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Category: New Titles

owain glyndwr last days.jpg600 years since his death, Owain Glyndŵr is still one of the most important and fascinating figures in Welsh history. His fate during his last years is unknown, and where he was buried is an enduring mystery.

In The Last Days of Owain Glyndŵr, which is published this week by Y Lolfa, Gruffydd Aled Williams, a leading authority on the subject, here rigorously assesses the evidence in oral tradition, manuscripts and printed sources, as well as on the ground, sorting fact from fiction.

He also investigates Glyndŵr family history and, based on new research, brings to light new information available in English for the first time on Wales’ most enduringly inspiring national hero, who led the war of independence in the early fifteenth century.

A descendant of the Princes of Powys through his father and of the Princes of Deheubarth through his mother, Glyndŵr was proclaimed Prince of Wales in 1400, the last native-born leader to boast this title. In the first years of the century, he led a successful campaign against the English rule of Wales under Henry IV, capturing strategically-important castles and winning key battles against the English army.

However, by 1409 the castles had been retaken and the last documented sighting of Glyndŵr seems to have been in 1412. What happened to him after that and the locations of his death and subsequent burial remain shrouded in uncertainty.

‘There are certain mysteries that can never be finally solved. One such mystery is that of the last days of Owain Glyndwr,’ says Gruffydd Aled.

‘This volume, therefore, has not been written with the intention of finally revealing where Owain died or where he was buried. Its aim is rather to survey the various traditions that have been recorded about Owain’s last days in detail and to evaluate them as far as is possible in the light of known historical facts and the broader historical context,’ he added.

The author’s original Welsh language book, Dyddiau Olaf Owain Glyndŵr (2015) – the first extended and comprehensive analysis of the subject -- was hailed as ‘outstanding’ and won the 2016 Wales Book of the Year ‘Creative non-fiction’ award.

The Last Days of Owain Glyndŵr also discusses one or two new locations and traditions which have come to light since the publication of the 2015 volume, and which are significant from the point of view of tracing Owain’s last days.

The volume also includes colour photos by acclaimed photographer Iestyn Hughes.

‘It was my intention to fill a gap in Welsh historiography and to do that in as readable a manner as possible,’ added Gruffydd Aled.

Gruffydd Aled Williams grew up in Glyndyfrdwy, the district which gave Owain Glyndŵr his name. Before retiring, he lectured in Welsh at University College, Dublin and the University of Wales, Bangor, and was Professor of Welsh and Head of the Department of Welsh at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. He delivered the 2010 British Academy Sir John Rhŷs Memorial Lecture on medieval poetry associated with Owain Glyndŵr, and contributed chapters to Owain Glyndŵr: A Casebook (2013). He is a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales, President of the Merioneth Historical and Record Society, and a member of Gorsedd y Beirdd (Gorsedd of the Bards).

The Last Days of Owain Glyndŵr by Gruffydd Aled Williams (£12.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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Wales and the First Air War 19141918  Dr Jonathan Hicks.jpgThe sacrifice made by Wales’s airmen and airwomen during the Great War has been drawn together for the first time in a detailed research by an acclaimed military historian.

Wales and the First Air War 1914- 1918 by Jonathan Hicks is an account of Welsh involvement in the Royal Flying Corps, Royal Naval Air Service and Royal Air Force during the First World War.

When the Great War began in 1914 aviation was in its infancy. Airmen took to the skies in wood and linen aircraft that were illequipped for the demands of mechanised warfare, and by 1917 the average lifespan of a newly-posted pilot was just three weeks.

Welshmen volunteered for the new service arm in large numbers and Wales contributed pilots, observers and ground crew to the Royal Flying Corps, Royal Naval Air Service and Royal Air Force. The stories of these men are told here for the first time. Their deeds, gallantry and ultimate fates are recounted, as are those of the Welsh ‘aces’ who pitted their skills against those of their famous German counterparts.

‘Wales produced its own aces, and these men are worthy of remembrance for their heroism in fighting a war high up in the air, where the chances of survival, if aircrew or machine were hit by enemy bullets or shrapnel, were slim’ said Dr Jonathan Hicks.

Two air stations were constructed in Wales to house the new airships: one at Llangefni on Anglesey and the other at Milton in Pembrokeshire.

Wales also provided a pioneer of airship design. Ernest Willows from Cardiff was the first man in Britain to be granted a pilot’s licence and, on 28 December 1910, he made the first cross-Channel airship flight from England to France. He built his first airship when he was just 19. After the war ended, he continued his pioneering work until he was killed in a balloon accident in August 1926.

Dr Jonathan Hicks is an award-winning military historian and novelist. The winner of the Victorian Military Society’s top award for his work on the Anglo-Zulu War he was also awarded the Western Front Association Shield for his work on Barry and the Great War. He has also written novels on the battle at Mametz, including The Dead of Mametz and Demons Walk Among Us and also factual volumes, the bestsellers The Welsh at Mametz Wood (2016) and The Welsh at Passchendaele 1917 (2017).

Wales and the First Air War 1914- 1918 by Dr Jonathan Hicks is available now (£12.99, Y Lolfa).

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pen ar y bloc.jpgThe next decade will be the most significant period ever in Welsh politics, according to BBC Welsh Affairs Editor, Vaughan Roderick, on the day of publishing a volume of his work to mark twenty years since Wales voted for a National Assembly.

In the book, Pen ar y Bloc, which is published this week, Vaughan says that ‘the tectonic plates are moving and questions that would have seemed ridiculous ten years ago are now reasonable’.

These movements, he says, mean that questions arise about the existence of some of the larger parties in their current form, and also could mean that the days of the politics of class could be nearing their end. He also predicts the possibility of the United Kingdom and the European Union breaking apart.

‘Will the United Kingdom, the European Union, or both, be likely to fall to pieces or can they succeed in re-creating themselves? We shall see’.

The book, written by Vaughan and his fellow BBC journalist, Ruth Thomas, reproduces the best of Vaughan’s successful blog, ensuring that his witty writings will not disappear in this ‘Digital Dark Age’.

Publishing the volume, which includes new material that explores some of the most important political developments since 1997, will mean that a completely indispensable record of Welsh history has been created.

The volume also pays tribute to former Wales First Minister, Rhodri Morgan, who died on the 17th of May this year. Vaughan wrote the tribute especially for this book.

Professor Richard Wyn Jones, head of the Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University, said: ‘This is a world class political commentary: witty, wide ranging and broad its spirit. It stands as further proof that we have been extremely fortunate as a nation to have Vaughan Roderick guide us through all the twists and turns of two decades of devolution’.

Since the late 1970s, Vaughan has witnessed many of the events that have changed Wales - from the Cymdeithas yr Iaith protests, the miners’ strike, the fight for devolution up and the Brexit vote.

He did so on radio and television, and from 2004 by writing for the BBC online news service, initially through the O Vaughan i Fynwy column, and through his blog from 2007 onwards.

His editor, Ruth Thomas, says that Vaughan’s unique voice has defined ‘a generation’.

‘All that a journalist can do is report and measure the importance of a story as it appears at the time, through the glasses of our lives’ said Vaughan.

As a result of the his sharp analysis over the decades, Pen ar y Bloc is a comprehensive, vital and witty summary that anyone who has an interest in Welsh history and politics will enjoy.

Pen ar y Bloc will be launched at The Senedd at 6 o'clock on Tuesday, 19 September, with Vaughan Roderick, Ruth Thomas, Betsan Powys and Professor Richard Wyn Jones. It will include a panel discussion between Jane Hutt AM, David Melding AM, Helen Mary Jones and Kirsty Williams AM. The evening is organised by Y Lolfa and the National Assembly for Wales.

Pen ar y Bloc by Vaughan Roderick (£14.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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poetry from land between dyfi and teifi.jpgOut at the Bright Edge by Caroline Clark is a new collection of poems – ‘lovesongs to the landscape’ of north Ceredigion – which are inspired by the history, stories and life of the area between the rivers of Dyfi and Teifi.

The poems capture personally memorable moments while celebrating the beauty and historical resonance of the locations. They are in two sequences; historical and seasonal; with a short coda of poems of a more personal nature.

‘Some are snapshots of a particular event such as a fire on Pen Dinas, families on the prom after graduation or a big snowfall in the 1980s’ explained Caroline, ‘In others, such as Nant yr Arian Kites, I consider changing attitudes to death and in Ynyslas/Drowned Land, the mutability of our world’.

‘I have been writing poems over many years and these focus on the landscape rather than the people of the area whom I have known’ said Caroline, ‘They are about living out at the bright edge both in space and time’.

Born in Birmingham, Caroline Clark has lived in Aberystwyth for forty years. Since moving to Wales, she has been heavily involved in local community theatre, also organising festivals, adjudicating playwriting competitions for the Drama Association of Wales, and advising on Welsh Arts Council committees. Her poems and short stories have often appeared in anthologies, but this is her first solo collection.

The collection will be launched at Aberystwyth Arts Centre bookshop at 6.30pm Monday, 9th of October in the company of Caroline Clark.

Out at the Bright Edge by Caroline Clark (£6.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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dai jones.jpgOne of Wales’ most colourful and popular characters, the much loved Dai Jones of Llanilar publishes his autobiography which will tell his story over the past twenty years.

A Life to Dai For published by Y Lolfa, will follow the twists and turns of Dai Jones’ career over the last two decades as a farmer, presenter, and one of Wales’ most popular broadcaster. The book was co-written with his close friend, Lyn Ebenezer.

‘We in the media have to be careful what we say. We can’t always express openly what we feel’ explained Dai, ‘But here I can be as blunt and honest as I like.’

Having already well surpassed God’s promised age, Dai is still farming, still entertaining the masses on both radio and television, but has recently given up his singing career. He is as popular as ever as a presenter who is our foremost guide to country life.

In A Life to Dai For he introduces us to more characters – individuals he has met throughout Wales and worldwide. He takes us to Patagonia and North America, Europe and Egypt. And he opens our eyes to some of the unsung glories of Wales. Dai believes in visiting faraway places so that he can return home to Wales. As he puts it, ‘If you don’t go, you won’t come back!’

As a result of his huge contribution to agriculture and the media he has received numerous honours over the years, including a Wales BAFTA Fellowship and an honorary Masters of Arts by the University of Wales. But he regards his greatest honour as being made president of the ‘Cardi Show’, the 2010 Royal Welsh Show in Builth Wells.

‘I’ve enjoyed almost every second of my life. But I am a farmer and I’m glad that I have a little more time these days to enjoy the things close to my heart,’ says Dai.

But despite all the fame and adoration, his feet rest firmly on the ground.

‘People are what’s always been important to me. I may have travelled the world but spiritually I never left my home’ says Dai, ‘Wherever I went and wherever I will go, I will always come back. This is where my heart is’.

Dai regards his latest book as a bonus, a verbal encore and another opportunity of saying ‘Thank you’.

‘I’m now 73 years old and still going’ says Dai, ‘God has been very kind to me! One, he gave me good health. I’m as healthy now as I have ever been’.

‘I believe that to be in good health in this world and have a chance to enjoy life is more important than being a millionaire’ says Dai, ‘Truly, if enjoyment was a form of money, I would be a millionaire myself’

A Life to Dai for by Dai Jones Llanilar with Lyn Ebenezer (£9.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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By Ceri Shaw, 2017-09-12

unnamed.jpgA book written by author and returning Welsh exile Peter Daniels, and published this week, is a celebration of Welshness and Welsh people.

Finding Wales identifies in the Welsh a distinct personality, born of their humanity and natural friendliness, an image designed to counter the almost dismissive attitude towards Wales adopted by both the ‘British’ press and the UK government in Westminster.

As a Welsh exile in England, Llanelli-born Peter Daniels had a successful career in market research, but the strong ties he retained with his homeland through the London Welsh RFC and the London Welsh Association led to a fascination with national identity, especially amongst those living outside of Wales.

‘In my own case, it was the move to London which actually raised my consciousness both of my own Welshness and of the disregard for Wales held by British institutions’ said Peter.

In his first book, In Search of Welshness, which was published in 2011, Peter charted the ways in which exiles living in England preserved their Welsh identity. In this latest work he delves into the reasons many of them one day return.

‘Some are forced to return because of family responsibilities or economic necessity. Others speak of ‘the good life’ to be had against the scenic backdrop that is the hills and coastline of Wales’ explains Peter, ‘Many returning exiles also yearn for the friendlier community spirit they feel exists in Wales. And there are those with an even deeper hiraeth for either the Welsh language and culture, or for a more socialist, less class ridden, way of life.’

‘And finally there are those who want to more proactively contribute to the challenges facing Wales in the 21st century, to the preservation of the language, the culture, and the economy’. Suggests Peter ‘Our returning exiles must play their part, however small. They must give something back’.

Whilst Peter admits that they are not all of the same political persuasion, he discovered that they mostly believe that Wales should have more of a say in its own destiny than has previously been the case.

But national politics, unless it directly affects their livelihood, or previously their faith, has never been that important to the Welsh. For them, living is about people and not politics. And in this regard, to quote one returning exile, ‘Wales: the best country in the world’.’

Finding Wales – Reflections of Returning Exiles by Peter Daniels (£9.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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dadeni.jpgBrexit and Donald Trump have inspired a Dan Brown-esque thriller set at the heart of the Welsh Assembly Government.

Inspired by political upheavals over the past year, author Ifan Morgan Jones asks what would happen in a Donald Trump or Nigel Farage-esque figure lead a populist government at the Welsh Assembly.

Dadeni by south Wales-based author Ifan Morgan Jones is published this week by Y Lolfa. This is his third novel.

‘I’m not sure Welsh literature has really responded to devolution,’ said Ifan, ‘I wanted o change that by writing a political thriller based around Cardiff Bay.’

The novel concerns an archeologist Bleddyn Cadwaladr, and his son Joni Teifi, who ar called in by the Welsh Government to investigate after a theft goes awry.

What they find at the scene of the crime propells them into a race against time to stop a political coup that could change the fate of the country.

Ifan Morgan Jones won the Daniel Owen Memorial Prize for his first novel, Igam Ogam, in 2008. He published his second novel, Yr Argraff Gyntaf, in 2010.

He said that Dadeni also draws upon his ten years working as a journalist covering Welsh Politics.

‘I originally wrote the novel in 2015, but so much happened politically over the last year or so that I felt that I had to re-write parts of it in order to take the new political climate into account,’ explained Ifan.

‘The novel asks where the boundary lies between the kind of nationalism that is acceptable to us in Wales and the nationalism espused by Nigel Farage and Donald Trump’ he said ‘Is it acceptable to use tactics that take advantage of the masses’ emotional, irrational nature in order to ensure constitutional change for utilitarian and rational reasons?’

Dadeni by Ifan Morgan Jones (£9.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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penny_lane.jpgThe connection between Wales and Liverpool has been explored anew in a book published this week.

Penny Lane and All That by Camarthenshire author Ann Carlton is a celebration of growing up in Liverpool’s Penny Lane neighbourhood during the 1940s and 1950s – the same era as the Beatles and Quarrymen.

Ann Carlton grew up at Penny Lane. Her father rose from a poor background to become a senior local government officer; thus giving her unique insights into both poverty and affluence in the city at the time.

From first-hand experience she describes the Penny Lane area itself, the squalor of the city’s slums, the treatment of needy children and unmarried mothers, the glamour of civic events and the cultural diversity of the city – including the writer’s own Welsh background.

‘The Welsh would call my unrealistic longing for my Liverpool home ‘hiraeth’. It is a feeling shared by many among the Scouse diaspora’ says Ann.

‘Yet I always knew I was Welsh’ she added, ‘My parents and all my grandparents were born in Liverpool but tales of Wales were part of my family folklore’.

Ann describes her family’s Welsh background and Welsh connections in the city including the now demolished Welsh chapel that overlooked the Penny Lane roundabout and the Liverpool Welsh Choral which was often conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent.

‘Liverpool’s Welsh immigrants brought with them the Welsh language and a love of music. They went on to build numerous chapels in which they promoted both’ says Ann.

‘In my childhood Liverpool was known as the capital of north Wales. Every Thursday was Welsh day. It was the day people from north Wales travelled to the city centre by rail, coach and car to visit relatives and to shop’ Ann explained, ‘My mother’s favourite childhood photograph was taken on St David’s Day. For it, she was dressed in Welsh costume, complete with tall black hat.’

After studying sociology at the London School of Economics, Ann had a career in politics and journalism. She was one of the first UK Government Special Advisers and, for a time, a Western Mail columnist. She lives with her husband, the former MP Denzil Davies, in Pembrey, Carmarthenshire – a seaside village in her husband’s former constituency.

Penny Lane And All That by Ann Carlton (£9.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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hywelemrys.jpgOne of Wales’ most well known actors has revealed the brave battle fought by his wife against cancer in his new autobiography published this week.

In Hunangofiant Dyn Lwcus (A Lucky Man’s Autobiography) the actor Hywel Emrys opens up about the death of his wife Liz to cancer last year, and portrays his own experience of losing someone so close to the cruel illness.

‘Liz was a unique woman’ says Hywel, ‘She was strong, she was brave and full of healthy humour – even towards the end.’

‘I hope talking about my experiences in such an open way will help those who are going through the same thing’ says Hywel.

Hywel is known primarily for playing the role of Derek, the garage owner on popular Welsh soap Pobol y Cwm, and is a familiar face throughout Wales. He has also acted in many other programmes and films. In this intimate autobiography, the lovable actor tells numerous stories and mishaps along the way’.

The death of his wife is what led him to write his story.

‘It was a form of catharsis that morphed into a book’ says Hywel, ‘I lost my own father at a young age and I only have faded memories of him now so I hope that by writing this book it will act as a memory for my children when I leave’.

Praise has already been given to the book by one of his friends and the world famous actor, Ioan Gruffudd, who sais, ‘This is a witty and wonderful autobiography – Hywel is one of the most loved actors in Wales’.

Hywel was born in Carmarthen but now lives in Cardiff with his children, Ffion and Sam.

The book will be launched at the caffi bar at yr Hen Lyfrgell in Cardiff on Tuesday the 29th of November at 7pm with Ieuan Rhys and entertainment by Lisa Angharad.

The second launch will be held the following week at Cwins rugby club in Carmarthen on Tuesday the 6th of December at 7pm with actor Gwyn Elfyn.

Hunangofiant Dyn Lwcus by Hywel Emrys (£9.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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carwynjames.jpgA new biography presents new and revealing revelations about Carwyn James, one of the most iconic and popular characters in recent Welsh history.

The two sides to the life of Carwyn James are revealed in the book, Carwyn – Yn Erbyn y Gwynt by Alun Gibbard, published this week, the public figure and the private man. As well as new information and photographs never seen before, in depth research conducted by the author reveals new information about his personal life, including his sexuality, his drinking problem and his time in Italy. There's also details on the problems between his relationship with the BBC and the Welsh Rugby Union.

‘The Welsh Rugby Union belittled him, and the BBC did the same.’ said Alun Gibbard, ‘Both organisations failed to use Carwyn’s genius in a responsible way and benefit from his experience and talent.’

Detailed is his life as a student in Abersytwyth, a young man in the Navy during the Cold War, then his period as a teacher. All of which happened before Carwyn James became famous and a familiar household name at the age of forty. ‘Carwyn James was a genius. He was also a trouble soul’ said Alun Gibbard.

‘Conversations came from what can be described as the four pillars in Carwyn’s life - rugby, literature, patriotism and broadcasting.’ says Alun, ‘It is the sign of a great man that his contribution extends over all these different fields. Who can he be compared to today, I wonder? There is no obvious answer’.

Said the Professor Gareth Wililams, ‘This is a Grand Slam of a biography that breaks new ground in Welsh sport literature and beyond. One of the books of the year, there is no doubt.’

‘A moving and comprehensive portrait of a Welshman who lived two lives in one – a politican, a teacher, a broadcaster and author as well as one of the world’s greatest rugby strategist. Carwyn continues to inspire’ added Jon Gower.

The biography is the result of extensive research including over a hundred conversations with Carwyn’s family and the greats in his areas of interest including Colin Meads, Lord Elystan Morgan and Huw Llywelyn Davies.

Alun Gibbard is a full time author from Llanelli who has published almost thirty non-fiction titles and one novel. He contributes weekly to the Welsh magazine Golwg. A broadcaster for over 25 years before he began his writing career, he still contributes to radio and television.

‘Carwyn as a popular man but it was just him, on his own, at the end in Amsterdam. This is an attempt to understand the life of ‘...a man that everyone knew his name but nobody knew him’ according to his friend, the author Alun Richards’ explained Alun.

Two launches will be held in the company of Carwyn James’ family and the author Alnu Gibbard to celebrate the life and contribution of Carwyn James.

The first launch will be held at Ysgol Maes y Gwendraeth, Cefneithin on Wednesday 23rd November at 7pm.

The second launch will be held at Aberystwyth rugby club on Thursday the 24th of November at 7pm.

Carwyn – Yn Erbyn y Gwynt by Alun Gibbard (£14.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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