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Welsh History Review


Vol. 16, nos. 1-4 1992-93

The Welsh gypsies: children of Abram Wood. Book review.

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modern practice in having a single operator for most of its line. Passenger traffic of
a formal and informal kind undoubtedly featured on the Brecon Forest system,
though not in as prominent a way as it did on other contemporary systems in south
Wales, such as the Hay Railway and the Dyffryn Llynfi and Porthcawl. There was
no advertised public passenger service.
Hughes also provides a detailed account of the engineering of the lines, which in
this mountainous, bleak and inhospitable area of south Wales were no mean feats. He
devotes a chapter to rolling stock, buildings and equipment which, as well as drawing
on documentary evidence, also uses archaeological evidence. Some of the drawings
showing the plans of the goods yards, warehouses, engineering features and station
sites are fascinating, as also are the artists' impressions of the buildings themselves.
These are supported by photographic material where this is available.
Finally, the volume traces the railway route in a topographical way through a series
of recommended tramway walks. There are very useful detailed maps of the various
walks together with drawings and a judicious use of photographs. The book has a
useful select bibliography and comprehensive appendices ranging from a list of
selected industrial monuments in the Fforest Fawr (Great Forest of Brecon) to a
detailed list of significant early railway remains in Wales. Of particular value is
Appendix 3, which sets out in tabular form a summary of the chronology of the
Brecon Forest Tramroads, and Appendix 5 which provides a biographical sketch of
John Christie, the driving force behind the system. There is also a comprehensive
index. The volume is profusely illustrated, largely in black and white, but with some
striking colour plates.
It must be said that Hughes's work is comprehensive and definitive. If anything,
it probably suffers from an over-attention to detail. Certainly its topographical
approach makes sections of the book more like a guidebook and less readable as a
result. Sometimes the over-use of sub-headings in the text makes the narrative
disjointed and stilted. Nevertheless, for the true railway enthusiast this volume is very
rewarding, and for those interested in the industrial history and archaeology of south
Wales it provides an all-embracing account of this unusual area, with its spectacular
scenery, which almost compels one to set out and trace the remains of the system on
the ground.
Jarman. University of Wales Press, 1991. Pp. x, 228. £ 14.95.
The relationship between Welsh and Romany cultures seems always to have been
a close one. A gypsy caravan was one of the very few artefacts to appear at St. Fagan's
in Iorwerth C. Peate's time and with his blessing which was not of 100 per cent
Welshness. Iorwerth Peate wrote in the 1968 Handbook of the Welsh Folk Museum
of the 'colourful' contribution that the gypsies had made to Welsh life, and this study
by A. O. H. and Eldra Jarman celebrates and explores that contribution.
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