Black Chair, The
Publication Date March 2017
Publisher: Gwasg Gomer, Llandysul
Suitable for age 12+.
Format: Paperback, 196x128 mm, 128 pages
A novel based on the dramatic story of poet Hedd Wyn, whose Eisteddfod chair was awarded posthumously in 1917. With injuries serious enough to get him sent home from the front line, Danny comes home to his beloved Angharad. But his recovery cannot really begin until he has fulfilled a promise to a friend. For that he must travel north to the National Eisteddfod at Birkenhead.
I hope that this book brings an iconic Welsh figure to a wider audience. Using a fictional character in the same battalion as Hedd Wyn, we learn about the life and death of the celebrated poet who died before he was chaired at the 1917 Eisteddfod.
Danny’s life contrasts beautifully with Ellis Evans’ (Hedd Wyn’s real name), as one comes from the coal valleys, while the other is a farmer in the North. Danny speaks no Welsh, but he learns an appreciation of words and language from his friendship with Ellis. Each vicariously experiences aspects of life through the other.
Starting at the end and flashing backwards is a moving and effective opening. It will touch readers of all ages, as will the detailed descriptions of life for the common soldier in the trenches. Ideal as a class text to support language, history or the Cwricwlwm Cymreig.
Hedd Wyn – the Story of a Lost Generation
Ellis Evans was just one of thousands of young men who lost their lives in the First World War. But his story has gone on to become much more than the tale of one family’s loss. It has come to represent the story of a lost generation – and of what might have been.
Better known by his bardic name Hedd Wyn, Ellis Evans was sent to serve on the front line in 1917. Despite the awful conditions of the trenches, and the scepticism of the English officers, it was here that he composed Yr Arwr (The Hero), his entry for The National Eisteddfod that year. Already recognized as a gifted poet, his dream was to one day win the chair at the Eisteddfod. This dream was realized in September 1917 - but it came too late for Ellis. Six weeks earlier, he had been killed in battle. The sight of the prestigious Bardic Chair shrouded in black, chilled the audience, a visual symbol of the lost generation of Wales.
The story of Hedd Wyn is told throughout the country. But, very little has been written outside of the Welsh language. Inspired by the story of this Welsh Icon, experienced author Phil Carradice set about writing The Black Chair, a work of fiction for readers aged 11 years and over, and a tribute to Ellis Evans and all those who lost their lives in the First World War. This is the only English language book that tells the tale for this age range.
The story is told through the eyes of Danny, a young boy who meets Ellis at training camp. Ellis is unlike anyone Danny has ever known – he is a Welsh speaker, a gifted poet, and passionate about the beauty of nature that surrounds him at home on the family farm - a world quite alien to Danny, an underground miner from the busy town of Treorchy. The pair soon become firm friends, and are together on the front line when the call comes to go over the top into No Man’s Land. Wounded in battle, Danny is sent home to recuperate, but his recovery cannot really begin until he fulfils a promise to his friend. For that, he must travel north to the National Eisteddfod at Birkenhead, where the appearance of a black-draped Bardic Chair weighs heavily on his heart.