the cream of the crop.  No less an authority than the celebrated Pierce Egan commented, "Paddington Jones has fought more battles than any other pugilist now in existence...for seven years VICTORY crowned all his attempts".  It is said that the number of opponents he met and defeated exceeded three figures.

With the boxing career of Paddington Jones having been so closely associated with his stomping ground of Paddington, London, it is perhaps unsurprising that even within the International Boxing Hall of Fame, where Jones is listed in the boxing 'Pioneers' category he is incorrectly recorded as having been born in Paddington, and not Montgomeryshire, Wales.  A new hardback book by Welsh boxing historian Lawrence Davies entitled 'The Story of Welsh Boxing, Prize Fighters of Wales' published by Pitch Publishing finally places him alongside the more famous inductees of the IBHOF, and gives the fullest published account of the Welshman's impressive pugilistic career to date.  

The cover features a striking illustration of Paddington Jones landing a punch on one of his well known opponents, Isaac Bitton, who was featured in the BBC programme 'Who Do You Think You Are?' exploring the ancestry of award winning Eastenders actress June Brown in 2012, who discovered that her great great great grandfather was the once famous Isaac Bitton.

'The Story of Welsh Boxing' will be published on June 1, 2019, and contains accounts of the careers of the most prominent Welsh fighters from the period 1700-1830.  The majority of the boxers within the book have never been recorded in any book of Welsh boxing history, and include such forgotten ring heroes as Jack Rasher, known as 'Ironface', John Thomas of Merthyr, who claimed to be the 'Welsh Champion', The notorious fighting brothers known as the 'Welsh Savages', and the first ever published account of the career of William Charles of Newport, deemed the 'Champion of Wales' by 1828, as well as many more boxers that have been rescued from the mists of time.  

Thanks to the exhaustive research of Lawrence Davies, Paddington Jones can now finally take his place alongside the other great Welsh boxers to have been inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, and we can celebrate another fighting 'Welsh Wizard' and add him to the lists of great sporting Welshmen nine years after his induction.  

The Story of Welsh Boxing is released on June 1, 2019, and is available from Amazon, Waterstones, WH Smith, and other bookshops.  Read more about the book at: 

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Rydyn ni angen eich lluniau a’ch straeon! 

Mae Gwasg Y Lolfa’n paratoi cyfrol ddwyieithog i drafod a dathlu’r ffenomenon ddiweddaraf o furluniau Cofiwch Dryweryn, i’w chyhoeddi yn Hydref 2019. 

Bydd y gyfrol yn cynnwys detholiad o’r murluniau newydd sydd wedi eu creu o gwmpas Cymru mewn ymateb i’r trosedd casineb yn erbyn y murlun eiconig gwreiddiol. 

Meddai golygydd y gyfrol Mari Emlyn: “Cyfyngir y dewis o luniau i furluniau yn bennaf. Ni fydd yn bosib cynnwys pob murlun a llun yn y gyfrol, ond rydym yn chwilio am y rhai mwya trawiadol a diddorol! Bwriedir cynnwys dyfyniadau gan rai o’r bobl allweddol fu’n creu’r murluniau newydd a rhoi sylw i’r twf diweddar yn yr ymwybyddiaeth Gymreig ac annibyniaeth.” 

A fyddech gystal â chysylltu efo golygydd y gyfrol Mari Emlyn mari.emlyn@btinternet.com  i rannu eich lluniau a’ch straeon? Dyddiad cau derbyn deunydd yw Mehefin 24, 2019 


We need your photographs and stories! 

Y Lolfa is preparing a bilingual book discussing and celebrating the recent phenomenon of the Cofiwch Dryweryn murals to be published in Autumn 2019. 

The book will contain a selection of murals and images that have been created all over Wales in response to the hate crime against the original iconic mural. 

The editor Mari Emlyn said: “The choice of photographs will be mostly limited to murals. And although it will not be possible to include every image in the book, we’re looking for the most impressive and interesting ones! Quotations by some of the people who have been instrumental in creating the new murals will be included in the book, as well as coverage to the recent serge in Welsh identity and the independence movement.” 

Please contact Mari Emlyn mari.emlyn@btinternet.com to share your photographs and stories. Closing date for submitting material is June 24, 2019

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Lawrence Davies is a Welsh boxing historian, the author of Mountain Fighters: Lost Tales of Welsh Boxing and Jack Scarrott's Prize Fighters. His groundbreaking work has served as the basis of a TV documentary and numerous newspaper articles. His meticulous original research has uncovered many Welsh prize fighters previously unrecorded in any publication. AmeriCymru spoke to Lawrence about his new book:- The Story of Welsh Boxing - Prize Fighters of Wales

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AmeriCymru: Hi Lawrence and many thanks for agreeing to this interview. Care to introduce your new book The Story of Welsh Boxing for our readers?

Lawrence: Hi, well my new book, 'The Story of Welsh Boxing, Prize Fighters of Wales' will be available to purchase at the start of June, 2019, and is published as a hardback by Pitch Publishing. This is the first book I have written on Welsh boxing to attempt to trace the origins of the sport of boxing in Wales, and to outline the careers of the most prominent Welsh fighters (or pugilists) recorded in the earliest days of British Boxing History.

The book introduces a number of forgotten early boxing 'champions' to have come from Wales, and features full accounts of some of the most prominent of the Welsh bare-knuckle fighters to have earned some measure of fame in the days before the advent of boxing gloves. There are some real surprises in the book and I hope that Welsh boxing fans enjoy reading about the forgotten fighters to have come from Wales.

It also introduces a full account of the career of Ned Turner, whose name might be familiar to some readers, as he is occasionally name-checked, although I don't think a full account of his career has been printed previously. Ned was a national hero in Wales in the 1820's and was thought to be the second greatest lightweight in Britain after a fighter named Jack Randall. His tale really is very engaging, Ned was a very likable and honorable man, and was greatly admired in his day. To the people of Wales it is no exaggeration to say he was a national hero. I hope that I have done him justice, and that readers enjoy his story.

AmeriCymru: What period of Welsh boxing history does the book cover? How difficult is it to research the earlier periods in the development of the sport given the dearth of written records?

Lawrence: The book covers what I would consider to be the first 'period' of Welsh boxing history, starting from the early 1700's with the most prominent Welsh fighters to have earned some measure of fame outside Wales, mostly within the 'London Prize Ring'. At this time, boxing or 'pugilism' had not yet broken away from the 'prize fighters' of the time, who were engaging in armed battles with the sword and staff, and the first chapter of the book gives background details on the types of contests that were fought with weapons, prior to fist fighting splitting away and being viewed as a separate art. It also contains details on some Welsh fighters who took part in these gladiatorial contests.

It also features those bare-knuckle fighters who were battling on native soil within Wales, right through to the fighting career of a boxer named William Charles from Newport who was deemed to be the 'Champion of Wales' by 1828, although he was not the first. The book covers a timescale of roughly 130 years, and charts the development of boxing within Wales, and the most prominent Welsh fighters that were recorded in the sporting journals and newspapers of the time.

Researching the book proved to be very difficult, in part because the first Welsh newspapers were founded at the start of the nineteenth century, and were very reluctant to print any information on boxing, or 'prize fighting' as it was known, mainly due to the influence of religious leaders and the chapel within Wales, who saw boxing as a demoralizing and brutal activity, although it was very popular, and often drew crowds of thousands to contests between prominent local 'Champions'.

Prior to the founding of the Welsh papers, what information can be found on the Welsh fighters of the eighteenth century is very hard to find, and piecing together the fragments of their fighting careers is a long and time consuming process, even after you have uncovered names of boxers who have long been forgotten. After fight accounts have been uncovered, you have to be able to review the materials critically and cross reference against other sources, which are often contradictory, in order to establish the accuracy of the material. The early history of prize fighting and boxing hasn't been explored in as great a detail as you might imagine. Most of the early works on boxing focus on the heavyweights, and the most prominent of the national champions.

AmeriCymru: What are the major differences between the bare knuckle fights of old and modern day boxing contests? Were fighters tougher back in the day?

Lawrence: One of the main differences in the bare-knuckle fights that took place in the days of prize fighting is that the contests were open ended, so there was no limit to the number of rounds. A man was expected to come up to the 'scratch' - a line in the center of the ring to fight - until such time as he was physically incapable of continuing. A round only ended when a man was sent down, rather than lasting a set time of three minutes. A fight could conceivably last hours, and often resulted in terrible injuries, particularly as a fighters supporters might well keep sending him out despite his injuries as they were naturally reluctant to lose the money they had wagered on their man.

Prize fighting was also an 'underground' activity. While there were many prominent members of the aristocracy who privately admired prize fighters, contests were always at risk of being broken up and the fighters and their supporters taken into custody and forced to defend themselves in court. Fights were therefore scheduled to take place at spots outside police jurisdiction, often on county boundaries, so the fighters and supporters could hop across the boundary in the event that they were being pursued by the constabulary of one county, and find another spot outside their reach to pitch another ring in a neighbouring one. As these contests took place outside, a portable 'ring' consisting of ropes and stakes were pitched once a suitable piece of flat turf was found, so it was a sport that took place 'on the fly'.

It seems to be one of those questions that creates a great deal of debate in boxing circles - were the old timers tougher than the fighters of today? I guess it depends on your point of view. Nowadays we have the benefit of science when it comes to physical training. Modern professional boxers are superbly conditioned athletes, but the toughness of some of the old fighters is quite phenomenal when you consider that they fought for hour after hour. They often sustained terrible injuries, with little medical assistance, without the benefits of modern methods of pain relief, and often for figures that would be unthinkably small for the professional boxers of today. Prize fighting was an incredibly dangerous sport. The book contains details of one fighter, recorded as a 'Welchman' who fought 276 rounds and was recorded in the Guinness Book of Records!

AmeriCymru: I think it's fair to say that bare knuckle fights were frowned upon by the authorities. Care to share some examples of the subterfuges fight organizers adopted to safeguard their events from interference by the local constabulary? Didn't the police face significant danger trying to break up these events?

Lawrence: The location where an important prize fight was to take place was often kept a secret until the day of the battle, usually when contests were to take place they were specified within a certain number of miles of London - which was the hub of prize fighting. This information was then circulated to fight fans of all walks of life, known as 'The Fancy' who would congregate at sporting houses, or pubs, where tips as to where the fight might come off might be heard.

At a later time, a 'special' train might even be booked to take the fighters and spectators to the scene of a battle, with the train pulling up at some quiet point on the line for the party to jump off, pitch a portable ring on a suitable spot of turf and bring off the fight before the authorities could locate the battleground.

Some prize fights drew crowds of thousands, and it might well be imagined in such circumstances it proved all but impossible for the police to exert their authority over such a vast number of people. There are accounts of people turning on the police when they attempted to break up a fight, and occasions where a posse of policemen scouring for the location of a fight were so out-manned that they had to merely watch from a distance with no ability to stop a contest.

AmeriCymru: From the book listing we learn that your "meticulous original research has uncovered many Welsh prize fighters previously unrecorded in any publication." Do you have any personal favorites? Are there any you would like to give a special mention to here?

Lawrence: Very few of the fighters within the book have been recorded at all in modern books of boxing history. As mentioned previously, Ned Turner was a symbol of bravery and honour in his day, but there are a few other fighters that appear within the book that are worth remembering. One is a particularly fierce Welsh butcher who plied his trade in Whitechapel Market, who was appropriately named 'Jack Rasher'. His fights were incredibly hard long and brutal, but he would laugh while his head was beaten 'like a rainbow, all manner of colours', and he would still spit on his fists and come out to fight. They called him 'Ironface'.

Another fighter within the book was known as the 'Wrexham Champion', he had a big reputation for thrashing everyone for miles around but died at the age of 38 after being attacked by a mob of 61 people. One of my favourites, because he sounds like a bit of a loon, is someone I know far too little about, a fighter named 'Taffy' Pritchard who challenged another fighter to eat 6lb of liver in less time than Taffy could eat 7lb of liver fried in candle wax! There are also some interesting details on the fighters that came after Ned Turner's time who claimed to be the 'Welsh Champion', whether merited or not.

Perhaps one of the most interesting accounts for Welsh boxing fans is the story of William Charles of Newport, who was genuinely held to be the 'Champion of Wales' by the general public - and was even compared to Owain Glyndwr the heroic rebel Prince of Wales. He has never been recorded in any book of Welsh boxing history before now. Charles was a smashing and powerful fighter and incredibly popular. For one of his fights in Monmouth, approximately 4,000 people traveled by horse, carriage and on foot from far and wide to a field to watch him take on one of his rivals, which seems astonishing to me, most of them trudging mile after mile for hour after hour to see their champion fight. I have tried to present as complete an account of his career as possible within the book.

AmeriCymru: Care to tell our readers a little about your earlier titles:- Mountain Fighters: Lost Tales of Welsh Boxing and Jack Scarrott's Prize Fighters.

Lawrence: The Mountain Fighters book was the first book I wrote on Welsh bare-knuckle boxing history, and it was published back in 2011. Prior to boxers wearing gloves, at the end of the nineteenth century, the bare-knuckle fighters of Wales were known as 'Mountain Fighters' because they fought on the mountains above the towns to avoid the interference of the police. I had come across references to them, but no details, who they were, who they fought, or any aspects of their lives and decided to research them. The book presented accounts of aspects of the lives of a number of the most prominent mountain fighters for the first time, including William Samuels, Robert Dunbar, Pete Burns (Dublin Tom), Sam Thomas (Sam Butcher), Dai St John, Patsy Perkins and others. Looking back it was a mammoth of a book, probably a bit too big. I wrote it in a very general style in an attempt to make it more readable to people who weren't necessarily only interested in boxing, but also in Welsh history, about a period that hadn't been previously explored.

The Jack Scarrott book finally came out in 2016 after many years of research. The name is probably most familiar to fight fans because Jack discovered the legendary Flyweight Champion of the World, Jimmy Wilde. Scarrott was a fairground boxing 'booth' owner. A boxing booth proprietor had a string of fighters who he employed to stand on the front of the booth, and he would invite members of the audience to challenge them over a few rounds. If they lasted the distance they won a cash prize. The spectators would pay an entrance fee to go into the booth, a large heavily decorated tent, to witness the contest. Virtually all the early Welsh gloved boxing champions started in the booths, and Jack handled most of them at one stage or another, the great 'Peerless' Jim Driscoll, Wilde, Tom Thomas the middleweight champion of Britain, Percy Jones, World Flyweight champion, and so many others all started out with Jack. Scarrott toured South Wales, packing up his booth and putting on contests around Wales for decades. He was a showman, a promoter, and one of the most important figures in Welsh boxing, although he had become something of a footnote in history, more of a myth than a man. His life and times were incredibly colourful, and the book shows how he took boxing from a small tent he knocked up himself in the town of Pontypridd, featuring ex-mountain fighters on his booth front, to venues where thousands watched the 96lb future wonder of the world Jimmy Wilde destroy all comers. It is an amazing story. As I learned more about Jack I admired him more and more. I hope one day that a revised edition will be published.

My new book, 'The Story of Welsh Boxing' is a bit different. It tries to present a full period of boxing history in as much detail as possible. I hope it is something that readers enjoy whether a wholehearted boxing fan, or whether they are just interested in the history of Wales generally. This is the first book that I have written that contains full footnotes, appendices, and a lot of wonderful portraiture and illustrations, and I really hope that people enjoy it. Sometimes it was hard trying to push on with writing it, and pull the various pieces together but I have tried to do credit to the courage and bravery of some of the great forgotten Welsh fighters of the past that should be remembered.

AmeriCymru: When will the book be available and where can readers buy it online

Lawrence: The book will be on general release at the start of June, 2019. I believe that Amazon are taking pre-orders. On the high street it should be available at Waterstones and WH Smiths and other bookshops.




AmeriCymru: What's next for Lawrence Davies? Do you have any other projects ongoing at the moment?

Really hard to say right now, I have a few other things sitting on the shelf, mostly Welsh boxing related. I am also trying to fit in research time when I can, and would like to continue charting the 'Story of Welsh Boxing' when I get time to sit down and write. Hopefully people will like the new book enough that I will be spurred on to write some more, all I ever really wanted to do when I was a kid was to write something worth reading. I used to bash away with two fingers on a dusty old Remington typewriter that my dad had, the hope is that each time I try, I get better at doing it. He used to say, keep trying, keep fighting, keep going. I think thats probably the best advice I ever had.

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

Lawrence: I really hope that if you read the new book, 'The Story of Welsh Boxing' that you enjoy it. If you do I would be really grateful if you might be so kind as to post a review on amazon, or share your thoughts on it with others on facebook, twitter, etc. Its always wonderful to read that someone has enjoyed something that you have written, or tried to write to the best of your ability.

If you are on twitter you can tweet about the book to Pitch Publishing @pitchpublishing using #TheStoryofWelshBoxing. If you follow Pitch on Twitter you can leave book reviews, get exclusive news and enter competitions and prize giveaways.

Alternatively, you can also find out more about the book on facebook, or give your thoughts on it by visiting :


I am really thankful for all the people who have supported my previous books, or have been so kind as to review them, or write forum posts on them, etc. it really helps you keep trying and keep writing when you are struggling to find the momentum to keep working on a something that you know is going to take you a very long time to put together. Some people have been incredibly generous with their support, so thank you for your kindness to date. Also want to especially thank AmeriCymru for having alerted readers to my previous books when they came out, sometimes its the interest and enthusiasm of others that keeps you going when you are flagging.

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