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Fri, 26 Mar 2010
Tonight I am feeling all over sentimental, I have just finished reading "THE FIRE PEOPLE." again and it always makes me sad. Here is the man who wrote it.


I must not pass over in silence the mountains called by the Welsh Eryri, but by the British Snowdon, or the mountains of Snow, which... seem to rear their lofty summits even to the clouds”


Alexander Cordell was one of Wales' most prolific writers, although he wasn't Welsh.
HeAlexander Cordell was born in Sri Lanka, and came to Wales to convalesce during World War II. After the War he moved to Llanelen (a few miles North of Goytre Wharf) where he did most of the research for Rape of the Fair Country, before moving to Holywell Road in Abergavenny, his home for many years.

This tour will take you from the rolling countryside of the Vale of Usk, much loved by Cordell, to the landscape of the industrial valleys, which provided the backdrop for most of the action in Rape of the Fair Country. You will visit some of the more accessible sites which feature in this powerful story about life during the early years of the Industrial Revolution leading up to the Chartist uprising of 1839. It is suggested you use OS Explorer Map 152 and OS Outdoor Leisure Map 13 (Brecon Beacons National Park East) for reference. Route directions are in bold, quotations from Rape of the Fair Country in italics. Key sites are numbered and marked on the map. (Thanks to the Wee reference leaflets I picked up myself. 

The Big Pit

If you get the chance to go down the Big Pit, you will never forget it. However be sensible and wear flat shoes and not your Sunday Best Outfit. The last time myself and my husband went down, there was an American couple with us. They unfortunately decided to go down the pit on a whim and as she said "It was a bit daft to even attempt it, in three inch heels and a white summer skirt with navy blouse." Sadly she had to go back to the top after a ten minutes or so. Her husband stayed on the tour, so I guess he was able to tell her all about it. It truely is very humbling to see just what conditions these Welsh men and children had to go through. After leaving the pit, we then went to the cottages, they were the ones that they later used in "Coal House" the BBC One series. "Wow it was fascinating watching the series and knowing that we had been there. Afterwards we went to the museum dedicated to the most wonderful "Alexander Cordell, whom I might have told you already I had the privileged of meeting once. His books, and I think I can say all his books, the Welsh and Chinese ones and the others. Brilliant, I have them all, though I did find that  the last couple he wrote in the couple of years before his untimely death, where not as fulfilling as his early books. He had lost his second wife and he was very "dwr" after this and I think coming up to my North Wales, was maybe a mountain to many. He died up on the Llangollen moors, not to far from the "Ponderosa Restaurant." Leaving behind him a few photos and a wee letter. His life ended like many of the steel and coal workers he wrote about, lying in the beautiful Welsh countryside after a hard life's work. May Dewi Sant watch over you My Hero. Dodie x

Beside the peaceful Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal at Goytre Wharf it's easy to imagine Iestyn Mortymer and his family gliding down the canal on the outing to Newport:

Wonderful to be moving on water. The silky movement is a drug to the senses when you are lying along the prow of a barge watching the water-lilies and bindweed waving. Soon Pen-y-fal and the Skirrids were well behind us, and the sun, streaming down through the avenue of trees, cast golden patterns on the barges.

However this quiet backwater was once a busy industrial site. Take time to walk around and view the historic limekilns and aqueduct, as well as the South Wales Tramway Exhibition. Tramways were crucial in bringing coal, limestone and iron-ore down from the hills to the wharves located along the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal - at Llangattock, Llanfoist and Llanelen.

There is also a Tourist Information Point where you can pick up leaflets and advice before leaving Goytre Wharf.

Diary, Bryn Roberts, Monday 28th February 1853.

Today has been one of the worstDraig Goch days of my life. I will be glad to leave this God forsaken canal and the
barge, anything than spend another day like this! To begin with it has been snowing for most of the day, my feet are cold, my hands are skinned to the bone where the damned tow rope kept slipping through them. God how I hate this job. Ha! A job, I don't even get paid for it. "you've got to be fourteen before you get any money boyo". Oh yeah, fourteen before I get any money but six when I started walking the paths, even towing the ropes with my brothers when the damn horse went sick or lame.
No I've had enough, cramped up in a tiny cabin with three sisters, the oldest not yet nine, the youngest not yet walking. Maybe that's a blessing at least one less under my feet. I suppose I should be grateful that I've got under the table to sleep by myself now that Iolo has left for the mines. My heart still grieves for Iolo, still it was his decision. Poor Mam, she was looking very old this morning Gone her lovely black hair, now just grey and going more grey with each rising day.
Old Mostyn Evans died this morning of the Cholera, they say three of his young ones will be gone in the next day or two as well. Poor Mrs Evans I suppose it will be the Workhouse for her and Myfanwy and Rhian, God help them. I counted seventeen rats this afternoon down by the lock gate. It made me wonder if Istyn Morris lost his leg down at Neath or if the rats ate it whilst he was asleep. If the Navvies from England kept their rubbish proper like us Welsh, then maybe there wouldn't be so many rats.
I heard from Marie Lloyd that two children where drowned at Resolven Yesterday, two less mouths to feed. Still t'is sad to think of so many children dying this way and most of them not reached their ninth birthday. Still who wants birthday's, nothing to look forward to there either.
"No money Bryn" Dada would say. "You know what it's like in winter, and now with these railways taking all our business we'd probably do better going on a ship to America along with the Irish."
Well this is me, thirteen in a months time and nothing to look forward to except more blisters and chilblains this winter and more sunburnt backs and arms in summer. Not if I can help it! Not me. I'll follow Iolo down the pit, not good but nothing could be worse than this. But how can I go, what would happen to Mam and Dada.
Still it's nice to dream.
Goodnight Dada, I love you Mam. Time to sleep. Bryn.R.

A small excerpt from one of the books written by the wonderful Alexander Cordell. start with "The Fire People" get hooked and then the first Trilogy, "The Rape of a Fair Country" "The Hosts of Rebecca," and "Songs of the Earth"

Da Iawn, as we say in Cymraeg. Very Good we say in English
Posted 18:38

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