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Joseph Parry: A Welshman of Note   (second edition)         Written by Christopher James; read by Colin Wheldon James

Dr Joseph Parry is arguably the greatest composer that Wales has produced and is certainly one of Wales’s most important cultural figures. He was born in Merthyr Tydfil on 21 May 1841 to a working-class family that emigrated to America when Joseph was thirteen years old. His love for music was strong and he gained many successes at eisteddfodau in America before turning his attention to the National Eisteddfod of Wales with consequent renown. He subsequently studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London, and became the first professor of music at the new university in Aberystwyth. He is famous throughout the English- and Welsh-speaking world for his hymn tune ‘Aberystwyth’; and his part-song ‘Myfanwy’, from his opera Blodwen, remains ever popular. He died in 1903.

Health and Death in 19th-century Swansea                            Written and read by Colin Wheldon James

By the middle of the nineteenth century, Swansea was a vibrant place, a major centre of metallurgical and extractive industry, and already well on its way to becoming a port of international importance. Under the impetus of these economic developments, the town was also growing rapidly, its population having expanded almost three-fold in the first half of the century, to stand at just under 17,000 by the time of the census of 1851. Industry and commerce brought prosperity to nineteenth-century Swansea, but there was a price to pay. Pollution from copper smoke made the town a very insalubrious place in which to live. Rapid, unplanned urban development, to cater for the needs of a fast-growing population, resulted in poorly built houses, overcrowding, lack of sanitation, and an inadequate water supply. Small wonder that in the 1830s and 1840s, the town was frequently visited by epidemics, particularly those of typhoid and cholera.

The Role of the Supernatural in the First Crusade                Written and read by Colin Wheldon James

The First Crusade, which lasted from 1096­ to 1099, may be considered the only really successful crusade in that it achieved its stated goal, but it demanded great courage and stamina of its participants in their journey to the Holy City of Jerusalem, fighting their way through an unforgiving hostile territory. But courage and stamina by themselves were not sufficient to guarantee any manner of success. The additional quality that the crusaders needed, and which was to be the most valuable to them, was faith: faith in their God, who would deliver the Holy City to them despite the horror and hardship that they suffered. Their courage and strength of the natural world lent them much of the determination to persevere through heat and thirst, cold and hunger, battle and bloodshed; but what they accepted as God’s will gave them a perception of the power of the supernatural. And without the supernatural the First Crusade would have disintegrated long before it reached Jerusalem.

The Marcher Lordship of Gower and the Founding of Medieval Swansea               Written and read by Colin Wheldon James

To the Roman, Swansea did not exist. The site was not on his route as he marched westward through south Wales and it served no useful military purpose. So he ignored it. To the Viking, the site of the future Swansea was a useful position for a trading community. It provided safe anchorage for his ships within the natural harbour of the bay and was one of a number of such communities along the south Wales coast. To the Norman, the Welsh commote of Gŵyr promised revenue and relative stability, and the knoll near the mouth of the Tawe satisfied his need for a suitable location on which to build his caput, his principal castle. Around that castle would grow a community that became the leading settlement within the Norman lordship of Gower, a settlement that developed into an important borough, and a significant sea-port. The story leading to the foundation of the urban community that became Swansea is a fascinating one, and it is a story that this present audiobook goes some way to tell.

The Story of Swansea Castle    (second edition)                      Written and read by Colin Wheldon James

Swansea Castle stands today within a modern city and is relatively unnoticed by the city’s shoppers. Around it stand commercial and retail premises, which is probably appropriate as it brings to mind the building’s past status as the principal castle of the lordship of Gower, and which dominated the small town that grew at its feet. The history of Swansea Castle over its lifetime is of great interest. While other medieval castles have been just medieval castles, Swansea Castle’s identity has changed over the centuries by diverse uses, which provide the building with a relatively unique character and a certain element of charm.

This audiobook was produced in collaboration with the Swansea Branch of the Historical Association

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Gwyrosydd: The story of Daniel James, the poet who wrote Calon Lân                      Written and read by Rhian Rees

Almost everyone in Wales recognises the hymn 'Calon Lân', usually these days from hearing it on television, or in the rugby stadium, rather than in chapel. It found a new audience most recently on national television when a boys' choir impressed talent show judges by singing it. Although the hymn is still well-known, few people have any idea who wrote the words. The writer was Gwyrosydd: his given name was Daniel James, and he was a Swansea boy who became a household name in Wales. He was an exceptional man who on the one hand lived the life of a Victorian labouring man, but on the other was fêted and celebrated for his writing by the most eminent judges of Welsh literature of the time. Three books of his poetry were published, and innumerable other poems appeared in various newspapers, but he never made any serious money and died a poor man. This audiobook aims to reveal something of the man behind the hymn.

The Rebecca Riots: Social Unrest in 19th-century South-West Wales                      Written and read by Colin Wheldon James

Much of the popular fascination with the Rebecca Riots lies in the manner in which they were carried out: men dressed in women’s clothing and frequently having their faces blackened or wearing masks, attacking toll-gates at night to the accompaniment of much noise and, in the early stages, holding a mock trial before beginning the work of destruction.

In the unsophisticated agricultural world of 19th-century south-west Wales, people were generally God-fearing and law abiding, but when the law oppressed them, when it deviated from God’s law to incarcerate them in workhouses, to support avaricious landlords, to impose on poverty-stricken chapel-goers the burden of supporting an alien Anglican Church, and when rapacious toll-farmers erected toll-gates where none had previously existed, the people looked for justice. And when the law refused them, they turned to their traditions of natural justice and looked to their Bibles to justify their actions.