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Cwmaman War Poet Remembered

A Blue Plaque is to be unveiled at the former home of Alun Lewis, one of Wales’ most celebrated war-time poets, on the centenary of this birth. 

Alun Lewis, the son of a schoolteacher, was born in the village of Cwmaman, near Aberdare, on July 1, 1915, and a series of events are planned across the County Borough and Wales to mark the occasion.

The centenary celebrations will take place in Rhondda Cynon Taf on Wednesday, July 1, with special ceremonies at Aberdare Library and Green Street Chapel, Aberdare, along with the unveiling of a Blue Plaque at Alun Lewis’ former home in Cwmaman.

Best known for his influential English-language poems during World War Two, Alun Lewis studied at Aberystwyth University. Following in his father’s footsteps, he began his career as a supply teacher, while his three brothers went to work underground as coal miners.

Having married fellow teacher Gweno in 1939, Alun Lewis joined the British army at the outbreak of World War Two. His first book, Raider's Dawn and Other Poems, was published in 1942, followed by a volume of short stories.

Alun Lewis was dispatched to Burma with the South Wales Borderers in 1942. He died from gunshot wounds on March 5, 1944.

His second book of poems, Ha!Ha! Among the Trumpets. Poems in Transit, was published posthumously in August 1945, and his Letters from India in 1946. Several collections of his poems, letters and stories have been published subsequently.

Rhondda Cynon Taf Council is delighted to support the centenary events organised by Dr John Pikoulis, author of the book Alun Lewis: A Life.

Cllr Joy Rosser, Cabinet Member for Safer Communities, Libraries and Heritage, said: “Alun Lewis is fondly remembered in his home town and the whole County Borough as one of the finest poets of his time.

“We are delighted to be supporting events around the centenary of his birth, introducing his works to a whole new generation.

“Alun Lewis remains an enigma, a man whose finest work was based upon a war that he hated so much - a war that eventually cost him his life.”

A Blue Plaque will be unveiled on the former home of Alun Lewis at Brynhyfryd, Cwmaman, at 11am on Wednesday, July 1. This will be followed at noon with the re-dedication of the Alun Lewis bronze bust at Aberdare Library.

A ceremony celebrating the life of Alun Lewis will take place at Green Street Chapel, adjacent to Aberdare Library, at 1.30pm.

Among the special guests at all three events will be the Mayor of Rhondda Cynon Taf, Cllr Barry Stephens, National Poet of Wales, Gillian Clarke, and author and retired lecturer Dr John Pikoulis.

Other special events being held around Wales to mark the centenary of the birth of the poet Alun Lewis include:

  • Paperback launch of Collected Stories and Letters to my Wife, by Alun Lewis
  • Launch of Morlais, Alun Lewis’ previously unpublished novel, written in 1939
  • Publication of Alun, Gweno and Freda, by Dr John Pikoulis
  • Talks at the 2015 Hay Festival, led by Welsh poet and actor Owen Sheers, actress Juliet Aykroyd and poet and playwright Gillian Clarke
  • Alun Lewis Exhibition at the Cynon Valley Museum
  • Exhibition at the Pierhead Building, Cardiff Bay
  • Alun Lewis talk at Rhondda Heritage Park on Wednesday, July 8
  • Exhibition at the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth
  • Guided tour of Alun Lewis’ Cwmaman on September 22

Dr John Pikoulis said: “All of these events are of great importance. Alun Lewis was a very fine writer, probably the finest writer to have emerged from World War Two. He was a man of great social conscience, with pacifist scruples.

“A great curtain of silence fell around talking about Lewis for years, but over the last 30 years, people have wanted to talk about him again.

“The celebrations will include the publication of Morlais, an autobiographical account of his life up until 1926, which shows vivid insight into life in Cwmaman at the time.

“The centenary of his birth is the perfect opportunity to highlight the life and works of Alun Lewis.”

The centenary celebrations will take place in Rhondda Cynon Taf on Wednesday, July 1, with a special ceremony and the unveiling of a Blue Plaque at Alun Lewis’ former home in Cwmaman.

  • A Blue Plaque will be unveiled on the former home of Alun Lewis at Brynhyfryd, Cwmaman, at 11am on Wednesday, July 1. This will be followed at noon with the re-dedication of the Alun Lewis bronze bust at Aberdare Library.