REVIEWS AND COMMENTS ON 'AN A-Z OF WALES AND THE WELSH'

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Review from 'Cambria', January 2001

'Hwyl and Hiraeth, heritage and history, people and places, myths and imagination all come together in Terry Breverton's comprehensive anthology and compendium of Welshness. He starts by asking the question "What is Wales?" and then goes on to show us. The book is, as Breverton says, a sort of "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" that is Wales and declares modestly that his background is more modest than academic. We have just what's needed in this unashamedly proud-to-be-Welsh work. Everything from "Assassination" (Owain Llawgoch) to "Zulu Wars" (Rorke's Drift) is covered with few stones unturned (sadly Tom Ellis, one of the greatest of our political heroes, fails to get a mention). A massive treasure chest of facts and figures covering thousands of years of history, which no collector of books on Wales can overlook.'


South Wales Echo, April 14th, 2000, by Penny Taylor (full-page feature review)

All Things Welsh to the Letter in A-Z

If it takes more than a Catatonia song to feel proud of being Welsh, then maybe you should take a peek into a new book by Cardiff lecturer Terry Breverton.

"An A-Z of Wales and the Welsh" is the author's personal contribution to his country. And within its covers, alongside rugby, choirs and coal, are entries as diverse as assassination, Atlantis, Crachach, bogs, heroes and inward investment,

 The book was a labour of love for Terry, 53, and took four years to complete, plus another two to get published. He fitted the work into evenings and weekends, around his full-time job at the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff. But the man who specialises in marketing, corporate strategies and writing about multinational tax avoidance, sees the A to Z as far more than an interesting bed-time read - he wants the world to know about what Wales has to offer.

His reasons for writing the book have, he says, become something of an obsession. "I have worked all over the world from America to the Middle East," he said. "And I was really fed up with telling people that Wales was not a subset of England. When I came back to Cardiff three years ago, I could find nothing about the totality of Wales to show my children, who were born in England.

Then I realised that even the people of Wales did not know much about Wales. I felt that this book filled a gap in the market."

Unfortunately, the publishers didn't agree and Terry wrote to 80 or 90 firms before any *Christopher Davies from Swansea) took an interest. "I even suggested they do it as one of four, with an A to Z of Ireland, England and Scotland, but they weren't interested, they saw it as a niche market," he said.

Undeterred, Terry is also getting 1000 copies of his book printed in America, where he says there are two million Americans who describe themselves as Welsh-Americans. And he hopes to update the book every two or three years. Terry has had no problem with the subject-matter for the book - he reckons he is interested in just about every subject there is, from the Manic Street Preachers to Merlin (the wizard, not another pop group). "I have an attic full of books, you can never stop learning," he said.

And there is also a fair amount of humour in his selections, as well as political comment, which sees Prince Charles referred to a "Prince of anywhere-but-Wales" and Wales' seven wetlands of international importance listed under 'bogs'.

But alongside the Cool Cymru actors and pop stars, there is a wealth of information upon more traditional Welsh culture, history, legend, art, literature and so on.

"Wales has an absolutely fascinating history, I don't think there is another country of its size with so much to offer, we are almost up there with Italy and Greece. We also have a pacifist, socialist, Christian tradition which is very attractive", said Terry.

"I think that schoolchildren in Wales should have a one-hour slot every fortnight to learn about their culture and history and another hour every week about healthy eating and dieting, we are not a healthy nation."

Returning to Wales after many years was, he says, like coming home to 'a warm blanket'. But seeing the country with such travelled eyes also meant that Terry was deeply angered by the gap between the Welsh standard of living and that in England and elsewhere. "Cardiff is an absolutely amazing capital city, and I have been to 50 or 60 of them. There is a buzz about Cardiff. But then you go to places like Barry, Builth or Conwy. Cardiff seems to suck in all the resources and there is a shabbiness about the rest of Wales. The country is suffering economically and hurting really badly. It makes me very angry. There is almost a semi-depression about it, there are parents who know their children will never get jobs, at least not in Wales."

Part of the problem, believes terry, is that Wales has been badly served by a London government. But he is also concerned that politicians do not live in the real business world and do not really know how to bring about economic success. "How can you run an economy when you can't even run a chip shop - or a whelk stall?" he asks.

It may be no alphabetical coincidence that the entries for 'inward investment' and 'invasion' appear on the same page of the book. Rather than call-centres or assembly jobs for companies based outside Wales, Terry sees the answer to Welsh economic problems in indigenous industry.

And that brings us back to his book. The entries on food, say, or festivals, are more than curiosities, they are to his way of thinking, opportunities for tourism and industry to thrive.

"It is disgusting that there are so many Irish theme pubs in Cardiff, but no Welsh theme pub. Why don't we have a Welsh pub with Welsh beers and Welsh food? We could have cawl and laverbread curry for instance. Did you know Southern Comfort is based on a Welsh recipe?"

Similarly Wales' ancient holy wells, each of which is said to cure a different disease, could be opened up for tourism, instead of filling with litter. Or Saints' Weeks could be reinstated for at least some of Wales' 800 saints - who incidentally are the subject of Terry's next book - again with a huge potential for tourism.


 Julia Stuart, South Wales Evening Post, March 1 1999 (pre-publication in 2000)

Celebrating the Glories of a Proud Nation: (2-page review)

Julia Stuart reports on a book charting Welsh achievements:

While Wales has produced heroes aplenty, their Welsh roots often remained unknown - most people are not aware, for example, of the crucial role the Welsh played in making America what it is today. Its third president Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration of Independence, was Welsh, and 18 of its 56 signatories were of Welsh descent.

Welsh lawyer Gouveneur Morris wrote the final draft of the Constitution, and fellow countryman Meriwether Lewis commanded and completed the first overland expedition to the Pacific Coast and back. These  men are just some of the Welsh movers and shakers featured in a book being published in Swansea this summer. The A-Z of Wales and the Welsh by Terry Breverton pays tribute to the achievements of the Principality and its people.

The author decided to write the book after receiving one too many blank look when telling people where he was from, while on business trips abroad. "I was sick to the back-teeth of no-one knowing where I came from. From America to Lithuania they think we're part of England.

They know us in Turin because there is a great statue of John Charles outside the Juventus ground. Apart from the few rugby-playing nations no-one knows us. The Scots and Irish are marvellous publicists compared to us".

Terry was also keen to open the eyes of the Welsh to their past and present glories. The lecturer in management and marketing at UWIC Business School said "What very few people realise is that British history was rewritten under the Hanoverians to justify the claims of a tiny German state to control the great British Empire of America, India and so on.

They did it by ignoring the days of Christianity in Wales and starting our history with the 'civilising' influence of the pagan German tribes from Saxony and Jutland.

Terry gleaned his information from hundreds of books, as well as from Welsh societies and historical associations. Originally from Barry, he decided to publish and launch the book in Swansea rather than Cardiff, because the city was more Welsh, he said.


Western Mail, March 14th, 2000 - by Rhodri Jones (full page review)

Traveller fulfils his mission to explain

Terry Breverton was so ashamed that no-one he met on his travels knew what or where Wales was, he decided to write a book about his native country.

After travelling the globe for 20 years, he returned to Wales with a view to educate the people of the world and the Welsh people about all things Welsh….

He was in Paris during the student revolts, in Portugal during the Revolution, in Saudi Arabia during the attack on Mecca, and trapped in Iran when the Shah fled, but in that time he met few people who did not refer to Wales as just another part of England.

"All over the world, wherever I have travelled, not many people have heard about Wales," said Mr Breverton. "In some places people have heard of Wales but they thought it was part of England. I tried to explain to them, Wales was not part of England."

After returning home in 1993, Mr Breverton, a senior lecturer in marketing at UWIC Business School in Cardiff, decided to write a book to cover all aspects of Wales and Welshness. The result is the 300-page "A to Z of Wales and the Welsh," which gives a comprehensive overview of Wales and its people, from Actors to the stand against the Zulus in South Africa.

It addresses the language, culture, lifestyles, history, struggles and achievements of Wales. He said "Children are not taught enough Welsh history in schools and I would like the book to be used both by Welsh people and people from overseas to understand what being Welsh is all about. There is so much about Wales that people do not know. Not many people are aware that Wales is one of the oldest Christian countries in the world, going back to the 1st century AD. We have the oldest saints, more than 800 6th century saints, no other country has that."

Terry Breverton said that Welsh children should have at least one hour a week of Welsh history and current Welsh issues. He said the historical map had been re-drawn in Victorian times and people's education had suffered as a result. He said "I want the book t help people be proud to be Welsh and to make people think about the contribution Wales has made to the world. Being closer to a much larger neighbour, we have tended to keep our heads down and not shout about our national identity like the Scots and Irish."

Everything is covered, from Actors through to Zulus

The book covers a huge range of Welsh issues:

ACTORS: Catherine Zeta Jones topped many of the weekend 'Rich Lists' compiled by the London press and she makes an early appearance in the book, on the first page. She and several of Wales' actors are discussed, such as Richard Burton, Sir Anthony Hopkins and 19th century actress Sarah Siddons.

HISTORICAL FIGURES: The greats of Welsh history are included: Owain Glyndwr, King Arthur, Rhodri Mawr, Gwenllian and Hywel Dda are among the figures portrayed.

CULTURE AND HERITAGE: The book gives an insight into the druids, the Eisteddfod, the language, the bards, the gymanfa ganu, Cool Cymru, philosophers and every other aspect of Welsh culture.

For learners and those fluent in Welsh an entire section is devoted to unravelling the mystery of the treiglad, or the mutation that makes Welsh one of the most beautiful languages in the world.

INDUSTRY: The heavy industries stamped their identity on Wales and its people and the book discusses at length the effect of the rise, dominance and fall of the industries that powered the Victorians' quest across the globe in pursuit of an empire. Coal, steel, copper, iron and gold come under the spotlight as the book describes the influence and effect of the heavy industries on Wales and the Welsh. The latter-day influence of the WDA, inward investment and the marketing of Wales is discussed.

WALES AND THE WORLD: The Welsh had many fingers in many pies across the globe, but not many people are aware of how significant their influence was and is on world affairs. The discovery, mapping and development of the US and Australia owes a great deal to the Welsh.

ZULU: The last entry in the book tells the tale of the stand made by men of the South Wales Borderers at Rorke's Drift in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa in the 19th century. They were awarded the greatest number of Victoria Crosses at a single engagement when 82 men fought 4,000 Zulus for two days in 1879.


 The Daily Mirror June 2nd 2000 Bob Arthur (full page)

Love Me Tender, I'm Elvis Preseli the real King of Cymru

Welsh link in book - Elvis fans were all shook up after an historian yesterday claimed the rock and roll legend is Welsh. Terry Breverton, from Cardiff, made the startling claim in his latest book, An A-Z of Wales and the Welsh, released this month. And he even says the King is named after an ancient chapel - the Saint Elvis - which is tucked away on a Welsh mountainside…(there follows a full-page report)


John Davies, Brecon

Congratulations on 'An A-Z of Wales and the Welsh'; certainly the best book of its type and the first to do genuine justice to our history and achievements. I've always thought it's time the record was put straight, and that such a book is sorely needed.


New Welsh Review October 2000 ,  by Peter Stead

Terry Breverton's A-Z is great fun. Until the Welsh Academy publishes its definitive Encyclopaedia this will be an indispensable set of crib notes to be consulted just before American visitors arrive. We have all enjoyed those moments when confused tourists have asked whether Wales has its own currency or whether there are dragons in Snowdonia, just as we have noted their amazement as we claim that nearly everyone who signed the Declaration of Independence was Welsh, and that bourbon, Yale and everything else of quality in North America was our bequest. This book helps in all these respects just as it reminds us when it was that the Celts came and when precisely our language, Christianity, laws, princes, outside-halves and rock bands emerged.

There are fine cover illustrations but perhaps this beautifully produced book needed others to accompany the text. Throughout, the author is unashamedly on our side and he is charmingly subjective, rarely missing the opportunity to mention his home town of Barry and drawing on his own field work. He was, for example, 'lucky enough to watch Welsh sheep teach their lambs to roll over the cattle grids….

Of course we would have all done this exercise differently. I would have gone for separate entries on Preachers, chapels, socialism, Broadcasting and the University, but the book has merits of its own. We needed to know about Archers, Bogs, Crachach, Cremation, Ogham and the Severn Bore, and now we can tell the Americans that in the 1970's 'Brains was the only brewery left in Britain that sold more dark than light beer'; and we must not forget that Charles Windsor, 'Prince of Wales' is really Charles Saxe-Coburg-Gotha-Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg. What a name for a lager!


Western Telegraph, January 6th

Just how much do you know about Wales? Probably not much, according to the author of a new book, 'The A-Z of Wales and the Welsh', which is being published on March 1st. The book, by Terry Breverton, is written from a purely Welsh perspective about the Principality's culture and achievements… The author, whose parents lived in Burton, then Hook, for many years, has had a varied career. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants and received one of the first MBA's in Marketing from a business school in 1974. His career has taken him all over the world … He hopes the book will help the Welsh to become as adept as the Scots and Irish in publicising their nation. "My book is about shouting Welsh achievement from the rooftops, not just for tourists, but for our own people to be proud about."


The Daily Mail, June 3rd, 2000 - by Richard Price (Full Page Article)

Elvis the Welshman!

When the King sang Crying in the Chapel, was he thinking about the Valleys?

He has always sounded as American as apple pie. But today, it is claimed, the musical roots of Elvis Presley lie not in the blues tradition of the Deep South but in the male voice choirs of South Wales. A historian based at the University of Wales in Cardiff is claiming the King as one of his own. Received wisdom has long stated that Elvis was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, 65 years ago with a potent mixture of Cherokee and Scottish blood.

Terry Breverton doesn't dispute his place of birth. But he believes there's a lot of Welsh in there, too. He even claims that the singer may have been  named after an ancient chapel, the Saint Elvis, which is tucked away on a Welsh mountainside. He explains in a new book: 'It is thought that Elvis is of Welsh descent, from the Preseli Hills, not Scottish, and his father had the typical Welsh Christian name of Vernon. South of the Preseli Hills is an ancient chapel devoted to the Saint Elvis, the only one known in Britain.'

Should anyone doubt the veracity of his claim, Mr Breverton has built a catalogue of evidence in the book - An A-Z of Wales and the Welsh - to challenge traditional beliefs about Presley's ancestors. Mr Breverton points out that his twin brother Jesse Garon, who died at birth in 1935, had a Welsh second name. The star's mother Gladys had a Welsh name too. His grandmother Doll Mansell may have come from the famous family of Mansell on the Gower Peninsula' he continues.

'Although most Elvisologists believe that Elvis came from mixed Scottish and Cherokee blood, further research would probably solidify the Welsh connection at the expense of the Scottish'… (Note Elvis baptised his cousin David, the patron saint of Wales, at his holy well near St Elvis Church in the 6th century, and the first recorded American settler with the surname Presley was David 'Pressley'.


Barry & District News, April 13, 2000 - by Gareth Phillips

…exciting and unashamedly pro-Welsh… the first in a series on Welsh heritage and culture, and it will provide a unique insight and education in Welsh culture both at home and abroad.


Ninnau - The American Welsh Newspaper, June 2000 - by David Greenslade

A - Z

Devolution has had a powerful effect on attitudes in Wales. Pubs, garages and fish and chip shops are almost as fond of flying Y Ddraig Goch (The Red Dragon) as Americans are of flying Old Glory. This flag-waving is quite harmless and appears to improve people's spirits. It has not degenerated into a 'Balkanisation of the British Isles' as some predicted it would.

This kind of pride is also becoming obvious in book publishing, newspaper articles and even policy decisions. With his 'A-Z of Wales and the Welsh author and business lecturer Terry Breverton has made an important addition to the Welsh reference bookshelf. Light-hearted and good-humoured, but packed with grim and serious facts, this alphabetically determined guide to Wales makes fascinating reading.

Under Z for example we have Welsh imperial activity in Zulu South Africa, presented factually, without either shame or triumphalism. The entry on Tourism includes a few sharp paragraphs on the disastrous decisions taken in this industry. This A-Z has many surprising as well as predictable entries and is clearly the result of a passionate interest in post-devolution Wales combined with impeccable research.


Meic Stephens - Western Mail book Review, July 15, 2000

…I now turn to books of which I think much more highly, and this week they happen to be three works of history aimed at both the layman and professional historian.

In 'An A-Z of Wales and the Welsh' Terry Breverton, who lectures in marketing at UWIC Business School in Cardiff, has made a brave attempt at a compendium dealing with many aspects of life in Wales from Actors to the Zulu Wars (Stanley baker, Ivor Emmanuel et al.

Unashamedly up-beat and aimed at the tourist market - the delectable Catherine Zeta Jones and the iconic Dylan Thomas are shown on the cover - it nevertheless provides a good deal of information that readers in Wales will find useful.

This is the perfect present for your relatives living abroad or the people you meet on holiday who ask 'Pleess, ver iss Vales?'


Peter Williams - Ninnau, November 2000, Y Drych, November 2000 and britannia.com November 2, 2000

Beginning with Actors and ending with Zulu Wars, T.D. Breverton has written a book that delivers what the title promises: a most comprehensive list of people, events and phenomena that have something to do with Wales. Far-removed from the usual alphabetical, dreary list of items, this book is delightful reading. As one who grew up in North Wales, where, as everyone knows, matters in English and architecture do not apply, I was surprised to find almost two full pages on architecture. Entries on Agincourt and Archers were expected, as were those on Arthur, but who other than Breverton would have include Assassination in his list? (- a detailed account of the life and death of the soldier of fortune, Owain Lawgoch).You may have already known about the eccentric Dr Price, whose cremation of his son led to the legalisation of that practice in Britain, but I'll bet you don't know that the first society in the world to give women the vote was the Welsh colony in Patagonia in 1865….

…. Whatever your interests in all things Welsh, past Invasions to present Inward Investments, from Politics to Sports, Bards to Buccaneers, An A-Z of Wales and the Welsh should satisfy your curiosity. Lovingly written by one who is devoted to letting the world know about Wales, past and present, good and bad, it is more than a history book, more than a gazetteer or guide; it is simply a well-crafted reference book to be dipped into often. It will answer many of your questions and certainly compound your interest in all things Welsh.


Planet - review in October 2000 by Ivor G. Hughes Wilks

Terry Breverton's Welsh A-Z bears no resemblance to the invaluable street guides that we so perversely lose after every sortie into London. It is, the author tells us, "a dip-in, dip-out", and a sort of "Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy" of Wales. To clarify this, Breverton explains that the book "is meant to be interesting, to be a guide to Welsh achievement and pride", and he expresses the hope that "both Welsh nationals and other nationals learn from reading this book, what made Wales and why it is so important to keep our sense of historical duty". Well, fair play, who could refrain from doing a little dipping-in and dipping-out?

An A to Z of Wales and the Welsh opens with 'Actors and closes with 'Zulu Wars'. More than a few readers will be surprised to find actresses Sarah Siddons, Myrna Loy, and Deanna Durbin among the distinguished Welsh precursors of Catherine Zeta Jones, but many will probably agree that only the early death of Stanley baker in 1978 robbed him of undisputed recognition as Wales' greatest 20th-century film star. One of his most admired roles is that as Lt. Chard in 'Zulu', brilliantly defending Rorke's Drift with the assistance of Michael Caine and in Breverton's last entry, 'Zulu Wars' we are reminded that no less than eleven Victoria Crosses were won in the course of this battle so doggedly fought by the South Wales Borderers.

A mass of fascinating  information is contained in the 300 pages between Actors and Zulu Wars. Most if not all of it is derived from Breverton's eclectic readings. He draws on these eccentrically, thereby imprinting on the book a character that not all will find to their liking. The entry on Glyndwr for example runs to nearly 1000 lines, but Lloyd George and Aneurin Bevan receive only 41 and 35 respectively. Plaid Cymru is treated fairly sympathetically ('It is certainly the only party that Labour fears in the country') in 89 lines, but madoc ab Owain Gwynedd, putative 12th-century settler in America, receives 290 lines under his own name and a further 88 in the entry for America.

Such matters aside, much pleasure may be gained by dipping into this book though Breverton approaches each book with a seriousness of purpose that makes one long for more entries in the style of the one having to do with the abbey of Strata Florida: "near the resting place of the bard Dafydd ap Gwilym, is a Georgian tombstone to the amputated left leg of Henry Hughes, the rest of whom emigrated to America".


NINNAU (USA) REVIEW BY DAVID GREENSLADE

Devolution has had a powerful effect on attitudes in Wales. Pubs, garages and fish and chip shops are almost as fond of flying Y Ddraig Goch (The Red Dragon) as Americans are of flying Old Glory. This flag-waving is quite harmless and appears to improve people's spirits. It has not degenerated into a 'Balkanisation of the British Isles' as some predicted it would.

This kind of pride is also becoming obvious in book publishing, newspaper articles, music making and even policy decisions. With his 'A-Z of Wales and the Welsh' author and business lecturer Terry Breverton has made an important addition to the Welsh reference bookshelf. Light hearted and good humoured but packed with serious and often grim reading, this alphabetically determined guide to Wales makes fascinating reading.

Under Z for Zulu for example we have Welsh imperial activity in Zulu South Africa, presented factually, without either shame or triumphalism. The entry on Tourism includes a few sharp paragraphs on disastrous decisions taken in this industry. This A-Z has surprising as well as predictable entries and is clearly the result of a passionate interest in post-devolution Wales combined with impeccable research.


 The A-Z was featured on BBC Radio 1, Radio 2, Radio 3, Radio Wales 'The World Today', Radio World Service, The World (USA), GMTV (two transmissions featuring the author, an Elvis Presley impersonator, the Haverfordwest Male Voice Choir on 5/6/2000), with articles in The Daily Mirror and The Guardian, and interviews on many radio shows including Capital Gold with Dave Lee Travis (6th June), Radio 1, Radio 2 Richard Allinson Show  (6th June), BBC Radio Ulster (8th June), Radio 4, Radio Wales (Roy Noble, and Owen Money) and   the BBC World Service. The piece about Elvis was even picked up by the Sidney Morning Herald, French television and radio and flashed across the web overnight, including Elvis sites and Reuters, ITN and BBC News online sites. (The book has also been featured in The News of the World, National Enquirer, New York Times, Boston Globe, Daily Express, Times, Sunday Times, and upon French radio and TV).

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WALES BOOKS (Glyndwr Publishing)
Porth Glyndwr, Higher End, St Tathan, Vale of Glamorgan, CF62 4LW
Tel/Fax: 01446 751693
e-mail:
Terry@breverton.eclipse.co.uk

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