Reviews of Rhosneigr People and Places
Book reviews Adolygiadau llyfrau
Review by Marc Collinson [for the Anglesey Antiquarian Society, 2018.
As a fellow Yorkshireman long resident in north-west Wales, I can appreciate and
understand the peculiar affection and appreciation that Tim Hale has developed for
Rhosneigr. Lovingly put together, Hale’s compendium of all things historic regarding his
charming and picturesque subject. The author brings together stories, historical
documents and photographs that brings this scenic village to life. As noted in reviews of
his previous book about the novelist W. D. Owen, Rhosneigr is clearly his labour of love,
demonstrating the spellbinding power a charming seaside town has on those not
brought up in one.
Rhosneigr: People and Places does what it promises. It is a marvellous miscellany,
tracking the stories and idiosyncrasies of local residents and those associated with it.
Those not familiar with these links cannot fail to be impressed. The famed DJ John Peel,
forgotten WWII Admiral Max Horton who led the Royal Navy in the Battle of the
Atlantic, and Florence Nightingale all appear, as does Prince William, the Duke of
Cambridge. Too many histories of localities ignore the reality that a place is the sum not
just of its parts, but also its outside influence. Hale’s book never fails to place the village
in the midst of great events. Neither does it miss that classic staple of coastal histories -
the shipwreck. Historically, these were often significant, life changing events. Sheltered
communities comparatively cut off from the outside world were all a sudden dragged
into a major disaster by the force of nature. Without spoiling Hale’s medley of disasters,
robberies and sensations, these form a fascinating backbone to the story, emphasising
the importance of the ocean to how we consider the histories of Rhosneigr, Anglesey,
and that of Great Britain. As the historian Glenn O’Hara has observed, the divisions
between ‘maritime history’, ‘coastal history' and the history of land-based events have
eroded in recent years. American scholar Isaac Land has likewise suggested that
‘Coastlines would not exist without their proximity to the ocean, but their character is
not determined solely by the ocean's action'. Whether intentionally or not, Hale's
collection reflects this discipline wide change in focus and assumption in the
relationship between sea and land.
As with all texts, there are always quibbles. For instance, a more clear sense of
organisation would assist its flow. It is neither chronological nor thematic, which can
lead to a sense of confusion. This does not damage the experience if the book is
designed to be dipped in and out of a chapter at a time, but it makes more committed
reading difficult and at times frustrating. However, this is likely as much a testament to
taste as serious criticism. The enthusiasm and passion that flows through this book's
pages should not be dimmed. Whether you possess a fascination with, or just a passing
interest in, Rhosneigr or Anglesey and their history, it is worth a read.
Reviews of The Rhosneigr Romanticist.
Welsh Coast Magazine, June 2011
An enlightening look into the life of one of Anglesey's most fascinating characters. The Rhosneigr Romanticist explores the life of W.D.Owen and his romantic stories set against the atmospheric backdrop of Rhosneigr.
Madam Wen, Owen's most famous novel about a legendary highwaywoman, and the earlier romance Elin Cadwaladr, are both presented in abridged versions translated into English for the first time. A rare treat for fans of Welsh literature or history, the book also includes reviews and critiques.
Clearly a labour of love for author Tim Hale, who comes from Sheffield but considers himself a Rhosneigr devotee, this interesting title gives non-Welsh speakers a chance to enjoy Owen's excellent novels."
Welsh Country Magazine, Mar-Apr 2011
Rhosneigr is a pretty village on the West coast of Anglesey, North Wales. It has been a popular tourist destination for over 100 years. William David Owen was a Rhosneigr solicitor turned author whose works were serialised in the Welsh language newspaper Y Genedl Gymreig (The Welsh Nation). In 1925, his romantic historical novel 'Madam Wen' was published in the Welsh language. It is an exciting tale of smuggling in 17th Century Anglesey. Tim Hale's book introduces 'Madam Wen' and the earlier romance 'Elin Cadwaladr' to an English-speaking audience. It is a carefully researched and well presented book which will appeal to a wide audience."
Cambria Magazine Vol 12 No.3 (Dec 2010)
(also noted as Vol 12 No.1 on the inside pages !) `,p>W.D. Owen (1874-1925). An Anglesey barrister, is author of two early adventure novels, Elin Cadwaladr (1914) and Madam Wen (1925). The second of these, published in book form barely a fortnight before he died, is by far the better. It's a popular romance about a female Robin Hood who was perhaps based on Margaret Wynne, wife of the squire of Chwaen Wen in the nid-eighteenth century. The story was made into a television film in 1982. This nicely illustrated book brings together all we need to know about the author and includes an abridged english-language version of his tales. It will revive interest in Owen, who deserves his niche in the history of the novel in Welsh."
Yattar Yattar Magazine, Winter 2010-11
"The Rhosneigr Romanticist is the tale of WD Owen, a respected Welsh Solicitor and author who lived in and around Rhosneigr for much of his life. The first section of the book relates to the background of Owen and his family, while the second half consists of abridged versions of the romantic two novels he had published - translated into English. There are charming illustrations throughout and it is a fascinating insight into the lives of islanders and their journeys to other parts of the British Isles."
Amazon, Romance far from dead on Anglesey, 16 August 2010
At long last, a translation of the Welsh classic novel 'Madam Wen'. Smugglers, Jacobean attempts on the English throne, 17th century Anglesey, and a lady heroine with a historical basis. Plus the real life romance that the quiet country solicitor WD Owen died just two weeks after his book was published and never enjoyed the knowledge that his story was read by children and adults across Wales for generations. Madam Wen is a household name in Wales.
Tim Hale is over-modest to call himself the editor of this book. It is beautifully reproduced and copiously researched. I learn something new every time I open it, and I have known the area for years. If you are on or near Anglesey this August, I understand there is an exhibition on in Rhosneigr Library based on the book which is worth a visit.
Country & Border Life Magazine, June 2010
William David Owen based his novel Madam Wen on the Anglesey legend of a woman of society who led a double life as a highwaywoman. This book is a tribute to the author, including a biography and abridged versions of both Madam Wen and his other story, Elin Cadwaladr, in English. The translations allow English readers to appreciate the romantic style and soft humour that Owen brings to the topics of religion and politics. This is a worthy homage to an overlooked Welsh author."
Picture Postcard Monthly Magazine, June 2010
The Rhosneigr Romanticist is a remarkable tribute to a native of the North Wales seaside village, W.D.Owen. Sheffield-born (and still domiciled) Tim Hale fell in love with Rhosneigr after childhood holidays there and his fascination with the place has already led to the publication of a book featuring postcards of it. Now he has via his own publishing company, produced this volume of the writings of Owen, in particular two novels, including a story about the mythical Madam Wen, a kind of Welsh version of the bogeyman. Originally in the Welsh language, Owen's work has been translated by Jenni Hyatt. All this would be of no interest to postcard collectors (unless you're Welsh or fond of Welsh culture) except for the intriguing way that Mr Hale has used an array of topographical cards to illustrate the work. The first part of the work is a biography of Owen, who was among other things a teacher in Clay Cross, Derbyshire and a solicitor in Muswell Hill. All his geographical movements provide an excuse for the compiler/editor to include a relevant postcard. Perhaps the most surprising of all these are team photos of the Yorkshire and kent county cricket teams of c1908, inserted courtesy of a village shop conversation
Y Rhwyd [The Net], February 2010
Tim Hale has done our non-Welsh speaking friends in the community a favour by bringing to them abridged versions of both Madam Wen and Elin Cadwaladr [along with] interesting facts about the life of the author, W.D.Owen.”
Amazon, A scholarly tour de force, 18 November 2009
Other than a few lines in the Dictionary of Welsh Biography (now online via the National Library of Wales) the Anglesey born author William David Owen has been largely lost to the general inquirer. One might say much the same for his writings; it is still, just, possible to find sale copies of his book, Madam Wen, in its original (1925) Welsh language edition, on the Internet. However, of his earlier work, Elin Cadwaladr, there seems to be no trace. This is perhaps unsurprising, because, as Tim Hale now informs us, the story was never published in book form. Therefore Hale's assembly, one might say, rescuing, of the text is, in itself, of significant literary importance. Surely of equal value though are the translations of both texts into English, carried out by Jenni Wyn Hyatt, which, for the first time, allows those unfamiliar with the Welsh language to enjoy them.
And most enjoyable they are! Though I do have an interest to declare; my maternal grandfather hailed from Llanfihangel yn Nhowyn, which is in the midst of the area where Owen, who was also born nearby, set Madam Wen's adventures. I spent a large part of my childhood and early adult life in the vicinity, so am familiar with the territory as it were. Interestingly perhaps, my ancestors were also named Owen, though I am not aware of any family relationship - it is after all a fairly common name in those parts.
There is much more to The Rhosneigr Romanticist than just translated adventures though. The book is divided into five sections, plus a segment of references and bibliography and an index. The first 59 pages comprise a detailed biography of Owen, complete with a wealth of graphical content. Hale has made copious use of primary sources, ensuring that this will certainly constitute the definitive biographical work on Owen for the foreseeable future, and probably for all time unless some previously unknown source of material is unearthed.
The next two sections form the translated and abridged versions of Owen's works, followed by `Reviews and Comments.' This contains a wealth of previously published, though not widely known or easily accessible, material on Owen and his writings. Translated where necessary by Hyatt, this section contains reviews and opinions, including those on the somewhat ill-starred 1982 film version of Madam Wen. This was a project that caused some damage to the reputation, and finances, of S4C (the Welsh language edition of Channel 4) who commissioned it. Hyatt's contribution goes beyond translation however; she is responsible for the intelligent and scholarly four-page `Critical Appraisal' of Elin Cadwaladr and Madam Wen. Finally, there are a series of Appendices, which in the main deal with the sources of the legend of Madam Wen - or was it just a legend? You'll have to read the book to find out!
As originally conceived, The Rhosneigr Romanticist was supposed to form the second volume of Hale's earlier work, Rhosneigr: Then and Now A Pictorial History. Indeed though it is stated to be a part of that series this is far too modest a claim; it transcends the local history genre and will thus appeal to a much wider audience. It is a book that works on several levels, being well written and produced and complemented throughout with relevant and colourful graphics. Finally, though eminently accessible it is, undoubtedly, a scholarly tour de force.
Amazon, Excellent Reading! 27 December 2009
I think Mr. Stephenson sums it up very well.
This book was a very welcome Christmas present and will provide good reading, with many years of "dipping in" from time to time between visits to our caravan at Rhosneigr.
Tim Hale's first book, "Rhosneigr Then & Now" was also excellent!
Letters to the editor
Anglesey County Archives Service, 18th November 2009
Congratulations on this wonderful book which is the fruit of so much hard work and thank you.As you say some of the missing information will probably emerge but in some ways this is a good result to come from your extensive research.
Anon, 11 December 2009
Congratulations! I have just finished reading the book, and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. You have done meticulous research, and it is very well presented in a very readable format. Thank you for working so hard to bring one of the neglected characters of Anglesey to life.
Hornsey Historical Society, 29 November 2009
Your book has arrived safely at the Old Schoolhouse. I spent some time looking at it before handing it over to Hugh last Friday for him to have the chance to read it first. I was most impressed with the presentation - the book is very well set out in a way which greatly enhances the reader's interest. There are so many illustrations; it's excellent.