How mam inspired me to bring Wales’ history alive for children

A picture of a protest against the drowning of Capel Celyn in Wales on the Map

Lynda Tunnicliffe, Director of Rily Publications

2018 was the worst year of my life. My wonderful Mam died of stomach cancer. It was so sudden – she found out she was ill one month and was gone the next.

The shock of her loss made me realise how vital the role of a strong, inspiring Welsh mam is and her absence has caused a gulf of heartbreak in my whole family.

This week the book Cymru ar y Map (available in English as Wales on the Map) won the 2019 Tir na n’Og Welsh language Award.

Both are dedicated to my mam and the tribute reads:

“Wales was the ‘Land of my Mother’ and this book is dedicated to the exquisite, encouraging and exceptional Mairwen Thomas, and to all of our wonderful mothers.”


My mam, Mair, will always be the most inspirational person in my life. She was hardworking, caring and passionate about her family and her local community.

She was never afraid to be involved and she campaigned for a bypass for our village to reduce pollution near the local primary school and even organised summer carnivals every year with colourful floats parading through the streets.

Lynda Tunnicliffe and her mother Mairwen

Born in Dowlais, Merthyr Tydfil in 1945, mam was a person who ‘gave to others’ and I strive to follow her shining example every day.

Her father was a native Welsh speaker but my mam’s generation was cruelly punished in school if they spoke Welsh and so, over time, she became part of the persecuted generation who ‘forgot’ their own language.

Despite that she had a thirst for information about Wales and was curious about people and the past. These are traits that we shared, and I know that she would be incredibly proud to see the finished books on sale.

Wales on the Map is about feeding that same thirst for information about Wales. I was lucky enough to share this book with her in its early drafts and she thrived on seeing it develop spread by spread.

During my idyllic childhood, we explored Wales in a tourer caravan. We were not wealthy in the financial sense, but had a stable, loving and fun-filled family life. Who could want for more?

Some of my most cherished memories are the fish and chip suppers in Porthcawl; getting lost on the way to Aberystwyth and even the car breaking down near Barmouth on our way to Rhyl!

Every holiday usually featured a time when we got absolutely soaked to our skins – the Welsh weather, even in the summer, is invariably unpredictable. Yet, I wouldn’t change a single moment of my childhood.

The countless caravan holidays provided us with the opportunity to ‘adventure around Wales’ and it revealed to me the natural beauty and hidden treasures of our amazing country. A beauty that even some of the people who live here never get a chance to explore.

Lynda and her mother on holiday

Inspirational

My mam would have also been proud that these books were created by an all-woman team. In fact, all of us on the team are also mothers in our own right too. Here is the roll of honour:-

Author – Elin Meek;

Editor – Catrin Wyn Lewis;

Illustrator – Valériane Leblond;

Designer – Tanwen Haf;

Copy editors – Anwen Pierce, Sioned Lleinau and Eleri Huws.

I wish to extend a huge “thanks” to my dream team of super mams! You are the best in the industry and it has been a privilege to work with you on these books. Diolch o galon!

Our enchanting books are lovingly dedicated to her memory and to all of the wonderful mams throughout Wales.

I believe, in the past, we have been hesitant to shout out loud and celebrate all that is fantastic about Wales. We are also a bit shy in recognising and celebrating positive role models and, in particular, inspirational Welsh women.

So, I wanted to ensure that a number of these extraordinary women (some living and some from the past) were featured in the books, such as:-

  1. Laura Ashley – a fashion designer and businesswoman
  2. Lady Charlotte Guest – who translated the tales of the Mabinogi from Welsh into English
  3. Jade Jones – taekwon-do sports person, won gold in the Olympic Games, twice!
  4. Mererid Hopwood – the first woman to win the chair at the National Eisteddfod
  5. Princess Gwenllian – who led her husband’s (Gruffudd ap Rhys) army against the Normans
  6. Kathleen Thomas – the first person to swim across the Bristol Channel from Penarth to Wester-super-Mare in 1927
  7. Elizabeth Andrews – a social campaigner, she managed to introduce pit-head baths for miners and opened the first nursery school in the Rhondda

Let us rejoice in the beauty of Wales and let us recognise and be thankful to all of the remarkable Welsh women who have helped to shape our great nation.

We stand on their shoulders, we acknowledge them and we will love and cherish them, forever. History will ensure that these strong, brave and intelligent women will never be forgotten.

Nos da, Mam, cariad xxx


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