Of Boys, Men and Mountains - Life in the Rhondda Valley by Roy Tomkinson
|Of Boys, Men and Mountains - Life in the Rhondda Valley by Roy Tomkinson|
|Reviewer: Trish Simpson-Davis|
|Summary: Life as a boy growing up in the coalmining community of Rhondda. Interesting.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 264||Date: May 2006|
|Publisher: Y Lolfa|
Y lolfa is a publishing and printing company dedicated to promoting Welsh writing and culture of many kinds. Their large author list includes Roy Tomkinson, with an interesting autobiography of his Rhondda Valley childhood.
Roy Tomkinson comes over as pretty sentimental about aspects of his childhood. He was born into a family of boys, and surrounded by an extended family spread along the valley. He was a child in the nineteen fifties, when post-War austerity was still a feature of life in Wales. Nevertheless, discipline, love and understanding were meted out by his parents in equal measures to provide a strong platform for his childhood adventures. Roy and his gang grew up free-ranging the valley, teaching their dogs and ferrets to catch rats, trespassing on industrial land, learning about girls, and entirely missing the growing affluence of central Britain. For them, it was idyllic, and the author makes it clear, many times, how lucky he feels to have enjoyed such a stable childhood environment.
Poverty was a fact of life which worried the adults and was taken for granted by the kids. Only now is Roy irked by the harsh life his parents and grandparents endured in order to feed and clothe their families. Roy's male relatives in the Rhondda were all coal miners, except one, injured in an industrial accident who worked at the pit head instead. There was little opportunity for advancement in career or wealth. Only one brother had ever left, to better himself in London. He was loved and missed, but there was no doubt in anyone's mind that the family remaining in the Rhondda had a better life, despite their financial and physical hardships, because they were close-knit by birth and united by choice (and the pub).
The threat of death was never far away for the hard-working wives and mothers. Roy describes an accident at the pit, conveying in detail the terror, despair and grief of the lucky and unlucky members of the community. Even if they survived the dangers of a working life underground, men contracted fatal lung diseases from the Black Gold and died early, often leaving widows with dependant children.
Progress has swept both good and bad from Welsh mining communities, leaving nostalgia for the old but precious few new opportunities for the young. Perhaps, despite the privations of life half a century ago, Roy Tomlinson is right to be sentimental.
If you are interested in Welsh social history, this book is for you and thanks to the publishers for sending it. We also enjoyed Struggle or Starve by Carole White and Sian Williams, which is a fascinating anthology from the perspective of women's lives, a little earlier in the century.
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You can read more book reviews or buy Of Boys, Men and Mountains - Life in the Rhondda Valley by Roy Tomkinson at Amazon.com.
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