Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Hands Off Wales - The Radnorshire Connection

The author of the new book Hands Off Wales, Wyn Thomas, is a Radnorian.  On his website Dr Thomas mentions that he left Llandrindod High School without qualifications, only returning to education later in life.  The author's English-speaking, non-academic background must surely have been a help in empathising with the Welsh nationalist militants of the 1960s,  who, in the main, were working-class, English-speaking and uncorrupted by either chapel or university.

In a way this weighty book - 424 pages - is a bit like one of those BBC4 documentaries on punk rock, very detailed, very informative ..... as long as we remember that most people were listening to the likes of Abba, David Soul and the Muppets.  For those of us interested in Welsh history it is a fascinating and well-written account of another minority pursuit - physical-force nationalism.  The book is mainly taken up with a thoroughly researched narrative about Tryweryn, the Free Wales Army and John Jenkins.  The right questions are asked, the protagonists allowed to speak for themselves, leaving us to draw our own conclusions.  A short final chapter offers opinions, but these are predictable enough and provide no surprising insights.

What about Radnorshire?  There is new detail about the only action ever carried out by the Free Wales Army - the botched sabotage of the Fron Aqueduct in 1967.  We also learn that a planned attack on the Birmingham pipeline in Knucklas was called off by Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru because of the possibility of damage to houses in the village.  The very successful attack on the pipeline in West Hagley is said to have been carried out by a cell from Newtown and Llandrindod. Really?  Later in the book the author casts doubt on the existence of any such a cell, although he does mention an English resident of Llanbister (for some background on this individual see here and here) later associated with the historical group Cofiwn, who seemingly had links with John Jenkins.  Finally, the young Anglesey county council employees imprisoned in 1969 were said to have been instructed in the art of bomb making at Graig Farm, Llandegley - leaving many suspicious of the involvement of an agent provocateur.

Update: Wyn Thomas talking about Eileen Beasley, see here.

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