Jun 15, 2009

Author’s tribute to her parents’ “awesome courage” in the face of anti-Welsh sentiment

Across the Severn is Eva Goldsworthy’s heartfelt tribute to her parents, who were forced to uproot themselves from Wales after the 1921 miners’ strike and had to face down anti-Welsh sentiment when they moved to England.

The author says, “This book is an account of two people I loved. From one angle their lives were uneventful but they illustrate the great courage inherent in the Welsh as a people – the way they stick to a task and make the best of difficult circumstances. May and Joe stayed true to this tradition even though they would have been the last to admit it.”

More than a family’s story, Across the Severn is also an excellent piece of social history. Events in the lives of the protagonists are constantly rooted in the wider context of the turbulent politics of the early 20th century. Goldsworthy examines the devastating effects of pit closures in the Valleys and the 1921 miners’ strike, which left her father with no choice but to seek work in “hostile” England. On a trip home to Ogmore Vale in 1926, the author observed firsthand the “obvious signs of poverty” following the General Strike. She says, “I remember boarded-up shops and thin, grey-faced men hanging around on street corners. The coal mine owners had taken their revenge and there had been savage cuts in employment, most of all for the so-called ‘agitators’. The burning aim of most of the youngsters in Ogmore was to get out.”

The author also includes her reminiscences of the time she spent working on the development of radar and nuclear fission during the Second World War. Socialism, the emancipation of women, and the swan-song of the English gentry are amongst the other wide-ranging topics which form a background to this fascinating story of how individuals coped with the difficulties they faced during an era of unprecedented change.

Eva Goldsworthy was born in Wales but spent most of her life in London as a mathematics teacher. She has three daughters and now lives in Llanfyllin. She is also the author of A Flat-Pack in Greece.

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