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Christopher Davies




Letter from the leading Welsh historian Dr. John Davies in The Western Mail 4 December 2001, regarding An A to Z of Wales and the Welsh, 100 Great Welshmen, 100 Great Welsh Women, The Book of Welsh Saints: ‘… In highlighting neglected Welsh achievers and the Welsh parentage of many famous names, and in seeking to promote greater awareness of our shamefully erased culture and history, Mr. Breverton deserves wholehearted appreciation and support. The books provide an invaluable service to our nation, and should be widely available in libraries, schools, colleges and major workshops – not only in Wales but throughout Britain.

An A-Z of WALES and the WELSH March 2000

paperback 296 pages (Christopher Davies Publishing) - ‘the first encyclopaedia of Wales’; ‘a comprehensive anthology’

This important book was featured on BBC Radio 1, Radio 2, Radio 3, Radio Wales 'The World Today', Radio World Service, The World (USA), GMTV (two transmissions featuring the author, an Elvis Presley impersonator, the Haverfordwest Male Voice choir on 5/6/2000, with articles in The Daily Mail and The Guardian, and interviews on many radio shows including Capital Gold with Dave Lee Travis (6th June), Radio 1, Radio 2 Richard Allinson Show (6th June), BBC Radio Ulster (8th June), radio 4, Radio Wales (Roy Noble and Owen Money) and the BBC World Service. The piece about Elvis was even picked up by the Sidney Morning Herald, French television and radio flashed across the web overnight, including Elvis sites and Reuters, ITN and BBC News online sites. (The book has also been featured in the News of the World, National Enquirer, New York Times, Daily Express, Times, Sunday Times and upon French and Japanese radio and TV). Its publication, and the author’s proselytising, was the main stimulus for the Welsh Encyclopaedia

Review from 'Cambria', January 2001

'Hwyl and Hiraeth, heritage and history, people and places, myths and imagination all come together in Terry Breverton's comprehensive anthology and compendium of Welshness. He starts by asking the question "What is Wales?" and then goes on to show us. The book is, as Breverton says, a sort of "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" that is Wales and declares modestly that his background is more business than academic. We have just what's needed in this unashamedly proud-to-be-Welsh work. Everything from "Assassination" (Owain Llawgoch) to "Zulu Wars" (Rorke's Drift) is covered with few stones unturned …  A massive treasure chest of facts and figures covering thousands of years of history, which no collector of books on Wales can overlook.'

South Wales Echo, April 14th, 2000, by Penny Taylor

The author wants the world to know what Wales has to offer alongside the Cool Cymru actors and pop stars, there is a wealth of information on more traditional Welsh culture, history, legend, art, literature and so on.

All Things Welsh to the Letter in A-Z.

If it takes you more than a song by Catatonia to feel proud of being Welsh, then maybe you should take a peek into a new book by Cardiff lecturer Terry Breverton. 'An A-Z of Wales and the Welsh' is the author's personal contribution to his country. And within its covers, alongside rugby, choirs and coal, are entries as diverse as Assassination, Atlantis, Crachach, Bogs, Heroes and Inward Investment. The book was a labour of love for Terry, 53, and took four years to compile, plus another two to get published. He fitted the work into his evenings and weekends, around his full-time job at the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff.

But the man who specialises in marketing, corporate strategies and writing about multinational tax avoidance, sees the A-Z as far more than an interesting bedtime read - he wants the world to know about what Wales has to offer. His reasons for writing the book, he says, have become something of an obsession. "I have worked all over the world from America to the Middle East," he said, "And I was really fed up with telling people that Wales was not a subset of England. When I came back to Cardiff three years ago, I could find nothing about the totality of Wales to show my children, who were born in England." "Then I realised that even the people of Wales did not know much about Wales. I felt that this book filled a gap in the market."
  Unfortunately the publishers did not agree, and Terry wrote to 80 or 90 firms before any (Christopher Davies from Swansea) took an interest. "I suggested they do it as one of four, with an A-Z of Ireland, England and Scotland, but they weren't interested, they saw it as a niche market," he said. Undeterred, Terry is also getting 1000 copies of his book printed in America, where he says there are about two million Americans who describe themselves as Welsh-Americans. And he hopes to update the book every two or three years. Terry had no problem with subject matter for the book - he reckons he is interested in just about every subject there is, from the Manic Street Preachers to Merlin (the wizard, not another pop group). "I have an attic and a garage full of books, you can never stop learning," he said. And there is a fair amount of humour in his selections, as well as political comment, which sees Prince Charles referred to as "Prince of Anywhere-but-Wales", and Wales’ seven wetlands of international importance listed under 'Bogs'. But alongside the Cool Cymru actors and pop stars, there is a wealth of information on more traditional Welsh culture, history, legend, art, literature and so on.
  "Wales is an absolutely fascinating country, I don't think there is another country of its size with so much to offer, we are almost up there with Italy and Greece. We also have almost a pacifist, socialist tradition which is very attractive," says Terry. "I think that schoolchildren in Wales should have a one-hour slot every fortnight to learn about their culture and history, and another hour about healthy eating and dieting, we are not a healthy nation." Returning to Wales after many years, he says, was like coming home to a warm blanket. But seeing the country with such travelled eyes also meant that Terry was deeply angered by the gap between the Welsh standard of living and that in England and elsewhere. "Cardiff is an absolutely fabulous Capital City, and I have been to 50 or 60 of them. There is a buzz about Cardiff. But then you go to places like Barry, Builth or Conwy. Cardiff seems to suck in all the resources and there is a shabbiness about the rest of Wales. The country is suffering economically and hurting really badly. There is almost a semi-depression about it, there are parents who know their children will never get jobs, at least not in Wales."
  Part of the problem, believes Terry, is that Wales has been badly served by a London government. But he is also concerned that politicians do not live in the real world and do not really know how to bring about economic success. "How can you run an economy when you can't even run a chip shop - or a whelk stall?" he asks. It may be no alphabetical coincidence that the entries for "Inward investment" and "invasion" appear on the same page in his book. Rather than call centres or assembly jobs for companies based outside Wales, Terry sees the answer to Welsh economic problems in indigenous industry.
   And that brings us back to the book. The entries on food, say, or festivals, are more than curiosities, they are to his way of thinking opportunities for tourism and industry to thrive. "It is disgusting that there are so many Irish theme pubs in Cardiff, but no Welsh theme pub. Why don't we have a Welsh pub with Welsh beers and Welsh food? We could have cawl, and laver bread curry, for example. Did you know Southern Comfort is based on a Welsh recipe?"  Similarly, Wales ancient holy wells, each of which is said to cure a different disease, could be opened up for tourism, instead of filling with litter. Or saints' weeks could be reinstated for at least some of Wales 800 saints - who incidentally are the subject of Terry's next book - again with huge potential for tourism.’

Julia Stuart, South Wales Evening Post, March 1 1999 (pre-publication in 2000)

Celebrating the Glories of a Proud Nation: (2-page review)

Julia Stuart reports on a book charting Welsh achievements: While Wales has produced heroes aplenty, their Welsh roots often remained unknown - most people are not aware, for example, of the crucial role the Welsh played in making America what it is today. Its third president Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration of Independence, was Welsh, and 18 of its 56 signatories were of Welsh descent.

Welsh lawyer Gouveneur Morris wrote the final draft of the Constitution, and fellow countryman Meriwether Lewis commanded and completed the first overland expedition to the Pacific Coast and back. These men are just some of the Welsh movers and shakers featured in a book being published in Swansea this summer. The A-Z of Wales and the Welsh by Terry Breverton pays tribute to the achievements of the Principality and its people.

The author decided to write the book after receiving one too many blank look when telling people where he was from, while on business trips abroad. "I was sick to the back-teeth of no-one knowing where I came from. From America to Lithuania they think we're part of England. They know us in Turin because there is a great statue of John Charles outside the Juventus ground. Apart from the few rugby-playing nations no-one knows us. The Scots and Irish are marvellous publicists compared to us".

Terry was also keen to open the eyes of the Welsh to their past and present glories. The lecturer in management and marketing at UWIC Business School said "What very few people realise is that British history was rewritten under the Hanoverians to justify the claims of a tiny German state to control the great British Empire of America, India and so on. They did it by ignoring the days of Christianity in the Britons of Wales and starting our history with the 'civilising' influence of the pagan German tribes from Saxony and Jutland.” Terry gleaned his information from hundreds of books, as well as from Welsh societies and historical associations. Originally from Barry, he decided to publish and launch the book in Swansea rather than Cardiff, because the city was more Welsh, he said.

[There follows a quiz based upon facts in the book]

Western Mail, March 14th, 2000 - by Rhodri Jones (full page review)

Traveller fulfils his mission to explain

Terry Breverton was so ashamed that no-one he met on his travels knew what or where Wales was, he decided to write a book about his native country. After travelling the globe for 20 years, he returned to Wales with a view to educate the people of the world and the Welsh people about all things Welsh….

He was in Paris during the student revolts, in Portugal during the Revolution, in Saudi Arabia during the attack on Mecca, and trapped in Iran when the Shah fled, but in that time he met few people who did not refer to Wales as just another part of England.

"All over the world, wherever I have travelled, not many people have heard about Wales," said Mr Breverton. "In some places people have heard of Wales but they thought it was part of England. I tried to explain to them, Wales was not part of England."

After returning home in 1993, Mr Breverton, a senior lecturer in marketing at UWIC Business School in Cardiff, decided to write a book to cover all aspects of Wales and Welshness. The result is the 300-page "An A to Z of Wales and the Welsh," which gives a comprehensive overview of Wales and its people, from Actors to the stand against the Zulus in South Africa. It addresses the language, culture, lifestyles, history, struggles and achievements of Wales. He said "Children are not taught enough Welsh history in schools and I would like the book to be used both by Welsh people and people from overseas to understand what being Welsh is all about. There is so much about Wales that people do not know. Not many people are aware that Wales is one of the oldest Christian countries in the world, going back to the 1st century AD. We have the oldest saints, more than 800 6th century saints, no other country has that."

Terry Breverton said that Welsh children should have at least one hour a week of Welsh history and current Welsh issues. He said the historical map had been re-drawn in Victorian times and people's education had suffered as a result. He said "I want the book t help people be proud to be Welsh and to make people think about the contribution Wales has made to the world. Being closer to a much larger neighbour, we have tended to keep our heads down and not shout about our national identity like the Scots and Irish."

Everything is covered, from Actors through to Zulus. The book covers a huge range of Welsh issues:

ACTORS: Catherine Zeta Jones topped many of the weekend 'Rich Lists' compiled by the London press and she makes an early appearance in the book, on the first page. She and several of Wales' actors are discussed, such as Richard Burton, Sir Anthony Hopkins and 19th century actress Sarah Siddons.

HISTORICAL FIGURES: The greats of Welsh history are included: Owain Glyndŵr, King Arthur, Rhodri Mawr, Gwenllian and Hywel Dda are among the figures portrayed.

CULTURE AND HERITAGE: The book gives an insight into the druids, the Eisteddfod, the language, the bards, the gymanfa ganu, Cool Cymru, philosophers and every other aspect of Welsh culture.

For learners and those fluent in Welsh an entire section is devoted to unravelling the mystery of the treiglad, or the mutation that makes Welsh one of the most beautiful languages in the world.

INDUSTRY: The heavy industries stamped their identity on Wales and its people, and the book discusses at length the effect of the rise, dominance and fall of the industries that powered the Victorians' quest across the globe in pursuit of an empire. Coal, steel, copper, iron and gold come under the spotlight as the book describes the influence and effect of the heavy industries on Wales and the Welsh. The latter-day influence of the WDA, inward investment and the marketing of Wales is discussed.

WALES AND THE WORLD: The Welsh had many fingers in many pies across the globe, but not many people are aware of how significant their influence was and is on world affairs. The discovery, mapping and development of the US and Australia owes a great deal to the Welsh.

ZULU: The last entry in the book tells the tale of the stand made by men of the South Wales Borderers at Rorke's Drift in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa in the 19th century. They were awarded the greatest number of Victoria Crosses at a single engagement when 82 men fought 4,000 Zulus for two days in 1879.

The Daily Mirror June 2nd 2000 Bob Arthur (full page)

Love Me Tender, I'm Elvis Preseli the real King of Cymru

Welsh link in book - Elvis fans were all shook up after an historian yesterday claimed the rock and roll legend is Welsh. Terry Breverton, from Cardiff, made the startling claim in his latest book, An A-Z of Wales and the Welsh, released this month. And he even says the King is named after an ancient chapel - the Saint Elvis - which is tucked away on a Welsh mountainside… (there follows a full-page report)

Dr. John Davies, Brecon, author of several Welsh history books:

Congratulations on 'An A-Z of Wales and the Welsh' … ‘certainly the best book of its type and the first to do genuine justice to our history and achievements. I've always thought it's time the record was put straight, and that such a book is sorely needed.’

New Welsh Review October 2000 by Peter Stead

Terry Breverton's A-Z is great fun. Until the Welsh Academy publishes its definitive Encyclopaedia this will be an indispensable set of crib notes to be consulted just before American visitors arrive. We have all enjoyed those moments when confused tourists have asked whether Wales has its own currency or whether there are dragons in Snowdonia, just as we have noted their amazement as we claim that nearly everyone who signed the Declaration of Independence was Welsh, and that bourbon, Yale and everything else of quality in North America was our bequest. This book helps in all these respects just as it reminds us when it was that the Celts came and when precisely our language, Christianity, laws, princes, outside-halves and rock bands emerged.

There are fine cover illustrations but perhaps this beautifully produced book needed others to accompany the text. Throughout, the author is unashamedly on our side and he is charmingly subjective, rarely missing the opportunity to mention his home town of Barry and drawing on his own field work. He was, for example, 'lucky enough to watch Welsh sheep teach their lambs to roll over the cattle grids….

Of course, we would have all done this exercise differently. I would have gone for separate entries on Preachers, chapels, socialism, Broadcasting and the University, but the book has merits of its own. We needed to know about Archers, Bogs, Crachach, Cremation, Ogham and the Severn Bore, and now we can tell the Americans that in the 1970's 'Brains was the only brewery left in Britain that sold more dark than light beer'; and we must not forget that Charles Windsor, 'Prince of Wales' is really Charles Saxe-Coburg-Gotha-Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg. What a name for a lager!

Western Telegraph, January 6th 2000

Just how much do you know about Wales? Probably not much, according to the author of a new book, 'The A-Z of Wales and the Welsh', which is being published on March 1st. The book, by Terry Breverton, is written from a purely Welsh perspective about the Principality's culture and achievements… The author, whose parents lived in Burton, then Hook, for many years, has had a varied career. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants and received one of the first MBA's in Marketing from a business school in 1974. His career has taken him all over the world … He hopes the book will help the Welsh to become as adept as the Scots and Irish in publicising their nation. "My book is about shouting Welsh achievement from the rooftops, not just for tourists, but for our own people to be proud about."

The Daily Mail, June 3rd, 2000 - by Richard Price (Full Page Article)

Elvis the Welshman!

When the King sang Crying in the Chapel, was he thinking about the Valleys?

He has always sounded as American as apple pie. But today, it is claimed, the musical roots of Elvis Presley lie not in the blues tradition of the Deep South but in the male voice choirs of South Wales. A historian based at the University of Wales in Cardiff is claiming the King as one of his own. Received wisdom has long stated that Elvis was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, 65 years ago with a potent mixture of Cherokee and Scottish blood.

Terry Breverton doesn't dispute his place of birth. But he believes there's a lot of Welsh in there, too. He even claims that the singer may have been named after an ancient chapel, the Saint Elvis, which is tucked away on a Welsh mountainside. He explains in a new book: 'It is thought that Elvis is of Welsh descent, from the Preseli Hills, not Scottish, and his father had the typical Welsh Christian name of Vernon. South of the Preseli Hills is an ancient chapel devoted to the Saint Elvis, the only one known in Britain.'

Should anyone doubt the veracity of his claim, Mr Breverton has built a catalogue of evidence in the book - An A-Z of Wales and the Welsh - to challenge traditional beliefs about Presley's ancestors. Mr Breverton points out that his twin brother Jesse Garon, who died at birth in 1935, had a Welsh second name. The star's mother Gladys had a Welsh name too. His grandmother Doll Mansell may have come from the famous family of Mansell from Oxwich on the Gower Peninsula' he continues…

'Although most Elvisologists believe that Elvis came from mixed Scottish and Cherokee blood, further research would probably solidify the Welsh connection at the expense of the Scottish'… (Note Elvis baptised his cousin David, the patron saint of Wales, at his holy well near St Elvis Church in the 6th century, and the first recorded American settler with the surname Presley was David 'Pressley'.

Barry & District News, April 13, 2000 - by Gareth Phillips

exciting and unashamedly pro-Welsh… ‘Terry Breverton said the book is the first in a series on Welsh heritage and culture, and  will provide a unique insight and education in Welsh culture both at home and abroad, from Welsh Americans to pagan religions. Terry said ‘There is a side to Welsh history and culture which is not taught in classrooms. The Welsh ‘hiraeth’ is difficult to explain but I spoke to a Welshman who had lived most of his life in England and described returning home as like returning ‘to a warm blanket’…’

Ninnau - The American Welsh Newspaper, June 2000 - by David Greenslade

Devolution has had a powerful effect on attitudes in Wales. Pubs, garages and fish and chip shops are almost as fond of flying Y Ddraig Goch (The Red Dragon) as Americans are of flying Old Glory. This flag-waving is quite harmless and appears to improve people's spirits. It has not degenerated into a 'Balkanisation of the British Isles' as some predicted it would.

This kind of pride is also becoming obvious in book publishing, newspaper articles and even policy decisions. With his 'A-Z of Wales and the Welsh’ author and business lecturer Terry Breverton has made an important addition to the Welsh reference bookshelf. Light-hearted and good-humoured, but packed with grim and serious facts, this alphabetically determined guide to Wales makes fascinating reading.

Under Z for example we have Welsh imperial activity in Zulu South Africa, presented factually, without either shame or triumphalism. The entry on Tourism includes a few sharp paragraphs on the disastrous decisions taken in this industry. This A-Z has many surprising as well as predictable entries and is clearly the result of a passionate interest in post-devolution Wales combined with impeccable research.

Professor Meic Stephens - Western Mail book Review, July 15, 2000

…I now turn to books of which I think much more highly, and this week they happen to be three works of history aimed at both the layman and professional historian. In 'An A-Z of Wales and the Welsh' Terry Breverton, who lectures in marketing at UWIC Business School in Cardiff, has made a brave attempt at a compendium dealing with many aspects of life in Wales from Actors to the Zulu Wars (Stanley baker, Ivor Emmanuel et al. Unashamedly up-beat and aimed at the tourist market - the delectable Catherine Zeta Jones and the iconic Dylan Thomas are shown on the cover - it nevertheless provides a good deal of information that readers in Wales will find useful. This is the perfect present for your relatives living abroad or the people you meet on holiday who ask 'Pleess, ver iss Vales?'

Dr. Peter N. Williams - Ninnau, November 2000, Y Drych, November 2000 [both USA] and November 2, 2000

‘Beginning with Actors and ending with Zulu Wars, T.D. Breverton has written a book that delivers what the title promises: a most comprehensive list of people, events and phenomena that have something to do with Wales. Far-removed from the usual alphabetical, dreary list of items, this book is delightful reading. As one who grew up in North Wales, where, as everyone knows, matters in English and architecture do not apply, I was surprised to find almost two full pages on architecture. Entries on Agincourt and Archers were expected, as were those on Arthur, but who other than Breverton would have include Assassination in his list? (- a detailed account of the life and death of the soldier of fortune, Owain Lawgoch).You may have already known about the eccentric Dr Price, whose cremation of his son led to the legalisation of that practice in Britain, but I'll bet you don't know that the first society in the world to give women the vote was the Welsh colony in Patagonia in 1865….

…. Whatever your interests in all things Welsh, past Invasions to present Inward Investments, from Politics to Sports, Bards to Buccaneers, An A-Z of Wales and the Welsh should satisfy your curiosity. Lovingly written by one who is devoted to letting the world know about Wales, past and present, good and bad, it is more than a history book, more than a gazetteer or guide; it is simply a well-crafted reference book to be dipped into often. It will answer many of your questions and certainly compound your interest in all things Welsh.

Planet - review in October 2000 by Ivor G. Hughes Wilks

‘Terry Breverton's Welsh A-Z bears no resemblance to the invaluable street guides that we so perversely lose after every sortie into London. It is, the author tells us, "a dip-in, dip-out", and a sort of "Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy" of Wales. To clarify this, Breverton explains that the book "is meant to be interesting, to be a guide to Welsh achievement and pride", and he expresses the hope that "both Welsh nationals and other nationals learn from reading this book, what made Wales and why it is so important to keep our sense of historical duty". Well, fair play, who could refrain from doing a little dipping-in and dipping-out?

An A to Z of Wales and the Welsh opens with 'Actors and closes with 'Zulu Wars'. More than a few readers will be surprised to find actresses Sarah Siddons, Myrna Loy, and Deanna Durbin among the distinguished Welsh precursors of Catherine Zeta Jones, but many will probably agree that only the early death of Stanley Baker in 1978 robbed him of undisputed recognition as Wales' greatest 20th-century film star. One of his most admired roles is that as Lt. Chard in 'Zulu', brilliantly defending Rorke's Drift with the assistance of Michael Caine and in Breverton's last entry, 'Zulu Wars' we are reminded that no less than eleven Victoria Crosses were won in the course of this battle so doggedly fought by the South Wales Borderers.

A mass of fascinating  information is contained in the 300 pages between Actors and Zulu Wars. Most if not all of it is derived from Breverton's eclectic readings. He draws on these eccentrically, thereby imprinting on the book a character that not all will find to their liking. The entry on Glyndŵr for example runs to nearly 1,000 lines, but Lloyd George and Aneurin Bevan receive only 41 and 35 respectively. Plaid Cymru is treated fairly sympathetically ('It is certainly the only party that Labour fears in the country') in 89 lines, but Madoc ab Owain Gwynedd, putative 12th-century settler in America, receives 290 lines under his own name and a further 88 in the entry for America. Such matters aside, much pleasure may be gained by dipping into this book though Breverton approaches each book with a seriousness of purpose that makes one long for more entries in the style of the one having to do with the abbey of Strata Florida: "near the resting place of the bard Dafydd ap Gwilym, is a Georgian tombstone to the amputated left leg of Henry Hughes, the rest of whom emigrated to America".

THE GUARDIAN 2 June 2000, by John Ezard

‘Saintly’ Elvis Preseli Hailed as a Son of Wales

Elvis Presley has been claimed as Russian, Japanese, Irish and Scottish – and now, according to a lecturer at Cardiff University, clear evidence exists that he was Welsh. Terry Breverton, who teaches business studies at Cardiff University, yesterday published An A to Z of Wales and the Welsh, and placed the dead singer’s name confidently among the Ps. Mr Breverton identifies the rock star’s ancestors not only coming from the Preseli Hills but as having links with a nearby chapel dedicated to St Elvis, ‘the only one known in Britain.’ The claim places the singer high in the history of Ireland as well as Wales. St Elvis of Munster was the monk who baptised the Welsh patron saint, David, at Porth Clais in 454AD. ‘Divine providence had brought St Elvis over from Ireland at that conjuncture’ says the Catholic Encyclopaedia.

Presley’s fans have linked him with sainthood since hearing his last words on his bathroom floor at Gracelands: ‘This must be what Jesus suffered.’ It was the death, they say, of a profoundly spiritual man, ‘ultimately exhausted by his merciless admirers’ Mr Breverton is not the singer’s first academic champion. At a conference in Memphis last year Vernon Chadwick said, ‘Many of Elvis’s moves that were considered vulgar were in fact bodily extensions of religious exaltation that he learned growing up in church’. But Mr Breverton is the first to link him with Wales. Other facts point to this, he says. ‘His dead twin, Jesse Garon Presley, had a Welsh second name, and his mother Gladys had a Welsh name too. His grandmother Doll Mansell may have come from the famous family of Mansell from Oxwich on the Gower peninsula. Although most Elvisologists believe that Elvis came from Scottish and Cherokee blood, further research would probably solidify the Welsh connection at the expense of the Scottish.’…

WESTERN TELEGRAPH 23 December 1999


David Breverton, whose parents lived in Burton, then Hook, for many years, has had a varied career. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants, and received one of the first MBA’s in marketing from a business school back in 1974. His career took him all over the world, working upon strategic planning for multinationals, and as an international marketing director. Tired of being away from his family, he returned to Wales five years ago to teach at UWIC Business School in Cardiff.

‘I was in France during the student riots of ’68, in Lisbon during the Revolution, and in Iran when the Shah was deposed’, he commented. ‘Iran was very hairy – the firm evacuated all the Americans before the borders were sealed, my villa was burnt and I had to hide out in the desert for a few weeks. I eventually crossed to Tehran and managed to get out, but my contract was terminated and had to look quickly for a new job… I moved to the Production Engineering Research Association and within days they sent me to Saudi Arabia. Of course, I was there when the Mosque in Mecca was attacked and martial law clamped down. The CIA must have a file on me somewhere correlating my movements with trouble.’

I asked what prompted him to write a book on Wales, and he responded:

‘I was sick to the back-teeth of no-one knowing where I came from. From America to Lithuania, they think we’re a part of England. In Turin they know us because there is a great statue of John Charles outside the Juventus ground. Apart from the few rugby-playing nations, no-one knows us. The Scots and Irish are marvellous publicists, compared to us. The story of Wales keeping its character and heritage when next to the most powerful country in the world is absolutely fascinating. What very few people realise is that British history was rewritten under the Hanoverians to justify the claims of a tiny German state to control the great British Empire of America, India and so on. They did it by ignoring the days of Christianity in Wales and starting our history with the ‘civilizing’ influence of the German tribes from Saxony and Jutland. As a result, no-one realises how Wales was instrumental in saving Christianity in a world context. Our ‘Age of the Saints’ from the Roman legions leaving around 400AD until 700AD were the ‘Dark Ages’ across the rest of Europe. Another problem with our history is that the Normans destroyed all the religious documents they could lay their hands on. In these, details of land ownership were noted in the margins, which they were not too keen on keeping. For instance, the wonderful ‘Book of St Chad’ at Lichfield Cathedral has land grants across the Vale of Glamorgan noted in it, but it was stolen and taken to England. Most of our records however were deliberately ‘lost’. We had the most civilised laws in Europe, female equality before any other nation, the greatest poetic heritage of any country – the list is endless.’

I asked why it mattered so much to him.

‘Without our culture and heritage, we have nothing left. Our problem is that it is not taught in schools to any reasonable level. Who knows about Owain Glyndŵr? Or Owain Llawgoch, one of the most famous warriors in medieval history? The fact is that we do not know it, and we can only attract tourists by these factors. There is no industry left in Wales, and only very few ‘skilled’ jobs’ I have been proselytising for years the fact that we do not help our own industry. I have given papers at conferences that Japanese companies only create part-time unskilled repetitive female jobs and that they pay no UK corporate taxes. Some have been operating here for over 20 years and paid no corporation tax. With present government policy giving Wales a GDP per capita lower than any other part of the UK, we have to do something ourselves to change it. Increased tourism can kick-start our sad economy, but we have to offer something extra, that sense of hiraeth that makes us return to Wales like lemmings. We have to get over that message about Wales that we instinctively know. My book is shouting Welsh achievement from the rooftops, not just for tourists, but for our own people to be proud about. If you look at some of the questions in my ‘Christmas Quiz’, it is amazing what we have done.’

Do you think a book can achieve this, to make us better at publicising Wales?

‘It is a start for me… we have a sort of scarred ‘national psyche’… that’s probably an incorrect sociological term, but it suits the purpose. To survive as a distinct people, to keep the language against the ‘Welsh Not’, to desperately want to beat England at rugby, to return here to live from warmer climates, there has to be something within us. I believe that when we were eventually conquered by the semi-barbarian Normans (– even their ‘royal’ families were illiterate –) who brought real torture into Wales, we had to keep our heads down. We agreed with them on the surface, but went our own way behind their backs. That served our purpose for hundreds of years, but now we need to market Wales. No-one is coming here for the weather. We all laughed at the moody, atmospheric ads of the WTB when we realised they were aimed at loners and backpackers, not people with spending power. We need a vibrant, on-going programme of events the year round, on a local as well as national level. My next book is dedicated to reviving the ‘Feast Weeks’ of local Welsh Saints’.

Why saints?

‘There are over 400 saints, and I have identified days (which were more important than Christmas for the local community before the nonconformist revival), holy wells, local customs and the like attached to various saints’ localities. The purpose is to kick-start culture like Iolo Morgannwg did with the eisteddfodau, but with an element of alcohol and enjoyment. If these days are taken up by local Women’s Institutes, businesses, pubs, CAMRA, Rotary Clubs, shops, schools, fairs, sports clubs, competitions and the like, there will be a plethora of venues all through the year for tourists and locals. Many churches were renamed by the Normans, and I am uncovering original dedications, e.g. Llanmaes was Llanffagan Fach, dedicated to St Fagan, Gileston was Llanfabon dedicated to Mabon, etc. This can also be an area where the Western Telegraph can help galvanise local communities by interchanging information.’

You have been busy – is there anything else in the pipeline?

‘Yes, my third book for 1999 is on Welsh pirates – the most cunning and gentle of all pirates was Hywel Davis, the most successful buccaneer in history was Sir Henry Morgan, and the most successful pirate, called by Newsweek the ‘last and most lethal’ pirate was ‘Black Bart’ Roberts from near Haverfordwest. I then want to follow with a series on Welsh sportsmen, politicians, scientists etc.’

What makes your ‘A-Z of Wales and the Welsh’ different from all the other books on Wales?

‘Well, Professor Sir Glanmor Williams, the doyen of Welsh historians, kindly proof-read it, and called it “Highly original” and said that it deserved to be published. It is original in that it is written purely from a proud, Welsh perspective – you cannot be too academic if you want to tell a story. It is a ‘dip-in, dip-out’ sort of book, that allows you to open it at random and become interested. I’ve given some academic papers at international conferences over the past few years, but I’m sick of that route Most people in colleges seem to know more and more about less and less, and forget the big picture. My forte is marketing, and I’ve identified something worthwhile to do with my life – to sell Wales to its own people’.

I agree that Wales has to improve its image as a tourist destination, and offer year-round attractions, but it’s a long term haul, isn’t it?

‘Certainly – the problem is that the people have to do it, at the local level across Wales – you can’t expect politicians to think long-term’.

You don’t think much of politicians then, but what about the National Assembly?

‘We’ve seen Wales decline in its standard of living compared not just to Europe, but to the rest of the United Kingdom. The Tories never put any money in, or showed any interest, because they know that Wales has never voted for the party of the ‘Crachach’. Unfortunately, we would vote for a sheep if it was the official labour candidate, so the Labour Party equally has no need to woo our votes. It is not a Labour Party that I recognise – it could have Heath or Major as its leader. It seems to have a public school control-freak in charge, with a strange wife that spent £6000 on taking her own hairdresser on the state visit to China. They are alien to my way of thinking, more like Daleks than socialists. I toyed with the idea of joining Plaid, and gave them ‘The Party of Wales’ idea, in the hope that they could compete in the more populous areas of Wales. If Labour gets a fright, we might see some money here. But Plaid has not worked out its economic policy properly. I think that many Labour people will mentally go to Plaid if Rhodri Morgan does not become leader of the Assembly – he has an independent intelligence lacking in people who reach positions of power in politics. The Blairite attempt to rig the voting to replace him with a cipher is misguided and symptomatic of the way that central government sees Wales. The waving of two fingers was a Welsh invention, and I think it’s what Whitehall needs now from this direction.’

Do you have any regrets in life?

‘Many – I’ve made loads of mistakes but learnt from them. But I wish I had spent more time here in Wales. I spent too little time with my wife and children. I wish I still played rugby – I finished aged 40, after 28 years of it, and I still feel pangs of regret about 5 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon when I should be on my fifth pint. I wish I’d been a nicer teenager to my mam and dad. I wish I had been brought up Welsh-speaking – my nan was a monoglot Welsh speaker. I wish Haden and Oliver had been prosecuted for cheating in rugby for New Zealand against Wales. I think most of all, I wish that I had been younger when I started this series of books – Wales is reviving at last, but it should have come earlier.’

WESTERN TELEGRAPH 30 December 1999 and 6 January 2000


Just how much do you know about Wales? Probably not much, according to the author of a new book The A to Z of Wales and the Welsh which is being published on March 1st. The book, by David Breverton, is written from a purely Welsh perspective about the Principality’s culture and achievements. David said he wrote the book ‘because I was sick to the back-teeth of no-one knowing where I came from. From America to Lithuania, they think we’re a part of England. The story of Wales keeping its character and heritage when next to one of the most powerful countries in the world is absolutely fascinating.’

The author, whose parents lived at Burton, then Hook, for many years, has had a varied career. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants and received one of the first MBA equivalents in marketing from a business school in 1974. He hopes the book will help the Welsh to become as adept as the Scots and Irish in publicising their nation. ‘My book is shouting Welsh achievement from the rooftops, not just for tourist, but for our own people to be proud about. If you look at some of the questions in my Christmas Quiz, it is amazing what we have done.

[There follows 50 questions, with the answers next week]

Professor Sir Glanmor Williams FRSA (1920-2005) ‘was the pre-eminent historian of Wales, the most prolific and the most authoritative, who made a magisterial contribution to our understanding of religion, language and society in Wales’ – obituary in The Independent. Professor Williams personally recommended it for publication, and in a later letter to the publisher, wrote: highly original this book is a totally fresh perspective upon Wales, its culture and history, and it is excellent to see it in print…’

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