Merthyr Historian vol. 28

The Merthyr Tydfil Historical Society are pleased to announce the publication of volume 28 of the Merthyr Historian.

The book will be officially launched on 11 December 2017 at The Redhouse (the Old Town Hall) in Y Faenor Room (The Gallery) at 2.30pm.
Details of the latest volume are below.
Volume 28
Christine Trevett & Huw Williams, Editors
Published 2017 – ISBN 978-0-9929810-2-0
An Editorial Statement
1. Ars Gratia Artis: Popular Culture and the Making of Modern Merthyr Tydfil by Huw Williams
2. Rediscovering J.O. Francis (1882-1956) The Distinguished Merthyr-born Playwright by Mary Owen
3. Pilgrimage of a Vagabond: The Harry H. W. Southey Story by Christopher Parry
4. More Than Just a Bed-cover, More Than Just a Dress by Christine Trevett
5. Disestablishment of the Church in Wales: An Anniversary by David Lee
6. Isaac Craigfryn Hughes of Quakers Yard: Colliery, Culture and the Common Man by Christine Trevett
7. William Warde Fowler: From Gwaelod y Garth House to Ancient Rome by Christine Trevett
8. The Royal Crescent Allotments 1917-2017 by Hywel Mathews
9. George Jones (Talfyrydd): A Forgotten Local Historian by Brynley Roberts
10. The Taff in Poetry and Paint: An Appreciation of “A Fold in the River by Philip Gross and Valerie Coffin Price” by the Editors
11. Biography of Contributors

Twentieth Century Welsh Dramatists

On Saturday 14 October 2017, Llafur, the Welsh People’s History Society is holding a Day School entitled:

Dramatists & Drama in Twentieth Century Industrial South Wales

One of the guest speakers is the excellent Merthyr historian Mary Owen who will be talking about the distinguished Merthyr-born play playwright, J. O. Francis.

Mary has written an excellent book about J. O. Francis, and she also kindly wrote an article about him for this blog.(

Full details of the event are shown below.

J.O. Francis Plays

Following on from Mary Owen’s fascinating article about Merthyr’s forgotten literary hero, J.O. Francis, Merthyr Tydfil Public Libraries are organising an evening dedicated to him, and have arranged for two of his plays to be staged at the Old Town Hall.

Please note that this a FREE event.

Tickets are available from The Old Town Hall (aka The Redhouse). Telephone – 01685 384111

Merthyr’s Forgotten Literary Pioneer

Merthyr Tydfil is currently commemorating the 60th anniversary of the death of a forgotten pioneer son, the distinguished playwright, J.O. Francis (1882-1956).

J. O. Francis

He was born in 15, Mary Street in Twynyrodyn but spent his childhood and youth at 41, High Street, living above the shop of his blacksmith father, David Francis. His Rhondda-born mother, Dorothy, was a dressmaker and milliner. John Oswald (known as J.O. for most of his adult life) was the eldest of five children. He was a gifted scholar, having received a good education in the “learned paradise” of the new County Intermediate and Technical School, at which he became a pupil on the day it opened in 1896. It gave him the chance of going to university at Aberyswtyth, whence he graduated with a first in English Literature in 1904. He never forgot that good fortune and he never forgot Merthyr Tydfil for all it had meant to him. It was the inspiration of his writing: the many memories he recalled depict the Merthyr Tydfil of our grandparents and great-grandparents. He is part of our heritage but has been sadly neglected.  He was a man of many enthusiasms with a passion for the theatre and for rugby. He gained fame two decades before the celebrated Jack Jones, who was a contemporary and who echoed many of the ground-breaking ideas of J.O. Francis, who wrote for most of his life living as a proud London Welshman in an area of London that made the theatres, the London Welsh playing fields and Twickenham internationals easily available. He was much respected as a gifted dramatist and stylish essayist and was a popular broadcaster. “He was a man of many opinions and no prejudices”.

The Merthyr Tydfil Leisure Trust, the libraries, the researchers at the Ynysfach Engine House, the Redhouse theatre staff, Cyfarthfa Museum, the Merthyr Tydfil Museum and Heritage Group and many individuals are pleased to be able to celebrate belatedly the life and work of a once famous pioneering son of the town. He wrote the first Anglo-Welsh realist drama about the working class. It was called ‘Change’ about a family of Welsh colliers at the time of a strike and he helped to make amateur dramatics a new culture in the grim industrial valleys of South Wales and beyond- all in need of some fun and entertainment.

Many thanks to Mary Owen for contributing the above article.

A loaned portrait of the writer, commissioned by Lord Kemsley and painted by Ceri Richards is on view in the Wedding Room of Cyfarthfa Castle.

J. O. Francis painted by Ceri Richards

J.O. Francis  (1882-1956)  The Distinguished Merthyr-born Dramatist is an appreciation of  his life and work, written by Mary Owen. It includes many extracts from the work of J. O. Francis. It will be launched by the library in Merthyr Tydfil on 12 October  at 11.30 a.m. in the courtyard of The Redhouse.