Saturday, 26 June 2010

How To Make The Job Work

What happens to columnists when they’ve done six hundred and find the place where they started coming round again? If you were Tom Davies then you’d simply carry on. Tom, novelist, raconteur, reporter, investigative hack and perpetual commentator on the vagaries of life in Wales has spilled the beans in his recent Berwyn Mountain Press paperback, The Reporters Tale. Davies was for many years a columnist on this paper. He was a firecracker of a journalist who delivered news and insight as often as he did outrage, indignation and shed loads of damning with faint praise.

His life as a regional journalist making good on the London nationals and then falling from grace and returning to Wales makes for exhilarating reading. The story of his trials and tribulations is almost as engaging as the stuff on which he reported. Davies began work on the Mail in grand company. Among fellow newcomers in 1966 were Geraint Talfan Davies, later Controller of the BBC, Meic Stephens, Director at the Welsh Arts Council and Rhys David, editor of the Financial Times. The Mail, it turns out, has much to answer for.

Tom went on to work on the Guardian, The Daily Express and The Sunday Times

with episodes as a coalman and a Christian evangelist in between. In that way of wayward creatives who are never happy where they are he ended up working as a novelist. There are sixteen fat titles listed on this ink man’s bibliography. One Winter of the Holy Spirit, the story of Evan Roberts and the 1904 revival in Wales is an excellent place to start.

Herbert Williams also did time with Media Wales although it was called the South Wales Echo back then. This much loved seventy something performing poet, novelist and historian can still be found making spirited forays onto the poetry platform. Phil Carradice has pieced together his life in a Writers of Wales series critical handbook. The Williams volume tells the story of an Aberystwyth-born Anglo-Welsh pioneer who tangled with news stories as often as he wove fiction.

Like Tom, Herbert found the place he began, the old Welsh Gazette, creatively stifling. He went to work on the Reading Standard before shuttling back to Wales to scribe for the South Wales Echo, the Wales Tourist Board and then the BBC.

Novels, poetry, histories of trains, stagecoaches and monuments spun out of him.

Try Davies The Ocean, the story of the great industrialist David Davies Llandinam or A Severe Case of Dandruff, his novel about the ravages of TB to see what a class journalist can turn out when he puts his mind to it.

These two are writers who made the job work. Check them out.

A version of this post appeared as The Insider in the Western Mail of Saturday 26th June, 2010. #153

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