I have loved all history (regional, local, national and international) since early childhood. But if three events inspired my interest in Welsh political protest and why I resolved to approach historical writing in an impartial and balanced manner, they are as follows:
In my early twenties, I learned that the water pipeline from Cwm Elan to Birmingham, at a point no more than five miles from my family home in Llandrindod, had been targeted by Welsh militants in 1952 and 1967. I reacted with happy surprise, only to be mildly chastised by my mother because my father, at the time I was born a young PC, had routinely walked the Radnorshire section of the pipeline in search of explosive devices. She explained that she had both feared for his safety and realised that should he be injured, or worse, she faced the prospect of bringing up three young boys on her own.
During my childhood, I spent periods during the school holidays on my grandparents’ farm in mid-Wales. On one occasion, when aged nine or so, my grandmother and I were looking out of the kitchen window across to the hill opposite, when she spoke fearfully that her home might be targeted for flooding. Although my grandparents’ farm had not been directly targeted, her statement – or so I later came to understand – was in response to the proposal by the River Severn Authority, a few years previously, to flood Cwm Dulas near Pant-y-dwr (some 12 miles away from the farm). She implored me: ‘Don’t let it happen here’. It was, or what I perceived to be, her sense of bewilderment, sadness and helplessness, which instilled in me a belief that Wales and its people needed to be protected from injustice. (I address the River Severn Authority’s proposal, and the Cwm Dulas Defence Committee’s successful campaign, in Chapter 3 of Tryweryn: New Dawn?).
Embarking on a period of global backpacking in my twenties, having been told that the undertaking would dilute my Welsh nationalism, I returned home even more convinced of Wales’ unique cultural identity and its own ‘special place’ in the world.