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Rhondda-born writer remembered

Writer Gwyn Thomas

The centenary of the birth of prolific novelist and short-story writer Gwyn Thomas is being marked in an exhibition at Porth Library, Rhondda.

Dubbed 'the true voice of the English-speaking valleys' Gwyn Thomas was born in Cymmer, Porth, on July 6, 1913, the youngest of 12 children. Thomas’s mother died when he was aged just six, and he was brought up by his sister, often with handouts from the local soup kitchen.

After winning a scholarship, Thomas studied Spanish at the University of Oxford and then studied at the Complutense University of Madrid, thanks to a miners' scholarship. After graduating, Thomas struggled to establish himself as a writer during the 1930s depression. He took on part-time lecturing jobs across England, while trying to get his novel 'Sorrow For Thy Sons' published.

He married his wife Lynn in Pontypridd Register Office on January 5, 1938. He returned to Wales in 1940 and taught at the WEA and then became a schoolteacher.

After the war, his wife decided to send some of his short stories to three publishers, who all accepted the scripts for publication. Thomas was approached in 1951 by a BBC Radio Wales producer to write for the radio and returned to his childhood memories to create 'Gazuka!'.

After 20 years of teaching in 1962, he became a full-time writer and broadcaster. Gwyn Thomas died on April 13, 1981, aged 67. In 1993, actor Sir Anthony Hopkins unveiled a bronze bust of Thomas in the foyer of the New Theatre, Cardiff.

The exhibition on Gwyn Thomas’s life and work can be viewed at Porth Library, Pontypridd Road, Porth, until the end of September, 2013. There is also a collection of his written work at the library.

* Membership of all Rhondda Cynon Taf's libraries is free and everyone living or working within the county borough is welcome to join.