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This report is taken from PN Review 188, Volume 35 Number 6, July - August 2009.

Letter from Wales Sam Adams

At Tonyrefail Grammar School, some time in 1947-8, I first became aware of the source of the core narrative of Richard Llewellyn’s How Green Was My Valley. I remember the occasion well because it was a revelation that the novel was about a family from Gilfach Goch, my home valley, and I recall it now because 2009 sees the seventieth anniversary of its publication.

It was probably during a wet lunch hour, when, as a relatively senior pupil, I was keeping an eye on a well-behaved first-year class. I wandered among the desks exchanging a few words with individuals and looking at an exercise book here and there. One of the books I picked up, intending no more than a cursory glance, at once caught and held my attention. Among the earliest pieces of writing was an account of how the boy’s grandfather had told Richard Llewellyn about the early days of coal mining in Gilfach Goch, and the struggle between miners and coal owners at the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth. The boy’s name was Teifion Griffiths, and the incident I have described certainly occurred in 1947-8, because (as he has recently told me) before that school year was over, his family left Gilfach for London and he continued his education there.

I have long thought How Green Was My Valley easily the best novel to come out of the experience of the south Wales coalfield. Re-reading it in ...

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