‘freely and fiercely inventive short stories… supercharged with ideas.’ Jon Gower, reviewing Pugnacious Little Trolls by Rob Mimpriss for Nation Cymru. ‘Where is the Welsh short story going? Wherever Rob Mimpriss takes it.’ John O’Donoghue. Pugnacious Little Trolls, a new collection of short stories published by Cockatrice Books. ‘Bathed in white fire in every sense... Borges would happily own them.’ Gee Williams on Pugnacious Little Trolls, a new collection of short stories published by Cockatrice Books. ‘A fine Welsh writer working under the radar who deserves to be much better known.’ Nation Cymru greeting Pugnacious Little Trolls, a new collection of short stories published by Cockatrice Books. ‘Beyond question Wales’s finest and most subtle short-story writer working today... A work of great beauty and subtle force, a fine, distinctive voice.’ Jim Perrin on Pugnacious Little Trolls. ‘Zestful playfulness... along with a grand energy and capacity for invention.’ Jon Gower reviewing Pugnacious Little Trolls for Nation Cymru. ‘Dark, complex, pensively eloquent’ (Sophie Baggott, New Welsh Review) — Reasoning, For His Warriors and Prayer at the End, three short-story collections now published by Cockatrice Books. ‘Heaving with loss, regret and familial bonds.’ Annexe Magazine on ‘Gemini,’ a short story in Prayer at the End, published by Cockatrice Books. ‘Lucid, skilful, and above all, of enormous timely relevance’ (Jim Perrin). Rob Mimpriss’s new translation of Morgan Llwyd’s allegorical masterpiece, A Book of Three Birds. ‘There is nothing ostentatious about his writing... And yet the best of these pieces express something important about psychology and human relationships, and the sparseness of the writing is capable of considerable power.’ Brian George, The Short Review. ‘These stories are a rare kind of joy. Even when they approach moments of discontent and danger they bring an optimism founded in human relationships. This is a wonderful collection.’ Prof. Graëme Harper, editor, New Writing. ‘An invaluable translation.’ Angharad Price on Hallowe’en in the Cwm, the short stories of Owen Wynne Jones, translated by Rob Mimpriss. ‘Humour and pity often arise from the characters’ inability to understand themselves and those close to them. In suggesting the truth and the self-deception Mimpriss not only engages our sympathy but makes us question our assumptions about ourselves.’ Caroline Clark, gwales.com ‘Quietly written, contemplative... whose powerhouse is the depth of its moral reflection.’ Siân Preece, Rhys Davies Competition on ‘Hamilton Park,’ published in Prayer at the End. ‘An immaculate collection.’ Nigel Jarrett, twice winner of the Rhys Davies Award, on Prayer at the End, a collection of short stories by Rob Mimpriss published by Cockatrice Books. ‘Through the stealthy movements of his prose, Rob Mimpriss enacts the quiet enigma of people’s lives and relationships. The result is an understated fiction of compelling intensity.’ Prof M Wynn Thomas. ‘The story is called ‘Valiant’ in the collection, For His Warriors. I recommend it. Highly. It feels to me already like a classic.’ Fiona Owen, editor, Scintilla. ‘A quiet writer with a loud voice... I’ll be listening for more.’ Michael Nobbs, gwales.com on Reasoning: Twenty Stories, published by Cockatrice Books. ‘In the most seemingly unremarkable of Rob Mimpriss’s pieces there is a skill, and a mystery and elusiveness to that skill, which other short-story writers might envy.’ Gee Williams. ‘Industry in the Country of the Blind,’ new fiction in Land of Change, radical prose from Wales edited by Gemma Howell and forthcoming from Culture Matters. ‘This exemplary collaboration’ (Philip Gross). Dangerous Asylums, an anthology of fiction by leading Welsh writers, inspired by Denbigh Mental Hospital, edited by Rob Mimpriss.

Image by Ismael Mia on Flickr

A Free and Equal Union? Daniel Kawczynski and the Illusions of British Nationalism

While the Conservative MP for Shropshire, Daniel Kawczynski’s tweet demanding the abolition of Welsh democracy as a waste of money, was quickly deleted after a storm of responses and protests, and replaced by a subsequent demand to scrap the Senedd because it restricts the freedom of English people to travel to Wales during the Coronavirus lockdown,(1) and a third, also deleted, because people in England don’t like it,(2) screen-grabs of both deleted tweets allow us to interrogate their misunderstandings and contradictions at leisure. First, one might wonder why a prominent Brexiteer, a former member of the European Research Group, and, one supposes, a champion of the rights of nations against foreign interference, should come down in favour (as Mr Kawczynski himself might put it) of a corrupt(3) and undemocratic(4) British superstate which degrades our statehood(5) and devalues our economy(6), or in favour (again, as Mr Kawczynski might put it) of the English immigrants who break our laws(7), abuse our benefits(8), undermine our democracy(9), and exhaust our NHS(10). Second, one might wonder why a champion of democracy against the machinations of foreign élites would seek to overturn a devolution policy which has been ratified by two referendums, enjoyed a growing majority(11) in each, and now has overwhelming public support(12) which Brexiteers can only envy(13). But beyond that, Mr Kawczynski reveals an assumption that a single British parliament alone can create a single British people, living as equals under one single set of laws, and this is simply not the case.

In October 1402, during the height of Owain Glyndŵr’s revolt, the parliament of Henry V passed laws restricting the civil rights of the Welsh people. No Welshman not loyal to the king could bear arms or armour, no Welsh poet could earn a living from his work, no Welshman could fortify his home or gather freely with his neighbours, even for cultural purposes. No Welshman could be promoted to the upper clergy, except by the approval of the king, or to any position of civil responsibility, or sit on a jury where an Englishman was to be judged, and any Englishman who married into a Welsh family was to be regarded as a Welshman so far as his civil rights were concerned. In 1405, Owain Glyndŵr himself convened parliaments in Machynlleth and Harlech, attended, as the parliaments of Hywel the Good had been attended, by two representatives from every commote under his rule — the first time that Welshmen had been represented before their ruler since their conquest by England in 1282.

In February 1650, the parliament of England passed the Act for the Better Propogation and Preaching of the Gospel in Wales, whose purpose was to remedy the royalist and Anglican sympathies of the Welsh people. Among its provisions was the appointment of commissioners, including the writer and preacher, Morgan Llwyd, with the power to dismiss uncooperative Welsh clergy or schoolmasters and replace them with ‘godly and painful men,’ and to judge and punish any ‘misdemeanours, oppressions or injuries’ which were reported to them by members of the public. Since Wales is not referred to within the text itself, and the commissioners are instead empowered to operate within its seven counties, the act suggests Gwynfor Evans’ remark, that as often as England’s parliament refuses to acknowledge us as a separate entity, it is forced to deal with us as a special case.

That Wales is a ‘special case’ also underlies the appointment of a commission in 1847 to enquire into the state of education in Wales, and specifically to comment on the cultural effects of the Welsh language, which as William Williams, MP for Coventry, had warned in parliament, made the Welsh workforce seditious and unproductive, and which he advised should be replaced by English and deliberately rendered extinct. The result of their recommendations was the Education Act of 1848, passed by a single British parliament, yet applying specifically to Wales, and imposing a foreign language, English, not only as a subject of study, but as the medium of schooling on the monoglot Welsh-speaking people of Wales. Today the episode is studied in Welsh schools, and in both languages, as an example of the prejudices and assumptions of commissioners unable themselves to speak the language of the schools they were sent to inspect, while for historians such as John Davies and Gwynfor Evans it illustrates the principle expressed by Ernest Gellner and Albert Memmi, that a colonial power that seeks to appropriate a country’s natural resources will be forced to denigrate or destroy its national culture, while vilifying the moral character of its people also. The inspectors themselves can have been under no illusions as to the purpose of their report. Matthew Arnold the poet, among them, remarked that the British state would inevitably seek to efface all Welsh cultural distinctives, for the purpose of creating conformity among the peoples over whom it ruled.

In 1960, a single British parliament passed an English private member’s bill authorising the compulsory purchase and damming of the Tryweryn valley, including the village of Capel Celyn, while circumventing the need for local councils in Wales to give their consent, at the behest of Liverpool City Council. The act was passed despite enjoying the support of not one single Welsh MP, and despite a speech given by Gwynfor Evans at Liverpool Council, which councillors overwhelmed with noise by banging their desks at him. The flooding was followed by the bombing of English infrastructure in Wales by Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru and the Free Wales Army, by the election of Gwynfor Evans to parliament as Plaid Cymru’s first MP, and, as the British parliament struggled to contain the constitutional carnage it had caused, by acts of parliament founding the Welsh Office (1965) and the Secretary of State for Wales (1964) — a development of which even Mr Kawczynski might be dimly aware, since in 2012 he was appointed as Parliamentary Permanent Secretary to the Secretary of State for Wales. It was also followed by the Welsh Language Act of 1967, an effective reversal of the Education Act of 1848 since it allowed Welsh public bodies, including schools, to operate in the language that Parliament had denigrated and tried to destroy.

In 1998, Parliament passed the Government of Wales Act embodying a National Assembly for Wales without primary law-making powers, and the separate Government of Scotland Act embodying a Scottish Parliament with greater powers and a larger budget per head of population. The Assembly’s limited powers were increased by a further Government of Wales Act in 2006, and by the Wales Act of 2017, moving devolution to a ‘reserved powers’ model yet allowing parliament to overturn any and every act of Welsh legislation. Those who oppose the existence of the Senedd must logically be actuated by one of two beliefs: either that a single British parliament can effectively represent the needs of four quite bitterly divided(14) British nations, a belief that owes more to hope than to history; or that three of the British nations should be governed under terms set by the fourth. But many who dismiss the Senedd as a ‘waste of money’ or as ‘red tape’ deride Welsh language and culture, deride Welsh nationhood itself as a waste of money, an inconvenience to England, also.

  1. ‘Coronavirus lockdown: English Conservative MP’s call to scrap Senedd “wrong.”’ BBC News, 12th April 2020.
  2. ‘Shrewsbury MP deletes tweet calling for Welsh Parliament to be scrapped after backlash.’ Nation Cymru, 15th October 2020.
  3. Ben Chapman, ‘UK by far the biggest enabler of global corporate tax dodging, groundbreaking research finds.’ The Independent, 28th May 2019.
  4. According to the Electoral Reform Society, 22.6 million votes cast under the First Past the Post system in the 2019 general election had no impact on the makeup of parliament. While, according to FullFact.Org the UK voted against just 2% of EU laws, Wales has never in its voting history returned a Tory majority.
  5. Richard Wyn Jones, ‘Professor Richard Wyn Jones' excoriating verdict on the Wales Bill plans for devolution.’ Wales Online, 28th October 2016.
  6. John Ball, ‘Why Wales is richer than opponents of independence claim.’ Nation Cymru, 5th December 2018.
  7. Jason Evans, ‘Exactly how the notorious county lines drugs gangs operate in Wales.’ Wales Online, 5th January 2020.
  8. Craig Duggan, ‘Coronavirus: Second-home owners 'use loophole' to claim grants.’ BBC News, 17th April 2020.
  9. Jonathan Leake and Imogen Horton, ‘Wealthy English blow-ins “swung Welsh Brexit vote.”’The Times, 22nd September 2019.
  10. ‘Second home owners on Anglesey “brought virus with them” – Times.’ Nation Cymru, 5th April 2020.
  11. While support for devolution in the 1997 referendum was little more than 50%, 63.5% voted in favour of giving the Assembly law-making powers in 2011. Both demonstrated growth in support since 1979, when a mere 20% voted in favour of devolution.
  12. The St. David’s Day BBC/ICM poll of 2020 indicated a mere 14% in favour of abolishing home rule for Wales.
  13. Robert Ford, ‘Brexit: how do voters feel about the EU now?’ The Observer, 30th March 2019.
  14. ‘Almost half of English don’t feel they have much in common with Wales – YouGov.’ Nation Cymru, 23rd April 2020.

I am the author of four short story collections. Reasoning and For His Warriors, originally published by Gwasg y Bwthyn, Caernarfon, with Welsh Books Council support, now join Prayer at the End and Pugnacious Little Trolls in revised editions at Cockatrice Books. My anthology of fiction, Dangerous Asylums, including work by Gee and David Williams, Glenda Beagan, Carys Bray, Simon Thirsk and others, was published by the North Wales Mental Health Research Project, October 2016. I am a contributor with Nigel Jarrett, Rachel Trezise, Tristan Hughes and others to Brush with Fate (Albawtaka, 2014), an anthology of Welsh fiction in Arabic translation by Hala Salah Eldin, to Land of Change (Culture Matters), and to Creative Writing Studies (Multilingual Matters, 2007), essays on writing as an academic discipline edited by Graëme Harper and Jeri Kroll, and of the foreword to Rivers of Wales by Jim Perrin (Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, forthcoming).

I am the translator of Going South: The Stories of Richard Hughes Williams (Cockatrice, 2015), Hallowe’en in the Cwm: The Stories of Glasynys (Cockatrice, 2017), A Book of Three Birds, the seventeenth-century classic by Morgan Llwyd (Cockatrice, 2017), and of fiction by D. Gwenallt Jones, Angharad Tomos, and Manon Steffan Ros. I was Artistic Coordinator of the North Wales Mental Health Research Project convened by Prof. David Healy at the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, and am the editor of Cockatrice Books. I hold a Ph.D. in Creative and Critical Writing from Portsmouth University, and in 2011 I was invited to membership of the Welsh Academy in acknowledgement of my contributions to Welsh writing.