REVIEWS AND COMMENTS ON '100 GREAT WELSHMEN'

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WESTERN MAIL MAGAZINE - 2-PAGE REVIEW September 1, 2001

CENTURIONS WHO GUARD OUR HERITAGE

Terry Breverton's passion for Welsh history puts him ahead of many academics, says Dean Powell

An uncontrollable passion for the history of his homeland and the desire to promote its unique culture across the globe are qualities that author Terry Breverton has in abundance. Like a hundred other Welshmen I can name, Breverton is the sort of talker who thinks he can put the world to rights, or Wales at least, and would like to handle Rhodri Morgan, Graham Henry, the WRU and Cardiff Rugby Club in an afternoon.

The difference is that he has the drive to do something about it.

Because of this the man who has ignored the taunts of academics to publish a series of popular history books despite having no qualifications in the subject whatsoever. And why did he put his head down in the first place? Face the obstacles of no financial assistance in publishing his extensively researched works, remortgaging his house in the process, coupled with battling the typical Welsh trait of besmirching anyone who dares make a success of themselves and raise above the everyday norm?

Simply because he was disgusted by the lack of Welsh history books on offer, ashamed at what he perceives as the Welsh nation's inability to promote itself wider than its own boundaries and infuriated that not even the Welsh themselves knew enough about their own country. Apathy in the extreme.

Breverton, aged 54, may not hold a professorship, but his overpowering enthusiasm to raise the profile of Wales' unique culture puts him ahead of many of his superiors. His books are not the heavy tomes that only fellow academics can truly appreciate, they are accessible to everyone, even though he admits they are open to criticism because some may wonder if his facts are nothing more than sweeping statements which enjoy little proof of authenticity.

But no, Breverton is not the modern-day Iolo Morganwg, sacrificing truth in a vain attempt to create an even more fascinating image of Welsh history. He doesn't need to, because as a nation, we have more than most, and he knows that better than anyone.

Now he wants to ensure that his discoveries are shared by releasing a fascinating compendium of short biographies celebrating some of Wales' most venerable sons. 100 Great Welshmen (Wales Books - Glyndwr Publishing, 18.99) is a revealing volume illustrating the great and the good with Welsh connections, either by birth or family ancestry.

Admittedly all the usual suspects are included - Richard Burton, Tom Jones, Sir Geraint Evans, Gareth Edwards, Gwynfor Evans, Idris Davies, Aneurin Bevan, Jimmy Wilde and Saunders Lewis. But probably the most fascinating are the ones we either tend to forget are Welsh, or had no prior knowledge of their Celtic connection in the first place.

John Adams, the first occupant of the White House; Father of the American Revolution Samuel Adams; revolutionary Oliver Cromwell; cinematic pioneer D.W. Griffith; comedian Tommy Cooper; US President Thomas Jefferson, the list goes on and on.

From heroes of Waterloo and computer engineers to lethal pirates and golf champions, Breverton has attempted to include them all, and that's no mean feat given our colourful heritage.

Hats off to him for the painstaking research involved in every single one, a trademark which is typical of his previous works in 'An A to Z of Wales and the Welsh', followed by 'The Book of Welsh saints', self-financed and published in Wales. Next on the list is 100 great welsh Women, and undoubtedly he'll come under some criticism for that too.

After all, how can you compile a book like this and NOT leave someone out? Breverton explained, "I was on the radio promoting 100 Great Welshmen, talking to Tanni Grey-Thompson and Gareth Edwards, and a caller asked me why George Thomas was not in it. My response was that he would never be in any book of mine, and that the caller should ask the people of Aberfan why. After the interview, one of the BBC staff was quite pleased and told me that the top people there always treated him as a cross between the Queen Mother and a saint when he appeared in the studio.'

Educated at Barry Boys Grammar School, Breverton admits to passing his three A-levels with little effort since the love of his young life was on the rugby pitch rather than the classroom. He played for Barry Youth and then at Manchester University before finally hanging up his boots in redcar at the age of 38.

After graduating with an Economics Degree, followed by a Masters in Marketing at Lancaster University, Breverton's career saw the Welshman wave a fond farewell to the land of his fathers and work in the Khuzestan oilfields of Iran, on  the biggest construction project in the world, where they capped gas flares across 600 square miles of desert. That was before Khomeini came in, his villa was burned down, and he was forced to hide in the desert for weeks because all the points of exit were closed.

After closing his own management consultancy company in Leicester in  the downturn caused by the  Thatcher government, he took up a high-profile job as an international marketing manager, responsible for strategic planning across 120 countries.

But realising how much he missed his wife and young children, it was time to return to Wales and that's where the flair for writing and fascination with history began.

"I started using my leisure hours trying to tell my children why I felt 'hiraeth' about Wales. There was nothing in the bookshops I liked the look of, so I wrote 'An A to Z of Wales and the Welsh', which was a purely Welsh perspective on Welsh history and culture. Also in 2000, I completed the hefty 'The Book of Welsh Saints', after six years research.

We've got so much to offer, but I fail to understand why organisations like the Assembly just don't visualise the wider picture. In a country where we can't get a beer tent in the Eisteddfod, we have a very narrow perspective and that is frightening.

If we don't make a positive move to promote our identity, history and culture, there won't be anything left to celebrate."


NINNAU (USA) by Dr Peter Williams:

Now and again a book comes along that answers most, if not all your questions about your Welsh heritage. Who are the Welsh, who are their military heroes, political leaders, writers, poets, kings, princes, saints, historians, explorers, men of industry, famous actors, athletes and religious leaders? T.D. Breverton, who gave us The Book of Welsh saints and An A-Z of Wales and the Welsh, had provided the answers in his latest body of knowledge: a single volume with the informative title 100 Great Welshmen.

The author includes not only those who have contributed so much to the making of Wales, but also many personalities who made their mark on American history. The single volume reference book gives biographical information on those persons of Welsh descent whom became influential in the political and industrial life of the United States, such as Presidents John Adams, John Quincy Adams, James Monroe, and Thomas Jefferson; the father of the American Revolution Samuel Adams; business tycoon J. P. Morgan, film pioneer D.W. Griffith, explorers John Evans and Meriwether Lewis and so on. The author even includes those terrors of the high seas, Black Bart, the infamous pirate, and Captain Henry Morgan.

The amount of research that went into the making of this book is astounding, it seems the author left no stone unturned in order to ferret out information concerning his subjects. He has produced a veritable gold mine of a book that you can dip into again and again. 100 Great Welshmen will make you proud of your Welsh heritage by reminding you that the little country of Wales has contributed so much to the modern world in so many areas…..


 THE WESTERN MAIL, May 11th 2001, by Rhodri Evans

 New Book springs some surprises on history's greatest Welshmen

POETS, PRESIDENTS AND A PIRATE TO BOOT

The lives of some of Wales' most famous figures are set out in a new book published today. Terry Breverton's new book 100 Great Welshmen celebrates the achievements of 100 men of Welsh blood who have left their mark on history.

It contains the names of four American presidents, Hollywood superstars, Christian saints and some of the political and cultural minds who have shaped the modern world. Some, like Dylan Thomas and Owain Glyndwr, immediately spring to mind, but others to make the list include great architects Frank Lloyd Wright and John Nash, and Confederate president Jefferson Davis. Below are just some of the famous names to make the list. The list is in alphabetical order.

Aneurin Bevan 1897-1960, Politician

Tredegar-born Nye Bevan secured his place in history as a powerful orator and the architect of the National Health Service. From the age of 13 he worked in coal mining and rose to become one of the leaders of the South Wales miners. In 1931 he was elected as the Labour MP for Ebbw Vale and was a founder of the left-wing Tribune newspaper. Following World War II he was made Minister for Health in the Attlee government and pushed through the National Insurance Act which set up the National Health Service. He resigned in 1951 over the issue of prescription charges but later became Hugh Gaitskell's shadow foreign secretary. At the time of his death, from cancer, he was deputy Labour leader.

Richard Burton 1925-1984, Actor

One of the great screen actors of all time Richard Burton was born Richard Jenkins in the village of Pontrhydyfen near Port Talbot. During his career he made a total of 60 films, including The Taming of the Shrew, Where Eagles Dare and The Robe. He was nominated for an Oscar 7 times, but never met with success. Burton was famously married five times, twice to his co-star in Cleopatra, Elizabeth Taylor.

Tommy Cooper 1922-1984, Comedian

Caerphilly-born Cooper is widely regarded as one of Britain's finest comedians ever. He made his TV debut in 1947 and by the mid-50's was regularly appearing in one-off TV specials, and in 1957 he was given his own show Cooper's Capers. He died on stage during a live broadcast from Her Majesty's Theatre.

Jefferson Davis 1808-1889, President of the Confederate States of America

Jefferson Davis was born in Kentucky, the great-grandson of Welsh immigrant John Davies. A West Point graduate he served as Secretary of War under President Franklin Pierce. Following South Carolina's declaration of secession in 1860 and the split of the United States he was elected as the President of the Confederate States of America in February 1861. The war lasted from 1861-1865 with the Confederacy finally overcome, after which he was imprisoned. Following his release he became a businessman and died at the age of 82.

Gareth Edwards 1947- , Rugby Player

The Welsh rugby star assured his place in history by scoring the most replayed try ever in the Barbarians 23-11 win over New Zealand in 1973. His career included three Grand Slams and five Triple Crowns. In 1996 Rugby World magazine voted him as the greatest player of all time.

Owain Glyndwr 1354/5 - 1415?, Wales' Greatest Hero

It is claimed in legend that Owain Glyndwr's ancestry goes back to the great Welsh prince Rhodri Mawr. After serving Richard II of England in the Scottish war, he returned to Wales to retire to his family's estates in the Dee Valley. But when Richard II was forced from the throne by Henry IV, Glyndwr found part of his lands seized by Lord Grey of Ruthin. On September 16, 1400, Glyndwr raised his standard  and was declared Prince of Wales. The revolt ebbed and flowed over the next decade until Glyndwr's last bastion Harlech Castle fell in 1409. What happened to Glyndwr in his final years is uncertain and the date of his death and the location of his grave remain a mystery.

Thomas Jefferson 1743-1826, Author of the American Declaration of Independence

Thomas Jefferson was born in Albemarle County, Virginia, the son of a man from the Snowdon foothills. His original draft of the famous declaration was stronger in content, but some sections, including an anti-slavery promise, were removed. He was America's third President after George Washington, serving from 1801-1809. He was also the first of the American Presidents to live at the White House.

Tom Jones 1940- , Singer

Born Thomas Jones Woodward in Treforest near Pontypridd he spent his early adult years doing a series of menial jobs. By 1963 he had formed his own group, but it was his rendition of It's Not Unusual in 1963 that shot him to fame. His other famous hits include Delilah and The Green Green Grass of Home. His latest album Reload, released in 1999, included duets with a host of current chart-topping acts.

David Lloyd George 1863-1945, Politician

The son of a Pembrokeshire schoolteacher, he was born in Manchester. Following a career as a solicitor he joined the Liberal Party and became the Liberal candidate for Caernarfon Borough. He won the seat by just 18 votes, and became, at 27, the Commons' youngest MP. As Chancellor of the Exchequer he introduced pensions in 1908 and health insurance in 1911. Serving as Minister for War from 1915-16, and following a split within the Liberal party, he became Prime Minister in 1916. He was defeated in the election of 1922.

Captain Henry Morgan 1635?-1688, Buccaneer

Originally from Abergavenny, he left Bristol to make his fortune in the West Indies in 1655. He joined the crew of a privateer in 1662 and soon had enough spoils from raiding Spanish shipping to buy his own vessel. Raiding out of Jamaica he soon amassed a huge fortune and married the daughter of the island's deputy governor. He was knighted by King Charles II and became Jamaica's lieutenant-governor.

Dylan Thomas 1914-1953, Poet

One of the greatest poets of the 20th century, Dylan Thomas was born at 5, Cwmdonkin Drive, Swansea. In 1931 he left school to work as a journalist on the local newspaper and in 1933 his poem And Death Shall Have No Dominion was published in the New English weekly. His poetry was published in three books - 18 Poems, 25 Poems and Map of Love. In the early 1950's he toured America performing Under Milk Wood. It was on the fourth tour, in 1953, that he died.

 

*The book 100 Great Welshmen is produced by Glyndwr Publishing and is on sale from today at bookshops throughout Wales. A companion volume, 100 Great Welsh Women, is expected later this year.


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. Everythin 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.'


Review from the 'South Wales Echo' May 19, 2001 full-page review

Big Blasts from the Past (Life and Soul Feature)

Welsh Author Terry Breverton is tirelessly trumpeting the successes of his forefathers. Jo Manning meets the man on a mission to popularise Wales' past.

Pride is not a big enough word to describe what Welsh author Terry Breverton feels for his country. His books, including his latest '100 Great Welshmen' attempt to popularise Wales' turbulent history and he's putting an awful lot on the line, including remortgaging his house to pay for his own publishing business, to see it in print.

But Terry feels he is fighting a losing battle. The 54-year-old, a well-travelled businessman who now lectures in marketing and business management at The University of Wales Institute Cardiff, says he is fed up with what he views as Wales' apathy to its past and its future.

"I want to promote a sense of pride within Wales about its past," said terry, a self-confessed workaholic who has had to fit in research for his four books in the past year when his university timetable allows.

"People just do not know about the breadth of influence Welsh people have had upon the world. I want my books to change this, but it's hard. We just seem to be so down-trodden and people don't want to stick their necks out. There is a strong sense in Wales that we are going backwards. But it really shouldn't be that way. We have more heritage than any other country in Europe, apart from Greece and Italy. We have a fabulous story to tell."

Despite his obvious enthusiasm, Terry says his previous books - The Book of Welsh Saints, An A-Z of Wales and the Welsh and The Secret Vale of Glamorgan - have sold more copies in countries outside Wales - in America in particular.

I don't know why it is, but the ex-pats glory in Wales and its history. They've really lapped up my books in the States and I probably sell as many of them over there as I do here. Many people who've never even been to Wales but who have Welsh ancestry have been more helpful in providing information than people who have lived here all their lives.

Many of the entries in 100 Great Welshmen are no longer than two pages long, so are really easy to scan through. It's a book you can pick up and put down - accessibility was really important to me because I want to reach as many people as possible. I'm even hoping to do a series of Little Books of Great Welshmen and later this year I'll be publishing 100 great Welsh Women.

The book itself enthusiastically mixes entries on great historical figures like Owain Glyndwr with more modern heroes like Gareth Edwards and Sir Anthony Hopkins, and proclaims many of them to be the greatest in their field. Whether or not this is true is open to argument but it is clear that Terry, a staunch left-winger, is totally convinced by their claims, and says he could have easily written about 500-600 more great Welshmen.

Although brash about his writing and more than willing to talk at length about his beliefs, Terry still enjoys a quiet life at home with his family in St Athan in the Vale of Glamorgan and stopped jet-setting around the globe in 1993 in order to spend more time with them. "The books take up a lot of time and often I am up till 2am researching and writing", he explained. "But the periods I spent away from my family in the past mean that they are used to it and at least now I am working from home. There isn't any money in this type of writing or publishing, though."

Terry felt compelled to write about Welsh history after discovering on trips to Iran, America, Germany and Portugal that many people thought Wales was part of England. Now Terry wants more Welsh history taught in schools so that the next generation, including his own children, can be inspired to even greater achievements. "As you can see from 100 Great Welshmen there are more people from the past than the present included in it, and this is why I used an empty chair on the front cover of the book. It's supposed to signify that there's no-one coming through who can follow on from their forefathers' achievements. I know that my children will probably have to move away from Wales to be successful because there is such a lack of opportunity here. Welsh people seem resigned to working for other people instead of becoming entrepreneurs themselves."

One thing is for sure, Terry Breverton will continue to work away at his life's dream of making Wales proud again, and, who knows, he may just inspire the next Aneurin Bevan or Dylan Thomas to make something of themselves.


Review from New Welsh Review

'This book is great fun….'


South Wales Argus full-page review May 14th 2001

Meet Greatest Sons of Wales by Ben Black

Wales is not just a land of rugby players and male voice choirs.

A new book reveals 100 great Welshmen and it contains just one rugby player and a few singers.

It details colourful characters like Captain Henry Morgan, the famous buccaneer from Abergavenny. In one raid he 'plundered a quarter of a million pieces of gold and silver coins, jewellery, silks, spices, munitions, weapons and slaves.'

Author Terry Breverton, 54, told the Argus: "There are some people I would like to put in like JPR Williams but I thought you can't stereotype Welsh people by putting in loads of rugby players. In terms of sporting people, I have got Bobby Jones, the great golfer, John Charles and Billy Meredith, fabulous footballers, and Gareth Edwards.

I have written two books in the last year on Wales, and about 20 or 30 names just fell onto the page. I think they are people of importance to Wales and who are regarded as important by other countries.

There is one guy called Murray the Hump who was born Llywellyn Morris Humphreys. He became Number One Public Enemy in America following on from Al Capone. For his daughter's birthday party he got Frank Sinatra to sing.

The book reveals that Wales even has links to the White House. Mr Breverton said: "Five of the first six American presidents were of Welsh extraction. In the history of America we are absolutely amazing. The greatest architect Frank Lloyd Wright, the greatest film director D.W. Griffith - both Welsh people.

I think certainly some have had a huge influence on the world like Thomas Jefferson with the Declaration of Independence."

But Mr Breverton fears there are not many current Welsh people who could take their places in the book. "I think the problem is with Wales that we do not have anybody coming along into this book."

He explained the significance of the cover of his book. "It is Dylan Thomas's bedroom with an empty chair in it. So who is going to be the next one? Probably my favourite entry is on The Miner. Those people have done so much for Wales and lived in such horrible conditions bringing up families. I think they deserve a mention all on their own."


Letter to Author

I hope you don't mind me writing to you, but I was compelled to. I have just brought the book '100 Great Welshmen'. I have been unable to put it down and have read every last word in the Appendix. Astounding and inspiring work, that put me to shame. I had very little knowledge of my heritage, but I have now vowed to re-educate myself. With such associations now being set up, I hope that our future in Wales and our language is about to flourish. Thank you for inspiring hope. Diolch yn fawr, Mared, lyygodenfach@aol.com

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

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