Grave Tales from Wales provides, at last, a sequel to the popular Stories in Welsh Stone, my first work about Welsh history. And, as they did in that book, gravestones from across Wales provide a remarkable window into the past. The stories they represent are about the lives of the people who still lie beneath those stones, who still lie beneath your feet, and who still have something to say.
You may touch a grave, and whilst it might appear to be, as the poet Andrew Marvell said, ‘a fine and private place,’ you will be a welcome intruder, connecting instantly with the person it represents; you will feel the weight of the story that lies within. Headstones are not untouchable relics behind a security screen; they are physical memories. Your presence, your touch, brings those memories to life.
In this book you will find stories that cannot be ignored; stories of anguish and sorrow, stories of courage and achievement. These are tales from the past that can still speak to us today. There are great events here – the Titanic, the sinking of The Royal Charter, the execution of a King – but there are also terrible murders. And these open a window into the lives of ordinary people, lives that are often overlooked in the historical record.
The stories stretch out from 1680 to 1949, and are arranged, not by theme or date, but by location, and in this way I hope that the book offers a collection of fascinating places to visit – visits that will create a connection between you and the heritage of Wales.
The book was compiled over many years using contemporary newspapers, and of course, by visiting the graves themselves. These stories first appeared as articles in Welsh Country Magazine and I am especially grateful for the support and encouragement it has given me over the years - for the faith it placed in my writing and, of course, for the opportunity to explore all these amazing stories. The magazine has graciously given me permission to reproduce the stories that I wrote for them and I thank them for that.
I would also like to thank Chris and his team at Cambria Books for helping me put this book together. Yes, it is a labour of love, but this book is all about the stones. They were here before we were and they will still be there after we have gone. That is what makes them so special. I regard this work as a duty, and I hope the stories in this book that we have rediscovered as we have toured through Wales, will not be forgotten again.
About the author Geoff Brookes