Politics Life and Love in 1950s Wales

 A Welsh Dawn

‘A Welsh Dawn’ is a new novel from publishers Y Lolfa, by author, Gareth Thomas. The story at the heart of it centres on a small group of people in Wales during the 1950s and early1960s, and takes an interesting look at the issues faced by the Welsh people as a whole, during a time of huge change. Where matters such as these are examined in a fictional context it takes a delicate balancing act on the part of the author to avoid polemic and educational instruction whilst making clear the severity of the effects of change on those living through ‘interesting times’.  This careful handling is accomplished with a deft confidence by Gareth Thomas, which is not surprising since he lived through the period himself, and having been born in 1948, and educated in both England and Wales, experienced first-hand the Welsh community struggling to maintain its clear identity, through both its language and its culture, from the perspective of belonging and also from an objective viewpoint. Gareth Thomas was born in the Rhondda to Welsh parents and was educated in a number of places  in both Wales and England. He studied drama and became a teacher, also working as an actor and director. It is possible that this is where his skill in creating empathetic characters emerged  and it is this that makes the book so successful. From the two young boys Gwilym and William, at the start to the others as they appear, Glan and Dafydd, Margaret and Ifan, his characters are real which means the issues with which they are faced are real too. The influences seen to be destroying the old way of life and the everyday use of Welsh in Wales were numerous; an influx of non-Welsh speakers from outside Wales, political uncertainties, internal movement within Wales for employment prospects, and additionally the growth of the English speaking media and commerce. There were political decisions made in Westminster, which despite genuinely committed and organised disputation by local people, villagers and supporters, as with Capel Celyn, the village drowned to create a reservoir for Liverpool, simply went ahead regardless. The reality of Wales being ruled from Westminster without regard for the culture and the people who lived there, caused an outrage which was felt throughout the cities and the country villages and by using fiction to express the happenings of the period Gareth Thomas has succeeded in reaching out to the reader by using empathetic characters to tell the story.

A Welsh Dawn by Gareth Thomas is published by Y Lolfa and is available from bookshops and www.ylolfa.com

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Myra Stories and Songs

Myra – Lost Folk Tales and Songs of Ceredigion

A double CD just released offers a unique spread of fascinating material gathered from the writings of a Victorian farmer’s wife who lived just outside Cei Newydd, and who spent time, when not fulfiling her role on the farm, and as wife and mother, collecting and writing down songs and stories she heard which related to the surrounding area. Myra Evans lived at Panteg and in her small neat hand she made a note of all possible material she heard into  two exercise books – one for stories and one for music and songs. The material on the discs comes from both books. Peter Stephenson is the storyteller and he brings style and experience to the telling. As a collector of stories himself the discovery of this miscellaneous anthology is a magical experience. Whilst his storytelling captures the listener, the musical accompaniment adds another dimension to the listening experience. The emotional content, the atmosphere, and the mood of the stories are vastly increased by the musical presence of Ceri Owen Jones on harp and  Elsa Davies who sings and plays the fiddle. The music itself has been adapted, as have the stories, but whatever small alterations have been made to bring it together, the result works brilliantly; an almost elemental conjunction which feels as though it existed as a complete entity. The albums are produced both in Welsh and English, by Ceri Rhys Matthews and Jens Schroeder and the material offers a glimpse into an area of heritage which might easily have been lost. It is specifically relevant to Ceredigion and some of the stories still circulate by word of mouth. For instance most people living in the area around Cei Newydd, Gilfachrheda, and Llanarth will have heard tales of the old self-styled wise woman Siani, who lived in a house on the beach at Cei Bach.They may even have had their fortunes told by her, before she died and the sea finally took the house under the waves. Tall stories about her were always in the air around the neighbourhood, but for Myra Evans to have written them down is almost like a small miracle, and for her daughter to have been kind enough to pass them on to be used in this way is a generous addition to the heritage of Ceredigion. Peter Stephenson says ‘Myra took the songs and stories and gave trimmings to bare bones, and that she took the time to weave this collection together in her notebooks is a gift.’

‘Myra’ The Lost Fairy Tales and Folk Songs of West Wales is available from Awen Teifi Material from the profane and humorous to the sacred and spiritual, from fairground dances, music hall songs and ballads to hymns, religious anthems and ancient pre-reformation melodies, from childrens stories and local anecdotes to mythological cycles and Welsh operetta.