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Category: New Titles


blodau cymru.jpgA long-awaited new volume has been praised as a ‘masterpiece’ by Professor Deri Tomos.

The volume Flowers of Wales published this week by Y Lolfa is the life work of botanist Goronwy Wynne, a leading Biology lecturer and life long member of the British Botanic Society.

The book, which spans almost six hundred pages, covers all known Welsh plants in an ambitious hardback volume.

‘This volume is the fruit of a lifetime’s labour’ said Professor Deri Tomos, ‘As well as being a prestigious catalouger, Goronwy Wynne is one who is passionate about what is behind the romantic facade of nature.’

Twm Elias was also amazed by the book.

‘The book is presented in a compact, easy-to-understand style and is a pleasure to read. Goronwy is one of the best Welsh botanists, and is a great communicator and writer,’ he said, ‘We see the expert's authority at its very best here, in a volume that has clearly taken a lot of years of careful research and writing’.

This is the first Welsh volume to try to present the history of every single Welsh plant.

The volume discusses their names, distribution and habitats. The ecology of plants is cited – from the ordinary to the rare. The reader is given a tour of all of the old counties of Wales describing ten sites in each county, with their special features and flowers, and how to find them flowers and appreciate them.

After graduating in Agriculture and Botany at Bangor University, Goronwy Wynne taught at his old school at Holywell, then became Principal Lecturer in Biology at the North East Wales Institute. He received a doctorate degree from the University of Wales and Salford University and is a Fellow of Bangor University and the London Linear Society. He has been a cataloguer for the British and Irish Botanic Society for forty years and editor of Y Naturiaethwr for the Edward Llwyd Society for ten years. In 2014 he received the National Eisteddfod's Science Medal.

The book will be launched Friday 1 December at 7.30pm at Stamford Gate Hotel in Holywell with Ieuan ap Sion, Bethan Wyn Jones, Austin Savage and Goronwy Wynne.

Blodau Cymru – Byd y Planhigion by Goronwy Wynne (£39.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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dark territory.jpgA new novel published this week has brought to light a forgotten atrocity perpetrated against the Welsh by English Roundhead soldiers, where over a hundredWelsh women were brutally murdered.

Dark Territory by American-born and Wales-based author Jerry Hunter is set in the seventeenth century around the period of the English Civil War, and highlights the fact that the violence associated with religious extremism is not a new issue.

‘It is relatively well known that during his bloody military campaign in Ireland Oliver Cromwell approved the wholesale slaughter of civilians in Wexford and Drogheda because they were Catholics,’ said Jerry Hunter, ‘but less attention has been given to another massacre suffered at his forces’ hands.’

‘This is the story of the Women of Naseby, a dark episode of Welsh history which has been surprisingly absent from popular histories,’ he said.

After the Battle of Naseby in June 1645 the Parliamentarian cavalry, in pursuit of fleeing Royalists, came upon the Royalist camp and a large group of women. Hearing them screaming in an unknown tongue, the English soldiers assumed they were Irish Catholics, and cut them down in cold blood.

But in fact these women were crying out in Welsh – most of Wales had declared for the King, and these were the wives of soldiers in Welsh Royalist regiments who had followed their husbands to war to cook and wash for them, as was the custom at that time. Despite over a hundred of them being killed on the spot, and the faces of others mutilated, their fate has largely been forgotten.

Dark Territory’s protagonist is a zealous Welsh Puritan whose beliefs initially lead him to embrace Parliament’s cause and the violence of Cromwell’s New Model Army, but whose conviction is tested by these atrocities.

Described as ‘an epic historical adventure set during one of the most turbulent periods in history’, the novel also poses questions about violence, power, religious extremism and rejection of difference which are chillingly relevant to our world today.

Jerry Hunter was born in Cincinnati, USA and is now is a Professor of Welsh and Pro Vice-Chancellor at the University of Bangor, and lives with his family in North Wales.

‘With this novel I also wanted to cross-examine the ideological foundations of “American Exceptionalism”,’ he explained. ‘For centuries politicians in the USA have referred to the nation as a “shining light” for the rest of the world to follow. Through the prism of fiction, this work examines the dark realities at the foundations of those beliefs.’

‘Particularly now in the age of Trump, when the old myths of exceptionalism are being invoked once again in an attempt to “make America great again”,’ he added.

The novel has already received acclaim, with literary critic and author Jon Gower praising it as ‘the work of a master... nothing less than a classic’.

Jerry Hunter is best known as a Welsh-language author and has won prestigious literary awards including Welsh Book of the Year for his academic work Llwch Cenhedloedd, and the National Eisteddfod Prose Medal for his first novel, Gwenddydd.

Dark Territory by Jerry Hunter (£9.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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am newid.jpgThe first Welsh language novel to have a trans woman as a main character is published this week.

Am Newid by Dana Edwards follows main protagonist Ceri who returns to her childhood home but has changed a lot since she left. She goes to join Merched y Wawr and despite being a woman, the fact that some still think of her as a ‘boy’ mean that it is not easy for them to accept her.

But Ceri isn’t the only one who’s changed. Over the past twenty-five years, her community’s language, culture and attitudes have also changed.

‘I wanted to write something that was contemporary but that would also demonstrate a timeless attitude shown towards people who are deemed different or who don’t conform to our idea of ‘normal’,’ said Dana Edwards.

‘Issues on gender and sex appear in the press almost daily – schools change their toilets to be unisex, policemen change their outfits to also become unisex, and the discussions on abolishing the need to state your sex in the next census. So I thought that writing about this would be both timely and relevant.’

The novel looks at how Ceri copes with the change in her world, how the world copes with Ceri, and the change that comes when she decides to settle down once again in west Wales.

‘In the past, Welsh novels have been accused of being old fashioned,’ said Dana, ‘but I do hope that Am Newid, amongst many other contemporary Welsh novels, prove that that isn’t true anymore.’

Said author Lleucu Roberts, ‘Am Newid is a compelling, easy to read novel and Dana Edwards has shown herself to be a capable author who knows how to weave a plot and develop characters.’

The novel will be launched at the Winter Fair in Builth Wells on Monday 27 November at 2pm at the Merched y Wawr stall at Clwyd Morgannwg Exhibition Hall with Tegwen Morris, Merched y Wawr director, who will be in conversarion with Dana.

‘Its very appropriate to launch at the Merched y Wawr stall as the organisation is the backdrop to Ceri’s story,’ said Dana, ‘Merched y Wawr has a reputation for being a very welcoming and inclusive organisation, but how will Ceri be welcomed?’

During the launch, Carol Nixon will talk about her experiences of living as a trans woman in Wales and singer Siân James will perform a few songs that celebrate diversity. There will be a rainbow LGBT+ cake and mulled wine to close the launch party.

Dana Edwards is from Aberystwyth. Am Newid is her third novel following The Other Half (Accent Press, 2014) and Welsh novel Pam? (Y Lolfa, 2016).

Am Newid will be launched at the Merched y Wawr stall at Clwyd Morgannwg Exhibition Hall at the Winter Fair in Builth Wells on Monday 27th November at 2pm with Dana Edwards, Tegwen Morris, Carol Nixon and Siân James.

Am Newid by Dana Edwards (£7.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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bbc wales.jpgThe memoir and inside story of BBC Wales by a former controller has raised ‘questions about the role of the BBC in today’s Wales’ according to a prominent broadcaster.

The Broadcasters of BBC Wales, 1964–1990 by Gareth Price, published this week by Y Lolfa, is the inside story of an exceptional period in Welsh broadcasting when an eclectic collection of characters emerged both in front and behind the microphone.

Gareth Price, a former Controller of BBC Wales (1986-90), worked for the Corporation between 1964 and 1990, during the most exciting period of growth in the history of Welsh broadcasting. He spent ten years (1964-74) as a radio and television producer and 16 years (1974-90) appointing, enabling and leading production teams in all their varied activities at the BBC.

‘Gareth Price has produced an admirably readable account of three exhilarating decades in Welsh broadcasting, an account which tracks his rise to the Controller’s office of BBC Wales,’ said broadcaster Huw Edwards,

‘His story is full of absorbing insights into BBC culture, and along the way he profiles some of the biggest names in the business. It also raises pertinent questions about the role and status of the BBC in today’s Wales.’

His memoir is the human story of those individuals who worked through the most exciting period of growth in the history of Welsh broadcasting.

‘Many were an extraordinary mix of creative and often eccentric people making music and writing drama; celebrities in the world of sport and entertainment; or inquisitive journalists reporting on daily events and producing in-depth documentaries’ said Gareth.

‘The memories remain of an eclectic group of people who were attracted to an institution which, in the words of Head of Programmes Hywel Davies in 1962, ‘must be a debating chamber, an exhibition centre, a publishing house, a theatre, a concert hall, a centre which, if near to its audience, can develop the national identity in English and in Welsh.’’ added Gareth.

In just six years, between January 1977 and November 1982, two national radio stations (Radio Wales and Radio Cymru) and S4C were launched, leading to the simultaneous relaunch of a BBC Wales TV service devoid of the Welsh language.

By 1982, BBC Wales had grown to become the largest BBC operation outside London.

Gareth recalls the tensions between BBC Wales and S4C in the run-up to S4C’s launch as well as the difficulties in selling programmes with Welsh content to London controllers.

As well as recounting the work of high profile and creative colleagues, Gareth Price recalls events which shaped Wales and the BBC during this time, such as the anguish of Aberfan in 1966; a surge of national pride created by great Welsh rugby teams of the 1970s and the sadness and suff ering as King Coal died a slow death during and after the last great strike of 1984–5.

‘Mine is a social history of a specific era and the personalities who enlarged and revolutionised the broadcasting landscape of Wales.’ added Gareth.

Gareth Price was educated in Aberaeron and at University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, before becoming an assistant lecturer at Queen’s University, Belfast. He joined BBC Wales in 1964 and during the next 26 years spent ten years as a producer before joining the management team as Head of Programmes and Controller, BBC Wales. In 1990 he left the BBC to join the international Thomson Foundation. Gareth is a Fellow of Aberystwyth University and was awarded the Commonwealth Association Medal for Services to International Public Broadcasting in 2006.

The Broadcasters of BBC Wales, 1964–1990 will be launched at Tŷ Oldfield, Llandaf on Thursday the 16th of November at 6pm in the company of Gareth Price, Roy Noble and Frank Lincoln.

The Broadcasters of BBC Wales, 1964–1990 by Gareth Price is available now (£12.99, Y Lolfa).

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lee byrne.jpgRetired Welsh international rugby union player Lee Byrne has spoken publicly for the first time about the treatment he suffered under Robert Howley in his new tell-all autobiography, The Byrne Identity, out now. Lifting the lid on his toxic relationship and refusal to play under Robert Howley, Lee gives a damning verdict on the former Welsh rugby union player turned coach.

‘I was eased out of the Wales team; subjected, in my view, to bullying treatment; dragged back and forth from Clermont to squad training in Wales without WRU reimbursement for travel expenses, just to hold tackle bags’ says Lee, ‘By the end of 2013, there’d been no communication with the management for two years, but here was a man – a man who I felt had tried to humiliate me in front of my teammates – ringing up and expecting me to come running because he’d clicked his fingers’.

The Byrne Identity charts Lee’s meteoric rise from a childhood on a tough estate in Bridgend through teenage years on building sites across Europe to rugby stardom at the very top of world rugby, earning forty-six caps for Wales and securing his place as one of the nation’s best-ever full backs and one of the brightest talents to grace the Welsh game.

Lee talks frankly about the joy of playing at the highest level for the Scarlets, the Ospreys, Wales and the Lions, and gives an insider’s glimpse into Welsh rugby under Warren Gatland and the tactics and psychology employed.

The autobiography has already been dubbed ‘rugby book of the year’ by Wales on Sunday.

In this candid, no-holds-barred autobiography, Lee Byrne reveals all for the first time about the gambling habit he managed to kick, how he’s come to terms with dyslexia, and how he struggled with depression after his enforced early retirement due to injury. He also gives an insight into players’ and coaches’ hilarious off-field antics, the rugby drinking culture that exists within Welsh rugby, and opens up about how the death of his good friend Jerry Collins affected him.

‘After two somewhat tough years following my forced retirement from the game, I felt the time had come to tell my story,’ explained Lee. ‘Despite my unconventional route into rugby, I managed to make it to the pinnacle of the game, playing nearly fifty times for Wales and representing the British and Irish Lions. I had talent, perhaps, but it also required an awful lot of hard work.’

‘There’s also much about the sheer joy of playing rugby at the highest level, and the fun I had off the field,’ he added.

The book includes a foreword written by his friend and Welsh International, Shane Williams.

‘Straight away you could tell [Lee] was a good player. Within a couple of years he was being talked about as the best full back in the world, and rightly so,’ said Shane.

Former England star Jeremy Guscott also waxes lyrical about Lee’s abilities. ‘Lee played sublime rugby that really stood out. Great players have the ability to slow everything down… Lee certainly had that ability. A world-class full back with an exceptional skill-set – sheer class.’

Lee currently runs rugby camps for young players, and pursues a number of business interests. He is an ambassador for Tomorrow’s Generation, a dyslexia charity based in Cardiff. He lives in Bridgend.

The autobiography was co-written by television journalist and sports reporter Richard Morgan.

Lee Byrne will be embarking on a book signing tour to promote his book, beginning in Llanelli on November 3rd, and will visit Swansea, Carmarthen, Newport, Cwmbran, Penarth and Bridgend.

The Byrne Identity by Lee Byrne (£9.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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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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