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Real Merthyr

Mario Basini
Publication Date: 
Saturday, November 1, 2008
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Merthyr Tydfil, seldom can a town of 55,000 people have had such a long and such a varied history. Named after the slaughter of Tudful, daughter of the Prince of Brycheiniog in a time before history was written, site of a Roman fort (at Penydarren, now under the football ground), site of a Norman castle (at Morlais), the epicentre of the Industrial Revolution and the British Empire, a byword for socialism and republicanism, then a byword for the post-industrial south Wales valleys: iron, steel, coal closures, high unemployment, inward investment from Japan.

Present day Merthyr is the result of the industrial revolution (which threw up another martyr: Dic Penderyn) which set the tone of the town in the form of varying degrees of deprivation meant to be ameliorated by fine Victorian buildings paid for by the local ironmasters. Its people (from all over Wales, England, Europe) took on a political mindset which is beginning to change only now. Indeed, Merthyr is beginning to change in many ways, perhaps now shrugging off the weight of its history.

Native Merthyrman Mario Basini gives the town the ‘Real’ treatment, mixing history, myth and personal experience to produce a new, sometimes astounding, view of a place at once representative of south Wales and carving out a new identity for itself. From Dowlais Top and the ironworks to Penydarren Park, from Lady Charlotte Guest to Johnny Owen, from the Gurnos to the cholera cemetery and from Vaynor Church and the Crawshays to the salami and steamed pies of Basini’s Café, this is an enthralling guide to one of the most important small towns of Britain.

'Real' Series Editor: Peter Finch

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